I recently received the below letter from Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, concerning the revocation of the regional strategy for the South East of England Plan. I warmly welcome this announcement which means that the top down Central Government targets for house building will be scrapped. It will give more responsibility to elected local councillors to decide how much development we need and where it should take place.
Archive for the ‘Wycombe’ Category
A letter from Eric Pickles concerning the revocation of the regional strategy for the South East of England PlanFebruary 14, 2013
The local NHS consultation closes on 16 April.
To see a short and jargon-free summary and to comment online you can look HERE.
The proposals include changes to hospital services at Stoke Mandeville and Wycombe. There’s been a fair bit of coverage in the local media already but if you haven’t yet what is being suggested and want to have your say, do follow the link.
Greengauge 21 is a company that has long supported High Speed Rail, and has weighed in behind the HS2 proposal. They’ve recently published a report in which they argue that it would be possible for the government to link HS2 to improvements to local rail services that would give people in Bucks and neighbouring counties some benefits to set against the financial and environmental costs of HS2.
They say that new services could be run from Aylesbury to Watford Junction and the West Coast Main Line via a new (but oft-mooted) Croxley link and that a new link to Heathrow could provide direct rail access to and from the airport for the Wycombe-Risborough branch of the Chiltern Line.
It’s an interesting line of argument and one that I hadn’t heard before. Better local rail services would be attractive, though I noted that Greengauge did not envisage these being provided until after HS2 had been completed. Indeed, they seem to reckon that the prospect of a direct Chiltern Line-Heathrow connection in particular would have to wait until much later. And of course money would have to be found to finance the new links suggested.
Of course nothing that Greengauge suggests would lessen the environmental impact of HS2 and I doubt that their proposals would make any difference either to the business case for HS2 which is the subject of such vigorous controversy. But I’d be interested to know what my constituents think.
I have been informed that Transport for Buckinghamshire, working with the District Councils, has lifted the necessary temporary traffic regulation orders in order to permit street parties to celebrate the Royal Wedding.
Applications for road closures will be accepted for 29 April (the day of the Royal Wedding), as well as the three days following it.
I hope that this decision will allow local residents to mark this exciting occasion with an enjoyable street party, which can now be held safely.
Further information and application forms can be found on the relevant sections of the district councils’ web-sites:
Throughout my time in Parliament, my constituency has included parts of both Aylesbury Vale and Wycombe District Councils. So last Thursday I went to Wycombe DC’s offices to talk to the Chairman (Bill Bendyshe Brown), Leader (Lesley Clark), Deputy Leader (Tony Green) and Chief Executive (Karen Satterford). My colleagues Steve Baker, Dominic Grieve and John Bercow were all there too, so we had a full set of Wycombe District MPs.
We spent a lot of our time discussing housing. Wycombe intends to ballot council tenants on whether to transfer their homes to a housing trust. Under Treasury rules, this arrangement would bring in extra money for repairs and improvements that wouldn’t be available if the houses stay in council ownership. Aylesbury Vale DC transferred its housing stock to a trust a few years ago, so I was able to point to the lessons that could be learned from that experience.
Other items on the agenda included the Hemley Hill travellers’ site, where the decision will now be taken by the Secretary of State rather than an inspector, plans by Wasps and Wycombe Wanderers for a big new stadium to replace Adams Park, HS2, and Garsington Opera’s move to the Wormsley estate in Stokenchurch.
This last is really good news for the area. Garsington has a very high reputation. We can expect its customers to spend money in the local economy and there will be new jobs, at least in the summer, associated with the productions themselves. The management of Garsington have also told me that they plan to work with local schools (a boost for the music curriculum) and invite local people to watch rehearsals.
Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, recently announced that there would be a fair deal for travellers and the settled community. Please click the link below to find out more.
I would like to inform all constituents that the Exceptional Hardship Scheme consultation regarding HS2 has been extended to 17th June 2010.
The consultation is about a voluntary purchase scheme for property owners who properties may be affected by any new high speed rail link between London and the West Midlands.
Your property does not have to be directly affected for you to take part in the consultation and I would urge as many constituents as possible to get involved.
Before replying to the consultation you should make sure to read the following:
To find out more information and how to reply to the consultation please visit http://www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/open/2010-18/
I must stress that the present consultation is about the criteria for compensation for properties affected by a possible high speed rail link. A consultation on the route is due to be held later this year.
Please find below the letter that I sent to the new Transport Secretary, The Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, on the day his appointment was announced. I will of course put up the response that I receive.
From Monday 12th April at 5.00pm Parliament was dissolved. This means there will be no MPs until after the General Election on 6th May. Until that time I will be campaigning for re-election as the Conservative Party’s Candidate for Aylesbury.
My Westminster staff are not allowed to work in the House of Commons during the election campaign though they are continuing to deal as best they can with constituency casework from their homes.
To find out more about the Conservative Party’s policies please visit http://www.conservatives.com/
Just back from Amersham following a two hour meeting at Cheryl Gillan’s office with the Chief Executive and the Chief Engineer of High Speed Two Ltd, plus the Head of the High Speed Rail Unit at the Department for Transport. I can’t say that there was a meeting of minds but I do feel that I now have a somewhat better understanding of their thinking. Quite properly, they spoke on the basis of the policy set by current Transport Ministers, without prejudice to what any future Minister might decide to do differently.
- Timescale They envisage a public consultation starting in about October and continuing until about March 2011. They described the process that they had in mind as being halfway between a public inquiry and an invitation to send in comments to the Department and said that they were committed to trying to engage seriously with local people. They said that they were making contact with parish councils, residents’ associations and campaign groups as well as district and county councils. I said very directly that I thought that a six month period, including Christmas and the New Year, to look at the entire route from Euston to Staffordshire, would be inadequate for a proper consultation and that they risked adding to public cynicism about the exercise. Alongside this consultation, HS2 Ltd intends to carry out detailed planning work on a route from the West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds. This would be put out to another six months’ public consultation early in 2012. A hybrid Bill would be drafted to authorise the route finally agreed by the government and that would be introduced into Parliament in 2013. The Committee Stage of that Bill would take the place of a planning inquiry, with a panel of MPs (none of whom can have any personal or constituency interest in the route) taking the place of a planning inspector and hearing representations from supporters and objectors. Both HS2 Ltd and the DfT think that it would take 30 months to three years for the Bill to pass through all its parliamentary stages. Work would then begin in about 2017.
- Environmental Impact and Noise Assessments It became clear that relatively little detailed work has yet been done. The officials said that the forthcoming public consultation would be at “strategic level” though they also said that it would centre on the government’s preferred route. They said that they intended to have some maps of noise contours available for the public consultation but that such details as options for screening and earth bunds to block out noise were matters that should be considered at Committee Stage of a Bill, by which time they would have done the detailed environmental analysis. Both Cheryl and I made our dissatisfaction with this approach very clear. I believe that local people will expect to know very soon exactly what the likely impact on them would be in terms of noise and visual intrusion if this route were to proceed. I’m afraid that this part of the conversation reinforced my view that the publication of the route plan was rushed through for political motives before enough detailed work on environmental impact had been carried out.
- Alternative Route Options The Chief Engineer openly acknowledged that there were trade-offs between the impact on people and the impact on landscape and between environmental protection measures and cost. It’s clear that of the £16 billion estimated cost of the Euston to Birmingham leg, well over half is earmarked for tunnelling under London, leaving less in the kitty for tunnelling elsewhere along the route. HS2 Ltd described the idea of tunnelling under the entire AONB as prohibitively expensive. It seems to me that their reasons for rejecting other Chiltern routes, along the M40 corridor and along the West Coast Main Line were in the end down to the need for a lot more expensive tunnelling (under Wycombe or under stretches of Hertfordshire respectively) if those routes were to be developed. Their “runner-up”, route 2.5 cutting through the Hughenden Valley and under Speen and Loosely Row was selected precisely because it did not require tunnelling under High Wycombe. Their argument for rejecting the M1 corridor was different. Basically, their case is that so much housing has been built close to the motorway since the M1 was opened that an M1 corridor would either cause serious nuisance to very large numbers of residents or that it would have to be routed so far from the actual motorway as to amount to a line through virgin countryside. Of course part of our difficulty is that HS2 and the Department make assertions based on evidence that has not so far been published. The Chief Executive did assure me that they would make public their detailed work on other route options ahead of the consultation. It’s important that they deliver on that promise.
- Aylesbury The Chief Engineer said that while it was technically possible to tunnel around the edge of Aylesbury, the cost would be prohibitive, especially as a tunnel would need to go deep to get under the flood plain. Since trains need shallow gradients, a deep tunnel would also mean a long (and so even more extensive) tunnel. He added that a cutting would be impractical on a flood plain. He also said that while HS2 Ltd’s maps described the line as running on a “viaduct” round the west of Aylesbury, the viaduct would only be a few feet off the ground (perhaps waist high!), and narrow in width. The sides of the viaduct would curve up so that, in his words, the trains would run in a sort of half-drainpipe, with the walls providing some barrier to noise. He said that it could be possible too to construct an earth bund between the viaduct and the town to suppress noise further. To my mind, all this demonstrates the need for us to have the sort of detailed noise impact assessment that we have so far been denied.