Regular readers will know that this week we had a wood-burning stove installed at Traction Towers. We paid a sum of money not far off your average UN aid package to have the thing fitted, but all is now well. I’m broke but the living room is a cosy little den with a cheery glow coming from the once-dark and foreboding chasm where the old fireplace used to be.
As I was looking at the flames gently licking around a log of wood inside the stove, a terrible thought occurred to me. Our house is a Listed Building and is sited in a Conservation Area. What this means is that you own the house but you may make no alterations, may not even dream about making alterations – inside or out – without consulting the local council for Listed Building Consent and Planning Permission.
A chill ran down my spine as I began to wonder if we needed permission for our new stove. I did everything correctly by using a Government approved installer which meant I wouldn’t have to pay out for the local council’s building inspector to call round and give me a certificate for the fire if I’d fitted it myself or asked a mere mortal to install it. You pay many hundreds of pounds extra for this, but I like to play safe for obvious reasons. A neighbour could denounce me or report my heinous crime.
So what should I do? Shall I call the local council and ask them if I need permission or should I risk it? Planning inspectors are a strange breed; a cabal of pettifogging officials drunk on the enormous powers they wield by fiat. Want to put up a garden fence? Need a shed for storage? Hang on a minute! Better call in the planners. Want to change your bed sheets? Hmm… better play safe and give the planning department a call. Anyway, it’s only £250 for the permission to erect your £150 garden shed… well worth the money at twice the price. Actually, it’s probably cheaper to torch the shed if they get shirty.
There was some talk a year or two ago of planning laws being liberalised but that’s all gone very quiet now. I could have guessed these power-crazed megalomaniacs weren’t going to give up their jealously guarded authority until someone actually forces their clipboards from their cold dead hands!
And you want to know why these people are like they are? Well, after Hitler’s Third Reich fell in 1945, there were still plenty of high-ranking Nazis on the loose. Many pretended to be concentration camp victims, others tried to con the Allies into thinking they were Dutch or Polish. However, the vast majority of them, including the Waffen SS, just disappeared.
For many years it was thought that the majority had made it to Argentina, but the truth is, they all lay down their guns, stripped off their uniforms and retrained as town planners. They spread themselves around the world, dropped the German names and accents and then continued with their reign of terror and exercised their unique talent for enforcing the pettiest rules imaginable. Even to this day they still go around knocking on doors without warning, asking to see people’s papers.
I guess old habits die hard. Now where did I put that poker?