House Notes with Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood
ELECTRIC racing cars, hydrogen-powered eco-runabouts and the most gorgeous bright yellow Morgan electric sports car.
The full range of British green genius was on show at the first Sustainable MotoExpo this weekend.
I'm beyond proud that this was in Cheltenham, confirming our skill at special events, reinforcing our green credentials and emphasising a traditional strength in high-tech engineering also highlighted by the Science and Design Festivals.
These public demonstrations of science, technology and engineering aren't just adding another string to Cheltenham's bow. They're vital for the future of a competitive UK economy – as Vince Cable emphasised as we pushed him from car to bike to speech.
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He was particularly taken with an A2B power-assisted bike from Cheltenham company Hero Eco. Me, I still fancy that Morgan. Can anyone lend me £90,000?
Highlights of the week:
Tuesday: Parliament's back and I was a critical friend of the Small Charitable Donations Bill which will give a GiftAid-style boost to small local charities on their cash donations. As ever civil servants have made it too complicated, but watch that space.
Wednesday: Reshuffle mania. There wasn't that much change on the LibDem side (no promotion here then!) but David Cameron tried to stamp his authority on coalition Tories with a massive shake-up. Most welcome probably the complete clear-out at the Department of Health with interesting new junior ministers: LibDem NHS expert Norman Lamb and Tory doctor Dan Poulter. A much safer set of hands hopefully. Most worrying appointment probably environmental sceptic Owen Patterson, given the job of, er, environment secretary.
Thursday: Eric Pickles unveiled planning 'reforms' under the new push for growth. Worrying rhetoric, but the reality included encouragement for Green Belt swaps – valued green spaces in, genuinely less sensitive brownfield land out – and a switch from building affordable homes on the back of huge market developments (under so-called 106 agreements) to directly supporting badly needed homes for rent. This should help developers to progress unused planning permissions they already have and give social landlords new resources to house those in real need. Yes, there were threats to local councils making 'poor' decisions (judged by who?) but overall not too bad.
Friday: Dropped in on All Saints Academy one year on from its promising launch. An atmosphere of calm, kids everywhere focussed on work, the stunning new building still spotless. Results have already improved on predecessor schools and a continued rapid rise looks inevitable to me.