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Signoff: David Taylor

TRUST Prince Charles to get it all wrong.The heir to the throne and part-time scourge of the architectural profession has uncharacteristically attempted to embrace one of the central tenets of New Labour planning philosophy: high density development.Worse still, he's tried to apply the philosophy at Poundbury, the fake-traditional new village he had built on his own land.

You know why, don't you? It's because high density developments stack all the plebs one on top of the other and keep them within the urban environment.No wonder the planners threw the application out.The idea was simply too dense; in fact it was as thick as two short rough-hewn green oak planks.

BUT having said that, I can sympathise with anybody who's trying to negotiate with a planning authority - or any public authority come to that.

A couple of my news-gathering colleagues have had a frustrating time trying to get the Inland Revenue to explain its policy on self-employment classification.

Their experience seemed to confirm the longheld suspicion that the Revenue is staffed by automata that have pull-to-speak cords between their shoulder-blades like Woody the Cowboy from Toy Story. In an exchange of e-mails, they asked if the Revenue would be taking responsibility for classifying individuals, or whether this would be the job of the contractor.

The reply was: 'It is clear from representations made by members of the construction industry and trade unions to the Inland Revenue that not all contractors are meeting their responsibilities on employment status. Industry representatives have complained that this creates unfair competition between those meeting their responsibilities and those that were not.And, of course, it is important for the worker to be treated in the right manner so that he or she gets the rights, that their true employment status will bring.'Hmm, not actually answering the question, were they?

My colleagues tried a slightly different tack: does the Revenue expect the majority of those in the CIS4 bracket to be on PAYE rather than self-employed?

The reply came back: 'It is clear from representations made by members of the construction industry and trade unions to the Inland Revenue . . . etc.'

The boys had one more stab at it but got exactly the same response as before - word for word.

Well this sort of thing really gets my goat.'Don't mess about with emails, ' I counselled.'Get them on the phone.' I gave them the Revenue's number.

Well, they must have misdialled because all they got was a crackly line with some Texan on the other end complaining over and over again that there was a snake in his boot and that somebody had poisoned the waterhole.

FINALLY, President Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, whom Sir Mark Thatcher is accused of trying to overthrow, is a very nasty piece of work by all accounts.Amnesty lists him among the world's worst dictators, a ruthless sadist who revels in murdering his political rivals and eating their testicles.

It makes you wonder why British contractor Fitzpatrick would want him as a client - but I'm told that Fitz is hoping to build a road and two hospitals for him. I'd like to see Pat Fitzpatrick try and enforce the payment provisions under the contract.

It also makes you wonder why Mark Thatcher would want to depose a tyrannical power-mad political leader who'd eat your balls for breakfast as soon as look at you.

He had the perfect opportunity between 1979 and 1990 but failed to take it. Blood, I suppose, is thicker than water.