First published in the July 2017 edition of South Leeds Life, available online here http://www.southleedslife.com/mps-notebook-july-2017/
First of all, I would like to thank everyone who voted for me in the recent general election. It is a great privilege to have been elected as your local Member of Parliament for the sixth time, and I will do my best to repay your trust and confidence. And whether you voted for me for not, or didn’t vote at all, I am here to represent all of you, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you think I can be of assistance. You can email me at email@example.com, ring my constituency office on (0113) 244 1097 or come to one of my regular advice surgeries - details available on my website at http://www.hilarybenn.org/get_help.
The Grenfell Tower fire was an awful tragedy that shocked us all. Our first priority must be to ensure that all those affected are given the support they need - now and in the years ahead. The second is for the Public Inquiry to find out what happened and why. And the third is to implement its recommendations so that nothing like this ever happens again.
Immediately after the fire, I contacted Leeds City Council to ask what checks were being undertaken on the safety of residential tower blocks in the city, including in South Leeds. Following investigations, the Council confirmed that our blocks do not have any Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) type cladding similar to that installed at Grenfell Tower. I’m told that the cladding systems installed across Leeds have used fire retardant materials and meet all building regulations for fire safety. The Council is, however, doing further checks.
Clearly, retrofitting sprinklers in all older blocks – which will require Government funding - will be a major question for the Inquiry. Leeds is already installing sprinklers in sheltered residential blocks; five of the eight blocks have now been completed, the sixth is in progress and two more are planned. The Council also, in partnership with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, delivered a letter and a fire safety leaflet to all residents in high rise properties in Leeds, with meetings for residents to follow.
It’s really important that we take the action needed to keep people safe in their homes.
Lastly, there’s been a lot of comment locally about the Planning Inspector’s decision to overrule the Council's objections to the granting of planning permission for the Ice Pak development. Many of us - local residents, local councillors, me as your MP and the Council's Planning Committee – had rejected it on traffic grounds, and I am saddened that the Inspector decided to allow it to go ahead. His decision is final because that is the way the national planning system works. Once an Inspector has made a decision, there is no further right of appeal.
The Inspector did however attach a number of conditions and the task now is to make sure that these are fully observed while trying to build a relationship between residents and Aspiring Communities who have admitted that they did not handle the process well.
Let us hope we can do better in future.