Welcome to your monthly edition of Spotlight on Westminster (Eastern Region), where DevComms Director Charles Bushe provides an update on everything of note that MPs across Essex and Cambridgeshire have been up to over the past month…

The political mud-slinging has continued in South Cambridgeshire, following Anthony Browne’s (Con, South Cambridgeshire) criticism that the Greater Cambridgeshire Local Plan consultation had ‘significant gaps’ and featured ‘biased’ questions.

Since then, Councillor Dr Tumi Hawkins (Lib Dem, South Cambridgeshire Cabinet Member for Planning) has defended the consultation, saying that their Planning Services have been ‘recognised nationally as a leader in engagement with plan-making’; the Labour Planning Portfolio Holder at Cambridge City Council has also branded the comments ‘unhelpful’.  

In Braintree, James Cleverly (Con) has said plans for a new prison complex at Wethersfield is ‘not a done deal’, after a recent public consultation ended. He said that he has highlighted his concerns to the Ministry of Justice, but he reiterated that planning sits within the remit of local government. He has encouraged local people to ‘engage in the planning process’ and stated that he is looking to arrange a meeting with local parish councils to ‘listen to their thoughts’. The plans have also been criticised by environmental campaigners, who say that the site is a ‘rare bird and amphibian habitat’.

Will Quince, Conservative MP for Colchester, has been reacting to planning matters over the past month. In mid-November he celebrated the Government announcement that all new buildings will be required to have electric vehicle charging points from next year. He said that these ‘world-leading regulations’ will help the country adapt to a more sustainable future and create green jobs as ‘we build back greener’.

He has also made a third submission on the Colchester Local Plan, which is currently going through Examination. He bolstered his objections to the Middlewick Ranges plan for 1,000 homes on the site, which has been described by campaigners as the ‘lung of Colchester’. Will Quince believes suggested modifications are ‘insufficient’ to justify the inclusion of Middlewick Ranges, citing objections related to highways, biodiversity and the loss of a green space, amongst other issues. 

Kemi Badenoch, Conservative MP for Saffron Walden, provided some comments on the Local Government (Disqualification) Bill in a Public Bill Committee meeting on Wednesday 1st December, in her capacity as Minister for Levelling Up Communities. She said that Councillors, Mayors and GLA members must ‘face consequences’ if their behaviour falls short of expected standards and that the Private Members Bill will help to uphold standards in public life.

In Chelmsford, Vicky Ford (Con, Chelmsford) has been commenting on the recent consultation about the re-design of the Army and Navy junction in Chelmsford, a notable gateway into the town. 60% of respondents indicated that a hamburger roundabout was their preferred option and Vicky Ford said that it is ‘great news’ that there is now a preferred design, thanking residents who took part in the survey.

And in other news…

  • Will Quince (Con, Colchester) also published an article on his website regarding the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan, which provided an overview of the new high-speed lines and the upgrade of existing lines. The article said that the new strategy would deliver ‘more benefits to more people, more quickly’.
  • Shailesh Vara (Con, North West Cambridgeshire) officially opened the new Castor Lodge Care Home in Castor, Peterborough, along with the Chairman of Country Court and the Mayor of Peterborough. He said he was ‘very pleased’ that the new jobs will help the local economy.
  • Stephen Barclay (Con, North East Cambridgeshire) has said that he is pleased to hear that the ‘multi-million pound’ work on the A47 Guyhirn roundabout junction near Peterborough is on track to be completed by Spring.
  • Vicky Ford (Con, Chelmsford) met with First Port, the managing agent for Kings Tower, to get an update on the work they have been doing to remove cladding from one of Chelmsford’s tallest buildings.
  • In her Ministerial role, Kemi Badenoch (Con, Saffron Walden) decided that the first election for Somerset’s new unitary authority should take place in May 2022. This was confirmed in a letter to Somerset’s current County and District Councils by DLUHC.

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