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the Eton versus East Chiltington chronicles
In February 2021 the residents of East Chiltington learned that Eton College had plans to destroy their way of life by concreting over fields to build an unasked for and entirely unnecessary new town. read more

consultation in planning

the burglar analogy

the wrongthingy guide to developerspeak and greenwash

writer at work - click to read more by Zsolt Kerekes - editor - June 18, 2021

In this episode of developersprak I'm going to discuss possible translations and meanings of the word consultation - when used by a land developer and planning department from a wrongthingwrongplace point of view.

As English is an evolving language I've based my interpretations on sample sightings of these words as seen in the wild. Warning:- time, location, bias and context can change the meanings of words.

when a developer says "consultation" what could it mean?

Developerspeak is a very hard language to understand for beginners because it uses many words which look just like commonplace English - but when you see them in a developer document or web site they can have completely different meanings.

There isn't a direct one word for another translation of "consultation" in developerspeak. We have to use an analogy to understand what it means. And the best analogy is the burglar.

consultation - the burglar analogy

Just imagine you get an email from a burglar which says this.

Dear Householder, (they're very polite these burglars)

I am giving you advance notice that I intend to rob your house and steal all your treasured possessions. I could tell you the exact date and time - but rest assured that not even Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson working in partnership with Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings would be able to stop me or catch me or make the slightest difference. So to avoid any unpleasantness - please respond to this consultation and tick whichever option of burglar entry you prefer me to take.

Is it best if I...
  • smash your windows?
  • kick down your front door / back door?
  • ramraid your house?
  • collect your keys and alarm code from under your door mat - while you are out at the pub?
Looking forward to your participation in this consultation. Yours truly - The Burglar.

PS - if you tick "collect your keys" - then I will, of course, wipe my muddy shoes before entering, run the vacuum cleaner around after bagging up your possessions and do a bit of dusting and polishing for you too. This is what we call the "leaving things better than they were to begin with" - burglar-biodiversity option.

Sanity check:- If you're wondering - Would the Burglar think it rude if I asked him to clean the windows while he's about it? - then don't tick option #1 (smashing windows)

when a planning department says "consultation" what could it mean?

Planning department speak (aka planning piffle) presents similar problems - because it sounds so similar to English and Developerspeak too. Some academics regard it as dialect which originally came from Developerspeak. So there can be upto 2 levels of translation involved before words ever get to English - which can add to anbiguity and confusion in the meaning.

The first questions to ask yourself when seeing the word "consultation" from your planning department are...
  • Did they think this up all by themselves?
  • Or - is the planningpiffle department trying to translate a script which a developer ghost wrote for them? (The polite burglars have award winning fiction writers on tap.)
planning piffle demystified

There's no point asking the planning piffle department to clarify this.

They can't hear residents (due to special filtering in their phones which cuts out those frequencies) and although planning departments can receive and store emails from residents - their software changes the colours of the words to make them invisible. This is a health and safety measure to reduce eyestrain if they get too many objections.

If you really need to know what the consultation is really about - you can read about it in the press and on blogs - but these are just guesses and speculation. Nobody who isn't a developer or planner has any real idea what's going on.

That's where politicians come in. But they have a different language of their own - which is outside the scope of this (or any other) dictionary. And they - like the press and bloggers - are just guessing too.

So where does that leave us with "consultation" - when a planning department says it?

consultation - the wasting your time means we're doing something analogy

Just imagine you have a calendar - which is a real calendar - which has all the usual 12 months in it... January, February etc.

And imagine that a developer (who is a proper developer - and speaks fluent Developerspeak and Planningpiffle and maybe some fictional English too) if this developer has a plan which says something must happen by a certain month - let's say September... then what the Planning Department does is insert a "consultation" which makes it happen a bit later instead.

So "consultation" - used by a Planning Department - is a bit like having an invisible delay which they can insert into a plan to make it look like they're thinking about something. Which they may be - but as they can't hear residents (due to tuning), or see their emails (due to software filtering) - it means that they (like you) think the consultation is a waste of precious time. But it's in the rules book - so they've got to do it. Tick. Done.

So if the Planning Department does a "consultation" and sends you a questionnaire - it doesn't mean they want to know the best way to burgle you. All they are doing is delaying the date because the burglars are very busy and can't get around to your place yet. So make the most of the delay and enjoy what you've got for a little bit longer.

PS - and another way to look at this might be the Admiral Nelson analogy - as in - "I see no objections"

Alternative translations and interpretations are available.

Eco Towns, Garden Cities, Garden Villages - I thought I understood English but it was a Developer who spoke them. Any idea what they mean?
The simple words eco and garden when prefixed to village, town or city can add up to create semi-descriptive phrases which are power loaded with wildly different connotations depending on who you are and the context in which they are encountered.

So you can't blame developers sprinkling these wordplay sauces liberally around their prospectus chalkboard menus to make their crunchy concreting dishes appear less ashen on the palette de jour. It's only natural!

On the other hand - countryphiles and rural protection campaigners who are at the unsolicited receiving end of these communications commonly report nocebo effects - including headache, nausea and a bitter aftertaste - due to a belief that jumbling together good words to disguise nature harming projects doesn't make their digestive outcomes any sweeter.

I was looking for a learner's guide to help me understand DeveloperSpeak And in a few clicks I found a very helpful phrase book on www.designingbuildings.co.uk

Here are links to translations of some DeveloperSpeak phrases which we might encounter more often in upcoming discourses on wrongthingwrongplace.com

eco town / garden town / garden city / garden community / garden village

Other competing interpretations are available.

South Downs Eton by dog - wrongthingwrongplace.com

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Editor:- May 20, 2021 - Published today - a new article - the landscape assessment walks in East Chiltington - looks back at an event which has particular relevance today - when we're thinking about what it is we're trying to protect. ...read the article