My book The Victorian Planning System: Practice, Problems and Prospects is now available from Federation Press.
My book Movie Towns and Sitcom Suburbs is out now through Palgrave Macmillan.
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RCI Planning is my consultancy providing expert advice, VCAT advocacy and statutory planning services in the Victorian planning system.
Monthly Archives: April 2009
Star Trek (J.J. Abrams, 2009)
I’ve said this before: the seeds of the problems with the Star Trek movie franchise were planted right at the start.
When they made Star Trek: The Motion Picture back in 1979 they tried to make an epic. They got an A-list director in Robert Wise (keep in mind that just a few years earlier his Sound of Music had been the highest grossing film ever) and treated it as a prestige production along the lines of 2001: A Space Odyssey. But Trek has always been a bit silly, and taking it too seriously killed the fun. So for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn – still widely considered the best film of the series – they went back to lower budgets and lesser ambitions. It worked, and Trek was fun for a long time, but it was never again particularly adventurous or grand or spectacular. Ultimately, the film and television Trek experiences blurred together, until there was simply no reason for either fans or the more casual observer to go to the cinema and see a Trek film. So when I reviewed the last Trek film, Nemesis, I suggested that Paramount needed to cut off the supply of Trek for a while, let some demand build, and then come back with something big.
A 1 minute long exposure on my Lumix. No tripod, just grabbed one of the lawn chairs and put it on. The lawn is lit up with lights from the house, as well as the full-ish moon visible. Didn’t do anything in photoshop – this is straight from the camera.
One of the most dispiriting things about day-to-day statutory planning is the paper warfare. Consultant planners prepare a report justifying their proposal; given the length and repetitiveness of planning schemes, that might be twenty or more pages long. Council officers then prepare their own assessment, but for various reasons they tend not to rely a great deal on the applicant’s report. Apart form the description of the proposal – the bit that applicants know a Council planner will always read – many consultants’ reports are not especially useful as the starting point for Council’s assessment. I suspect most planners will know the kind of report I mean: huge slabs of text cut and pasted from the scheme; permit triggers incorrect, incomplete, or scattered through the text; glib and formulaic non-responses to the real issues of merit; and so on.
There’s a cycle here, in that the less Council officers rely on application reports, the more sketchily they are done, reinforcing the tendency of local government planners to give them fleeting attention. Meanwhile, Councils have traditionally tried to encourage better documentation through the issuing of extensive application checklists listing every last thing to think about. This increases regulatory burden, and further reinforces the trend towards over-documented but under-thought applications. And when Council officers finally come to assess the application, they largely start from scratch, duplicating work that in many cases has been – or should have been – done by the permit applicant. The whole process sees a lot of paper exchanged, but too little communication and co-operation between Council and consultant planners in getting applications across the line.