In the four and half years that I have been Stamford’s MP there have been lots of controversial planning applications affecting the town. In almost every case objectors have asked me to support their cause. I have always been happy to meet with constituents to understand their concerns and to give them detailed guidance about how planning decisions are made and how to mount a successful campaign. What I have never done is join any campaign, either in favour or against any particular planning application. Why not? Britain is a democracy in which some decisions are taken centrally by authorities that are accountable to Parliament. Others are taken locally by elected councillors and the officers who are accountable to them. For most of the last 30 years the powers and freedoms of local councils have been eroded by interfering, micro managing ministers and MPs. I think this is wrong. I am glad that my government has begun to reverse it. But we still have a long way to go.
Serving on the local planning committee is already hard enough for locally elected councillors. They have to taken into account the technical advice of council officers and consultants, the policies and guidance set by me and my colleagues in Parliament and the passionate opinions of local residents. The last thing they need is a loud-mouthed local MP sticking his oar in.
For as long as the people of this constituency want me to be their MP - and you will all get a chance to express your view next May - I will maintain the approach that I have taken so far. I will always be willing to meet with constituents who want me to understand their views about planning applications and to offer them advice on how best to influence the decisions that are made by the local planning committee or, when decisions are appealed, by planning inspectors. That is the right role for a Member of Parliament and doing what I believe to be right for the long term is more important to me than doing what in the short term might be more popular.