On HS2, I am continuing to campaign against the HS2 project and this week, I have been organising and depositing the local petitions on Phase 1 of HS2. Although Stone, Swynnerton, Madeley and Whitmore are in Phase 2 of the line, it affects my constituents to such an extent – including on compensation – that it is necessary to petition at this stage. In collaboration with action groups, I am submitting a petition in Parliament in the names of my constituents and in my own name, ahead of the deadline on Friday this week.
As for the European elections on Thursday, the biggest asset that EU-integrationists like Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have is Ukip. Ukip’s hope is that they can succeed in splitting the Euro-realist vote and, by taking enough votes in Conservative marginals to prevent a majority Conservative government from being elected to renegotiate our membership of the EU, to legislate to change EU laws and our EU relationship and to give the British people a say in an in/out referendum. After all, to have a referendum at all, a Bill for this has first to be passed by a majority in the House of Commons to pay for it. On their leaflets, Ukip claim: "Only Ukip will take back control." How? They don’t have one MP, let alone a majority in the Commons.
On wind turbines, I am delighted that Stafford Borough Council refused the proposals for to the 242-feet-high turbine on land near Cotwalton Drumble Woods, near to Stone, following my objection to the Council on the basis that the proposals would have had a negative visual impact on the nearby constituents in Cotwalton, Oulton Village, Kibblestone, Moddershall, Airdale Spinney and the adjacent hillside views and lower valley area and would have a negative impact on an area of wonderful natural beauty so near to the Moddershall Valley Conservation Area.
At Pingle Lane, the Planning Inspectorate have recently confirmed that the planning appeal on the wind turbines are currently waiting to go to a site visit, the date of which is still to be confirmed. They will advise of the date as soon as it is known. I have written to the Planning Inspectorate to reject those proposals and have continued to make clear my opposition. Although the appointed Inspector will prepare their own report and recommendation, I have asked them to recommend refusal of proposals in their report to the Secretary of State.
In Parliament, I recently met with representatives from the train service operator, London Midland and discussed a number of issues affecting rail services in the Stone constituency, in particular making representations on behalf of the North Staffs Rail Promotion Group, the rail user group for North Staffordshire. I discussed in particular the issue of getting trains at Wedgwood and/or Barlaston and the operation of Stone station services – on which they assured me they would keep Stone station in the whole of their franchise. The franchise expires in 2016 and this is a very important assurance. Furthermore, I have since been told by London Midland that since Stone station reopened, Stone has seen a remarkable growth in its annual passenger footfall figures; they’ve almost doubled from 48,000 in 2010/11 to 100,000 in 2013/14.