Helen speak in debate on reform of the planning system

Our planning system has a vital role to play in tackling the housing crisis and addressing the climate and ecological emergency, but instead of seeing planning as a valuable toolkit for these critical challenges, the Tories see planning as red tape to be swept away as far as possible. The Government has announced plans which amount to a devastating overhaul of our current planning system. These proposals would end the democratic voice of residents in decisions on planning applications, whilst extending the range of building that can take place without any planning permission at all, allowing developers to turn offices and shops into cramped, substandard housing.

Across Dulwich and West Norwood, there is an urgent need for high quality and genuinely affordable social housing. This can only be delivered through a planning system which establishes an ambitious vision for our country, sets high standards for design and environmental performance, and protects the buildings and spaces which local people value. You can watch my recent speech below >>

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Helen calls on the Prime Minister to fix the delays in processing EWS1 certificates

For three years since the terrible tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire, the Tories’ approach to building safety has been shambolic.  Over the past year, I have been contacted by many constituents trapped in limbo, facing financial difficulty and unable to sell their home because mortgage companies now require a certificate, known as an EWS1 form, as a condition of lending on buildings which have external cladding. 

The problem comes because it is almost impossible to obtain an EWS1 certificate at present for the vast majority of buildings, resulting in many flats in buildings with cladding being un-sellable.  It is essential that the Government makes sure that every home is safe, but the current system isn’t doing that either.

The Government must act to stop this scandal which is causing misery for hundreds of thousands of people across the country. You can watch my question to the Prime Minister here>>

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Statement on Permitted Development Rights expansion

Our planning system is critical for delivering on some of the most important challenges we face.  The urgent need for new homes to address the housing crisis and the urgent need to tackle the climate and ecological emergency, decarbonise our economy and protect and enrich our natural environment.

To meet these challenges, we must have a planning system that establishes a strong vision, sets high standards for design and environmental performance, gives strong protections to the buildings, spaces and landscapes which people value, and actively supports the involvement and engagement of a diverse range of voices in decision-making.

Yet the Tories are not concerned with reforming the planning system so that it can address these urgent challenges.  They are applying the usual natural Tory instinct to deregulate, regarding the planning system as red tape to be cut through, rather than as a valuable toolkit which must be further improved to secure genuinely progressive, sustainable planning outcomes, particularly in terms of the provision of new genuinely affordable homes to rent and to buy.

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Statement on Internal Market Bill (2019-2021)

Over the past few weeks I have been contacted by many constituents who are deeply concerned about the implications of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill.

This Bill is hugely damaging to the UK.  It undermines the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, signed by Boris Johnson just a few months ago, it reopens the discussions about the Northern Ireland Protocol which had previously been settled, and it breaches international law, gravely damaging our global reputation as a law-abiding nation.

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Fill in the Blanks

It was a huge pleasure to introduce the amazing Fill in the Blanks campaign team to the Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Kate Green MP.

Fill in the Blanks are an inspirational group of young people from south London campaigning for reform of the history curriculum, so that every child in UK schools is taught migration, colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade.

We had a great discussion on the vital important of history curriculum reforms, and I will be continuing to work with Fill in the Blanks to support their work. Fill in the Blanks started their campaign while they were on the Advocacy Academy fellowship. I am proud to be the patron of the Advocacy Academy which trains and mentors young people from south London to work for social justice.

You can find out more about their vital work and how to support them or (if you are a young person currently in year 11 or 12) how to get involved here: https://www.theadvocacyacademy.com/

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Helen supports #DontZapTheZip

At the start of the lockdown in March, when people were told to stay at home, Transport for London saw drop of 90% in its income from fares and charges. Instead of working with TfL and the Mayor of London to protect London transport, the Tories want to force TfL to scrap free travel for under 18s as part of a package of harmful conditions attached to emergency funding.

This will mean thousands of families having to pay an extra £15 a week for each child who catches the bus to school.

At a time when so many families are hard pressed and food poverty is increasing, this is entirely unacceptable and for the poorest families it will undoubtedly lead to some children missing out on time at school. I support the Child Poverty Action Group’s #DontZapTheZip campaign and calling on the Government to reverse this damaging decision. 
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Statement on the Overseas Operation Bill (2019-21)

I have been contacted by many constituents who are deeply concerned about the Government’s Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill.

The government says that the Overseas Operations Bill has been introduced to address the issue of prosecution of former members of the armed forces in relation to events which took place whilst on service overseas, many years after the period of service.  There is certainly some evidence that this is an issue which needs to be addressed.  However, the Bill as currently drafted does not deal with the core objective effectively, and introduces a range of measures which are deeply concerning.  This is an appalling piece of legislation which is deeply flawed.

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Helen calls on the Prime Minister to protect BAME people through a second wave

Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced new restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus. I am proud to represent one of the most diverse constituencies in the country.

The disproportionate impact of coronavirus on black, Asian and minority ethnic residents has been one of the most shocking aspects of the pandemic and the government was warned multiple times that they needed to take immediate action to stop preventable deaths.

I challenged the Prime Minister on the intervention this weekend by the Chair of the British Medical Association who said that the government’s inaction will be lead to more preventable deaths over the coming months >>

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Royal Mail issues in SE22

Many constituents have contacted me regarding disruption to their postal service during the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has undoubtedly been very challenging for Royal Mail staff who have faced illness, and the need to adopt new working practices to be safe in the workplace, while the number of parcels for delivery has increased hugely in many areas as residents have stayed at home and ordered online.  I know that Royal Mail staff have been working tirelessly to sustain delivery services, East Dulwich residents in the SE22 area have experienced particular difficulties with deliveries.  I have been raising these issues with Royal Mail and last week I visited the delivery office for SE22 which is now based in Peckham following the closure of the SE22 delivery office in 2017. 

Throughout the pandemic many SE22 residents have gone weeks without post and parcels, and this is not acceptable.  It is clear that the closure of the Silvester Road delivery office has been disastrous.  The SE15 office is too far away from the further reaches of SE22 on foot, and there is too little space for both postcode areas to be sorted with adequate social distancing, contributing to delays. Royal Mail has sold the Silvester Road delivery office for millions of pounds and it is now being developed as luxury flats.  They must provide a fit for purpose delivery office in the SE22 postcode area so that their hardworking staff can provide the service residents rely on.

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Helen calls on the Government to protect the uplift in Universal Credit

Food poverty in the UK is scandalously and unacceptably high. Research by the Trussell Trust suggests that there will be a 61% rise in foodbank need this winter. Throughout the pandemic our local food banks – Brixton and Norwood Foodbank and Southwark Foodbank – have provided essential support to families who have lost income and been unable to afford food and other essentials. I am so grateful to the teams of staff and volunteers at our foodbanks for all that they have done to meet increasing need in our communities. However, they are desperately concerned that government policies will result in food poverty continuing to rise.

The Government is planning to withdraw the emergency £20 per week increase in Universal Credit in March. With no guarantee that the pandemic will have subsided, or that the economy will have rebounded by then, this will make it impossible for many families across the country to make ends meet. This week I paid tribute to the tireless work of our local foodbanks and asked the Minister for Work and Pensions to act urgently to end food poverty >>

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