Air pollution is a killer. Research suggests that in Birmingham alone, poor air quality accelerates the deaths of 900 people a year. Children, the elderly and people with cardiovascular, breathing and lung conditions are particularly vulnerable.
Birmingham is not alone in this. Across the country, it is estimated 40,000 people die prematurely as a result of poor air quality, with the problem being particularly severe in congested urban areas. Britain is also breaching EU laws on air quality and could face hefty fines unless we address the problem.
In this week’s votes in the House of Commons on amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill, all MPs, irrespective of Party, had a duty to cast our votes in a way that we genuinely believe is in the interests of the country. These votes were not about whether or not Brexit takes place. The decision to take the UK out of the European Union was made at the referendum and by triggering Article 50 Parliament has set that process in motion.
This week’s votes were rather about the kind of Brexit the UK Government should be trying to negotiate. Two of the key issues under debate were whether, after Brexit, the UK should remain in a customs union with the EU, and whether we should remain able to participate in the Single Market. As a member of the EU, Britain is currently both in a customs union with the EU and part of the EU’s Single Market. However, neither rely on EU membership. Norway, for example, is neither in the EU nor in a customs union with it. As a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) however, it participates in the Single Market.
As many local residents will personally know, the issue of Unauthorised Traveller Encampments has been a serious problem in my constituency of Birmingham Northfield and across south Birmingham in recent years. The encampments we have seen in the area have often been accompanied by anti-social behaviour and have created huge amounts of mess. This is made even more frustrating for local residents that too often the police and council undertake evictions, only for travellers to pop up 5 minutes down the road.
In the light of the scale of the issues we’ve been experiencing in the West Midlands I have been calling for a review of where police and local authorities powers could be more effective. After considerable pressure from myself and other MPs the Government announced a consultation on the powers for dealing with unauthorised development and encampments.
Residents living close to North Worcestershire Golf Course will know that in August 2017 a renewed application by Bloor Homes to build 950 homes on the site of the old golf course was rejected by Birmingham City Council. Bloor Homes then lodged an appeal with the government in an attempt to overturn this decision.
The Government’s Planning Inspector will now conduct a public inquiry into Bloor Homes’ appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against Birmingham City Council’s rejection of their planning application. The public inquiry will commence on the 2nd October 2018 and it is expected that the inquiry will last for approximately 10 days. I am told that the comments of residents who have already written to Birmingham City Council’s Planning Committee and the Planning Inspectorate about this planning application will have been passed to the Planning Inspector for consideration as part of the inquiry.