Stourbridge News Column, 22nd March 2018

Stourbridge News Column – Thursday 22nd March 2018

Yesterday, the Brexit Secretary announced that we have reached agreement on the terms of the Brexit transition period – a huge step forward for our ongoing negotiation. There are two important points. The first is that after we leave the EU this time next year, businesses will continue to have access to EU markets on current terms until 31st December 2020. That is important for businesses and citizens who will now have the certainty and stability they need to make solid plans for life outside the EU.

Secondly, we will be able to negotiate and sign global trade deals during the transition period. The Government is determined to make Britain a world leader in free trade, and I am pleased this latest agreement allows us to work towards that goal.

I have been contacted a number of times this week about the green belt, largely in relation to misleading leaflets delivered to people to the south of the town centre, particularly in Norton.

The report presented to Cabinet this week seeks approval to conduct a green belt review in the Dudley borough. This is part of the Black Country Core Strategy, which sets out the direction of development across the four Black Country authorities up to 2036. Some people have suggested that the report will result directly in the development of specific sites to the south of Stourbridge. This is not the case; there are no such sites mentioned within the report.

A separate and independent study set up under the previous administration at Dudley Council, the Birmingham and Black Country Housing Market Area Growth Study, names some sites in the south of the Borough that could be used for development to meet housing needs. This report is entirely separate to the report which will be presented this week. The decision this week does not in any way commit the Council to development of any of the areas it mentions. In fact, I am pleased to see that Conservatives on Dudley Council are promoting a brownfield first development policy to ensure that brownfield sites are fully utilised before even considering the green belt. I look forward to working with them to ensure that homes are built in appropriate areas for our community.

Over the last two weeks I have spent most of my time taking a new Data Protection Bill through parliament, which strengthens the rights of citizens over their own data. In light of the outrageous abuses of personal data on Facebook by Cambridge Analytica, and the suspected use to which it has been put in terms of undermining the democratic process, underlines the importance of this new legislation. It is interesting that even though we are strengthening people’s data rights, American citizens still have to use British courts to pursue abuses on Facebook.