You may be disappointed or pleased that my column this week does not comment on current developments in Westminster. But with events moving so fast, and a deadline ahead of publication, I cannot be sure to be up to date on events in Parliament.
So instead, I am focusing on environmental issues, not least because today I am meeting the Chairman of the Forestry Commission (FC), in Ludlow to discuss the five year plan for the Mortimer Forest, on which the FC are currently consulting. I am looking to improve community access without compromising commercial viability and wildlife protection within the forest.
South Shropshire also has an opportunity to benefit from the national review being led by Julian Glover into England’s 10 National Parks and 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), examining how they meet the nation’s needs in the 21st century and whether there is scope for the current network to expand.
51% of the Ludlow Constituency is covered by the Shropshire Hills AONB, so the impact of this review will certainly affect our area. Some have suggested applying for the Shropshire Hills AONB to become a National Park, but I remain to be convinced. National Parks have a significant impact on local policy, particularly through adding a layer of planning bureaucracy, so this would be a big step.
I have invited Julian Glover to visit Shropshire in the Spring, to give him a greater understanding of the relevance of the AONB to South Shropshire, for local people, the environment and the economy.
Last month I met Shropshire Wildlife Trust and separately the National Trust at Carding Mill Valley, to discuss plans to develop wildlife corridors through the Wilder Marches project. I also recently signed a letter to the PM pressing for more progress in moving towards zero net emissions.
My work with the Environmental Audit Committee continues apace, and in the past 12 months we have covered green finance; heatwaves; sustainability in fashion; hand car washes; the Arctic; reducing nitrate pollution; the government’s 25 year plan for the environment; chemicals regulation; environmental sustainability; air quality; disposable packing; and recycling of plastic bottles.
So while the news is understandably focussed on Brexit, I can assure you I am continuing to work on issues that affect us all.