The week draws to and end, and I’ve even written some Christmas cards and acquired a few gifts. Almost feel semi-organised, with only mild levels of pre-festive stress and worry about stuff I haven’t done. I like Christmas, when it gets to the actual few days of celebration, but not the weeks of build up.
Gideon has been decidedly unstressed. In fact he appears to be doing very little as we approach mid-winter. This was mostly him today.
Reply from Jerome Mayhew below, but if nothing else please watch the film from George Monbiot at the end of this post, it’s really important…beware of the clowns.
Now you’ve enjoyed the cat pictures, here’s the response from Jerome Mayhew MP, to the email I sent him earlier this week. To be fair on him, he responded very quickly and comprehensively. The bit about public transport is ok, the rest I mostly find dubious – I’ve inserted a few comments in square brackets and in italics. I shall be replying when I have some time. Let me know what you think…
Dear Mr Harvey,
Thank you for your email. You have raised a number of points with me so please do forgive the length of my reply.
Weston Link Road
Whilst I do not have a constitutional say over whether the Norwich Western Link takes place, as this is a matter devolved away from MPs, I do support the scheme. I agree that none of the potential routes for the WLR is without very considerable costs in terms of impact to an otherwise lovely part of our countryside [If all the proposed routes are bad, then why go ahead?]. So what we are looking for is the least-worst option. The County Council has undertaken extensive consultation on which route to adopt and, on balance, Option C was found to be the best in terms of its impact on local communities, environmental impact, value for money and through the benefits it will provide to local transport links and safety, by removing the rat runs between the A47 and the NDR. Whilst some people, would prefer one of the other options, without there being a significant failing in the process of consultation, I don’t feel able to argue against the outcome that the consultation produced. In addition to those opposed to it Option C has wide-ranging support including Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Norwich Airport, Norfolk Constabulary, Norfolk Fire and Rescue and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. [Using the emergency services to justify more roads doesn’t work for me. More roads equals more traffic, more emissions, and they’ll still get held up. Plus emergency services are going to be under massive pressure due to climate crisis over the coming years]
Having spoken with the Council I understand ecologists have carried out extensive bat surveys over the last three years across a wide area to the west of Norwich, most recently completing further bat radiotracking surveys earlier this month. Consequently, the Council are developing mitigation proposals to take account of the data collected and are planning to put in considerable measures designed to support local bat populations, including green bridges, underpasses, and improving existing habitats and creating new ones. [The Barbastelle Bat colony is one of the biggest if not the biggest in the UK. They are an endangered species and the road would destroy the colony]
The Council have asked Dr Packman several times if she would be happy to share the data behind the conclusions she has drawn about barbastelle bats and the Norwich Western Link, including the locations of any barbastelle bat roosts her surveys have identified. To date the data has not been provided. As I am sure you can appreciate without seeing this data the Council cannot comment on the conclusions Dr Packman has drawn and will continue to base their proposed mitigation and enhancement measures on the evidence they have collected through their surveys. [The research he is referring to is being written up and checked pre-publication – it needs to be fact checked thoroughly to ensure it cannot be disputed, only wish the Government did more of that]
Given the majority of Broadland is not served by rail the only realistic public transport we can talk about are bus services. I fully accept that the current service needs improving as it fails the needs of the majority of residents with infrequent, poorly used and diesel powered buses. The only way I can see the majority of the network being improved is through the adoption of new technology. For example, smaller vehicles which have the right capacity and ride sharing technology which enables on demand door to door service. This is something I have previously raised with Norfolk County Council to see if there is appetite for a trial run in Norfolk.
In addition to this technological solution, earlier this year the Prime Minister announced £5 billion of new funding to overhaul bus and cycle links for every region outside London. This package of investment will boost bus services by focusing on a range of priorities, set to include:
- Higher frequency services, including evenings and weekends, to make it easier and less restrictive for people to get around at any time of day
- More ‘turn up and go’ routes where, thanks to higher frequency, people won’t have to rely on timetables to plan journeys
- New priority schemes will make routes more efficient, so that buses avoid congested routes and can speed passengers through traffic
- More affordable, simpler fares
- At least 4,000 new Zero Emission Buses to make greener travel the convenient option, driving forward the UK’s progress on its net zero ambitions
Cycle routes will also see a major boost across the country with over 250 miles of new, high-quality separated cycle routes and safe junctions in towns and cities to be constructed across England, as part of this multibillion pound package.
[Ok, so on public transport I think we can agree, to an extent, but it needs even more investment]
Thorpe Woods are a mixture of semi-natural woodland around compartments of commercial planting which was harvested under their FC woodland management plans. Given the encroachment of Norwich on three sides and the increasing informal use of the woods by these residents, together with the small scale of the commercial plantation, it is no longer suitable to continue to use the site for commercial forestry. The area of commercial forestry was planted in the first place because it was poor quality land, and had since developed poor ecological value due to its heavy monoculture [this is really outdated terminology – it’s old Heathland that would regenerate quickly if left alone. As a friend said – Here, in Thorpe, right on the edge of Norwich, we have 200+ acres of prime lowland heath / ancient woodland / wood pasture habitat, containing more rare & scarce plant species than almost any other site outside of SSSIs] . So the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust decided that the best future use of the land was to supply local housing need and thereby secure the long term future of the wider woodland for public access, biodiversity growth and recreation.
The planning process undertaken by the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust is a matter of public record, which included the right to appeal to the planning inspector, who spent six days hearing evidence from all interested parties as well as visiting the site, before coming to her decision granting outline planning permission. I agree that we should protect and manage the mature native woodland in Thorpe Woods, work to improve biodiversity and focus on ecological management. As made very clear in the report of the independent Planning Inspector this is exactly what the Trust will be doing; giving for ever and for free c.140 acres of Thorpe Woods as a community woodland for everyone, whilst improving ecological management, biodiversity, public access and recreation. The Planning Inspector found that: “… the development proposals as a whole would protect and enhance the biodiversity of the District.” This is even after the new housing is taken into account. She went on to conclude that the plan, “…constitutes Sustainable Development.” [I, many local ecologists, and the residents of Thorpe are going to have to agree to disgree on this. You can’t improve biodiversity by destroying important habitat]
The development site is now the responsibility of Hill Group, to whom any enquiries about the development should be directed. [Yes, we’re doing that – keeping an eye on their plans after you sold the woods to them for millions]
We do need to build new homes for younger generations as our local population expands and the size of individual households decreases. That being said, I think any new homes that are being built should be in keeping with the area and should bring with them sufficient infrastructure investment so that the additional population do not impact negatively on local public services. I note from your own address that you live in new build estate, which until a few years ago was a field. [Thanks for that, yes I do live in a new build that was built on old agricultural land I think – ecological deserts most of the time, due to intensive farming, not the same as cutting down woodland]
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill contains a huge number of useful additions to our criminal justice system, as the rather unwieldy name implies. Many of these are uncontroversial and I would certainly not want to delay their introduction by voting against this Bill. Many of the provisions are also a direct delivery of Conservative manifesto pledges from the election, so it would also be deeply undemocratic of me to seek to prevent their introduction. The clauses relating to non-violent but highly disruptive protests are there to help the police to manage the new wave of protest direct action, where the aim is not so much to protest as to cause chaos and inconvenience to as many people as possible. We all have a right to protest and to make sure that our voices are heard, but it is a right to protest, not to prevent. Why should one section of the public have an unfettered right to impose massive disruption on the rest of society? What about their right to get on with life? Where competing rights clash, the law must maintain a balance. Modern protest movements, such as Extinction Rebellion, game the system, and disruption, not peaceful protest, is their objective. The law needs to adjust to maintain the balance of competing rights, and I think this Bill helps to achieve that.
Is this new power open to abuse? Yes it is, like every power that the police have, but there is no difference between this power and every other power that we loan to the police. It is open to challenge and review through the press and the courts. As a democracy, we are well used to holding those in power to account. Every single member of the public has the power to become a citizen journalist immediately through their ‘phone. As a result, the police are subject to review and oversight like never before.
The setting up of illegal traveller sites can be a nuisance for local communities and an inappropriate development of open space. Many local residents across the country are concerned about anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping, and noise related to unauthorised sites.
After two consultations on this issue, as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill, new laws will be introduced to increase the powers available to the police in England and Wales. The Bill will introduce a new criminal offence where a person resides or intends to reside on any public or private land without permission and has caused, or is likely to cause, significant harm, obstruction, or harassment or distress. In addition, the Bill amends the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to broaden the list of harms that can be considered by the police when directing people away from land; and increase the period in which persons directed away from land must not return from three months to 12 months. Amendments to the 1994 Act will in addition allow police to direct trespassers away from land that forms part of a highway.
I can reassure you that the Government has taken steps to ensure that those exercising their rights to enjoy the countryside are not inadvertently impacted by these measures.
These new measures are a proportionate and necessary increase in powers for the police. The Government has made it clear that only a minority of travellers are causing problems, such as through abusive behaviour and extensive litter and waste at illegal sites. The vast majority of the travelling community are decent law-abiding people and we must ensure that there are legal sites available for travellers. As of January 2020, the number of lawful traveller sites increased by 41 per cent from January 2010. The Government has also given £200,000 to support projects working with Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities to tackle discrimination, improve integration, healthcare and education.
[I don’t know where to start with his commentary around the PCSC Bill. Organisations like Amnesty say it’s bad, very bad. It is going to curtail freedom of speech, and put people in prison for speaking out against the Government. 1930’s Germany anyone? See film fro George Monbiot below for more info]
Jerome Mayhew MP
Jerome Mayhew MP
Member of Parliament for Broadland
House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
Email – Jerome.Mayhew.firstname.lastname@example.org
Website – www.jeromemayhew.org.uk
This is the film from George Monbiot on the PCSC Bill, please watch and share widely.
More from Gideon please 😁