I’ve picked up a work of art, and worked to protect the Green Belt

Speaker's Corner
Speaker's Corner

It’s party conference season – something which can excite those in Westminster but is usually ignored by the general public.

Will Vince attend the economy debate? What did Godfrey really mean? Did Ed know what Damien was saying about John and Charles?

It is, of course, a good opportunity for political parties to make their case and, every so often, a policy announcement or a great speech can transform the political situation. However, most conferences are soon forgotten.

And for an MP, it is usually a rather humdrum experience – a long day of meetings and fringe events before returning late at night to a cheap hotel, followed by an early start and the same again.

There are enjoyable moments but I suspect most of us enjoy other parties’ conferences more than our own!

Given that we are in party conference season, Parliament isn’t sitting.

This gives most of us a chance to spend more time in the constituency.

This has involved a couple of visits to the Flaunden Art Show over the weekend. I had intended to go just the once to view the hundred or so paintings on display, produced by the Flaunden Art Group. However, I ended up buying a rather lovely watercolour of The Bricklayers’ Arms and returned at the end of the weekend to pick it up.

I’ve also had a meeting with the Tring Sports Forum. I have mentioned the TSF before, it’s an organisation that brings together the many sports clubs in the town. Tring has many strong sports clubs but they are keen to ensure sufficient priority is given to sport in the area. As a sports fan, I am very sympathetic to that view and, particularly in a post Olympics country, I think that there is a growing recognition of the positive role sport can play.

I have also met with Bovingdon residents to discuss a planning application for travellers’ pitches on Green Belt land. There was real concern that Dacorum Borough Council would not be able to reject the application because it had not identified specific sites elsewhere in the borough.

I have always felt that this was an unfair approach. Lots of people would like to build on the Green Belt, but the Green Belt is there for a reason. Just because the applicant is a traveller does not seem reasonable grounds for dropping the usual rules.

I took the matter up with local government minister, Brandon Lewis, and he agrees. In fact, in July he revoked some of the old guidance which made it very easy for travellers to get permission.

I was pleased to be able to report this back to the local campaigners, and I think the change in guidance has helped ensure that officers have recommended the application be rejected.

Finally, today I am attending a farewell lunch for Danny Zammitt, chief executive of Dacorum Borough Council. Danny has done a great job and is also one of the nicest people you could meet. He has been a great servant to the people of Dacorum and I wish him well for the future.

David Gauke is the Conservative MP for South West Herts. You can contact him through his constituency office on 01923 771781 or through his website, www.davidgauke.com