The Planners Are Coming, BBC1

Did we like it?
Another one of those cheap schedule-filling reality documentary series that BBC1 seems to love. Well-made but pointless.

What was good about it?
• The charming Fabien Bernard-Gaudin, the senior planning officer in north London’s Barnet council, who goes about his rather dull work with a lovely smile, preferable to the over-matey manner of his counterpart in east London.
• The featured stories may have been dull, but they were well told. Would the greedy developers who turned two houses into nine flats without permission get their comeuppance? Yes (partly). Would old girl Jean succeed in getting rid of the eyesore that got in the way of the sunset? No. Would the enraged residents of Hamsptead Garden Suburb emerge victorious in their campaign against mobile phone masts disguised as telegraph poles? Yes.

What was bad about it?
• The main joy of these consumer affairs programmes is seeing the wrongdoers confronted but this series never put a face to the people flouting planning regulations, which left us feeling unsatisfied.
• An eight-part series on planning departments seems to be too big a structure when BBC1 could be tackling more important issues.
• The snooty Hampstead folks – “This is a suburb! We don’t have telephone masts in the suburbs!” – won their battle against the masts (but they’ll complain when they can’t get a mobile phone signal, we bet), while the salt-of-the-earth folk of Dagenham failed, showing the middle-class Nimbyists stand a much better chance than less articulate working class folk.

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