Planning, Test and Trace, and VJ Day

The government’s proposals for changing the planning process to change the balance in favour of development has received a huge amount of attention this week.  Although we are not a planning authority in terms of housing, it is an area in which we have a strong interest, not least in providing the roads, schools etc. that developments require to make them sustainable communities.  The narrative from London is that councils are getting in the way of development, and I fear that local government’s response does not counter that view well.  We need to make the argument strongly that councils and councillors only reflect the wishes of their residents.  As a relatively recent arrival in local government, I would observe from my previous experience that difficult decisions become easier the further that you are from them; they are hardest to explain when looking the person that they affect in the eye.  I very much hope that we can retain the wishes and aspirations of residents in any new system. 

The national news on Test and Trace is that the system is developing and improving, which is encouraging, particularly as we prepare for the winter, and whatever that may bring.  There is a fear in the medical community that the combination of Covid-19 and a severe winter flu could overwhelm the health and care system, so we must prepare thoroughly.  From a local viewpoint, we have closed down the response to the outbreak at the Crown and Anchor pub in Stone after testing over 1,000 people and tracing 22 positive results, and we continue to manage the outbreak in Burton, which is thankfully experiencing reduced infection rates owing to our collective efforts.  I was told this week that Staffordshire leads the West Midlands in terms of testing rates, and our rapid responses to such outbreaks in Burton and Stone are being viewed as best practice. This early targeted response is much preferable to waiting for better information and having to impose localised lockdowns. 

I hope that you will forgive me for picking up on the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, the end of the Second World War in the Pacific, which falls on Saturday.  My late father was a Merchant Navy Officer in the Pacific in August 1945, and his view of humanity was shaped by the task of transporting starved former Prisoners of War back to Singapore after their release from Japanese captivity.  Whatever else we celebrate this week, let us renew our resolve to build that better world that their generation imagined in 1945. 

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