Hardly a week goes by without a business magnate or government minister moaning about how the planning system is exploited and clogged up by those opposing development.
Here is a story of how it works the other way round – of how big business can exploit the system to bully local communities and councils into submission.
Over the past six years, there has been a plan to site three 125m wind turbines between four villages in south Norfolk. It was opposed by local planning officers, then rejected unanimously by the council’s planning committee.
The developer, TCI Renewables, appealed to central government’s Planning Inspectorate. After two hearings, lasting the best part of two weeks, with experts, barristers and the full panoply of the law, the planning inspector also rejected the application on the grounds of its impact on nearby houses, and on the church and landscape.
End of story? Far from it.
TCI, a firm which had already shown a high-handed disregard for local people and, shall we say, an excessively relaxed attitude to telling the truth, has now revealed another side of its corporate character.
It has submitted a further application. Same site, same number of turbines. They have simply been moved around a bit and put closer together.
There is no obvious planning logic behind this move. With their investors’ money (and, if I were one, I’d be asking a few questions about their business decisions), TCI has simply decided to conduct a war of attrition on the local community in the hope of grinding them into submission.
Here is the way it works. It is a large, rich company. In contrast, those who have dared to oppose them - and have successfully made their case – are ordinary people using their own time and money. The planners of the local council are overstretched and may well be unwilling to fight another long battle. Call it the Tesco Manoeuvre, if you like.
So TCI banks the parts of the planning inspector’s decision which supports its case, fiddles around with the rest, and starts all over again, no doubt confident that in the end corporate muscle will win the day.
Cynical, nasty and bullying, these are the kind of tactics which bring development and developers into disrepute.