Maria Allaway, director of DevComms, outlines the major events the region’s MPs have been focussed on since the start of the year. 

The new year has begun with a relatively quiet but mixed start for the region’s MPs in the world of planning and development.

A topic that drew the focus of Buckingham MP Greg Smith was the challenge around the competing demands for land to supply both food and ‘the latest scourge of solar farms’.

Speaking in Westminster, he called for increased protection for agricultural land and food security in the consultation on the new NPPF.

Citing local issues, Mr Smith stated that his Buckinghamshire constituency comprises 90 per cent agricultural land but there are numerous applications for solar farms and ‘massive growth in residential and commercial property’ which threaten the UK’s food security.

Over in Berkshire, James Sunderland MP was highlighting the prominence of his Bracknell constituency being ‘the Silicon Valley of the Thames Valley and the home of fantastic companies such as 3M, Dell, Honda and Panasonic’.

Whilst he said that this is hugely significant for local employment, he asked what was being done to encourage more international R&D investment into the UK.

In response, George Freeman, Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, referenced the investment in public R&D increasing from £15 million to £20m, the creation of the National Science and Technology Council and the International Science Park Fund, amongst other measures, to support the sector.

Mr Sunderland also responded to the news that Bracknell’s bid for Levelling Up Funds (LUF) was rejected by Government. He states that whilst the decision was disappointing, he sought confirmation from Lucy Frazer MP that, in principle, more affluent areas in the South East would not be precluded from successful bids. He also asked if she would be prepared to meet to help Bracknell prepare a successful bid in tranche three of the funding release.

Aylesbury also lost out on LUF funding in January, despite two bids by Bucks Council. Aylesbury MP Rob Butler said: “In a meeting at the UK House of Commons, I underlined to Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Minister Dehenna Davison that while Aylesbury is already a great place to live and work, we also have areas of deprivation and need Government help to regenerate our town.

“I have also spoken to other Government ministers about the ways they can help Aylesbury, especially by delivering infrastructure like better roads and rail links, as the town continues to develop and grow.”

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