As an MP I deal every day with pretty much every aspect of public life. Yet there is none more oblique, immovable, and frankly pretty incomprehensible than planning.
Someone somewhere decided that Wiltshire had to have X thousand new houses built by 2026. (Why that number and why by 2026? Ed.) Someone then decided that about 5000 had to be plonked round Chippenham, stretching from the old Ambulance Station in the North to Showell Farm in the South, with a few gaps. Something called the Chippenham Site Allocations Plan was drawn up - it’s a good read if you having trouble getting to sleep of an evening. There are said to be consultations galore (but what normal person would have the faintest idea what it’s all about, and want to take part in any such consultation? And anyhow, what chance is there of changes being made as a result of public disquiet?). Documents are produced big enough to be pretty effective doorstops, and which no-one with a life could possibly read. There’s an Examination In Public (Public Enquiry to you and me) during which various barristers working for assorted developers will exchange learned views; some little points are won; some developers land up happier than others.
But the net result is that for reasons which no normal person could possibly understand, 5000 new houses will be built round Chippenham over the next ten years; the population of the town will grow by 15,000 or so as a result, new business parks will spring up in a desperate effort to find them employment; new roads, schools and shops will be built for them; congestion will increase, the countryside will be invaded; CO2 will be churned up; and very few people except the developers will truly be happier as a result.
There is a vast human tide heading this way. You can’t blame them for wanting to escape from Syria, Libya, and much of North Africa. Yet we cannot and should not accommodate them here, (leaving aside a very small group of genuine political asylum seekers, who would otherwise be killed for their political views in their homeland.) The troubles at Calais, Operation Stack and so on are but a symptom of a much wider and more worrying malaise. We need to stop the human tide at its source, rather than try to stem it so close to its destination. The wicked human traffickers who take thousands of Euros for a false dream of British prosperity are modern slave traders. They must be stopped and their equipment destroyed - a job one suspects for the army.
The overburdened planning system, and the gridlock on our roads in this holiday season are nothing by comparison with what will happen if we do not deal, effectively and robustly, with illegal immigration from outside Europe, alongside some limitation on migration within the EU. This is a small island, and we simply cannot afford to say to the world as the United States did a hundred ad more years ago: “Send me your poor and your dispossessed.” We would love to do so, but simply do not have the land, nor the resources to do it. We must focus our efforts on making these peoples’ home countries decent places where they can live in relative peace and prosperity.