Sunday, May 31, 2009

David Davis MP questioned by HOSM residents

Yesterday I spent a very interesting morning with David Davis MP meeting Holme on Spalding Moor residents at a drop in coffee morning. Over two dozen people called by to talk to David on issues, ranging from MP’s expenses, Europe, taxation and the economy, to parental access to children after separation, and life as a member of Parliament. A number of local issues were also raised.

It was good to see David challenged over expenses, as well as other important issues, and to hear his honest answers and thoughts for the future that we have seldom seen in the media over the past three weeks.

I was not allowed to escape from the questioning - particularly regarding local issues, with some very interesting points raised regarding composting, dog fouling, parking and speeding.
I spoke to residents as they left who all said they were now better informed, particularly about MP's expenses and the work life balance of a Member of Parliament.
Many thanks to Paul and Kathryn Whitworth for hosting the event

Saturday, May 30, 2009

More reasons to shop in Goole

I am pleased that the East Riding Council's Planning Committee supported the approval for a new Morrisons store on the old Timms site, Boothferry Road, Goole.

As a member of the Planning Committee, I felt it important we dealt with the application without delay in order to bring the derelict site back to life as soon as possible, but at the same time ensuring the historic windmill was included in the design, plus an element of free parking, and we were not put off by objections from another developer wanting to construct a supermarket at the north end of the town.

I would have preferred to have seen 4 hours free parking at the supermarket to allow shoppers not only the time to shop at the supermarket, but also walk up Boothferry and Pasture Road to use the existing shops and the market, but had to settle for the 3 hours.

If the 3 hours free parking is considered along with the two hours free parking at the nearby Tesco, then free short stay parking in Goole should be pretty well catered for.

This is a positive decision for the town and it will give residents of not only Goole, but also surrounding villages, more choice as to where to shop, and hopefully with choice comes competition and lower prices.

The development will also create about 200 new jobs, in addition to those badly needed jobs in the construction industry during the construction of the store.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Councillor Expenses for 2008/9

Many have asked about the expenses that I have claimed as an East Riding of Yorkshire Councillor. I receive a basic councillor allowance of £10,574.00 plus an additional allowance of £8,472.01 as Chairman of the Goole and Howdenshire Local Action Team.

Most weeks I work more than 40 hours in my role as an East Riding of Yorkshire Councillor.

I am able to reclaim expenses to cover the cost of travel when on council business and also food or subsistence. I am also entitled to an IT allowance to purchase computer equipment over the 4-year term of office, and an annual IT maintenance allowance.

I represent one of the largest wards geographically in the East Riding that stretches to 15 Parishes. As Chair of the Goole and Howdenshire Local Action Team I cover an additional area including places as far south as Adlingfleet, and west to Snaith and Gowdall. During 08/09 I have driven almost 6,000 miles as a Councillor, many of which have been to evening meetings, in addition to the day time meetings at County Hall, and site visits as part of my role as a member of the planning committee.

In the year 08/09 I have claimed and received total of £2,992.71 (which is subject to tax) relating to travel on council business, for which detailed claim forms and receipts were submitted.

I have claimed no expenses for food or subsistence whatsoever, as I would not ask the taxpayer to feed me.

I have been paid £142:00 IT maintenance allowance.

As a further measure of the work as a Councillor, I have received 6,853 emails and sent 2,737 from my personal Councillor email address since being elected in May 2007.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Renewable Energy – Some New Thinking Required

As someone who sits on the East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) Planning Committee, I have voted to approve and refuse renewable energy applications based on their merits. But what we are seeing now with Central Government consistently over-ruling the Council at appeal is very disturbing.

Renewable Energy – Some New Thinking Required

As yet another windfarm application (Sixpennywood near Howden) goes to the Government to decide on appeal, renewable energy is again high on the agenda as one of the most emotive subjects faced by rural communities, with many residents feeling they have little say in the location of windfarms or biomass power stations. The perception is that the siting is very much at the behest of speculative developers who appear to submit planning applications at will, with little consultation, little regard for local feeling, or impact on the landscape or roads.

The East Riding of Yorkshire Council Planning Committee has a good record of supporting renewable energy applications in appropriate locations, a significant number of which are now either up and running, under construction, or awaiting commencement.

Conversely a number of applications at inappropriate locations such as Routh, Withernwick, and Tansterne have been refused. Unfortunately Secretary of State Hazel Blears has seized the decision-making from the Council by upholding developer appeals at these sites, allowing them to go ahead.

The message from Central Government is becoming very clear – the opinions and decisions taken by locally elected Councillors count for very little and our voices are worthless, something that’s clearly wrong and very worrying.

A Change of Driver

At present speculative developers are the driving force in the siting of renewable energy facilities. This is not acceptable and a way must be found to give greater power to Local Authorities in site selection. The ERYC has endeavoured to offer guidance to developers in the recent Interim Planning Document on Renewable Energy, but I fear this will not stand up to the will of the Government.

There needs to be some new thinking on site selection from developers, the Local Authority and central Government. To consider the East Riding as a whole is essential, there are areas of natural value that should be avoided, but others that are appropriate. Wide-ranging consultation should be carried out, not only with developers, but communities, stakeholders, radar installations, airports, highway authorities and English Nature to determine suitable sites, and facility size/type able to be accommodated. These can then be prioritised and put out to developers for tender. The money raised could supplement existing off-site contributions provided by developers to deliver meaningful community or infrastructural projects.

Addressing Local Opposition Through Community Ownership

Many have commented on the size of the larger generation turbines that make up the Lisset windfarm, and how these turbines can be seen for many miles in all directions. There are obvious benefits of scale for a developer to have a larger more profitable turbines and maximum turbine numbers on any site, but this must be balanced against the environmental and visual impact.

In communities where a windfarm is planned there is invariably a significant minority of residents who are unsupportive and even hostile to windfarms; this can then spread to the normally ambivalent majority. Then there are pro-renewable energy groups, whose supporters can come from further a field and tend to misrepresent local opinion.

Experience shows renewable energy developers only play lip service to consultation, and this is where further new thinking is needed. Developing community ownership of windfarms would be a way forward, as presently there are few perceived benefits, and disproportionately small financial grants from developers for community projects. The value of these grants must be increased.

Prior to an application, developers could conduct full and meaningful consultation with communities neighbouring a site, setting up liaison groups to allow residents to be part of the decision making process, for funding community projects and infrastructure. This could be expanded to include constructing an ‘extra turbine’, which in theory would be owned by the communities, with the net profits providing low cost green energy to residents within say 5km radius. This would create a viable partnership, with those living in the shadow of a windfarm benefiting financially, plus having a ‘unique selling point’ for their houses.

Waste heat produced by straw burning/biomass power stations should be used to heat homes or industrial buildings, with facilities located close to communities or industrial premises, and good road links for the transportation of the raw materials. A good example being the heat and power facility at Goole’s Capital Park Industrial Estate, next to a motorway junction, which satisfies both criteria. Unfortunately the Tansterne application satisfies neither.

The transportation of large wind turbine components also attracts controversy; with increased vehicle movements, and long lorries causing damage to roundabouts and junctions. The developer must be made responsible for this and be required to foot the bill accordingly.

Finally, let’s not forget the East Riding has the River Humber and Ouse running along the Southern edge and the North Sea to the East – are these not untapped opportunities for the development of tidal and wave power installations? After all the tide comes in and out, the rivers continually flow – but the wind doesn’t always blow!