Do you remember The Iron Curtain? As a child I thought it was a massive shutter descending from heaven. In reality it was an ideological and physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas.
I hadn't thought about it for some considerable time until I needed to call a contact within Cheshire East planning department. We hadn't spoken for a while but I was sure he would remember me.
The telephone number I had was 'unavailable' and a recorded message directed me to an alternative where I was informed 'all our agents are busy.'
I called back later and the agents were still 'busy.' So I formed an orderly queue and waited several minutes for another recorded voice giving me the option of pressing a number of buttons where I finally spoke to real live person. I was getting closer... or so I thought.
"Good morning," I said cheerily. " Can I please speak to Joe Soap?" (Fictitious name obviously).
"And your name is?" the lady operator asked.
"And your Christian name?"
"One moment... Now, Mr Barlow, can I have your post code?"
"Look, I don't wish to be difficult but Mr Soap knows exactly who I am so can you please put me through?"
"Not without your post code."
I gave the all-important zonal reference and waited to be transferred.
"And the first line of your address is?"
"This isn't a call-out. I don't need a home visit. I just want to speak to Mr Soap."
"In order to do that I must create a record card."
I was growing nervous. This had the whiff of Big Brother.
Nevertheless I complied.
"When did you last call Cheshire East?" she asked.
"I have absolutely no idea," I answered truthfully.
"I need this information for the 'system'."
'The System...' now I was spooked.
"Yes, we are showing no recorded calls from you."
"Can't I just speak to Mr Soap, please?"
"I just want his opinion?"
"About a planning matter."
"What is the nature of your enquiry?"
"It's just a quick question about our garden."
"That is too complex to answer," she informed me.
"I'm not asking for a sworn statement, I just want a bit of guidance."
"That won't be possible."
"Look, I don't want to fall out with anyone here I just need a brief word."
"Every case is different so it will be impossible to answer."
I was sorely tempted to point out that a great number of questions can be answered with a simple Yes or No e.g 'Can I build a recycling plant without permission?'
But with goodwill aforethought I simply asked: "Are you going to put me through to Mr Soap?"
"No, I am not." (End of call)
Clearly, no approach was going to get me through to Mr Soap. (God help his wife if she calls to ask what he wants for dinner.)
No doubt the 'agent' to whom I spoke was acting under strict orders to screen out unwanted calls.
Given the controversy surrounding the current 'Build it and They Will Come' policy it appears an 'Iron Curtain' has descended around CEC Planning.
So, comrades, should you have the need to make contact be sure to have your Personal ID, Party Card, membership number, blood group, sector reference and try to avoid Olga.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of alderleyedge.com.