This week has been busy in Parliament. On Tuesday, I listened throughout the inspiring Westminster Hall debate on Christmas, Christianity and Communities. Speakers recognised the place and respect for other faiths and for those without faith. Everyone in England is within a parish. My Worthing home is by Christ Church, near Worthing Town Hall.
I spoke on the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Leaving aside party politics, I raised three issues. A neighbour in Ambrose Place rightly wants to resurrect an old terrace house. Replacing worn out window frames with double glazing is often ruled out. Secondary windows are not always better; original shutters can rule them out.
The minster’s 22nd paragraph declared the new NPPF ‘supports the government’s Energy Security Strategy by giving significant weight to the importance of energy efficiency in the adaptation of existing buildings, while protecting heritage.’ I asked him to sort out the window dilemma.
One of my heritage successes was revising the plans for absurdly inappropriate streetlamp standards in Ambrose Place. Old ones could be rescued from the street furniture graveyard.
It is wrong to concrete over every field, vineyard, nursery and golf course in Goring, Ferring, East Preston and Kingston and in Angmering, I asked ministers to realise that there is no official green belt in West Sussex or in East Sussex. Ministers have to act to protect green gaps as much as green belts. Save the Goring Gap and similar land that gives identity to our hamlets, villages and towns.
Families need homes; so do single person households. I work to bring confidence to the retirement homes sector. Many elderly in larger homes are willing to move to rent or to buy a purpose built modern apartment with great thermal efficiency in the centre of a village or local town if fear of exploitation ends.
My parents and many in their generation moved to live in warm homes with low heating costs, within walking distance of shop, church, park and (in their day) an open bank and post office, with buses and taxis instead of having to have a car for most journeys.
Environment matters. We observe with fascination and potential fear the earth’s eruption in southwest Iceland. Here, we have the responsibility to listen to the coming generation of students, recognising and encouraging their involvement in environmental responsibility.
Tim Loughton MP has involved youngsters in environmental conferences over many years. On Monday I joined him and students from St Oscar Romero’s Catholic High School. Later, I attended the Conservative Environmental Network reception. Many of my party’s activists had come to parliament. Other parties, including the Greens, will have similar networks.
We share care for our environment. Be wary of waste at this time of year. My family have the enduring tradition of saving wrapping paper, saving the pleasant fronts of Christmas cards, and making decorations from odds and ends. The occasional reappearance of a familiar piece can bring a smile. My father and I exchanged the same bottle of port over a series of years, before it was opened and emptied.
Last weekend I was in Rustington, enjoying the range of shops and visiting the Methodists. Churches Together volunteers were giving away items that remind all what the coming week represents. Their love illustrates the power above us all. I thank them and people like them across Worthing West and every constituency. When I visit other places, I see the community and charity support by Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others. It is in giving that we receive most.
I wish you all, whether working or resting over Christmas, peace and enjoyment. For many, not all, the closing year has been better than the previous one. We can try to make 2024 better for more, and to stand by those in need.