News from Nick Palmer 22 June 2013
Mainly I wanted to discuss the developments on green belt housing, but first a plug from constituent Justine Schneider for this unusual play:
Inside Out of Mind is a moving and magical play at Lakeside Public Arts Centre, at the University of Nottingham, until June 29th. At some point in our lives most of us will be concerned about a close relative who has memory loss. This darkly-comic play looks at the experience of the professionals who care daily for people with severe dementia. Inside Out of Mind is based on research looking at the health care assistant workforce.
While the play is of particular interest to health care professionals it has relevance for all of us http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/vice-chancellor/2013/06/18/inside-out-of-mind/
In a post-show discussion on Tuesday, Francois Matarasso said: Until recently I was chair of the Arts Council East Midlands and as part of that I have seen a lot of theatre, and I just want to say that I think [Inside Out of Mind] is the most beautiful, and moving, and frightening, and disturbing piece that I have seen for a very long time.
There are public performances on Friday 28th at 7.30, and on Saturday 29th at 2pm and 7.30
2. Is our Green Belt boring?
Over the last year, I’ve been arguing that the Government’s “localism” agenda was a sham, and that the Council was under precisely the same pressure as under the previous Government to build more houses, on Green Belt if necessary. This has been vehemently disputed throughout by Anna Soubry, who has called numerous public meetings to denounce what she always refers to as “Labour and the Liberal Democrats” on the council supposedly insisting on housing development. Broxtowe, she said, should adopt “the sensible approach” of Conservative-run Rushcliffe in planning for far fewer new homes.
This approach has now collapsed. On June 18, the Government, through its inspector, instructed Rushcliffe to revise its plans and accept 3,500 more houses, much of which will need to be on Green Belt.
Anna Soubry has now conceded the point. In a letter to the Planning Minister, Nick Boles, who is reported as favouring building on “boring” green land, she admits: “Notwithstanding the localism agenda…and the repeated assurances of … the Prime Minister that Green Belt land remains specially protected… local authorities like Rushcliffe and my own are unable to determine their own housing needs… assurances about localism and continuing protection for the Green Belt at ministerial level are flying in the face of advice from the inspectors, leaving local authorities with no alternative but to agree to development on Green Belt land.” See
for the full story,
It would be nice if she were to apologise to the council for all the political attacks she’s made on them over this. The fact is that because we are living longer, we need more homes (as we aren’t vacating our homes by dying as quickly as we used to), and successive governments are insisting on it. It is possible to do three credible things (ruling out digging underground and living in caves):
1. Ignore the issue. This leads to the position in London, where I currently rent a 1-bedroom flat in a rough area for £1300/month. Is that what we want for our children when they grow up in our area?
2. Build upwards. Nearly every urban and suburban area in the world has the same problem. The usual solution is to build blocks of flats. It’s what I’d do (I grew up in one myself), but there is very little support for it – in Britain we are wedded to the idea that families with children needs a house and garden, and skyline view takes priority over giving people somewhere decent to live.
3. Build outwards. If we need more homes and we can’t build upwards, urban sprawl is inevitable.
This shouldn’t a party political issue at all – it’s a matter of physical geography. The only reason it’s become party political is the entirely fake campaign by Conservatives before, during and after the last election to suggest that they were going to be different.
But there is a separate political point. There comes a point for all MPs when one thinks that one’s party has made a mistake with major local consequences (no party gets everything right). Some years ago, I disagreed with my party over a proposed Green Belt development (at Watnall), since I thought that it would lead to impossible traffic in the north of the borough. I opposed it publicly, and was censured by the Labour group for doing so. Similarly, when an open-cast mine was proposed near Cossall, I led the campaign against the Government’s position, and eventually persuaded them to rethink and effectively veto the project. Sometimes a serious MP has to be willing to disagree with the party in the interest of the constituency.
Now, at the last election, Anna Soubry claimed that she would be an MP for Broxtowe in Westminster, not Westminster’s representative in Broxtowe. She is a member of a Government which she now concedes makes worthless promises on the issue that she has campaigned about for years. Her lobbying on the issue has proved ineffectual.
Should she not resign as a Minister and fight for what she says she believes in? That would also free her to campaign against the new open-cast project – which otherwise, I predict, the current Government will blithely approve. What matters most? Constituency or career?