Thames Water has recently launched a consultation on their plans for the long-term management of water resources. Given Thames Water supply water to the local area I thought this may be of interest to constituents who can click here to respond.
Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category
Residents in Weston Turville and Bedgrove will know that the consortium hoping to build 3000+ homes on the Hampden Fields site recently submitted a revised planning application. This included some significant changes to the original plan. They then applied to the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, to decide the case. There was a lot of local surprise at this since neither Aylesbury Vale Council nor local residents had had time to consider the new plans. From what the consortium has said, it would seem likely that what has driven them is a fear that the Planning Inspectorate would decide the appeal against AVDC’s refusal of the Fleet Marston development proposal (North of Berryfields) ahead of any decision on Hampden Fields. Presumably they fear that if the Inspector allows development at Fleet Marston, it would weaken the case for yet more housing at Hampden Fields.
Anyhow, I’ve signed off a letter to Mr Pickles to make clear my view that it would be wrong for his Department or the Planning Inspectorate to accept the Hampden Fields case for decision at this stage, when there has not been anything approaching a reasonable time for the revised proposals to be considered locally. My understanding is that the Inspectors are still considering whether or not to accept the case onto their list. I’ll post the text of the letter here as soon as possible.
I’ve also lobbied the Planning Minister Nick Boles about the need for the Government to deliver on its policy of scrapping the previous administration’s Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) which include Labour’s housing targets. He told me that they would do so but that since the courts had struck down their first attempt to do this, they needed to be absolutely certain of their legal ground. The good news is that just before Christmas Ministers announced the scrapping of the RSS for Eastern England. I shall continue to press hard for early action to do the same for the South East targets.
A number of constituents have recently contacted me regarding a colony of Bechstein’s bats in the Bernwood Forest area of Buckinghamshire. These bats are protected by law and inhabit woodlands which would be affected by route three of HS2.
I have written to Philip Hammond about the matter (see below), and will post a copy of his response when I receive it.
Arla has now sent in its formal planning applications to AVDC. On Friday, the company briefed me on what they were proposing and how they had amended their plan in the light of comments by local residents. I also went to the site, next to the waste transfer station alongside the College Road North industrial estate, to have a look at the land that would be built on if this scheme goes ahead.
You can see details of the Arla proposal at this site . If you want to make representations to the Council either against or in support of the proposal, you have until three weeks after the site notices are first posted to make your views known. I do not know exactly when the site notices will be posted, but am told by AVDC that it will be within the next two weeks. I will update this blog post as soon as I hear of the actual date.
The documents associated with Arla’s planning applications (of which there are four) can be found on the AVDC web-site here. You will need to search for planning applications 11/00962, 11/00963, 11/00964, and 11/00965.
Douglas Hurd once said to me when he was Foreign Secretary that one of the strongest reasons to support the British system of having one MP for each constituency (a lot of democracies use proportional systems with multi-member constituencies) is that it kept your feet on the ground. For him, it was having to come back from international meetings with the likes of Mikhail Gorbachev and talks about the end of the Cold War, to sit in a draughty church hall in Oxfordshire while people came and shouted at him about the Poll tax.
It was a bit like that this Friday. After three days in the States, I was back (rather jet-lagged) to a full constituency programme. I started in High Wycombe, where (along with my colleagues Dominic Grieve and Steve Baker) , I was briefed by the leaders of Wycombe District Council about housing, planning and economic development issues. Then to Aylesbury for an update from Arla on their plans to build a huge new dairy just off the A41 Aston Clinton bypass. The company is making further changes to its proposals in response to local comment and intends to submit a formal planning application to Aylesbury Vale District Council in a few weeks’ time. I’ve told them that when they have settled on their final plan and submitted it, I will want to visit the site to get a clear idea of what the visual and noise impact the new development would have on the local area.
The afternoon brought the usual three hours of constituency surgery cases (letters to dictate over the weekend) and then in the evening I went to the public meeting organised by Stoke Mandeville Parish Council to discuss HS2. There were well over 200 people present. The Eskdale Road Community Centre was full – not just the hall but the two small meeting rooms as well- and people were standing in the foyer and outside the windows of the hall too. Obviously people were very worried about the local impact if the scheme goes ahead, especially since the Secretary of State has now confirmed (see earlier posts) that the current plan involves re-routing both the A4010 Risborough Road and Marsh Lane over the top of the HS2 line, something which , because of masts and gantries needed for the railway, would involve a high flyover. But both the presentations from the platform and the questions from the hall focussed on the business case and the claimed national interest justification for this proposal. People asked about the forecasts of passenger demand, whether ordinary families could ever afford an HS2 fare, whether the project could be afforded, whether it would regenerate northern cities or just draw more jobs to London and whether other improvements to rail and road networks could provide a less costly and less environmentally destructive answer to the need to provide additional capacity. Throughout, the tone of the meeting was calm, focussed and serious. These were not people who can be dismissed as NIMBYs.
A number of local people have contacted me about Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s ‘Fish Fight Campaign’, and so I thought it would be a good idea to set out my thoughts on the matter here.
Throwing dead fish back into the sea is a terrible waste. It is disruptive to marine ecosystems and damages the viability of fishermen. The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) needs to be overhauled to overcome this and many other problems facing the marine environment and the fishing industry.
The UK is keen to lead the way in seeing an end to this waste. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has been driving initiatives to tackle this problem with a phased programme of projects addressing the various reasons why fishermen discard. These reasons range from throwing back fish that are too small, to discarding species that are not commercially viable. DEFRA funded ‘Project 50%’ in the South West, to get participating fishermen to design more selective nets. This resulted in dramatic reductions in discards and the landing of better quality fish. The Government has also been testing a new catch quota system which ensures that fishermen do not continue to fish once they have caught their quota. Furthermore, a DEFRA research project, ‘Fishing for the Market’, is seeking to encourage consumers to try a wider range of fish, to reduce discards of unpopular species.
The solution, however, will be achieved most effectively if Member States work together at the European level, so that the same rules apply to all. A special meeting of EU ministers was held in March 2011 on fish discards, and the European Commission is aiming to finalise its proposals this year.
Some constituents have asked me to sign Early Day Motion 1123, which concerns this issue. As a member of the Government, I am not able to sign EDMs. These provide an opportunity for backbenchers to register an opinion and to gather support for it. Ministers do not sign EDMs. What I have done instead is to speak directly to the fisheries minister about the issue.
The Department for Transport published a revised business case for HS2 alongside the consultation document that it isued a few weeks ago.
The analysis of this case by the HS2 Action Alliance was presented to MPs and their staff today (thanks to Andrea Leadsom MP for organising the meeting) and you can read the analysis here.