Saturday, 31 May 2008

I am Legend?

We've just watched 'I am Legend' on the DVD.  It was scary (I'm not a fan of scary films - Shrek, Love Actually and the Railway Children are more my type of thing).

I vaguely remember an old Charlton Heston film called, I think, 'The Andromeda Strain', this film appeared to be a remake of that.

In common with many post apocalyptic films of its type, it had a common theme, that he end of civilisation will be caused by a virus caused by genetic experimentation.  It may seem fanciful, but to me it would appear to be a salutary lesson in being cautious with allowing genetic experimentation.

Greenridge, Upton - Public Meeting

I spoke last night at the public meeting at the Upton Community Centre about the campaign to persuade Hall and Woodhouse to work with the community to provide an acceptable use for the site.  The meeting was very well attended with some really good points made.

I had already written to the Lytchett Minster and Upton Community Association (LUCA) about the situation with the pub and this formed the basis of what I said:

The market for the night-time economy and social drinking has been declining for some time. Most people blame the smoking ban. In my opinion, that’s simply an easy answer. In fact it’s been a combination of factors; the increase in mortgage rates from eighteen months ago onwards, the cheap availability of alcohol through supermarkets which has encouraged people to drink at home and the changes in the licensing act making it much easier to obtain alcohol have all played their part. My thoughts on all of this and particularly the availability of ridiculously cheap alcohol are well documented elsewhere.

The one thing we have learnt over the past couple of years is that in order for the business to survive we have had to invest in it. Improve our premises, improve our entertainment and improve the ambience of the venue in general. For Hall and Woodhouse to be giving you the answers they have is, I have to say, something of a cop out. The Greenridge may well be too large a premises to sustain profitably for them. However, to propose the plans for disposal of the site altogether smacks, to me, of their ignoring the potential of the site and following what their marketing people have told them should be their demographic.

Having seen the investment they have put in elsewhere, I am afraid that Upton probably doesn’t match that for them. Trying to get them to change their mind about pulling out is therefore going to be relatively fruitless. Ideally the course should be to suggest they look for a purchaser from the sector who would be happier to trade from the site. It may be that they needed to be persuaded of this course of action by opposition to their various plans for the site. Your campaign to shame them over the loss of such an important local amenity is also an excellent course to take. I firmly believe that once we allow local amenities to disappear, such as pubs, post offices and libraries then we are condemning our communities to sterility and slow decline. A very short sighted approach given that I think economic stringency is likely to force many of us to a much more local view of things in the coming years.

Let's hope Hall and Woodhouse recognise their social responsibility and look for a use for the site that includes some kind of hospitality venue.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Proposed Planning Bill: More Centralisation; More Control Freakery; Less Democracy

The BBC are reporting growing opposition amongst Labour MPs to the proposed Planning Bill here.

Good for them!  These proposals place decision making powers over 'major' projects in the hands of an unelected commission.  Local councils, MPs and even government minsters would have no say in planning proposals referred to the commission.

The proposed commission would presumably be similar to the unelected and unaccountable Planning Inspectorate, deliberating remotely on planning applications without reference to local peoples' views.

We need more accountability, local control over planning decisions and greater transparency in the process.  This Bill will result in the exact opposite, more centralisation and less democracy.  

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The Greenridge Pub, Upton

The Greenridge public house has an iconic status in the centre of Upton.  It's also the only public house in this town of 6,000 people.

The owners of the property, Hall and Woodhouse closed it some time ago, citing declining trade and anti social behavioural problems with some customers.

They now plan to sell the site, possibly for a care home or alternatively a largely residential development.  

We took Theresa May to see the site when she visited Mid Dorset last month.

The Lytchett Minster and Upton Community Association (LUCA) are opposing the plans, hoping to persuade Hall and Woodhouse to retain a pub, restaurant or coffee shop in the middle of the town, there being no other place for people to meet and socialise.

A public meeting to discuss the plans and public opposition will be held on Friday evening (May 30th) at 8pm in the Upton Community Centre.  I'll be there to say a few words.  Come along if you can.

Nuclear Power Plants

Apparently so little attention had been taken to Gordon Brown today, his announcement that the energy crisis is such that we should be considering sites for nuclear power plants in addition to replacing those already built was missed entirely by the media. Only when Downing Street staff pointed it out to journalists was it reported.

I should be very clear, I'm not in favour of nuclear power in its present form. I'm not convinced that it's safe and I'm certainly not convinced that its expansion is desirable. I recognize that the coming energy crisis is going to need radical solutions. I think these need to be environmentally friendly ones.

I welcome the advances that are being made in tidal power sources.

These, to my mind, offer the best solution to the energy shortage. In the short term we may need to rely upon the refurbishment of our current nuclear power stations. This should be a short term solution only, buying us time to develop further a full range of environmentally friendly options.

The subject reminded me of an e-mail I received back in March. The correspondent was asking me how I would deal with a conflict between my party policy and a local issue which was universally opposed by my constituents. The question came on the back of my comments about the EU Referendum vote in the Commons and the example used was a plan to construct a reactor at Winfrith.

I'm afraid I received the e-mail while I was away in Spain and it was lost when my lap top crashed. I'm therefore happy to answer the query here and hope that the gentleman who asked me the question might understand that I wasn't able to answer his original e-mail.

That answer is quite simple. If I'm elected at the election then I will have been elected on a party platform which will be clearly laid out. I'd react to subsequent decisions on the basis of representing the best interests of my constituency. If that mean opposing a decision otherwise backed by my party or the government of which I was part then so be it.