DevComms director, Maria Allaway, looks at what the region’s MPs have been focusing on in March.
With the tragic situation in Ukraine developing over the last few weeks, there has been much debate in Westminster regarding the UK’s move into renewable energy and also its current reliance on foreign energy supplies. A concern affecting all of us.
A matter of national importance, this is a topic raised by a number of MPs across the country and, at the centre, is Greg Hands, Conservative MP for Chelsea and Fulham and Minister for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change. PM, and MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, Boris Johnson, also responded to the topic when questioned, suggesting that the UK is moving much more towards energy resilience and self-reliance.
We’ve seen MPs ask questions about how the Government will support the proposed building of a hydrogen cell gigafactory – which would also help to deliver green jobs and help the UK become a world leader in that particular technology. In response, Greg Hands confirmed the Government’s support for that type of development with funding programmes already committing more than £38 million to 16 projects across the UK.
In concerns around the impact of green energy facilities, Greg Hands responded to criticisms around proposals for battery energy storage systems being developed on greenbelt land and large solar farms subverting the planning process, given that they are badged as large infrastructure projects. The Minister responded that such development projects are subject to strict planning controls to protect the environment and surrounding communities.
In Chipping Barnet, Conservative MP, Theresa Villiers, has been focusing on challenging electoral boundary changes, planning matters and planning reform.
In her north London constituency, she is calling on residents to argue against proposed boundary changes through a public consultation underway by the Boundary Commission. The changes would see the creation of a ‘Mill Hill and High Barnet’ seat, removing the East Barnet and Brunswick Park wards of her constituency and merging them with Enfield wards.
Elsewhere in Chipping Barnet, following a campaign to challenge TfL’s proposals to ‘build on station car parks’, Theresa Villiers was delighted with Grant Shapps’ decision to refuse an application to build a 14-storey residential building on Cockfosters station car park. The application was originally approved by Enfield Council.
Theresa Villiers also organised and chaired a meeting which saw Michael Gove indicating that the Government would change their approach to planning reform. It was reported that the ‘growth zones’ proposed in the 2020 planning white paper would be removed and that any changes to the planning system would form part of the Levelling Up Bill.
Finally, she has also been challenging revised plans for Victoria Quarter, proposed by One Housing and Fairview.
Over in Richmond, Liberal Democrat MP, Sarah Olney, has also be challenging development proposals, specifically the long-running Homebase/Manor Road planning application which is now waiting a decision from Sadiq Khan on its outcome. The development project, which comprises more than 300 residential units over a number of multi-storey buildings, was originally refused planning permission by Richmond Council in 2019 but approved by the Mayor in late 2020, following a call-in. The proposals are currently subject to a number of revisions which continue to be fought locally.
Munira Wilson, Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham, has been calling on Michael Gove to put pressure on the Mayor to consider a local bid for Teddington Police Station to be repurposed as a GP surgery and affordable housing, following the Mayor’s decision to turn down the bid. Michael Gove promised that ministers would work with the Twickenham MP to reach a “fair and equitable solution” for the site.
The Mayor is aiming for the sale of the site to completed by the end of March for a rumoured £6 million, in excess of the amount put forward in the local bid. However, following a debate led by Munira Wilson at Westminster at the end of February, the Undersecretary of State for Levelling Up, Neil O’Brien, advised that there is no legal requirement for the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to dispose of land at market value and that ‘it can take into account wider social, environmental and economic benefits’.
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