Friday 22nd August

Secretary of State requests clarifications over Arpley

Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government Eric Pickles has written to the operators of the Arpley landfill site to request further clarifications before he determines the Planning Application to extend the life of the Arpley site until 2025. This development will mean that the decision will now be put back for a further 8 weeks

In his letter, the Secretary of State has asked the site’s operators to comment on three developments – a recent High Court case involving development on Green Belt land, Warrington Borough Council’s Local Plan Core Strategy (adopted since the appeal was heard) and a letter from local MP David Mowat.

Mr Mowat wrote to the Secretary of State in June to point out that keeping the site open was contrary to the Government’s landfill policy and that Halton Borough Council would not be using Arpley beyond the end of the year.

David Mowat said:

I am delighted that the Secretary of State has decided to act on the information which I brought to his attention.

“There have been some significant developments since the Appeal was heard which I believe tip the balance decisively in favour of rejecting this application and they need to be taken into account.

Thursday 21st August

To Frack or not to Frack?

It is the position of both the Government and the opposition that we should move ahead to explore for unconventional gas in the UK.

The reasons for doing this are clear.

1) With the depletion of north sea reserves we have recently become an importer of gas. Currently most of this supply comes from Norway but contracts for future supply have also been signed with Russia. It is in our interests as a country to minimize these imports both on security and economic grounds.

2) Gas prices in Europe have continued to rise in recent years; more supply will mitigate or reduce the effect of rising prices which will reduce fuel poverty and increase industrial competitiveness. In the United States gas prices are about a third of those in the UK which has had a dramatic benefit for consumers and jobs.

3) More gas can make a significant reduction in our carbon emissions. Currently most of our energy comes from coal and oil which produce around double the emissions of gas. If we were able to replace all coal and oil usage with gas, we would reduce emissions by a massive 40 percent.

This is a prize worth securing as we increase renewables and nuclear for the longer term. (Currently renewables produce around six per cent of total energy and nuclear about 10 per cent). None of these reasons are valid however unless extraction is done safely and in places where the environmental impact is containable.

For example, there has been drilling in Cuerdley over the past two years in a way that has caused no problems however I realise there is considerable controversy about other locations in the town. I do not advocate producing shale gas in areas and where it is inappropriate to do so. Councils and local communities must be part of the decision making process.

I also fully support the need of ensuring that revenue is distributed to affected locations which could amount to communities receiving millions of pounds. It is conceivable that shale gas will be as important over the next two decades as the north sea has been over the last three.

I made the point in a recent debate that the three constituencies with the lowest unemployment in the country are not in London or the south east. They are in Aberdeen.

We have created many jobs in Warrington over the past two years but we need to create more. It would be wrong to turn our back on shale gas.

Thursday 7th August

My take on Gaza

I was reflecting over the weekend what to write about this week.

Tempting, as it was to cover the potential demolition of Mr Smith’s, which will have a big impact on the look and feel of the town centre, I think that this week of all weeks we should reflect on the terrible events of 100 years ago. Nearly 20 million soldiers died in conditions of terrible hardship and it is vital that we learn the lessons from the events of the last century.

Yet fighting in the Middle East rumbles on with implications for all of us. The distinctive feature of what is happening in Syria, Iraq and above all Gaza is that the majority of casualties are non-combatants. Indeed in Gaza, the majority have been women and children.

To my mind this is completely unacceptable and disproportionate (and therefore illegal) notwithstanding Israel’s right to defend itself. What disappoints me more than anything is the total failure of the Obama Presidency to show firmer leadership in any kind of peace process.

I had hoped and believed that a second term President would have forcefully guided Israel (and of course the moderate bulk of Palestinians) towards a two state solution. But instead they have just supplied munitions with apparently few questions asked.

The most intelligent comment I have heard recently came from the French Foreign Minister who said that the time has come for the international community to impose a two state solution. I agree.

But unless America acts nothing will happen.

An imposed two state solution would, of course, respect the right of Israel, and it’s citizens, to live in peace. But Palestine would also exist as a viable state and the international community would guarantee the borders of both. Of course, neither side would have the borders they want but so be it. Over time they would both have peace and stability.

And as for Mr Smith’s, I attended an action meeting on Monday and for those that feel strongly an online group has been formed. It seems to me that almost anything is better than the dereliction we have now.

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