Adam Hardy, account manager at DevComms’ Southeast office, looks at what Thames Valley MPs have been saying during February 2023.

The trade-off between new energy infrastructure and agricultural land uses has been a key focus for some of the region’s MPs in February.

Rob Butler MP (Con, Aylesbury) spoke in support of the Electricity Transmission (Compensation) Bill, which seeks to ensure disputes over land acquired for electricity transmission infrastructure can be determined out of court.

Mr Butler stated that the bill sought to ‘empower landowners with a clear, fair, affordable and enforceable means of dispute resolution.’ He also hoped that the bill would ‘establish an effective baseline for network operators to be good neighbours with communities.’

Mr Butler highlighted Aylesbury as an area where the existing power grid was in need of improvement and noted that the 16,000 new homes planned for the town would lead to an increased demand for electricity.

These new homes, Mr Butler went on to state, would require other forms of infrastructure too. Mr Butler took the opportunity to urge Homes England to approve funding for the Aylesbury link roads and highlighted the uncertain status of the East West Rail Aylesbury connection.

Fellow Buckinghamshire MP Greg Smith (Con, Buckingham) also gave his support to the bill, stressing the disruptive impact of electricity infrastructure projects on farmers in his constituency.

Greg Smith has been active in the Chamber throughout February speaking on rural planning matters.  In Question Time for Ministers in the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero, Mr Smith spoke of the threat solar farms posed to food production in the UK, while also noting that capacity constraints were impacting the use of solar panels on existing industrial buildings.

Concerns about solar farms are not unique to Buckinghamshire, with Robert Courts MP (Con, Witney) having recently walked the site of a proposed solar farm west of Botley, along with the campaign group Stop Botley West. Mr Courts has previously said that the plans posed a ‘disproportionate threat to agricultural land in West Oxfordshire.’

Elsewhere in Oxfordshire, but away from energy, Victoria Prentis MP (Con, Banbury) welcomed over £4m worth of funding to improve Bicester’s market square. The proposals, which Ms Prentis described as a ‘brilliant regeneration project’ aim to bring new food, entertainment and leisure uses to the square.

Back in Buckinghamshire, however, Joy Morrisey MP (Con, Beaconsfield) spoke in objection to plans for 1.4m sq ft of new film production facilities at Pinewood Studios when the application was considered at Buckinghamshire’s Strategic Sites Committee.

Ms Morrisey noted concerns around the fulfilment of measures designed to mitigate previous expansions of the site. The application was ultimately approved by the committee.  

Finally, in his role as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Housing Market and Housing Delivery, Ben Everitt MP (Con, Milton Keynes North) has been speaking about potential measures to ensure high quality, affordable commercial-to-residential conversions. The APPG for Housing Market and Housing Delivery, together with the APPG for ending Homelessness, have been holding an inquiry to explore the role such conversions could play in reducing homelessness.

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