This week Parliament has returned after the summer recess. It’s been a busy few weeks and a very welcome opportunity to spend even more time in Swindon, talking to residents, meeting community groups and attending a large number of local events.
Now we’re back in Westminster, the agenda has been dominated by the security situation and how we keep the UK safe from terrorism. That is of course the number one priority for any government and I fear it will be one of the dominant themes in the coming weeks.
Of course we also have the Scottish independence referendum in a fortnight.
I am a unionist through and through and believe we really are Better Together – it’s more than just a slogan.
We don’t have a vote in England, but we can play our part by urging any relatives or friends in Scotland to vote ‘No’ on September 18.
On another matter, next Monday sees the start of the public inquiry into the Wroughton Solar Farm project. If approved, this will be the largest of its kind in the UK. It will consist of 160,000 panels covering an area of 168 acres on part of the former RAF airfield. The solar farm would have the capacity to generate enough power for about 12,000 households. Crucially, a fund will be set up for Wroughton amounting to about £42,000 a year for 30 years to be spent on local projects, with funding allocated by the community itself.
A public consultation was held in January, with almost 80 per cent of people attending saying they supported the plans. Subsequently the application was given the go-ahead by the Council, but the Planning Inspectorate is holding the inquiry because of concerns about the impact on the landscape. Whilst it’s true that the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty will be affected, this is already a light-industrial site which houses several very large aircraft hangars and old concrete runways.
After looking at all the arguments on both sides, I am supporting this proposal. It will truly put Swindon on the map. It will bring benefits for the community, the economy and the environment. Solar power generation is a vital part of the UK’s energy mix, and the fact that Swindon will host this important project is something of which the whole Borough can be proud.
The fact that the Community Fund will specifically benefit Wroughton is very welcome indeed.
The public inquiry gives everyone a proper chance to have their say, which is a positive thing. This is a very large project and of course it’s contentious, but I do believe it would be a good thing for our Borough as a whole.