A brief set of notes for the end of the Easter break, with some news on some long-running issues:
Whatever they choose to call themselves, I trust residents will be as relieved as I am that the threat of underground gas storage in the Preesall salt caverns has been rejected by the Government on the basis of a failure to provide comprehensive geological data and a failure to demonstrate the suitability of the site’s geology. These were the same reasons I set out in my submission to the planning consultation and in a letter directly to the Minister, and I am pleased they have been taken on board when reaching a final decision. There were a vast number of people opposed to Halite’s proposal and devoted local campaigners such as Councillor Andrea Kay consistently worked with concerned residents to make sure the weight of local opinion was front and centre of the debate. I also would like to pay tribute to the vitally important work of the Protect Wyre Group which has stood against this development for years now. A number of constituents who have previously contacted me about this via my postcard campaign should already have received a letter from me so I apologise in advance if you have received this update from me already.
This time round, Halite seemed far more confident, but I am glad that I was able to make the case that local residents objected to this third application as much as they did the first and second – and was able to pour all those postcard campaign responses on to the table in front of the Planning Inspectorate to demonstrate! Halite have retreated to consider their next step – which I hope is a away from the Wyre. Three times ‘no’ ought to be telling them something.
Another long-running campaign has seen some progress this week. It does not take an MP to tell you the A585 is a commuter’s nightmare, so I was pleased to see that 2 of the 53 projects in the Government’s ‘pinch point’ programme announced this week will see improvements to the A585. One is at the Windy Harbour junction near the glass factory at the far end. But the other is in my own patch, and will see a significant upgrade of the area between West Drive and Bourne Way. I am still trying to solicit precise details of what the improvements will consist of, but the headlines are as follows: In what has been something of an accident blackspot, right turns from Amounderness Way into West Drive will be stopped, and the turn into Bourne Way will be signalised, and that stretch of the A585 will be ‘improved’. Of course, the devil will be in the detail, and many questions remain to be answered. I am also conscious that the biggest pinch point of them all on the A585 – at the filling station in Singleton – has not been touched, and we’re no nearer the wider renewal of the A585 I believe is necessary. Equally, we will need to look closely at what the impacts on traffic flows will be, especially through Thornton Village. On balance, I think the changes are positive as they make the A585 more attractive to through traffic, but they may need to be accompanied by other demands – and it makes me doubly glad Andrea Kay and I have already secured the pedestrian crossings on Bourne Way and Fleetwood Road North. Greater detail needed first, then local consultation, but the wider battle for the A585’s renewal does not end here.
Lastly, it would be remiss of me not to mention the passing of Margaret Thatcher. I was fortunate to be down in London on Wednesday for meetings anyway, and it was an honour to listen to tributes from all sides – one of the best coming from Ed Milliband. Recognising where politicians differ doesn’t mean we can’t respect a lifetime of public service. I don’t dissent from the view of her as someone who rendered an ungovernable country fit again. To govern is to choose, and thus to divide. That’s how democracy works, with competing visions. Lots complain today that politicians are all the same, spouting the same things. You can’t have it both ways. She was always clear that if you believed in something, you would have people for and against you, but if you tried to be all things to all people, you might have no-one against you, but you would have no one supporting you either.
It’s fascinating how many point to her being the first woman PM, but say she didn’t do enough for women. But that overlooks how she abhorred the politics of labels. She preferred to see people as individuals, not as the labels that some hang round their necks, and expect them to conform to stereotypes. Ultimately, she didn’t want to confine people to stereotypes, she wantedeveryone to be able to fulfil their aspirations – not held back or forced to go down a particular path because of sex, race, creed or disability. As someone who first met her at the age of 4 in a sandpit at Hebden Green Special School in Winsford, it is perhaps that aspect of her message that chimed most with me as I grew up, and maybe propelled me where I am today. What matters isn’t where you come from, but what you can offer, and where you’re going. The grocer’s daughter from Grantham showed the elite of this nation what could be achieved with courage and vision.
Whether you agreed with her politics or not, no-one can deny that she changed this country profoundly.