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    • Article: Aug 7, 2020

      During the war in Afghanistan, a number of Afghan civilians served with British troops as interpreters. These brave men and women risked their lives to enable our Armed Forces to do their jobs.

      It was our own Paddy Ashdown who fought to ensure that the Government didn't forget the service of these Afghan heroes.

      Many of them were no longer safe in Afghanistan, facing reprisals for their service to the UK.

      So I was proud that, when the UK began withdrawing our forces in 2012, it was our own Paddy Ashdown who fought to ensure that the Government didn't forget the service of these Afghan heroes.

      Back in 2013, he spoke powerfully about the "debt of honour" we owe them, and argued that they must be offered the chance to live in the UK.

      Thanks to Paddy's campaign and the efforts of Liberal Democrat Ministers, we secured a scheme to allow interpreters to move to the UK.

      However, they faced fierce resistance from Conservative Ministers, who set tight limits on who could benefit from the scheme.

      Only those who were still working for the UK in December 2012 were eligible, and they could only bring family members with them if they moved at the same time - spouses and children could not join them later.

      This left far too many interpreters stuck in Afghanistan and at serious risk of violence, or in the UK but separated from their families.

      So we kept campaigning and, in 2018, the Government promised to expand the scheme to include all interpreters who have served on the frontline with British troops since May 2006.

      It claimed that up to 200 more people would be able to benefit from the changes - but, two years later, just two translators have been able to come to the UK under the new rules.

      The Government also promised in March last year that interpreters who have relocated to the UK would now be able to bring family members to join them.

      Brave individuals in Afghanistan who put their lives at risk for our country deserve the right to stay in the UK.

      Sadly, however, not a single family member had been relocated to the UK under the new rules more than a year after that change came into force.

      These failures represent an appalling breach of the debt Paddy spoke of back in 2013.

      These courageous interpreters must not be left to live in fear of reprisals for their service, nor must they be cruelly separated from their families.

      So, along with my Liberal Democrat colleagues and a number of MPs from other parties, I have written to the Defence Secretary and the Home Secretary, urging them to put this right without further delay.

    • 20200806 Bedford Borough Coronavirus Infographic
      Article: Aug 7, 2020

      The Government has announced that Bedford Borough is a Coronavirus area of concern. Mayor Dave Hodgson is urging residents to continue to follow social distancing advice to avoid a local lockdown - as we have seen in Leicester.

      Locally, there has been a rise in the number of cases over the past three weeks with 97 cases recorded since the 13th July and the Borough has now been added to the governments' "areas of concern".

    • 20200806 Bedford Borough Coronavirus Infographic
      Article: Aug 7, 2020

      The Government has announced that Bedford Borough is a Coronavirus area of concern. Mayor Dave Hodgson is urging residents to continue to follow social distancing advice to avoid a local lockdown - as we have seen in Leicester.

      Locally, there has been a rise in the number of cases over the past three weeks with 97 cases recorded since the 13th July and the Borough has now been added to the governments' "areas of concern".

    • Oliver Holmes
      Article: Aug 7, 2020
      By Oliver Holmes
      Big developers, major donors to the Tory party, have welcomed proposals to scrap the existing planning system in proposals which are being sold to the public as the solution to more housing for the young homeless. The new market oriented system closely follows the details provided in a paper by Policy Exchange, a right-wing think tank secretly funded by corporate and private lobbying groups - and almost certainly including the big developers. A de-regulated zonal system will remove residents' rights to object and is yet another assault on local democracy.
      All the largest environmental and heritage groups are outraged and have pointed out that there is no evidence whatsoever to show these changes will improve housing supply. The Local Government Association points out that there are existing planning permissions for more than one million homes which have not even been started. The Minister introducing these changes, Robert Jenrick, owns a number of high-end properties that he has developed himself and is mired in what is known as the Westferry Scandal where, in granting a controversial application, he agreed he had acted unlawfully.
      Cllr. Oliver Holmes, who sits on the Ipswich BC Planning Committee, is very concerned at the loss of local democratic involvement and comments: "The real reason we have such an appalling record on building homes is the speculative building system controlled by the big developers and these proposals will only increase their power and control. No wonder they are delighted."
    • Boris Johnson demeans the office he holds
      Article: Aug 6, 2020

      Lib Dems say 'we don't need rhetoric' as thousands of planning applications are sitting there without a brick being laid.

      "Build, Build Build" says Johnson who dismisses opposition to planning reforms as "nimbyism"

      "Developers to be permitted to build on top of existing blocks of flats up to 5 storeys" says Baroness Jenny Randerson

      The Government have announced a planning 'revolution' that will force local authorities to allocate land for developments that will then not have to go through the full planning process. Under the new process, land will be designated in one of three zoning categories: 'for growth, for renewal or for protection'.

      In the first two categories there will be a new legal 'permission in principle' approach for new buildings, it is understood. Areas of outstanding natural beauty and the green belt will come under the protection category where most new buildings will be automatically banned.

      The reforms will be published in a paper entitled Planning for the Future and follow an extension of permitted development rights announced earlier this summer.

      Critics including the RIBA, the Local Government Association and the charity Shelter have already said that the move would lead to poor-quality new houses being built in areas without adequate public services and would lessen democratic accountability.

      Reported in the Architects Journal, RIBA President Alan Jones said. 'deregulation would not deliver new homes and called for the government to 'urgently reconsider'.

      Baroness Jenny Randerson said: "I have spoken out in the Lords against Conservative Government regulations which will allow developers to build on top of existing blocks of flats up to 5 storeys. We had 5 Lib Dem speakers all fiercely opposed to this. This is going to be a major issue for local planning authorities".

      LGA Liberal Democrat Group Leader Councillor Howard Sykes said: "The prime minister has promised 'the most radical reforms of our planning system since the end of the Second World War'. Not again please. Will the Government wake up to the FACT that councils aren't the problem with getting homes built nor is the planning system?

      He added: "How many times do we have to say that councils approve nine in 10 applications? The Government conveniently forgets the thousands of planning applications that are sitting there without a brick being laid. Hundreds of thousands of homes lay unbuilt. We need powers to force developers to build these out. Don't demonise us and point the finger again at local government blaming us. We don't need rhetoric - we need partnership".

      Liberal Democrat MHCLG Spokesperson Tim Farron MP added:

      "The announcement to reform England's planning laws today reveals that once again Ministers are not serious about solving the housing crisis. It is not the lack of planning permission that prevents new, genuinely affordable, homes being built, but this Government's refusal to properly invest in social housing.
      "Rather than tinkering with planning laws, what Robert Jenrick should be doing is unveiling a huge housebuilding program of social homes for rent. We have already lost thousands of social rented homes as a result of the Government's permitted developed changes to date.

      "The Liberal Democrats want to see 100,000 new social homes to be built every year, as well as giving local authorities the ability to suspend the right to buy in their own areas, so that we can finally start tackling the crisis that's crippling the UK's housing market."

      LINKS:

      Lib Dem Lords speak out against planning changes Baroness Jenny Randerson ". A link to the speech can be found here:

      https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2020-07-29/debates/04DC3EE5-E933-41CA-BD17-02795ADD6A24/TownAndCountryPlanning(FeesForApplicationsDeemedApplicationsRequestsAndSiteVisits)(England)(Amendment)Regulations2020#contribution-5A475532-D6FE-4BC5-B9BF-117E9EFBA0DD

      Architects Journal: Sweeping reforms will give new schemes 'automatic' planning permission 3 AUGUST, 2020 BY WILL HURST

      https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/sweeping-reforms-will-give-new-schemes-automatic-planning-permission/10047761.article

      A major planning overhaul in England will allow 'automatic' planning permission for new homes, hospitals, schools, shops and offices

    • Cllr Tim Hill
      Article: Aug 6, 2020

      Thursday 6th August is Cycle to Work Day, and this year's event has a new twist. With many people's circumstances changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cycle to Work Day organisers this year are encouraging people to ride anywhere, for any reason and with anyone, and Bedford Borough Liberal Democrats are backing the initiative.

    • Lowestoft High Street Trevor King -Share Alike 2.0 Generic (Trevor King / Lowestoft High Street / CC BY-SA 2.0)
      Article: Aug 5, 2020

      North Lowestoft Heritage Action Zone Design Guide Published

      In May 2019, Historic England launched a multi-million pound fund to revive historic English high streets through a High Streets Heritage Action Zones scheme. Working with partners, 69 high streets across England were selected to receive a share of the £95 million fund to find new ways to unleash the potential of the historic environment, create economic growth, improve quality of life and champion and revive high streets. Lowestoft is one of seven towns in the east of England to benefit. Other towns include, Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn, North Walsham & Swaffham.

    • Article: Aug 5, 2020

      A complaint has been made about Ed Davey's campaign's conduct in its communication with members as to their voting intentions, specifically that they instructed canvassers not to disclose the identity of the campaign they were actually calling on behalf in calls made on the 11th and 14th of July 2020.

    • Article: Aug 5, 2020

      Throughout this terrible disease, people have not only faced heartbreaking loss of life, but also crushing anxiety over their livelihoods.

      Lockdown has been necessary to prevent an even greater catastrophe, but the economic shutdown has thrown millions of people into financial hardship.

      Liberal Democrats have been fighting to make sure people do not feel left behind as the country slowly recovers. We cannot allow this to create a new wave of inequality in Britain; the damage done to businesses and jobs falls harder on some than others.

    • MHC inDonmow
      Article: Aug 5, 2020
      By Melvin Caton

      At the meeting of the R4U led Local Plan Leadership Group (LPLG) on the 29th July Uttlesford councillors discussed how the council planned to engage with the general public about the Local Plan (LP).

      I expressed concern that most of proposed communication channels were digital, requiring a degree of computer literacy. I said that paper based communications were also needed as part of an educational/awareness raising campaign. I proposed that the council should use village/community magazines as one of our vehicle of our communications.