The news that there are now more Britons in employment than ever before in the history of our country is encouraging. We have also experienced the highest quarterly fall in unemployment since 1997, with the number of those claiming the jobseekers allowance having fallen for fourteen months in a row.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s economic policy has not been one of headline-grabbing cure-alls: he’s pursued a pragmatic approach in putting our economy back on track. These recently announced figures give us hope that his line of attack is working. While we’re not in the clear yet, Britain is turning a corner, and this is testament to the difficult decisions which this government is making.
Apart from the slow but steady economic turnaround, I hope that the most important and long-lasting legacies of this government will be localism. Subsidiarity – the idea that power should be located as close as possible to the people affected by it – is one of the most important political principles to remember. Over the past few decades far too many decisions affecting us in Lincolnshire have been made arbitrarily by unfamiliar bureaucrats in Whitehall or – even worse – Brussels.
It’s heartening, then, to witness local people taking the future in their own hands and influencing the decision-making process. The planning committee of West Lindsey District Council has been admirably and commendably responsive to the protests raised by local residents (including myself) to the plague of wind turbines which certain energy companies have sought to blight our landscape with. One of them sneakily made an application just before Christmas, no doubt hoping we would all be distracted by the holiday season. The hue and cry was raised, however, and I understand the application has been withdrawn, thus adding Waddingham to the long list of villages and towns which have seen off the wind farm menace – so far.
Overdevelopment is a continual concern, and we need to be very cautious when thinking about approving the construction of large sets of houses which may alter the order and tranquillity of our villages and towns. The Prime Minister’s recent announcement of shale gas incentives mean we have yet another concern to address. As I’ve written before, I’m not opposed to “fracking” in principle. It has the potential to unlock a massive energy resource for the nation, with the hope of significantly reducing monthly bills. Nevertheless, we must consider the specifics not the generalities. The companies which seek to extract shale gas here in our part of the country must make their case to us directly.
It is only right that we be concerned for the potential environmental impact of both construction and operation of shale gas extraction through fracking. If they fail to convince local residents, then planning committees must respond to our concerns and refuse the applications. No development – whether fracking or housing or wind turbines – should be approved over the wishes of the people who will have to put up with its consequences: local democracy must come first.
Edward Leigh, the Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, today welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement of new incentives for communities that allow shale gas extraction in their area. David Cameron’s speech in Beckingham came as French energy firm Total made it known they intend to invest £12 million into shale gas extraction in Lincolnshire.
“So long as local planning committees have the final authority on whether to allow them or not, I am in favour of shale gas extraction,” Edward Leigh said. “Luckily most of the kinks of fracking have been worked out abroad, where the procedure has been used for over sixty years. The incentives the Prime Minister announced here in Lincolnshire this week will allow local authorities to keep all business rates incurred through fracking, which should provide a welcome boost to local coffers.
“We have an opportunity to release a massive new energy resource for Britain, to reduce people’s monthly costs and help balance the books a little,” the MP continued. “We’d be foolish not to explore it further, but ultimately it’s local residents who must have the final word on whether they go through.”
Readers know that the preservation of our beautiful countryside here in Lincolnshire is one of my absolute priorities. I’ve written in this newspaper about a wide variety of issues we need to be concerned about in Lincolnshire. This has ranged from the unsightly and unsustainable wind farms to more subtle issues like planning for future development and the potential dangers involved therein. We need to be on guard to protect our way of life, our natural environment, and to ensure that we continue to provide a liveable setting for ordinary working families and individuals.
That is why I have cautioned a prudent approach to development, lest we overload our already stressed infrastructure and overstretch our local resources. There is another issue which I suspect we will be confronted with more and more often in the coming year or so: hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’. Fracking is the process of using hydraulic drills to dig deep within the earth to gain access to (usually) petroleum or natural gas. Read the rest of this entry »