Sunday, 13 April 2008

"Development" and its unpleasant consequences

One of the things I enjoy most about politics is the variety of different issues I see… no day is ever the same but often there is a common thread. The past few days have been all about growth and some of the less pleasant consequences.

On Friday morning I found out that one of Gordon Brown’s potential controversial Eco-towns in Cambridgeshire involves not only concreting all over green fields but also all over one of the East of England’s major aquifers. I'm not a geologist – but at a time when we are all concerned about increased flooding and the long term water supply as years get dryer it does seem rather foolish.

Later I went to Newmarket where people are worried about increased low flying aircraft. This is the home of UK horse racing and our bloodstock industry that together are estimated to bring in around £1 billion a year into the economy. It is a huge employer. I met with Jim Paice MP, shadow minister for Agriculture. We expected a couple of locals to turn up. Actually we were greeted by representatives of the Thoroughbred Breeders Association, the National Stud and numerous other Stud owners. They know that tranquillity is vital to their industry. For over 20 years the US Military have respected a 7,000ft “no fly” zone. Now our UK government's quango NATS are suggesting that every flight stacking for Stansted should be able come as low as 4,000ft right above their heads. Local people feel the NATs consultation is a pre-determined sham. It would be pretty easy for this industry to relocate overseas. I would rather keep the jobs.

Yesterday I was down in Thurrock helping for the local elections. Its one of the most marginal councils in the UK and again development is top of the agenda. 18,500 new homes planned across this part of the Thames Valley. Local election candidates also told me how parts of the district have seen a huge change in their ethnic mix just over the past two years. Uncontrolled immigration is a huge issue for them. A year ago I warned that as the economy dips resentment increases. I also got to see Steve Metcalfe, the candidate for South Basildon and East Thurrock. He has a fantastic motor!

This afternoon back to the outskirts of Cambridge. Cambridge City Council is currently a LD stronghold. The Conservatives do not have any councillors and are fighting hard. On the outskirts of the City I met our candidate, Peter Hase, a successful local businessman and father. Residents have become resigned to the thousands of homes that are being built just across their garden fences BUT they want to have local councillors who make sure there are still green spaces around their homes, places for their sports and someone who will stand up for them against the developers. A bit of opposition will help to keep everyone on their toes.

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