Parliament returned this week after the break for the party conference season, and the week started with a flurry of announcements.
First of them was the deal for the referendum on Scottish independence: I have no problem with Scottish people having their say, but there is a case that the rest of the country should also have a say in the future of the Union.
We should also fix the existing constitution issues like Scottish MPs voting on issues that only affect England.
The Home Secretary also announced this week that the Government intends to exercise our opt-out to 130 EU measures on law and order.
This is an important step in getting some powers back from Brussels. There is the possibility for us to opt back into measures that we do find helpful, but I’m sceptical that this is a good idea.
For example, we’ve seen how the EU arrest warrant has led to British citizens being arrested for trivial offences abroad, which may not even be illegal here. We may well get a better outcome from bilateral agreements than these sweeping measures.
A lot of my time in Parliament over the coming weeks will be taken up with the Small Charitable Donations Bill which aims to let smaller charities claim back the tax on their donations, much like larger charities already do through Gift Aid.
These measures should help the many excellent small local charities reclaim over £1,000 a year. There are, as ever, some issues with how bureaucratic the measures are, and hopefully the process can be made as simple and attractive as possible to the small charities we’re trying to help.
Locally a big issue continues to be the Council’s consultation on where to build new homes over the next 16 years. They estimate that we need 9,000 over the total period, of which 4,414 need to come from new housing sites. I welcome that the Council has tried to avoid the use of greenbelt land and have eliminated sites at Swanwick and Riddings from further consideration.
However, the land at Outseats farm in Alfreton has been proposed for development.
I have raised with the Council previously the importance of prioritising the redevelopment of brownfield sites, and it is surprising that such sites with potential for significant numbers of housing have not been included at this stage.
Examples include the old Stevenson’s dyeworks in Bullbridge, Butterley in Ripley, or the old American Adventure site.
The Council has also assumed economic growth in Amber Valley will be higher than average, and thus has the impact of increasing the housing need. While we would all welcome such growth, it seems optimistic to build houses based on that assumption.
As the Council progresses with its Local Plan, it’s vitally important for constituents still concerned about the impact of the Local Plan to respond to the consultation on its proposals. You can find details as to how to do this on its web site.
by Nigel Mills, MP