DevComms director Charles Bushe examines what our MPs have been doing over the past month.
The Sunday Times reported earlier this Summer that Dominic Cummings had been pivotal in working with Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to design the proposed planning reforms, after reportedly saying that he would ‘take an axe’ to the planning system.
In a week when Dominic Cummings was shunted out of Number 10 and the Government is reportedly aiming to revise its proposals for the new Standard Method, you may well, therefore, wonder whether these two incidents are linked and whether it was pressure from the Conservative shires that eventually caused the Government to crack.
And we’ve certainly seen an impressive cast of Conservative MPs from the Thames Valley turning out to publicly lambast the proposals, including Theresa May (Maidenhead), John Redwood (Wokingham) and James Sunderland (Bracknell), amongst others.
Much of the criticism from Theresa May and John Redwood, in particular, has been linked to the purported chasm between the Government’s vaunted levelling up agenda and the policy implications of the proposed new Standard Method.
John Redwood has continued this trope over recent weeks, suggesting that the best way to level up the country would actually be for the Government to encourage the private sector to undertake the ‘transformational work’ needed in town and city centres. He believes this could be achieved by making it easier for building owners to change the use of their property or to redevelop their sites.
We have, however, seen one local MP, John Howell (Con, Henley), defend the proposed planning reforms earlier this month. He said that the planning system needs ‘radical reform’ and that the current system offers ‘no vision for the future’.
His defence of house building has perhaps been most stark in relation to Chalgrove Airfield. After receiving a joint letter from 23 parishes, objecting to the plans, he questioned where this housing could realistically go (if not at Chalgrove) and stated that the ‘land and the houses are required to give people the chance of owning a home’.
On the perpetual subject of HS2, Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham, Con) has been publicly thanked for asking 400 questions of transport ministers and Rob Butler (Aylesbury, Con) met with Dr Elaine King, chief executive of Chilterns AONB, to discuss the impact of HS2 on the Chilterns.
At the Department for Transport Question Time on October 22, Greg Smith called for ‘real consequences’ for HS2 Ltd if they do not keep to their promise of being ‘good neighbours’.
On the subject of being good neighbours, Victoria Prentis, Conservative MP for Banbury, has been publicising the ‘large number of constituents’ around Heyford Park who have raised concerns about traffic pressures regarding development there. She has promised to take these concerns to Cherwell District Council to ‘find a workable solution’.
And finally, David Johnston, Conservative MP for Wantage, made headlines last week when he held a debate in Parliament calling for urgent improvements to the A34 and A420.
This follows a long-standing campaign by residents in Oxfordshire and West Berkshire who have raised concerns about the perceived safety issues on these roads.
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