Heartbreak Ridge is a 1986 film starring Clint Eastwood in which the great man plays Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway, a grizzled veteran of the Korean war.
Nearing retirement, Highway faces one last challenge: whipping Recon Platoon into shape. As the cloudlets of war gather – the US is poised to invade Grenada – it’s Highway’s job to get Recon combat ready.
Needless to say, his methods are unorthodox and sometimes downright mean, but in an unexpected twist, the platoon slowly but surely comes to respect him and emerges as the most formidable outfit in the entire US Marine Corps.
Sadly I haven’t had the chance to see this fine film in a while, but it came to mind last week when the news came through that the Royal Borough’s Planning Enforcement Team has been rated by the Department of Communities and Local Government as one of the most vigorous in the entire country.
Between June 2014 and June 2015 the team served 23 Temporary Stop Notices, more than any other local authority in the UK and nearly one in ten of the national total. And stop notices are only the start. Warnings have been issued, illegal adverts removed, enforcement notices served and the worst offenders prosecuted, all in quantities unimaginable just a few years ago.
This is a fantastic turnaround. Not so long ago enforcement was undersized and under supported and unfortunately some developers and contractors took advantage of that. If I’m honest, it was our residents who were the first to notice and they told us, in no uncertain terms shall we say, that action was required.
We listened. The team was strengthened, new leadership was brought in and a clear direction was given to go after developers and contractors who ignore the rules.
Today, the Royal Borough’s enforcement team is the toughest in London and I believe that fact is becoming increasingly plain to the minority of developers and contractors who ignore the rules.
In closing I have decided to resist the temptation of a parting reference to Recon Platoon or Heartbreak Ridge because obviously the comparison with our Planning Enforcement Team can only be stretched so far. For one thing, our enforcement officers don’t take part in invasions and for another, it isn’t obvious who in Kensington and Chelsea played the Clint Eastwood role. All I can helpfully say on that subject is that I seem to recall that Clint Eastwood was once the conservative leader or mayor of a Californian municipality.