England’s Rotten Planning System

March 29, 2017

The DeliveryDemon wanted a brand new shiny kitchen, matched units fitting neatly together, with nice level worksurfaces. Someone suggested looking  at Howdens Joinery offerings.

It was going to take some time so it seemed like a good idea to get some planners in to sort things out. Maybe someone from East Northants Council’s Planning Department. After all, they should have some understanding of how structures are put together.

The units needed to sit on top of a plinth, so 600 millimetres seemed about the right height. Roxhill Joinery said ‘Of course 600 millimetre units is what we will provide’. The DeliveryDemon designed out what was needed, and Howdens Joinery said ‘Of course, that’s what we will create’. The DeliveryDemon briefed the planners from East Northants Planning Department and they took her hard earned money to check that Howdens Joinery actually did what they were supposed to do.

Having done everything necessary, the DeliveryDemon headed off to spend days working long hours to pay for this kitchen (and of course to shell out what the taxman demanded).

Come the day the kitchen was supposed to be ready, the DeliveryDemon  went to look.

At first she could see nothing for the glare. The promised soft downlighting had been replaced with what seemed like searchlights. She asked for an explanation, and the reply was drowned out by a cacophony of beeping reverse alarms and revving HGVs, from vehicles which had ignored gates and warning signs to demolish the garden wall.

Finally she managed to see the promised kitchen. But it wasn’t the promised kitchen. Those 600 millimetre units were not 600 millimetres high. Some were 350 millimetres high, some only 250 millimetres. And some took up only a half or a quarter of their allotted width. The work surfaces had been hacked up and balanced randomly on the mismatched units. Not to put too fine a point on it, the kitchen was a mess.

The DeliveryDemon demanded an explanation from those planners.

‘Howdens Joinery told us 600 was the same as 300 and of course we believed them’ they said.

‘Howdens Joinery told us 600 was the same as 250 and of course we believed them’ they said.

‘Howdens Joinery told us part width was the same as full width and of course we believed them’ they said.

‘All your neighbours offered us tape measures but we decided to ignore them’ they said.

‘We don’t care that your family will have to live with this’ they said.

‘We CBA to give you even vaguely credible responses’ they said.

This is a fable of our times. It exactly mirrors the surreal process we have just been through in East Northants. It started with predatory developer Roxhill, in collusion with Howdens Joinery, ignoring all the suitable industrial sites available because Roxhill thought they could overthrow  the taxpayer funded neighbourhood plans in order to rake in profits at the expense of real people.

Their multitude of planning documents were thrown together to allow planners to tick boxes. And those planners duly ticked their boxes without ever considering the omissions, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies before them. People who actually used their brains pointed out that those documents were entirely unreliable. But the planners had ticked a box saying 600 new jobs and they weren’t going to get off their backsides to perform the most basic level of challenge which due diligence demands.

‘Loadsa jobs’ said East Northants Planning Department.

‘That 600 justifies destroying people’s lives’ said East Northants Planning Department.

The 600 jobs figure was challenged on the basis of inconsistencies too blatant to be ignored.

‘Well maybe it’s only 300’ said Howdens Joinery.

‘Well maybe it’s only 250’ said Howdens Joinery.

‘Well, a lot of those jobs are only seasonal’ said Howdens Joinery.

‘We only have embarrassing answers  to your questions so we refuse to answer them’ said East Northants Planning Department.

‘The answer is always loadsa jobs’ said East Northants Planning Department.

‘We’re not going to consider that a lot of those jobs will be done by robots’ said East Northants Planning Department.

Six doughty councillors toiled tirelessly to put the facts in front of their colleagues. Deaf ears were relentlessly turned. Six eloquent voices could not prevail against that obdurate deafness. Why? I have my views and no doubt you have yours.

And this has made it very clear that our planning system is not fit for purpose. Real people’s hard earned and over-taxed money pays for that planning system. Yet it allows faceless corporates like Howdens Joinery and Roxhill to ignore democratic decisions and ruin lives, all to make themselves a fast buck.

The DeliveryDemon is holds a strong view that this country is overdue for a heavy dose of democracy.

And the DeliveryDemon would advise anyone considering a new kitchen to look for a supplier whose numbers can be relied on.

Holland and Barrett – Delivering Rotten Food

August 24, 2016

The DeliveyDemon has in the past bought aloe vera juice from Holland and Barrett. The sealed opaque bottles usually have shelf life well over a year into the future so it makes sense to buy a few at a time and save the delivery hassle. But the last purchase from Holland and Barrett will definitely be the last one – the DeliveryDemon is strongly opposed to being expected to pay for rotten food.

The first bottle was OK. The second bottle was anything but – the colour of the urine of someone who was severely dehydrated, with a smell to match.


The one on the right stinks and tastes foul

Not a pretty sight! Bottle after bottle, including ones from the same batch, are clear and pale like the glass on the left. Then comes one which looks foul, smells bad, and a tentative taste makes it obvious that it would be dangerous to consume any more.

A reputable company would clearly be glad to know that there was a problem in their production line or product handling. But Holland and Barrett are clearly not a reputable company. And they insist that, when they sell in England, English Law does not apply to them.

It took from 27 July to 18 August – 23 days – for Holland and Barrett to try and wriggle out of their responsibilities on the basis that their process insists that returns must be made within 30 days. Clearly a process with that sort of delay is designed to force out the vast majority of complaints. The DeliveryDemon has a message for Holland and Barrett – your internal process is irrelevant when you sell rotten food.

First comes the Food Safety Act Section 14. Government guidance on this act says that the retailer must:

  • make sure food is safe to eat
  • make sure you don’t add, remove or treat food in a way that makes it harmful to eat
  • make sure the food is the same quality that you say it is
  • withdraw unsafe food and complete an incident report
  • tell people why food has been withdrawn or recalled, eg a leaflet or poster


The retailer has additional duties:

  • You must tell the Food Standards Agency (FSA) if you think any food your business:has sold is unsafe.
  • The FSA will tell you if the food must be withdrawn and customers asked to return it.
  • Submit a food safety incident report.

Clearly, by refusing to accept returns, Holland and Barrett is trying to weasel its way out of dealing with a food safety incident. Any company with this attitude obviously constitutes a significant risk to public health since it has chosen not to have in place the processes needed to comply with Food Safety Law.

That’s not the only legal breach either. The Consumer Rights Act makes unfair contract terms illegal, and Holland and Barrett are deliberately trying to hide behind unfair contract terms when they refuse to deal with food in sealed containers with a long shelf life whose rottenness becomes apparent more than 30 days after ordering.

  • Aloe Vera juice comes in a sealed, opaque bottle, so smell, colour and taste are not apparent on receipt.
  • The bottles have a shelf life which extends 18 months into the future, so a consumer may reasonably buy several bottles with the intention of using them over several months. Clearly, opening bottles on receipt in order to check whether the contents are rotten instantly reduces the storage potential.

To add insult to injury, Holland and Barrett emails glibly lie that:

  • We are proud of the quality of our products and as such, if you find that your products arrive with you in an unsatisfactory condition, please return the unopened products to the following address (note the weasel word ‘unopened’ in there).

The DeliveryDemon acknowledges that things do go wrong in retailing. Equally, the measure of a good company is the way it reacts when things go wrong. In the DeliveryDemon’s experience, Holland and Barrett as a company are as rotten as its products.

If you want to follow this saga to find out whether Holland and Barrett decides to live up to its legal responsibilities, or whether it clings to its policy of relying on unfair contract terms to conceal its food safety breaches, follow the DeliveryDemon on Twitter.

A Message for Micro$oft

June 18, 2011

The DeliveryDemon thought that Micro$oft had grown out of the sort of stupidity that leads it to ignore the most basic security principles in favour of a hard sell. Not so.

A few days ago, Micro$oft spewed out a massive download of fixes for Win7. Hidden in the myriad bug fixes is a nasty little payload which throws up messages  insisting that some perfectly respectable McAfee files are viruses. Having scared users with an irritating recurring false-positive security alert, Micro$oft then pops up message after message demanding that the user installs the Micro$oft antivirus product.

This is a recurrence of an old story. Micro$oft has used this trick in the past but recently it seemed to have learned a little sense. It’s clearly reverting to its old, discredited, behaviours.

Listen carefully, Micro$oft. Your hard sell tactics are making it abundantly clear that you’re not interested in distinguishing between respectable software and malware, just in scaring people into parting with money. This is remarkably similar to the behaviour of many of the scammers who lurk on the web.

Whether these false positives arise from poor software design, inadequate testing, or dishonest sales tactics doesn’t really matter. They irritate the hell out of your customers and seriously undermine your corporate credibility.

Get your act together, Micro$oft. PLEASE!