This morning I went along to another Christmas coffee morning, this time at my own church, Chorlton Methodist Church on Manchester Road. I think that this is the final one before Christmas!
This afternoon the planning application for the all-weather pitch, new main pitch and floodlights at Chorlton Meadows/Hardy Farm came to the Planning Committee. Lots of residents turned up to show their opposition to the development, even though we were expecting it to be deferred for a site visit.
At the beginning of the meeting the Chair, Cllr Tony Burns, who is supposed to be neutral as Chair of the Planning Committee, said that after representations from Chorlton's Labour councillors and Labour Candidates, the committee had decided to defer the application for a site visit. So much for political neutrality on the Planning Committee. I, along with Lib Dem councillors, Norman Lewis, Tony Bethell, Bernie Ryan and Paul Ankers, had requested a site visit weeks ago, but unsurprisingly Labour's Cllr Burns didn't see fit to mention that!
The important point is that a site visit has been agreed, which will take place in January. We now have to persuade the councillors on the committee that this application is not acceptable. We have a strong case, but that doesn't mean that the plans will necessarily be rejected. I hope that by visiting the site the committee will recognise the negative impact that the development would bring.
If you want to know more about the campaign to stop the development click here
. There's also a facebook group decidated to the campaign with over 6,000 members. You can access it here
This morning I visited Brookburn School to hand out certificates for my Christmas Card competition. It was a very busy morning because there were about 100 entries from Brookburn, the most from any school this year. I really appreciate the local schools' enthusiasm for the competition every year.
Following on from my question to the Prime Minister last week, this evening I submitted a copy of the petition against the closure of the walk-in centre to the House of Commons. We need to keep up the pressure to try to persuade the PCT to change their mind and keep it open.
This afternoon I was over at 4 Millbank to record this week's edition of Party People, the ITV late night politics chat. This week the discussion turned to binge drinking and the forthcoming health select committee report that is expected to recommend a minimum unit price for alcohol. This is a pretty blunt instrument, but if it were to be introduced it would need to be as part of a wider attempt at tackling binge drinking. Supermarkets selling alcohol at a loss to encourage more people to go to the supermarket should not be allowed. We need to look at the licensing laws which have encouraged later hours in most bars, as well as tackling street drinking. And personally I would like to see changes to the taxation system to encourage a move away from stronger beers and wines, and giving an incentive to brewers to shift the emphasise from strength to taste. Yesterday I was told of a beer available at a beer festival that was 40% by volume, the same strength as most spirits, 10 times stronger than most beers. This is simply ridiculous, and I'm sure that it can't taste too good either!
This morning the Parliamentary Football team had its annual match against the police who look after Parliament. We've had 3 good games against them in my time in Parliament. The first game we won, and then last year was a close 2-2 draw.
The game this morning was very one-sided, with our team missing a host of chances, and ending up winning 1-0. I scored the winning goal from the penalty spot, after being hacked down by Colin (a big City fan in his City goalie shirt), the police keeper. We therefore retain the "golden boot"!
I am a member of the All Party Group on Muscular Dystrophy and so after Party People I went to the Trailblazers event in Parliament.
The Trailblazers network was launched in July 2008 and is the first ever national network of young people with muscle disease. Trailblazers, which is part of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, is a gateway for young people to learn new skills and help themselves and others to make a difference in their communities, as well as being a fantastic opportunity to engage young disabled people in politics.
Trailblazers has already launched two reports on accessibility for young disabled people in the UK. These were based on the experiences of the members of the network when using public transport and studying at university. It is shocking how little regard is taken towards accessibility at many Universities, and there remains a lot to be done to improve accessibility on our transport network.
This evening I attended the York Nativity Play at Emmanuel Church, which is part of the Mystery Play Cycle. It was incredibly well done, with a superb cameo role by King Herod.
It was also great to see Tony Lola involved in the performance after he and his family were allowed to stay this year, following a long battle with the Home Office to be allowed to stay in the UK.
The run up to Christmas is the best time of year for MPs because we always get invitations to really enjoyable events. Every year since being elected I have been invited to St Pauls to read of the lessons at their carol service, followed by mulled wine and mince pies.
This evening I joined hundreds of local residents on Chorlton Green for carols by the Christmas tree. The event was organised by the Save Chorlton Meadows campaign to keep up the campaign in preparation for the crucial meeting of the Planning committee on Thursday. Even Santa turned up to pledge his support for the campaign!
Earlier in the week I had passed on the bad news that the Planning Department was recommending approval of the application, despite the massive public outcry. We now need to concentrate on persuading the councillors on the committee that this development is not appropriate on greenbelt land, so close to home in Chorltonville and Redland Crescent.