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Exclusive interview: David Cameron questioned over HS2, homes and jobs

By Tamworth Herald  |  Posted: December 20, 2013

  • ARRESTING: David Cameron during a visit to Tamworth in 2010, discussing policing with MP Christopher Pincher and PC Venus Wakley.

  • North Warwickshire MP Dan Byles with the protest group against HS2 at the Houses of Parliament.

  • The Prime Minister at Ocado in Birch Coppice this year.

Comments (3)

HS2 railway link

The controversial scheme is destined to run through the heart of Kingsbury Water Park past Water Orton and Bodymoor Heath – it's a national issue with a real impact locally.

North Warwickshire MP Dan Byles successfully lobbied for a consultation to be held in Polesworth and is actively supporting constituents who have challenging times ahead with seeking compensation.

But what benefits will HS2 bring to North Warwickshire and the surrounding towns and villages?

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David Cameron: "Your local MP Dan Byles is working very hard to stand up for local people and to make sure they get a good deal on compensation and make sure all of the information is properly distributed and that he stands up for local communities," said Mr Cameron.

"I think HS2 will bring a big benefit to the West Midlands I think overall it could bring in something like 50,000 jobs, it's not just about cutting journey times, it's about making sure the West Midlands and the north of the country really benefit in the economic recovery.

"It will be good for jobs but obviously we need to make sure we do everything we can in terms of mitigation and compensation, which I know Dan is standing up for very strongly."

Planning Developments

The Herald has reported on numerous occasions how local councillors fear new planning guidelines could lead to major applications being built against the autority's will. "The death of localism" is how some Labour councillors have coined the National Planning Policy Framework – which is what rules over North Warwickshire Borough Council until the borough's Local Plan is assessed in the New Year. This gap in between has created a window of opportunity for applicants to appeal through central government any refused applications, using NPPF guidelines.

What benefit will the NPPF bring to the borough?

David Cameron: "We inherited a very complex planning system and we got rid of about 1,000 pages of planning guidelines and replaced it with the National Planning Policy Framework which is about 50 pages – this will give a proper framework and proper protection for the Greenbelt. Greenbelt land is only there to be built on exceptional circumstances.

"So there are a lot of scares and worries put around, obviously councils are able to put in place a Local Plan and as long as though they have realistic plans for some new housing, then their Local Plan will be the most important determinant whether things get built or not and that will be putting power in the hands of local people. So I think the combination of the National Planning Policy Framework and the Local Plans will provide a much better system.

"But it's quite important in the meantime that we don't have a complete freeze on development and make sure young people in North Warwickshire are able to get on the housing ladder and own a flat or a home. We have to have some building taking place somewhere."

Economy

Mr Cameron visited Ocado, a huge new employer in Birch Coppice this year and has recently been out in China championing quality British produce and craftsmanship.

With unemployment figures falling in the borough, how does the Prime Minister assess the economic recovery in North Warwickshire and the West Midlands' region?

Mr Cameron: "What we're seeing is a private sector-led recovery – during the boom era private sector employment actually went down so the economy in the West Midlands wasn't doing as well as it should.

"Obviously we've had some difficult decisions to make with cuts to public spending. What we're seeing in the West Midlands and in particular North Warwickshire is a very good picture of private sector employment with new businesses starting up. I think I'm right in saying that in North Warwickshire the number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance is almost half what it was in 2010.

"We've seen some good years for the automotive sector, Jaguar Land Rover but also companies coming into the West Midlands. I remember opening the new Ocado site in April which altogether will be providing somewhere in the region of 3,000 jobs. It's a good story, what is happening here is the low corporate tax rates, getting rid of the jobs tax, incentivising businesses to come and locate in the UK and the hard work and enterprise of people in the West Midlands is beginning to turn things around."

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3 comments

  • mikeabbott41  |  December 20 2013, 1:35PM

    HS2 will not bring any benefits to Tamworth or the surrounding villages, only years of disruption and misery for the many whose lives and countryside will be destroyed. Tamworth currently enjoys a faster train service to London than Birmingham, Tamworth to Euston in 68mins against Birmingham New Street to Euston in 73mins. People in Tamworth are under no illusion that this fast and regular train service will not be maintained in the event of HS2 proceeding. The Government has already been seen to be trying to short change the households affected by Phase 1 of the route by offering derisory compensation below levels offered on HS1. Attempts to mitigate the effect of Phase 1 through community forums has proven fruitless as the Hybrid Bill has generally ignored these attempts. The Government having lost the case on faster rail journeys is now trying to make the case for capacity. If this was a genuine concern, why isn't the line designed for slower speeds of the level used on continental Europe where they have at least learned that slower trains means safer trains more economical to run. This would enable the line to closely follow the lines of the M42 without creating dead zones between the M42 and the track, without destroying so many properties, sports facilities and heritage sites. Unlike on the continent, HS2 will isolates towns and cities such as Tamworth and provide an exclusive rail service for a very small minority of the country that the rest of us will have to pay for generations to come. Make no mistake this project, will like all major projects of its type, come in many times over budget. The country does not want this project and the consultation process has been a sham. Regarding the NPPF, again Cameron shows a complete lack of understanding of what this rushed through legislation is doing to rural communities in North Warwickshire. Rather than provide sufficient time for Local Authorities to have their Development Plans adopted by The Inspectorate, the Government has created an opportunity for unscrupulous landowners to submit unwanted and ill conceived planning applications totally out of character with area. North Warwickshire is currently blighted by scores of such applications with no attempt to use brown field sites but concentrating on green field sites that extend the boundaries of communities. To say that this policy will protect the Green Belt is nonsense as this has been shown to be no obstacle to landowners looking to make a quick buck. There should be legislation that prevents development of farmland when there are other available sites. Soon this country will need all the agricultural land it can get for food production. Developers are now abandoning brown field sites. There is enough land already with planning permission to meet housing requirements and legislation should be passed to stop the roll on of planning permission beyond three years which is creating vast land banks for developers. The NPPF should be consigned to the dustbin along with HS2 and onshore wind farms that all threaten to ruin the countryside forever.

    |   -15
  • mikeabbott41  |  December 20 2013, 1:31PM

    HS2 will not bring any benefits to Tamworth or the surrounding villages, only years of disruption and misery for the many whose lives and countryside will be destroyed. Tamworth currently enjoys a faster train service to London than Birmingham, Tamworth to Euston in 68mins against Birmingham New Street to Euston in 73mins. People in Tamworth are under no illusion that this fast and regular train service will not be maintained in the event of HS2 proceeding. The Government has already been seen to be trying to short change the households affected by Phase 1 of the route by offering derisory compensation below levels offered on HS1. Attempts to mitigate the effect of Phase 1 through community forums has proven fruitless as the Hybrid Bill has generally ignored these attempts. The Government having lost the case on faster rail journeys is now trying to make the case for capacity. If this was a genuine concern, why isn't the line designed for slower speeds of the level used on continental Europe where they have at least learned that slower trains means safer trains more economical to run. This would enable the line to closely follow the lines of the M42 without creating dead zones between the M42 and the track, without destroying so many properties, sports facilities and heritage sites. Unlike on the continent, HS2 will isolates towns and cities such as Tamworth and provide an exclusive rail service for a very small minority of the country that the rest of us will have to pay for generations to come. Make no mistake this project, will like all major projects of its type, come in many times over budget. The country does not want this project and the consultation process has been a sham. Again Cameron shows a complete lack of understanding of what this rushed through legislation is doing to rural communities in North Warwickshire. Rather than provide sufficient time for Local Authorities to have their Development Plans adopted by The Inspectorate, the Government has created an opportunity for unscrupulous landowners to submit unwanted and ill conceived planning applications totally out of character with area. North Warwickshire is currently blighted by scores of such applications with no attempt to use brown field sites but concentrating on green field sites that extend the boundaries of communities. To say that this policy will protect the Green Belt is nonsense as this has been shown to be no obstacle to landowners looking to make a quick buck. There should be legislation that prevents development of farmland when there are other available sites. Soon this country will need all the agricultural land it can get for food production. Developers are now abandoning brown field sites. There is enough land already with planning permission to meet housing requirements and legislation should be passed to stop the roll on of planning permission beyond three years which is creating vast land banks for developers. The NPPF should be consigned to the dustbin along with HS2 and onshore wind farms that all threaten to ruin the countryside forever.

    |   -17
  • NewtonBugler  |  December 20 2013, 1:05PM

    The Prime Minister is yet again showing how he and his ministers are completely out of touch with people in local communities - especially rural ones. If he's so confident that HS2 will benefit the country, why is his Government resorting to emergency powers to hide from the public an official report which apparently tells a complete different story? As for rural development, he ought to look at what's happening in our own village, Newton Regis. North Warwickshire Borough Council has engaged in a thorough consultation process on new housing development, to which our local parish council and local residents have contributed, and for which we have paid through our council tax. The preferred site for development in Newton is a brownfield site for which a planning application is about to be submitted. No doubt encouraged by the NPPF and unhelpful comments by the Planning Minister Nick Boles, a developer has applied to build 29 homes on two greenfield sites. Both are outside the development line and on the edge of a Conservation Area. Although plans for both sites were unanimously rejected by the planning committee, the developer has appealed, and we still face the threat of inappropriate housing developments which will have a hugely detrimental and irreversible effect on tone of the last unspoiled villages in the borough. The Government seems to think that it's "obstructionist" local authorities who are to blame for the fact that not enough houses are being built. But developers have permission to build more than 400 000 homes in England and Wales that they haven't started work on, presumably because they're waiting for house prices to rise so they can maximise profits. Our local councillors are right: localism is dead. Conservative MPs like Dan Byles with narrow majorities will pay the price for the Government's contempt for local democracy. In historical accounts of Labour's 2015 election win, HS2 and the NPPF will surely loom large.

    |   -16

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