My Week 21/01/2015

There was more good economic news this week as unemployment fell again.  There are now 1.75 million people in work than in 2010 and wages are rising faster than inflation.

In the whole of my Arundel & South Downs constituency, there are now just 384 Jobseeker's Allowance claimants, an unemployment rate of less than 1 per cent - one of the lowest in the country.

Economic growth in West Sussex has been at the centre of discussion this week as the County Council debated the second runway at Gatwick.  I am glad that councillors voted against it.

I warned last week about the development pressures that this expansion would generate.  I hope that the County Council will now relay its opposition clearly to the Airports Commission and to the Government.

I'll be speaking about the housing issue in our villages when I address a meeting on Storrington's proposed neighbourhood plan on Thursday evening.

I strongly support neighbourhood planning, which puts communities in control of development in their villages.  I am, however, concerned about the speculative development applications that are being put in before these plans are in place.

Often, these applications are being rejected by our local councils but upheld on appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.  On Monday, I will be moving amendments in the Commons to the Infrastructure Bill to abolish the Planning Inspectorate, and to give communities a right of appeal to the Secretary of State against planning decisions that run counter to emerging neighbourhood or local plans.

I will also be tabling an amendment to compensate landowners directly for any pipeline which is drilled deep under their property to allow fracking.

On Friday I'll be meeting the Hassocks Amenity Association Rail Group to discuss local rail issues and feed back on my meeting with the Minister, where I raised constituents' complaints about services.

I will be meeting Southern, Network Rail, the regulator and the Minister again in early February shortly to press these concerns and hear what is being done to address them.

Also on Friday I'll be holding surgeries in Hassocks and Kirdford, and I'll be meeting a local dairy farmer to hear about the problems which falling milk prices are giving them.  I'm very worried about this and the impact on producers who are already struggling.

On Saturday I'll be in Ashington in the morning and Henfield in the afternoon and look forward to meeting local people on the doorsteps.