Christmas is here again. It only seems five minutes since I last wrote words to this effect last year – as always, the time has flown.
I have been attending the usual Christmas fetes, bazaars, coffee mornings and gatherings in the Buckingham constituency over the past few weeks and, although these very pleasant events tend to tail off towards the end of December. I have still got a senior citizens’ lunch to look forward to on Friday, as well as several visits to local schools the week after. Amid the social whirl, however, the work goes on. I spoke recently at a meeting of the Buckinghamshire Campaign for Rural England (CPRE) in Risborough. It was a very interesting discussion, with many raising concerns about the implications of housing expansion and planning applications into Greenfield sites. The CPRE are campaigning to introduce a community right of appeal against proposals that do not have the support of local residents, which is an interesting idea. I have always thought that the voices of local people have to be at the heart of planning. Sadly, to the north of the Buckingham constituency where there is no Local Plan, many developers are continuing to put in applications for huge numbers of houses in unsuitable areas. To give readers some idea about the scale of the problem, I received information about seven separate such proposals – totalling many hundreds of new houses in rural areas – at the end of last week alone. I also know that readers have been concerned about the proposed changes to the Chiltern Rail timetable, which would reduce the number of trains from Princes Risborough to a mere two per hour during off-peak periods. Not only would this make travelling far less convenient for Risborough residents, but with the planned expansion of the town, the situation can only deteriorate further. Along with representatives from Princes Risborough Town Council, I met recently with the chief executive of Chiltern Rail, Rob Brighouse, to feed in our concerns.