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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…WE ARE BEING SMOTHERED IN A DUVET FULL OF RED TAPEPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
IT seems that now a bureaucrat doesn’t need a reason to object to your plan, they can increase your costs to such an extent that a proposed development is no longer viable.

So folks, let’s have a big hand for the Environmental Impact Assessment. I have seen two cases where it has come into play recently and land agents I have talked to have more examples. In one example, there exists a field that sticks out into an estuary. The sea wall runs around three sides of this four-acre field. Repairing the sea wall will cost more than the capital value of the field, the appropriate authorities discussed matters with the owner, and they agreed it would be more sensible to just put a wall across the fourth side and let the field slowly return to the sea. In steps the Environment Agency. There must be an EIA done before the sea wall can be abandoned. The cost of the EIA was higher than the cost of repairing the seawall!

In another case there is a new road built next to the sea on a new embankment. At the foot of the embankment next to the tidal channel is a footpath. The Highways authority want to widen the footpath to include a cycle path (an excellent idea really, the road above is lethal) but, guess what, someone has insisted that there be an EIA done first. Excuse me? An EIA on a modern road embankment? Has someone got a research project they want someone else to fund?

The EIA is now the weapon of choice for the bureaucrat who doesn’t like what you are doing but hasn’t got the power to stop you, or just wants to twist the knife during interdepartmental infighting. And it costs them nothing, absolutely nothing, and indeed might even fund work for their department.

One interesting suggestion, which has no chance at all of getting made into law, would be allow anyone who is ordered to do an EIA to go to a Judge, who would apportion the cost of the EIA between the body that served it and their victim, with a minimum of 33% having to be paid by the body doing the serving. To keep everyone honest, how about ensuring that the participants pay their own legal costs? This would stop government bodies using the threat of massive legal bills to deter people who might stand up to them.

This is a principle that I feel deserves wider consideration.

There is a serious problem developing here. Government wants us to be ‘enterprising’, to invest and develop our businesses.

But the minute you start you get a constant stream of inspectors and similar who will provide you will yet more expensive hoops to jump through. What must be remembered is that none of the money you spend in this manner is going to give a return. It isn’t an investment; it is a tax! You might as well flush it away down the toilet, although, unless you had the common sense to convert it into alcohol and drink it first, you would doubtless need an expensive disposal licence.

I talk to a lot of people in agriculture, or who were in agriculture. One common complaint is that ‘the joy’ has gone out of the job. Many of those still in the industry are digging in with grim determination. As one farmer, somewhat older than me, commented, ‘if I’d wanted a clerk’s job, I’d have worked harder at school’.

There are unnoticed effects of all this. I have to help a lot of people sort out problems they have got themselves into. An awful lot of problems are caused by people in their 70s and even older struggling to cope with the current systems. Honest people are being hounded and suffer immense stress, some will probably end up being criminalized, purely because they can no longer cope with the paperwork imposed on them from above.

We are being swiftly smothered by a duvet stuffed with red tape. If you don’t believe me join your local village hall committee, and get to grips with the latest food and beverage, Health and Safety, employment rights, noise restriction, and building regulations. Planning a bit of carol singing to raise money for charity? It seems that because of the Licensing Act 2017, you will have to apply for a licence 10 days in advance if you wish to ‘perform’ in a public place.

And remember, whatever you do, don’t wear a ‘hoodie’ while you serenade your fellow citizens, the way things are going, you’ll probably end up being slammed behind bars for 90 days as a terrorist suspect. I am wondering about making a formal protest. How on earth can anyone remain credible as a columnist when the unreal world of the civil service regularly creates situations more bizarre than I would dare to invent?

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