The Solomon Islands and the case for stopping Brexit.

Westminster MPs recessed, then prorogued, now dissolved altogether. Don’t worry, your Members of the European Parliament are still hard at work!

Find out why one trade agreement with the Solomon Islands is taking us closer to tackling the climate emergency – and why that means we need to stop Brexit.

Science Matters

Science matters, so I visited the Royal Society to get a better understanding of the impact Brexit is already having on UK science and the impact actually leaving might have.

The best deal for the future of British science is the one we already have. We must stop Brexit to safeguard the future of British science.

Martin Horwood MEP speaks out against Turkish President Erdoğan’s invasion of northern Syria

I recently voted and spoke out against Turkish President Erdoğan’s invasion of northern Syria in the European Parliament.

I recently voted and spoke out against Turkish President Erdoğan’s invasion of northern Syria in the European Parliament.

As we reflect on the latest news from the Turkey/Syria border it has never been more important for all EU 28 countries, including the UK, to speak with one strong voice on foreign policy whenever we can.

Coffee with Caroline & Martin: What’s next for Brexit

Caroline Voaden and I met up for coffee and a chat this week to get our heads around the recent dramatic Withdrawal Agreement Bill vote in Westminster, and what happens next here in the European Parliament.

Scrutinising the new European Commission

In the European Parliament, MEPs take part in hearings to scrutinise proposed new members of the European Commission.

This is something that is really common in the European Parliament, and similar scrutiny processes are seen as far away as the U.S. Congress, but not in Westminster.

I’d love to bring a system like this back to Westminster. Maybe if we stop Brexit we can learn how to make British democracy even better.

Vice-Chair of the Iran Delegation

I’m delighted to have been elected as the Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Iran Delegation.

This is a worrying time in the Persian Gulf. If we can play a small part in the European Parliament in promoting peace in the region then I think we’ll be doing something very valuable indeed.

If I can play a small part in that I’ll be deeply honoured and very proud to be representing Britain as an MEP taking part in the European Union as a real peace project – not just for peace within our own borders, but around the world.

Leckhampton secondary school & green fields update

There is news on the planned new secondary school at Kidnappers Lane – and it’s a mixed bag for local residents.

First of all, a government inspector, Wendy Burden, has issued her interim advice on the draft Cheltenham Local Plan – one of the key local planning documents for our area. Against the run of previous inspections and the wishes of both the Borough and Parish Councils – she concluded that the 39 hectares proposed by our local councils as protected Local Green Space at Leckhampton might be too “extensive” and not justified. This is very surprising since an enormous amount of evidence has been amassed to justify the protection of the Leckhampton green fields (alongside a substantial amount of new housing next to the Shurdington Road). Under the National Planning Policy Framework, there is no upper size limit on LGS and it should for local communities to determine this but nevertheless the opinions of this experienced inspector carry huge weight in the process and the councils have to pay attention to this or risk the whole draft plan being declared “unsound”. I have been in discussion with Cheltenham planning officers along with fellow parish councillors to see what we can salvage from this situation.

The inspector’s verdict has played right into the hands of the Conservative-led county council who want to grab some of the planned Local Green Space for their controversial new secondary school instead of building it on the land next to Shurdington Road which had been earmarked for development (see my earlier update here). The county presented plans for the Kidnappers Lane site at a recent public meeting:

The site proposed by the county council for the new secondary school between Farm Lane and Kidnappers Lane – with apologies for the poor quality of the image.
Again with apologies for the image quality, a plan of the county’s proposed school building and playing fields.

There are some positives to these plans: it’s noticeable that they retain the extensive and ancient hedgerow around the school site which will be really important in Kidnappers Lane and Farm Lane retaining some of their current charm and rural character and will make an attractive green environment for the school students themselves. The plans also set the school building right at the northern end of the site, closest to planned development and the least intrusive location in respect of the planned protected Local Green Space to the south and east. The playing fields – and in particular the all-weather Astro pitch could be important community assets for local young people, including Leckhampton Rovers Football Club.

A sketch of the proposed new school building including some natural-looking materials but little evidfence of genuinely environmentally freindly features – and the apparently small scale is pretty misleading!

But local residents still have deep and – in my view – well-founded worries about the safety and traffic implications of such a large school set amongst what are now rural lanes with already congested roads around them, not least because the county’s shifting of the site will make way for developers to try to put even more housing on the fields next to the Shurdington Road. It’s also disappointing that the building and site so close to a Local Green Space and clearly visible from the AONB seem to boast so little in the way of green features, in stark contrast to exciting low energy new developments like the two Gloucester Services on the M5 which are camouflaged so well as to be nearly invisible from any distance or even the headquarters of Gloucestershire Constabulary in Quedgeley which boasts a fantastic reneweable energy resource in the shape of a large ground-source heat pump.

Unusually the county is applying to itself for planning permission to build the school instead of to the usual planning authority, Cheltenham Borough Council. A further consultation event is planned for 4.30-7pm 27 June at Hatherley & Reddings Cricket Club (on the left of the Shurdington Road outside town down towards Shurdington). Come along and make your views known!