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It is an absolute pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Siobhan Baillie and that powerful maiden speech. I had the pleasure of being teamed up with my hon. Friend when we tramped the streets of Peterborough together during the by-election last June. That election produced the wrong result, but I am glad that the general election produced a better one for my hon. Friend Paul Bristow. I urge my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud to look after one of my family’s favourite days out: the wetlands centre at Slimbridge, which I believe is in her constituency.
It is also a great pleasure to follow the maiden speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Penrith and The Border (Dr Hudson), for Broadland (Jerome Mayhew), for Guildford (Angela Richardson), for Wrexham (Sarah Atherton) and for Bosworth (Dr Evans). I thought that I had missed many of my colleagues’ maiden speeches when I was on paternity leave the other week, but it turns out that I have more than made up for it by hearing some excellent ones in this debate.
I agree with the sentiment expressed by my hon. Friend Mike Wood in respect of the items he brought up in his speech. In Buckingham, we are currently also under the threat of a land grab by a neighbouring authority, in our case Labour-run Milton Keynes Council, which wants to expand to a town of 500,000 people. That would involve its coming miles and miles into my constituency—to which, to be very clear, the answer is no.
I wish to raise an issue that is important to my constituents, and it relates to some of the issues raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South. The issue is the threat of a brand new road to come through the Buckingham constituency and, indeed, to go through the constituencies of many right hon. and hon. Members. The Oxford to Cambridge expressway is not just a new road but a new road that comes with a desire, along the whole route, for a million new homes.
I am no opponent of house building. We need new homes in our country—new homes that people can afford to buy. Indeed, we also need to build more social housing. However, 1 million new homes across the Buckinghamshire countryside in particular is an unacceptable proposition for my constituents. Let us look at some of the themes that surround the building of this road.
There is a great deal of uncertainty. The Highways Agency has come up with what it calls its preferred route, which is named in typical public-sector speak simply corridor B. Corridor B is actually about three quarters of my constituency. To put it into context, my constituency is 335 square miles, so, were this expressway to go ahead, there would be absolutely no certainty for my constituents about exactly the route that it would follow. It would bring with it significant environmental destruction not just to our beautiful countryside but to wildlife, to ancient woodland, and to our biodiversity. Most important, though, is the effect that it would have on people’s lives and on their property. There would be disruption from the construction and the destruction of their property, as farms are taken, homes are taken, and businesses are taken. Indeed, once it is built—if it goes ahead—there would be the impact of noise, the impact on people’s health, the impact on people’s enjoyment of their property, and, I fear to say, in some cases, the impact on people’s mental health.
The road plus the housing development and the green-belt land that would be required would massively increase the risk of flooding, and we are already suffering considerably in Buckinghamshire from an increase in flooding as a result of over-development. It cannot be lost on the House that, at a time when we are trying to reduce carbon output and get to net zero by 2050, building a new motorway is not a sensible step to take.