MP’s column - Develop yes, but keep aware

Development is one of the most difficult processes which we face here in Lincolnshire.

We know that change must happen: only dead things don’t change, and Lincolnshire is alive. But we must also keep a keen eye on the pace of change and what changes are happening. This is the virtue of prudence. If we notice that change is turning in directions we don’t want, it is our responsibility to speak up, point out where things are going wrong, and work hard to set them back on the right track.

There are definitely changes none of us want to see. I receive reams of emails and letters from constituents about the various proposals underway to build wind farms in our part of the country. I have stated again and again my opposition to these unsightly disturbances which ruin our landscapes, and I have written to West Lindsey District Council voicing my objections and those of voters.

Wind farms, while threatening, are not the only problem looming on the horizon. We also face the threat of over-development. The country as a whole needs more homes to be built, but we need to make sure they are constructed in areas where the local infrastructure can meet the needs of the increase in inhabitants.

The current ‘Joint Planning Strategy’ for Central Lincolnshire unfortunately overestimates the level of development this part of Lincolnshire can handle. Many residents have looked at the proposed allocation of development sites and how many new homes it recommends should be built on them and raised their objections. I agree that we need to be exceptionally careful and think things through properly. I have written to West Lindsey District Council and to the Central Lincolnshire Joint Planning Committee raising my objections to the Planning Strategy and urging a more cautious, prudential, and careful approach.

Changing gear to affairs in Westminster, I have been moved by the outpouring of support from people in Lincolnshire, and indeed around the country, regarding my fervent stance against the proposed military action against Syria. The Prime Minister, as I said, has now given his assurance that the United Kingdom will not be involved in any military attack against Syria.

On other matters, the official estimates for the cost of the High Speed 2 rail line are already spiralling out of control. When I was chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, we took the lead on investigating waste in spending and by our estimate our research led to £4 billion of savings to the taxpayer. The larger the government project, the more likely it is to cost double or triple the initial cost estimate.

The country’s finances are not yet in order. The Chancellor has made a number of very appropriate readjustments to government spending.

But it seems obvious to me that this is neither the time nor the place for a costly infrastructure project of this size and scope. We need to keep our eye on the balance book, even though progress is being made.

Sir Edward Leigh

MP for Gainsborough