Tag Archives: planning

Bath & North East Somerset adopts net zero housing policy

Liberal Democrat controlled Bath and North East Somerset Council has become the first council in England to adopt an energy-based net zero housing policy as part of its commitment to tackling the climate emergency.

The new housing development policy will ensure the energy use of any proposed development is measured and meets a specified target — setting a limit on the total energy use and demand for space heating. It will also require sufficient on-site renewable energy generation to match the total energy consumption of the buildings — ensuring the development is 100% self-sufficient.

New policies will also address building emissions such as a policy to limit carbon emissions resulting from the materials used in the construction of large-scale developments. These ‘upfront’ embodied carbon emissions will be limited to 900kg CO2 e/m2.

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Christine Jardine calls for planning changes to protect women

Christine Jardine is to bring forward a bill in the Commons which would make it a legal requirement for women’s safety to be published as a condition of planning approval for major developments.

An assessment of the impact on women’s safety would need to be published as a condition of planning approval for major developments.

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Targets aren’t policies – the flawed Liberal Democrat position on homes and planning

The “Building Communities” motion last autumn left us with a target of 380,000 new homes a year, despite opposition from ALDC and most of the Party hierarchy. The grassroots, especially the young, don’t trust their colleagues who have to work with government at all levels.

Targets like this are gestures that discredit our radical tradition. They are not policies and they are bound to fail unless a Party has policies that can deliver them. Noticeably none of the policies in the motion were opposed. Just the target.
The national housing target merely “feeds the beast” that is the cartel of national homebuilders and speculative landowners, in combination with lenders who between them kill our real economy. I began my working life 50 years ago as a chartered builder working for one of them. I wondered why housing site construction always made a loss until the regional manager took me aside at a training function and said: “Tony, we make all our money on land deals.” So began my inyerest in land economics.

“Investment” in a finite natural resource simply hands over wealth created by entrepreneurs and workers, to be locked up in bank balances as unearned gains. Legalised theft. It inflates the balance sheets of large companies that plunder and speculate at our expense. That wealth needs to be re-invested in things society needs, not in pandering to greed.

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We need to ensure our ‘Green Spaces’ are protected at all costs

I’ve recently read the agenda items that my local council have put on their website and I’m dismayed that the term ‘Open Spaces’ is being adopted instead of ‘Green Spaces.’

This for me is far more than simple semantics. I don’t doubt that our Borough does indeed have many Open Spaces, but the desire to treat these as synonymous with Green Spaces is an hugely cynical move. This I feel would make it far easier and clearly more palatable for residents when our cynical council sells off our Green Spaces and makes way for the latest housing development. When challenged, selling Open Spaces sounds far less damaging or controversial.

Of course I understand the need to balance the planning and housing needs of my area, but I’m hugely concerned that far too often our planning for houses and developments is pushed through to appease big business and make money, at the expense of the health and well-being of local residents. Opposition to such plans, even when 2,000 residents oppose something, is seemingly paid lip service.

Greater emphasis should be placed on social housing. Is 10% for each new development really sufficient? Why not 50%? If there really is a ‘housing crisis’, is this really going to be solved by making developers and builders richer? Our current model of planning is clearly unsustainable?

As part of our ongoing strategy and policy for building a fairer Britain we need to be much more radical in our approach and stricter on our commitment to plans that we have a negative impact on our long term health and well-being. Should building for sustainable homes therefore always be carbon neutral and therefore enshrined in law? The risk to these Green Spaces and therefore an ongoing legacy for our children/grandchildren is at stake.

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We can’t solve climate change and biodiversity loss without solving planning – a view from the grass roots

I am writing from the heart following a battering few years trying to protect biodiversity landscapes from new developments and to get sustainable transport written into housing and supermarket schemes.

On biodiversity, all we have got from developments in my expanding rural town is tokenism. Replacement trees within manicured landscapes. Not the untidy scrubby bits of landscape that are or will become biodiversity rich.

On sustainable transport, the car remains king. There are no plans for bus routes to serve four major housing developments. The out of town supermarket, with the backing of councillors and planners, doesn’t even have a bus stop.

The planning system is working against our national and international ambitions to enrich biodiversity and tackle the climate emergency.

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Robert Jenrick’s Grand Designs

The government launched the National Model Design Code on Saturday.

Releasing important consultations over the weekend has become rather a tradition for MHCLG. Maybe they’re not fans of The Masked Singer.

Key to the Design Code is a belief that beautiful design can be objectively determined, and that people are more likely to support development in their area if the new neighbourhood looks attractive.

The Model Design Code is a good piece of work. Developed by consultancy URBED, it sets out a concise and understandable recipe for high quality places and attractive buildings. It includes guidance on coding plans, masterplans, movement, nature, public space, the built form, use of space and buildings, car parking and design.

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Tales from a Small Parish – David vs Goliath…

Welcome back to Creeting St Peter, a small Parish in Suffolk’s Gipping Valley…

One of the more visible aspects of small parishes is the role of statutory consultee for any planning applications in, or affecting, the Parish. More often than not, councillors are asked to consider extensions, occasionally an outbuilding for a farm. They generally aren’t very controversial, and as planning controls have been relaxed in recent years, there are fewer of them it seems. And, as a councillor, you probably don’t need much in the way of technical skills to take a view on whether or not the Council should take a view.

There is training available if you’re lucky. In our case, the District Council offers the occasional half-day course, and the County Association of Local Councils also offers both support and seminars offering some basic awareness. But, for the most part, councillors in small parishes don’t take up the offer.

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27 September 2020 – Conference day 3 press releases

  • Liberal Democrats challenge Government’s “power grab” planning proposals
  • Liberal Democrats adopt transformative racial justice plan
  • BBC licence fee should be set by independent body, Liberal Democrats say
  • Stalled talks with EU threaten climate action, Liberal Democrats warn
  • Stopping no-deal must be the priority, Liberal Democrats say

Liberal Democrats challenge Government’s “power grab” planning proposals

In a policy motion adopted today at the Liberal Democrats’ Autumn Conference, the Party has warned that the Government’s planning proposals will “disempower” councils and allow developers to “run roughshod” over local communities’ wishes.

The motion lays bare the risks of the Government’s proposals, which the Party argue amount to a Government “power grab” that will reduce investment in affordable housing, damage public scrutiny of planning decisions, and potentially undermine climate commitments.

By supporting the motion, the Liberal Democrat members reaffirmed their commitment to challenging the move through the Government’s consultation process and reject the “reduction of local control”.

Liberal Democrat Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson Tim Farron said:

Planning decisions have incredible power to shape the places we live for the better. Local people are clearly best placed to decide what “better” looks like in their area, and to know what their community really needs.

Yet the Conservatives’ planning power grab will disempower local people and local authorities alike, and lead to even fewer affordable homes being built. Instead of addressing the root cause of the housing crisis, the Tories’ proposals serve the interests of wealthy developers, giving them carte blanche to run roughshod over local communities’ wishes.

As this motion shows, the Liberal Democrats wholeheartedly object to these proposals. We’ll be doing everything in our power to ensure our voice is heard through the consultation process. We are also calling on the Government to act now to address the housing crisis, by matching the Liberal Democrats’ ambition to build 100,000 social homes for rent every year.

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2020 – The year the housing was hit by a maverick algorithm 

Alongside Planning for the Future White Paper (see previous article), ministers published without fanfare a second consultation on changes to the planning system. Council housing targets will be set centrally using a crude formula that distributes responsibility for the government’s ambition for 300,000 new homes a year round the country. But the formula will allocate more housing to higher priced areas such as the south and east, while reducing ambitions for the Northern Powerhouse. A ‘short-term’ waiver of S106 requirements for most small sites could cut affordable housing delivery by up to 20%. A quarter of affordable housing delivered will be for sale at a 25% discount at the expense of social and affordable rented homes. 

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2020 – The year government took planning away from the people 

2020 will be remembered for many things. The pandemic and flooding among them. It will also be remembered as the year they took planning away from the people. 

The government’s proposals in the white paper Planning for the Future and associated documents are bold. They will transfer many local planning powers from councils and communities to Whitehall and the planning inspectorate in Bristol. Ministers want planning by checklist instead of considered, albeit sometimes difficult, planning deliberations that lead to quality developments. 

There are sensible ideas in the government’s proposals but they are countered by its determination to take democracy and localism out of planning. 

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6 August 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Welsh Government must extend shielding support to avoid cliff edge
  • Liberal Democrats: Ministers are playing fast and loose with safety of NHS staff
  • Liberal Democrats: Jenrick’s planning reform won’t solve housing crisis

Welsh Government must extend shielding support to avoid cliff edge

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have called for an urgent extension to the support for those currently shielding, warning people could become “cut off” when the support ends next Sunday.

Under Welsh Government plans, the support currently available to those shielding, including foodboxes, will end next Sunday when shielding is paused. Local Authorities will then assume responsibility for providing additional support upon request.

However, new figures published by Asthma UK & British Lung Foundation Wales have revealed that 88% of those shielding are concerned about a return to work, with 12% so concerned that they have said they will refuse to go back – even if they lose their job as a result.

This creates a risky situation where thousands could face severe hardship by being cut off from existent support before they feel able to return to work and before Local Authorities can establish a proper functioning support network.

In response, Welsh Liberal Democrats have urged the Welsh Government to extend the support currently provided until the end of September, to avoid people being left isolated and give local authorities time to establish their own support schemes.

Jane Dodds, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said:

I am deeply concerned that when the support for shielding ends next Sunday we will see thousands being cut off from the support they desperately need. Although some shielders are ready to go back out into the world, many still feel it is too unsafe and plan to stay home for longer.

While some of those are lucky to have a good local support network, many sadly do not. We must make sure these people are not be forced decide between unsafely returning to work or going without basic essentials.

That’s why we’re calling for the Welsh Government to extend the support currently available to those who are shielding until the end of September. This will provide a transition period, stopping them being cut off while also allowing Local Authorities time to talk to shielders and establish their own tailored support schemes.

I am grateful to Asthma UK & British Lung Foundation Wales for raising this issue and hope the Welsh Government will act quickly on this. We must give shielders the reassurance they deserve.

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1-2 August 2020 – the weekend’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats: Government have deserted care homes entirely
  • Government’s planning reform shows they’re not serious about tackling housing crisis

Liberal Democrats: Government have deserted care homes entirely

Responding to the reports that the Government has abandoned their pledge to test all care home residents regularly throughout the summer, Liberal Democrat Health, Wellbeing and Social Care spokesperson Munira Wilson said:

The decision to drop the pledge to test all care home residents regularly would be a decision to desert care home residents entirely. The reports today, if true, are sadly just another example of a Government that is either woefully incompetent or one that simply

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Daily View 2×2: 15 June 2020

2 big stories

The relaxation of the UK’s lockdown continues, albeit somewhat falteringly. Yes, you’ll probably be able to go into a pub soon, but your kids may not be back at school until September. And that’s partly because politicians are increasingly ignoring scientists, as Rishi Sunak quite openly acknowledged. He is, I think, right to do so – advisors advise, politicians decide. If only many of us had more faith in the quality of those politicians who form our current government…

Caution is probably the watchword though, as many, if not most, people are still uncomfortable with crowded places, and are …

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The Next Lib Dem USP – Build More Houses

Embed from Getty Images

In my last post on Lib Dem Voice I touched on the current soul-searching going on within our Party, focusing on future electoral strategy. However, a successful electoral strategy has no purpose if we have no vision of what we would do with any further power it may bring. Now that the fight to keep the UK in the EU has been lost, the Liberal Democrats are in need of a new mission.

I can think of none better than solving the country’s housing crisis. The current lack of housing in the UK contributes to a number of the country’s wider problems, and so to tackle the housing crisis would go some distance towards making our country greener, healthier, more productive, and more equal.

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South East Liberal Democrats back dynamic ideas for “People’s Advocate” in planning issues and bigger role for chambers of commerce in local economic development

Liberal Democrats from across the south east of England gathered in Canterbury on 17thNovember for their annual regional conference. Held at the city’s Spires Academy, the conference heard from MPs Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne), Ed Davey (Kingston) and Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) as well as Baroness Judith Jolly and the Leader of the Opposition on Kent County Council, Cllr Rob Bird. 

Canterbury and Coastal Liberal Democrats proposed two motions. Both were endorsed by the conference by overwhelmingly majorities.  They will now be considered at national level.

The first idea proposed is in response to the widely held feeling in communities across the country that ordinary people don’t get a proper hearing on planning matters. 

In cities, towns and villages across the South East ordinary voters feel the cards are stacked against them. They see developers hiring expensive lawyers, planning consultants and PR firms that dominate the process and shut out objections. 

The Liberal Democrat idea is that communities will be able to able to apply for a match funded grant of up to £5,000 from their local council. With money from their own resources added to the council grant, a community will be able to hire a legal, planning or public relations expert, known as “A People’s Advocate,”  to guide them and help them shape their campaign. 

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A bit more about Parish Councils…

Last week, I wrote in these pages about becoming a Parish Councillor as, perhaps, a stepping stone to other things, although it can be, and often is, worthwhile in itself. I then went home to my Annual Parish Council Meeting and, rather unexpectedly, became Chair. That will teach me…

On explaining a bit about my particular Parish Council, a friend noted that it seemed to be one of the common models, an anarcho-syndicalist collective, whereby someone is notional in charge (a bit like the Constitutional Peasant scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail), as opposed to the Stalinist school of …

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How computer-driven cars are likely to transform planning in your town

 

It’s 2026 and you’re heading to your local town with the family. Not owning a car, you tap your phone and within a few minutes a self-driving taxi pulls up. You relax in comfort as it drives to your destination, then drops you off by the shops and heads off for its next fare.

Your neighbour is heading to the shops too. She prefers to own and drive her own car. Having got to her destination, she taps a button and her car drives itself off to park in in out-of-town car park, where it waits for her to call it back to meet her.

The technology to do all of this not only exists today, but is in use on public roads. Uber has been testing self-drive taxis on the streets of Pittsburgh for months and Tesla and Google have self-drive cars on the roads. Right now a driver has to sit at the wheel, ready to take over if something goes wrong. That won’t be the case for long. Tech giants like Google, Apple and Uber along with traditional car makers like Ford are investing billions to bring genuine self-drive cars to our roads.

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Kate Parminter: There should be compulsory community engagement before planning process begins

Public consultation meeting photo by Craik Sustainable Living Project CCL FLickrThis week, Liberal Democrat peer Kate Parminter took place in a debate organised by the Town and Country Planning Association on the subject of planning for people. She emphasised the importance of engaging communities at every stage in the planning process:

Parminter said a number of local authorities still have a problem with local plans and with giving planning permission by appeal. This does not, she said, offer any incentive or encouragement to local communities to “think that a neighbourhood plan is going to work for them because they see in so many areas that it about planning by appeal. Therefore, the mood is not conducive to more planning”.

Parminter said Liberal Democrats are “struck by the need” for formal community engagement early in the planning process. While neighbourhood planning is something that can be built on, it isn’t a formal enough way to engage the community in a large development to ensure that the design is right, that the needs of the community are met, not just the need for more housing.

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Opinion: Pubs matter so why not protect them in planning law?

Today has seen the third House of Commons debate on pubs in less than three months: rather like the proverbial London Bus. But with the rate of pub closures in the UK still running at 29 a week, a marginal decline from 31 a year ago, communities’ cries for help have been coming along rather faster.  There is a growing issue with pubs being converted to supermarkets in particular.  With long-awaited reform of the industry grinding its way through the House of Lords (where the resistance of Tory peer and former pubco director Lord Hodgson, sometimes rather distasteful, is thankfully proving futile), the focus is now on planning.

The Coalition has for the first time recognised pubs as community assets in national planning law, albeit weakly, and has introduced the Assets of Community Value process which is starting to let a few communities buy their pubs.  A fortnight ago, Lib Dem Minister Stephen Williams announced some additional protection for communities who get pubs listed as an ACV by removing permitted development rights.  But an amendment by Conservative Charlotte Leslie MP, backed by Lib Dem Pub Champion Greg Mulholland, narrowly failed to remove the much-exploited loophole that allows pubcos to sell or lease pubs to Tesco (formerly) and the Co-Op (principally at present) for supermarket conversion that sees often successful pubs close forever.  That amendment reflected Lib Dem policy.

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Reform of the Planning System

As Co-Chair of the DCLG Parliamentary Policy Committee I am pleased that Motion F5 ‘Reform of Planning’ will be before Conference on Saturday 8th March. The members of our committee are very clear that a pledge for 300,000 homes per year to be built (Federal Conference motion September 2012) requires planning permission for 300,000 homes per year!

Do Liberal Democrats have the political will to address our housing crisis?  Do we only have that will as long as the homes are not in our own backyards?  We present our motion for debate with the belief that the answer to the first question …

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Opinion: Cash in your pocket or green fields on your doorstep?

Cash in your pocket or green fields on your doorstep?

Does anyone think the planning system is working? I don’t and neither do many communities and local councils. Ministers certainly don’t think so. Buried in the National Infrastructure Plan published on Tuesday are proposals for more planning reform (pdf). They are bad proposals.

One plan is to set up a specialist court to deal with planning disputes. That’s a good idea, but as with so much legislation under this government, the detail undermines the principle (for example, the Lobbying and Antisocial Behaviour bills). What the government is really aiming for here …

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Opinion: It’s time to say Yes to Homes

Britain is in the grip of a housing crisis. There are 1.8m households on waiting lists for affordable homes, totalling over 4.5m people. Millions of young people are priced out of the housing market, unlikely to ever be able to afford to buy their own home. Poor quality, overcrowded accommodation impacts significantly on the health and well-being of its residents. It is undoubtedly one of the great social crises of my generation.

Yet for all the statistics, case studies and figures there are two that really stand out – 98,280 and 240,000. The first is the number of new homes built last …

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The Independent View: Planning out Poverty

Planning out of PovertyPlanning has become increasingly disconnected from peoples’ lives because it no longer deals with many of the issues people care about. At the same time much of the political and media debate about the future of planning has become a largely sterile discussion of the merits of continued deregulation. Everyone should have a right, irrespective of earnings, to a decent home

Planning has played a transformational role in improving the quality of life of all of our communities. It has a critical responsibility, along with wider public interventions, to tackle entrenched poverty. Planning has the potential to enhance our wellbeing by ensuring access to high quality environments and economic opportunities and to give communities a voice in their future.

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | 2 Comments

They shoot planning ministers don’t they?

Pickles and Quelch BolesThe planning minister wants to be shot. I’m not making this up. At the Conservative Conference he was asked about Tory proposals for further planning reform after the next election (£). The minister replied: “I’m going to answer it very simply. If I’m still planning minister after the next election, I want you to shoot me.”

Of course, planning minister Nick Boles has form in this territory. Back in May, he said that “if anyone comes to me with an idea for new planning legislation I am going to shoot them” (£). Putting aside the fact that new planning guidance and permitted development rights are gushing out of his department like an overflowing sewer, he’s obviously a man used to swaggering around Whitehall with a gun in his pocket.

But then, as I have noted before, Nick Boles is Mr Quelch from Billy Bunter reincarnated.

Posted in Op-eds | 9 Comments

“Mr Sprawl” Miliband abandons localism – but will he deliver good housing?

Ravilous Labour New TownsSomething big needs saying about housing. I guess Ed Miliband thinks he has achieved it. Maybe, but when I read his speech it struck me as bluster and a recipe for chaos, peppered with some rather cute ideas.

We need new homes. We also need good planning. The success or failure of new towns, urban extensions and housing estates depends on location, fortune, ambition and leadership. But above all those towns that work are a triumph of planning.

For every housing scheme that has been an outstanding success, another has failed. For every booming new town like Milton Keynes or Welwyn Garden City, there is a Cumbernauld or Corby.

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“Yes to New Homes” – time to cure the housing deficit disease

Housing completions by tenureWe used to be good at housebuilding. As the economy recovered after the Second World War, house building in England grew to reach a peak of around 352,000 in 1968. That level of housebuilding seems inconceivable now.

The ugly truth is that we have not been building enough houses to cope with our growing population and shrinking household sizes since the late 1970s. We need something like 250,000 new homes a year, yet we are barely building more than 100,000.

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Planning Consultation

Houses being builtPlanning policy is a crucial issue for Liberal Democrats. We believe in supporting and strengthening local communities – and the development of the built environment locally, and residential, business and other opportunities on offer, is critical to that. We believe that the revised National Planning Policy Framework has defined the broad parameters of the planning process, but we have further aspirations for our planning system to deliver strategic vision both nationally and locally.

The Liberal Democrats Communities & Local Government Parliamentary Committee – chaired by myself and Lord (Graham) …

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Opinion: Time to take the politics out of housing

We need an Office of Housing Responsibility to take politics out of housing.

Planning minister, Nick Boles said on 17 July 2013.

Every government member will be able to campaign with pride on the Localism Act at the next election in 2015, because by 2015 it will have delivered.

Nick Boles is wrong. Localism won’t have been delivered by 2015. And it never will be until there is agreement on how to solve the housing crisis.

Localism is not being delivered because local plans are not being completed. Too many plans are being held up with by a four-way ping pong between councils, communities, …

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The Independent View: CentreForum’s three headliners for an alternative Queen’s Speech

The Queen’s Speech today looks set to be a relatively sedate affair. As Stephen Tall observes, “the Coalition is now pretty much intellectually dead” when it comes to its legislative agenda. Enthusiasm for pushing new ideas has been replaced with a business like determination to deliver what is already underway.

The content of the Queen’s Speech is nonetheless important. It will shape what happens over the course of the next parliamentary session, and will therefore influence the outcome of the General Election. If CentreForum had the privilege of writing the Speech, we would focus on three headline issues in particular: …

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Opinion: Planning in Rochdale descends into farce

I know many current and former councillors would agree with me that being on a municipal planning committee is a thankless task. Explaining the quasi-judicial element of the role to residents can be a nightmare. Every council contains councillors of different shapes, sizes and abilities. That is why the role of a planning officer is critical – to help you through complex planning law. We may not agree with their advice but we need concrete planning reasons on which to base our decisions. Or do we?

The recent BBC programme The Planners certainly brought back memories for me about my time …

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