Latest news from Bishop’s Stortford Liberal Democrats
There is talk in the Town and in the press, as I write this article at the beginning of September, that the East Herts District Council may be negotiating with the global investors, Hendersons, to buy back the Old River Lane site. What an amazing turn of events! How ironic that one of the arguments which the Council is now using is that if it had ownership of the site it would be able to have much greater influence over any future development. So, why did it sell in the first place? The other question to which every single council tax payer will expect an answer is “How much will the Council have to pay?” It seems essential to me that this amount must not be a penny more than the amount Henderson paid when they acquired the site. I realise that all the negotiations will take place behind closed doors, but when the councillors come to vote on the sale I hope they will realise that the residents of East Herts are expecting fairness and justice in the final price and settlement.
There are settlements of a different kind which are playing on my mind at the moment, and the foremost of these is the human tragedy of the Syrian refugees. They have fled from a war zone, and the destruction of their homes and cities. They are fleeing for their lives. The war in Syria has been going on for 4 years and there seems to be no hope of any peaceful solution. Some of the refugees have been in the camps for over 2 years, hoping and hoping that they would be able to return to their country and rebuild their lives. But with no prospect for peace, and no international plan to help them, they have lost all hope of returning home and have become increasingly desperate. There are camps in Jordan and Lebanon and these nations have been amazingly generous. I am glad that out Government has given financial support for these camps, but they are not providing a long term solution, and more needs to be done diplomatically by the international community. The Greeks, with their incredible financial problems, are struggling to cope with the enormous influx. I feel very strongly that we, in Britain, should offer to take our Fair share of Refugees. This is where local Councils could help. Could we, in East Herts, do something tangible to help? In Bishop’s Stortford there are empty shop s – could these be converted into dwellings? East Herts has £20M of useable Reserves. What better way could there be to spend part of this money than by giving safety and refuge to desperate human beings who have fled for their lives?
There may be people who say that we should provide more housing for our own population before we house refugees, and I understand this sentiment. I agree wholeheartedly that there is a serious shortage of affordable housing in our country, and I would petition the Government to change the rules which tie the hands of local Councils, and allow them once again to build new Council houses.
Mione Goldspink Chairman, Bishop’s Stortford Liberal Democrats