Author Archives: Don Foster MP

Don Foster MP writes… Justifiable NIMBYism?

I  suspect I’m not the only one to be delighted and relieved about the announcement this week about new protections to be put in place that will restrict “Fracking” in sensitive areas.

Geological evidence shows that fracking could lead to a significant disruption to the hot water spring waters on which the tourism of the World Heritage City of Bath depends and could damage the water pressure without which we could see buildings in the city collapse.

Even though the latest British Geological Survey Maps show that the three main areas where large amounts of shale oil and gas exists lie nowhere …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 21 Comments

Don Foster MP writes… Access to finance for ethnic minority businesses

Liberal Democrats want to create a Stronger Economy in a Fairer Society. In order to do this it is vital that no one section of society is unnecessarily prevented from starting a new business should they wish to do so. However, evidence suggests that people from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are often keen to start a business but for a variety of reasons don’t go through with it. The National Audit Office estimates that the cost to our economy from the failure to fully use the talents of people from our ethnic minority population could be more than …

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Don Foster writes: A powerful meeting where all faiths spoke with one voice

Nick Clegg at inter faith event.Today I attended an interfaith meeting, chaired by Nick Clegg and attended by representatives of the other political parties, following the terrible events in Woolwich on Wednesday where soldier Lee Rigby was brutally murdered. The event was incredibly positive, with representatives of many faiths coming together to denounce the attack, condemn those who bring terrorism to our streets, and agree that we have to stand together in the face of it.

I’ll warn you up front that I’m not going to use this post to make political …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 10 Comments

Don Foster MP writes… Our big gig

Readers may recall some criticism that came my way at the end of last year following an article in The House magazine that implied I was missing the glamour of my former role working on the Culture, Media and Sport portfolio. Though I tried to dispel this with exciting tales of building regulations and brownfield development, Lib Dem Voice ran with a heading of, “Does Don Foster like his new Government job?” So let me be clear. I do, I really do.

Of course, there are some really difficult matters to deal with such as council funding, homelessness and …

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Don Foster MP writes… Local communities say ‘Yes’ to locally-led housebuilding

Amid all the excitement of the local elections, two results of polls on the same day may have passed you by. While in many parts of the country voters were electing local councillors, in Thame in Oxfordshire and in the St.James area of Exeter voters were deciding whether to accept or reject locally developed Neighbourhood Plans.

Like many Liberal Democrats I was anxious to see how well we did in the council elections. But as Minister with responsibility for “localism”, I was also keeping a close eye on these Neighbourhood Plan referenda.

After all Neighbourhood Planning is part of …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 8 Comments

Don Foster MP writes… Housing at the heart of the Budget

House building fell dramatically following the financial crisis and hasn’t yet fully recovered. Last year 118,900 new homes were built in England. But with the number of households predicted to grow by 232,000 a year for the next 20 years and thousands currently unable to get onto the housing ladder, we need to build more than double that each year to keep up with demand, but we also need to tackle the sluggish housing market. That’s why housing was at the heart of the Budget yesterday, with more help for first time buyers and more money for affordable homes.

The …

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Don Foster MP writes… The Integration Strategy: one year on

The Government’s Integration Strategy, Creating the Conditions for Integration was published a year ago on 21 February 2012. Since becoming a minister a few months ago, this is one of the areas about which I’ve had some of the strongest feedback from party members.

The views I’ve heard range from “the strategy is welcome, but not enough” to “it isn’t a serious substitute for a strategy to tackle racism and racial injustice”. Some have said that the document skates over the fact that integration is a two way process of mutual accommodation. Those with this view argue that there’s …

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Don Foster MP writes… Report back on planning changes

Terraced housingI thought it was about time that I report back on the work I’ve been doing on planning since we debated it at Conference in September last year.

I’m pleased to be able to say that we’ve made some real progress. Particularly on the Section 106 ‘holiday’ announcement made in the September 6 growth and housing announcement, I’ve been able to deliver everything my local government colleagues asked:

Firstly, where a developer wants to renegotiate the affordable housing element of a Section 106 agreement to unblock a development, we wanted to make sure that there’s an objective test in place to check whether it’s necessary.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 22 Comments

Don Foster MP writes… Hear the views of Lib Dem councils on planning issues

Everyone benefits from a planning system that is efficient and effective – enabling the homes, jobs and facilities that communities need while minimising uncertainty for those promoting or affected by development.

The development of the National Planning Policy Framework, reducing 1,300 pages of planning policies in 44 separate documents to just 50 pages, has been widely welcomed. It will ensure that every area has a clear local plan which sets out local people’s views of how they wish their community to develop, consistent with the Framework, and against which planning applications for planning permission will be judged.
Less popular, among Liberal …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 17 Comments

Don Foster MP writes… It’s time we talked about toilets!

Here in the UK, a toilet is a necessity that we are lucky enough to take for granted – a subject for humour, or something we’d prefer not to talk about.

Yet for billions of people around the world, sanitation is a serious issue. With a staggering 2.6 billion – nearly 40% of the world’s population – living without basic, safe sanitation, it’s time we talked about toilets. It’s a shocking fact that diarrhoea, caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation, is the biggest killer of children under five in Africa. In fact, globally it kills more children every year …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 7 Comments

Don Foster writes…the BBC licence fee settlement is a win for the Lib Dems

The BBC is at the centre of a continuous storm of criticism over everything from pay to politics. Some of it is even contradictory – it sometimes seems like everyone on every side of every debate is convinced that the BBC is biased in favour of the other side. This is a symptom of the BBC’s situation, unique amongst broadcasters: because it is funded by everyone, it is in the unenviable position of having to please everyone.

It should not be immune to criticism. The detractors are correct in that the BBC isn’t perfect and doesn’t always get it right. But …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 24 Comments

Opinion: Let live music flourish in small venues

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to see the Brit Awards 2010 at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre. When people say that UK live music is doing well, this is what they mean – an enormous venue, world class talent, and an ecstatic crowd. I was particularly impressed with Florence Welch and Dizzee Rascal’s performance, which combined both of their distinct musical outlooks with great success.

Now that Labour has been booed offstage, the coalition partners have got up for a similarly ambitious duet. For such established solo performers, trying to make our different styles gel will be …

Posted in Op-eds | 5 Comments

Don Foster MP: Standing at football grounds

Football fans are getting a raw deal. 1.4 million who want to play football can’t due to scant facilities. Season tickets for top clubs are a rip-off; costing 5 times more than in Spain and Italy. Disabled fans are treated shamefully. Only two Premiership Clubs meet the recommended level of number of spaces specially designed for wheelchair users. The game is disappearing from free-to-air TV.

And fans can’t stand at matches, though many want to. According to the Football Fans’ Census, 91% of fans think they should be able to choose to stand.

Of course, none of us can forget …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 11 Comments

Support your local pub (if you’ve still got one)

Britain’s community pubs have been closing at an unprecedented rate in recent months. And all too often, in the debate about the small minority of premises that give the trade a bad name, we forget all the good work that pubs do in their local communities. Local pubs do a great job in raising money for charity and good causes, acting as the heart of their community, and drawing tourists to Britain.

However, there is genuine concern about excessive alcohol consumption, particularly that caused by people buying large quantities of very cheap alcohol from supermarkets and off-licences, and the impact …

Posted in News | 9 Comments

Opinion: How the Lib Dems can help tourism thrive

It may be easy to forget when it’s on your doorstep every day, but the UK is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. You only have to think about the stunning views from the Brecon Beacons, the tranquillity of the Norfolk Broads or the thriving cultural scene in Liverpool to understand why that’s the case.

The coming years boast some fantastic opportunities for tourism in the UK. At conference, Liberal Democrats will debate our tourism policy outlining how to make the most of them.

Tourism is one of the UK’s largest industries, employing over two million people. The benefits of tourism are clear. A thriving visitor economy can provide employment, investment, tax revenue and regeneration in a range of communities. For every £1 we spend promoting tourism, we gain £5 in re-investment. But tourism’s benefits are not purely financial. It can also help to preserve our national heritage and encourage cross-cultural understanding.

Tourism once boomed in this country. But despite the UK’s potential, Britain’s share of the global tourism market has fallen by 16% over the last 20 years. Only London is currently immune from falling visitor numbers. The amount of money UK citizens spend abroad far exceeds the amount overseas visitors spend here – known as the tourism deficit. Under Labour, this deficit has quadrupled, currently standing at £18 billion.

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | 3 Comments

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