Planning Outlaws Review: Red Tape And Bulldozers

PLANNING OUTLAWS: Friday 18th March, Channel 4, 7:30pm

This programme follows the stories of three men, and what happened to them when they built things without planning permission. As it turns out, the consequences can range wildly between a court battle and a full scale demolition.

First up is Jim, who has built himself a nice little house on some agricultural land under the guise that it was to be used for environmental education. But Jim decided he wanted to live there, so he did. Then – after 4 years – the council told him he wasn’t allowed to live there anymore, but Jim knew about the ‘4 year rule’ and eventually managed to stay in his house.

Another thing that needs planning permission is lions. Not real lions, obviously, but 6-foot high white stone lions. Abid put these lions up because firstly he loves lions and, he says, they also keep out evil spirits – which is clearly an added bonus. But the locals didn’t like these lions and went running to the council, who also didn’t like them, and said they had to go. Abid decided to contest the decision, but before he gets the chance, some miscreant comes and smashes them up. Shame.

Finally we meet Michel, a man who has always wanted to build a house for his mother, and so he did, and made it a big one. But during building, they decided to make some changes to the already-approved plans, and made the house even bigger. Not smart. When they applied for retrospective planning permission, the council said that the existing permission had expired during building, making the house an illegal structure. So, like all reasonable people would, they sent round workmen to smash the house to bits – not take it down, just break things. Michel’s mother is understandably upset, and says that this country is becoming like Nazi Germany where she grew up. Which might be a bit strong, as the Nazi’s presumably had other things than stringent building laws on their minds. So his mother protests by staging a sit-in in her car to block the diggers, and ends up getting arrested, turning the situation into a bit of a farce.

It’s difficult to say what the point of Planning Outlaws is, but it’s quite fun to watch and you’ll be left staring in disbelief at some of the goings on. One thing’s for sure, after watching this programme there’s no way you’ll consider building things without checking with the council first, and that’s probably for the best.