Alok Sharma's Westminster Diary, July 14, 2011

Published: 15 Jul 2011 09:300 comments

Together with local people, councillors and the excellent residents' Save Calcot Action Group (SCAG), I have been campaigning since 2008 to stop developer Blue Living's plans to dump 750 homes and commercial buildings on Pincents Hill.

It has been a long and tough old fight but in the last couple of weeks we have had the very good news that both the Secretary of State for communities and local government, as well as the planning inspector, have rejected the developer's appeal. This really is a victory for localism and I want to pay tribute to the hard work of all the local campaigners, especially SCAG chairwoman Joan Lawrie, who took the fight to Blue Living. The key reasons why the plans were not given the green light is because West Berkshire Council already has an adequate supply of potential housing sites for the coming five years and, very importantly, because any development on this site would breach current settlement boundaries between Tilehurst, Calcot and Theale.

The acknowledgement by the Government and the planning inspector that protection of this "strategic gap" is important hopefully means an end, for the foreseeable future, to any more plans to build on Pincents Hill. We have to see what Blue Living's next step is, but this is a big victory for local people, and I am looking forward to the mooted celebration party!

The big news dominating Westminster is, of course, the ever developing News Corp and News of the World story. There appears to be a new twist and turn every day. But the bottom line is that the hacking of phones, especially of vulnerable and distraught individuals and families, was not just illegal but utterly reprehensible and those found to be responsible must face the consequences.

It does seem pretty astonishing that the original police investigation just ran into the ground and that the previous government discussed phone hacking in cabinet but decided not to act. But I certainly don't see this as a party political issue. The reality is that no one is emerging out of this situation smelling of roses. Not the politicians, not the police and not certain sections of the media.

We really do need to make sure that this kind of situation never happens again.

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