Parliament returned last week for a brief session between the summer recess and the Party Conference season.
Parliament was rife with talk of the Prime Minister's reshuffle. Much of this was a Westminster story that obsessed the political community but is of less interest to the general public. It was the first major reshuffle since the General Election and as such it was an interesting experience for me to see it from the inside. Many colleagues who were hoping for promotion could be seen anxiously checking their phones for missed calls or messages. As I have consistently said, both before and since my election, my first priority has been, and will remain, the constituency. Recently described by The Independent newspaper as a 'serial rebel', I was not expecting any phone calls from Downing Street. The new team looks to me a good combination of experienced MPs and the new intake, many of whom are exceptionally clever and come from a background other than political. They have a wide range of experience that I feel will enable them to be highly effective members of the Government.
The Government last week announced a plan to temporarily relax planning requirements on small home and business developments such as extensions or conservatories. The hope is that this temporary amnesty will encourage people to move ahead with extensions to their property that they were considering. This in turn will help boost local economies as they engage nearby builders, electricians and plumbers etc. It should also free up Local Authorities from further red tape, freeing up resources. The proposals, which will be consulted on, will allow developments of up to 8 metres without planning permission. There will be exceptions in protected areas.
Whilst I can see the merits in the ideas, I do however have some reservations of my own. Eight metres is a large development to be built in someone's garden and it could have a dramatic effect on their next door neighbours. I will be interested to see the results of the consultation and naturally the views of constituents. Please feel free to write or email me if you have a view on this proposal and if you have strongly held opinions please feed them in to the consultation process.