Friday 28 September 2012

Macmillan Coffee Morning

Pic with Chris Lawrenson and Cllr Nigel Ash
A big thank you to the Ashton in Makerfield branch of Barclays Bank for hosting a Macmillan Coffee morning.

Coffee drinkers and cake lovers from all over Ashton have been digging deep and tucking in to raise money for this very special cause in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

The event today is Macmillan’s biggest fund raiser and is looking to build on the success of 2011, when a record £10 million was raised after 51,000 people signed up to take part.

Thanks to Barclay's Ashton Branch Manager Jane Trafford and Chris Lawrenson for making the event possible and to Barclay's customers for digging deep!

Friday 21 September 2012

On the side of the motorist in the car park

I am supporting a parliamentary Bill seeking to improve signage and ticketing technology in car parks. It calls for clear and unambiguous signage, so motorists know if they are entering a pay and display car park, know what they will have to pay and are offered simple ways to pay.

The Bill aims to make it as easy as possible for motorists to pay the right amount for the hours they park, without falling foul of car park rules and finding a parking charge notice of up to £100 delivered in their post some days later.

I know that motorists are feeling the pinch from high petrol prices. So when they park they need to know they won’t be hit by ‘hidden’ parking charges.

If we want more shoppers in our high streets and town centres; we need accessible and affordable parking. Clear signage and easy ways to pay will help the motorist comply with car park rules and pay the right amount for their parking space.

My parliamentary colleague Nick Smith MP introduced the Bill. He said, "Private car park operators made 1.57 million requests to the DVLA last year for driver details. They use these details to issue parking charge notices to motorists for alleged breach of car park rules. Motorists can be hit with an extra charge of up to £100. My Bill aims to make it clear to motorists when and what they have to pay, so they can’t be treated as a soft touch.”

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Planning changes will trigger disputes between neighbours

Last week the Government announced that it will be launching a consultation on doubling permitted development rights in back gardens. This would allow home-owners to build single storey extensions of up to 8 metres on the back of detached houses without planning permission (6 metres for terraced and semi-detached properties). 

This could leave neighbours unhappy with developments in the next door garden with no grounds for recourse and could increase the number of legal but inappropriate developments.

Already, among the most common causes of disputes between home owners are planning applications for extensions, conservatories and garages.

My constituency postbag already paints a picture of neighbour disputes arising from, for example, noise pollution but I fear that my postbag and those of local councillors will grow bigger as some people seek to take advantage of the change to secure extensions previously refused planning consent by the local authority.

While the current planning process may seem cumbersome for small developments like conservatories and garages, it does provide a mechanism for concerns about the impact of extensions to be properly considered.

Home owners who may previously have been refused planning permission for legitimate reasons may now decide to exploit the proposed planning permission ‘holiday’ to go ahead with these schemes.

This latest half baked idea will inevitably lead to disputes and ill feeling between neighbours.

The Government are set to consult on the proposals.

Monday 10 September 2012

Wigan Core Strategy - My Letter to Wigan Council

Ms. Gillian Bishop,
Corporate Director,
Places Directorate,
Wigan Council
Places Directorate,
PO Box 100, Wigan.

5th September 2012.

Dear  Gillian,

The Core Strategy – Housing Needs Shortfall

I have considered the options within my constituency put forward by the Council to meet the shortfall of land for new housing identified by the Planning Inspector and wish to make the following comments.

1) Landgate, Ashton :

An area of the land at Landgate Bryn is currently used as a playground site which is cherished by the local community. This playground area should therefore be excluded from any proposal for housing or indeed any other development.

2) Green Belt land around Wigan.

Included in this option is land South of Winstanley and South-East of Hawkley Hall and I have objection to the use of both areas of land because of their Green Belt status.

I support the Council’s overall presumption that exceptional circumstances for housing development in the Green belt do not exist at the current time. Exceptional circumstances cannot be demonstrated to justify housing development on Green Belt land when there are alternative sites without that protection. Development on Green Belt land must be seen as a last resort.

The Borough’s Green Belts were last defined in the Local Development Framework of 2006. I understand there is a general expectation that such policies will apply for a minimum of 25 years unless there is exceptional need to make amendment and that is not the case in respect of the Green Belt land South of Winstanley and South-East of Hawkley Hall.

Also, although there is a presumption in favour of sustainable development within The National Planning Policy Framework, the five purposes of the Green Belt remained unchanged and areas of land designated as part of the Green Belt are not overridden by this presumption.

The new Planning Minister Nick Bowles also confirmed in an interview on Newsnight on the 6th September 2012 that Green Belt protection was not changing as a result of any proposals that have been announced.

a) Land South of Winstanley:

I have already made representation on the reasons why the Green Belt Status at Junction 25 should not be removed to allow its use for employment purposes and much of that argument applies in relation to any housing development proposal.

The Green Belt Status was introduced on this site with a set of objectives. Those objectives are no less necessary today as they ever were.  The removal of the Green Belt at this site will cause harm.

i) Give rise to Urban Sprawl. Currently the Green Belt designation stops the sprawl of the existing settlements of Winstanley and Goose Green and the settlement of Ashton. To agree its removal would be to accept unrestricted sprawl of large built up areas.
ii) Encroachment of the Countryside. This site is the community’s green space. It is used and valued by the surrounding townships. It contributes to the health and wellbeing of the local community and its loss would be felt deeply and is unacceptable.
iii) Merging of neighbouring town. The gap between Wigan and Ashton is already narrow and this development would result in a reduction that would make it ineffective.
iv) Urban Regeneration. Urban renewal policies are given little chance to be effective if development is allowed on alternative green field sites in the Urban fringe.  It can be easier to start afresh on a green field site than to take the preferred sustainable development route and improve existing, albeit sometimes difficult sites, already allocated for development.

b) Land South East of Hawkley Hall:

As with land South of Winstanley the Green Belt status on land South East of Hawkley Hall was applied to prevent a set of circumstances that would be detrimental of the area should that status be removed.

i) Give rise to Urban Sprawl. Currently the green belt designation stops the sprawl of the existing settlements of Hawkley and Bryn/Ashton.  To agree its removal would be to accept unrestricted sprawl of these large built up areas
ii) Encroachment of the Countryside. As with the land South of Winstanley, this site too is the community’s green space. It is used and valued by the surrounding townships. It contributes to the health and wellbeing of the local community and its loss would be felt deeply and is unacceptable. The chipping away of our Countryside, which we believed was protected by its Green Belt status, is unacceptable.
iii) Merging of neighbouring towns. The divide between Hawkley and Bryn/Ashton is maintained by this green space. Development would result in a reduction that would make it far less effective particularly as the new development would encroach further towards Landgate leaving only an approximate 0.3k gap between the boundary of the proposed development and the edge of the Landgate community. This proposal should also be viewed in the context of the Council’s employment and housing development proposals of this area of Landgate that have already gone through consultation and are going through the current consultation on housing land shortfall.
iv) Urban Regeneration.The same urban regeneration points relate to this site as they do to the South of Winstanley site outlined above.

Whilst other concerns have been raised with me by constituents about possible housing development on these two sites, for example inadequate local services and the effect on the traffic infrastructure, the impact of the removal of Green Belt protection is in itself, I believe, sufficient reason to abandon these proposals.

It is important that the Council adopts a Core Strategy as a matter of urgency. Without an updated plan, when determining planning applications in the future, more weight will be put on the National Planning Policy Framework and its presumption in favour of development, because of a weakened existing development plan that has not been revised. This is not in the best interests of the community and I do hope this matter can be resolved as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Yvonne Fovargue
Labour Member for Makerfield.

IPSA publishes MPs’ business costs and expenses for 2011/12

The details below provide a summary of the costs incurred by me in carrying out my Parliamentary duties in 2011/12. MPs can only claim for costs which are within the rules set out in the MPs' Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses.

The figures released this week by IPSA provides constituents with a breakdown of the costs of running a busy constituency office and the expenses incurred in travelling and the costs of accommodation in London.

I want to provide my constituents with an open and accessible constituency office and with over 2,000 individual cases a year it is essential that they have access to a staffed office and over 82% of the expenditure incurred relates to the direct costs of office accommodation and staff salaries.

In addition to these costs, IPSA also cover the costs associated with travel to and from London when parliament is sitting and accommodation during the week and this accounts for the remaining 18%.

As a new MP elected in 2010, I continue to monitor closely the costs associated with fulfilling my duties and welcome the annual publication, where you can view details of my business costs and expenses, by IPSA.

Friday 7 September 2012

Government should withdraw cuts to victim compensation scheme

I have added my name to a parliamentary motion calling on the Government to withdraw planned cuts to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS).

The scheme is the only means of recompense for almost 40,000 seriously or fatally injured victims of crime every year and research by the shop workers trade union, Usdaw have revealed the extent of the proposed cuts to victims of crime.

The cuts would mean:

• 48% of victims currently eligible for compensation would receive nothing in future, even for quite serious and permanent injuries.
• 35% would see their compensation reduced by between £1,500 and £2,000.
• Only 17% of victims will be eligible for the same tariff level of compensation –  those with the most severe injuries or who have suffered abuse
• Payments for loss of earnings will be drastically cut for those with long-term and permanent disabling injuries and for dependants of fatally injured victims.

I do not believe that the innocent victims of violent crime should bear the brunt of this Government’s austerity, or that the £50m projected savings are necessary as the current Scheme is both financially stable and sustainable.

Take the case of a 34 year old female shop worker held at gun point and injured during a robbery and later diagnosed with post traumatic stress. The CICS made a four figure award to that victim; under the new proposals she would receive nothing.

The full text of the parliamentary motion can be viewed here.

Most Usdaw members are shopworkers and unfortunately, like many public facing workers, they are particularly vulnerable to the risk of criminal assault. An analysis of around 100 cases recently supported by Usdaw showed that 67% would no longer receive any compensation under the revised scheme. 22% would see their compensation halved and 11% of the most seriously injured would have their compensation significantly reduced because of the new loss of earnings calculations. In 27 cases involving members injured or traumatised in an armed robbery, 22 would no longer be eligible for any compensation.