This week the local MP, Norman Baker, is warning members of the South Downs planning committee that the “Premier Inn” proposal to replace the old magistrates court in Lewes threatens the character of the town.
Norman has been receiving complaints from constituents about the proposals and has decided to send his own objections to the South Downs National Park Authority so that the Planning Committee is aware of his comments. The Committee is due to consider the proposals on the 12 December.
“I generally do not comment on planning matters but due to the sensitivity of the location I cannot stay silent on this one. I have therefore written to members of the SDNPA’s Planning Committee to convey my objections.”
Due to its central position in Lewes, the Courthouse location is very significant, not only in terms of the general character of the town, but also the wider conservation area to which the SDNPA must seek to preserve. With that in mind, I regard the proposal by the applicant to be totally unsuitable for such a hugely sensitive site in the middle of the Lewes conservation area, and ask that it be rejected by the Committee.”
Local MP Norman Baker has welcomed Nick Clegg’s announcement that parental leave can now be shared between mothers and fathers at minimal extra cost to business.
The old-fashioned assumption is that women will always be the parent that stays at home – many fathers want that option too. That is why from April 2015 the coalition government is introducing shared parental leave to allow couples to split the existing 52 weeks of maternity leave, making a joint decision that ensures all career options remain open to women after pregnancy.
Employers can gain from a system which allows them to keep talented women in the workforce and have more motivated and productive staff. This new system will also give us a great opportunity to make our workforce even more flexible, help working families and boost economic growth.
The changes, which were proposed in the 2010 Lib Dem manifesto, give women greater freedom in pursuing their goals and will hopefully reduce the feeling that they have to choose between having a successful career and having a baby. They should be supported by their employers, rather than being made to feel less employable or under pressure to take unchallenging jobs.
It is already illegal to sack a woman because she is pregnant or on maternity leave. This new ruling creates a fairer society that gives parents the flexibility to choose how they share care for their child in the first year after birth.
The proposals for shared parental leave and flexible working are included in the Children and Families Bill 2013 which is currently going through Parliament. The details will be set out in regulations.
“I am pleased to see this big step towards parental equality. Allowing both parents to share the 52 weeks of leave stops the current situation in which businesses can lose a valued female employee for an entire year, now, at no extra costs to business, the time can be divided between the mother and father.
“As a father myself I really appreciate the time I had with my daughter in the first year of her life. I feel the early connection invites a stronger relationship between parents and their children and both mothers and fathers should be entitled to this.”
The drive to help young people get jobs in Lewes will be boosted by plans to abolish employers’ National Insurance Contributions (NICs) for under 21-years-olds.
Norman Baker has welcomed news meaning businesses will no longer have to pay tax on their employees aged under 21-years-old. For example, companies will save £1,000 each year for every young employee earning £16,000.
In Lewes the plan to abolish NICs for young people from April 2015 means companies will not have to pay the contributions for over 2,000 people young people.
“The Liberal Democrats are focused on getting young people into work and this is exactly the kind of initiative needed to give businesses a break and encourage them to start recruiting. Since 2010 we have already helped create more than 1.5m new apprenticeships. Meanwhile, our £1bn Youth Contract is supporting work experience, wage incentives and apprenticeships.
“Our local economy is growing because of the hard work of people and businesses, they deserve this help. I hope that this initiative will help bolster the number of local young people in work and speed the rate in which unemployment is going down in our area.”
Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Lib Dem MP Danny Alexander referred to the importance of the potentially reopened Lewes to Uckfield train line whilst fielding questions from MPs yesterday in the Commons.
In response to a question regarding infrastructure improvements to access routes for London airports Danny Alexander said:
“As part of what we have announced today in the national infrastructure plan, we are also commissioning feasibility studies for improving surface access, by both road and rail, to Stansted and Heathrow, and that is alongside the money for the Gatwick railway station and the feasibility study we have commissioned on the rail link between London and Brighton, including the important Lewes to Uckfield line.”
Norman has pushed for the reopening of the line since the 1980s, both in opposition and now in government. Earlier this year he was joined by the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to announce the commissioning of the study.
Rosalyn St. Pierre, Lib Dem Councillor for Ringmer & Lewes Bridge, the area the proposed line will intersect, is keen to see the lines connected:
“I am thrilled that the importance of this campaign has been recognised by the top levels of government. This is something I have been fighting hard for over the years and I have been working tirelessly to help build a strong economic case for the line’s reopening.”
“I am pleased to see that the Treasury recognise the importance of this line and the role it can play in improving transport links across the wider region. Having pushed for this study to be undertaken I am very pleased to see that it remains firmly on the radar for infrastructure development in the South East.”