COLUMNIST: ‘All set for a productive year ahead’

John Bercow

John Bercow

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After an initial period of quiet at the beginning of the month, my constituency diary is already quickly booking up.

Although it is not always practical for me to get to the constituency on a Wednesday owing to Prime Minister’s Questions and my other duties in the chair, a couple of weeks ago I managed to do just that in order to give evidence at a planning inquiry. An appeal has been lodged to overturn Aylesbury Vale District Council’s decision to reject the proposal to build a wind turbine in Dinton, in the south of the Buckingham constituency.

I feel, very strongly, that the views of local people need to be at the heart of decisions such as these, and that it is my job as the local MP to ensure that I submit those views to the inquiry on behalf of my constituents. The Dinton and Ford residents are very much against the proposal, and I hope that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who will make the final decision on the appeal, will take their objections into account. The inquiry concluded last week, and now we wait for the decision of the Secretary of State. Although not all readers will not be aware of the Dinton application, I do think that getting involved in this sort of campaign is important; first, because I believe the proposal to be unsuitable, a view shared by many of my constituents and, secondly, because there are a number of renewable energy applications at various stages of the planning process underway at the moment. Not all of them, necessarily, will be inappropriate or unpopular and it is not that I am against renewable energy per se. However, I do think that the views of local people should be taken into account as, in the words of Mr Pickles himself in a statement to the House of Commons in October 2013, “the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protections and the views of local people.” Hopefully, as was the case with the application to build a wind farm in Stoke Hammond, the appeal will be rejected but for the moment, it is simply a case of crossing our fingers and waiting.