This will be my final column for the Adver before the start of ‘purdah’ – the period before an election when there are legal restrictions on what can be published. I have always been careful not to use this weekly article to indulge in Punch & Judy politics. I’ve regarded it as a privilege to have the space to discuss some of the major issues facing Swindon and the country as a whole, rather than an opportunity for partisan point-scoring. Having said that, I am sure not everyone has agreed with everything I’ve written here!
Of course we are already campaigning extremely hard for the election, but normal life goes on. In the last few days we had the announcement that the major solar farm on the outskirts of Wroughton had been given the go-ahead. This will be one of the country’s largest facilities of its kind, generating enough power for 12,000 homes. There are also community benefits amounting to about £40,000 a year for the next 30 years, to be spent on local projects in Wroughton. Despite it being a brownfield site on part of the former airfield, it was controversial because it would be visible from some distance away. That’s why the Secretary of State decided to consider the application himself. I supported the proposal because I believe that the benefits far outweighed the difficulties, so I am delighted with the decision. Once again it puts Swindon on the map at the forefront of technological innovation.
As this is the last column before the election, it’s appropriate I hope to use some of the space to let you know what you can expect from me if I’m re-elected on May 7th. I have a five-point plan for South Swindon:
Push forward the Thamesdown Drive extension and further improvements to the Great Western Way to transform Swindon’s road system.
Keep promoting Swindon as a great place to do business, attracting more high quality jobs to our town, building on the 50% reduction in unemployment in Swindon since 2010.
- Enhance our local NHS so that our hospital, GPs and social care providers work together to provide an even higher quality local service to everyone who needs it.
- Fight inappropriate development, but support the new homes Swindon needs in accordance with our Local Plan
- Increase local choice in education to further drive up standards and give young people the skills they need for the jobs of the future.
Finally, my surgeries continue. This Friday I am at the Nationwide HQ on Pipers Way from 1030 to 1230. I look forward to helping as many people as possible there. I wonder how many times I’ve written that in the last five years?
(This article was originally posted in the Swindon Advertiser on 25th March 2015)