“Come and visit!” are the three words Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, used to describe Lincoln after a visit in the city on Monday, March 31.
The Shropshire MP toured Lincoln Cathedral, admiring the interior and inspecting the ongoing renovation work at the city landmark.
Owen Paterson said: “We’ve had an absolutely fascinating walk, because I’ve been here before, but I’ve never had the privilege of having the big doors opened and seeing the whole nave.
“Then going on to the stonemasons’ yard and talking to the head mason, seeing the incredible care and detail going into not just recreating some of the old and sadly faded and decayed images, but creating new ones in medieval tradition, is quite tremendous.”
The visit comes after the Chancellor announced in the 2014 Budget that £20 million will be made available for cathedral repairs across the country.
“That is not my responsibility, but there was significant money, £20 million put in the Budget, towards restoring our historic cathedrals; there are few candidates with quite a strong case as Lincoln, so I wish Lincoln the very best of luck,” Owen Paterson said.
The DEFRA Secretary was invited by Lincoln MP Karl McCartney, who added: “It’s a phenomenal amount of money: £1.5 million every year is needed just for the fabric of the cathedral to keep it in a good useable state, and the budget for the cathedral is £4.5 million per year.
“There is a pot that’s been made available by the Chancellor in the last Budget and I’ve already written to the Chancellor and various ministers asking what the process is.
“The Dean and I spoke just after the Budget and in the weeks after, because I’m going to make sure and do my best to help the cathedral access those funds.”
Clear guidance on building on floodplains
Following a visit from the DEFRA Minister George Eustice earlier in the month, the DEFRA Secretary of State had a similar message.
He commented on plans from the City of Lincoln Council, which intends to build up to 3,000 new homes on the Western Growth Corridor between Boultham and Birchwood, a 320-hectare site — around 10% of the city.
The area has been considered for development before in 2006, but concerns over flooding have stopped it progressing further.
But the City Council is moving ahead with the plans after coming up with measures to address some of the flood risk concerns.
Owen Paterson said: “I came to talk to the Internal Drainage Boards, the County Council, and it’s very interesting that I’m trying to set up something similar in Somerset, but you beat me to it here, and it does seem to work very well.
“Of all these organisations working with the Environment Agency partnership, right at the end they did mention this particular development and I always adhere very strictly to the view that planning should remain in council’s hands.
“There is a clear preference and a very clear steer in our national planning guidance that we should not be building things on floodplains if it’s not appropriate, so I’d leave that entirely down to the local councillors to make that decision.
“I’m not an expert on this, it literally came right at the end of our meeting talking about management of floods generally, and how we can look at future defences on the sea, which is enormously important for Lincolnshire, if you think of the horrific loss of life back in 1953.
“So, I’m not an expert in this particular application, but I would just point out that there’s a very clear steer in our national guidance on planning not to build on floodplains. It’s a matter for local councillors.”
Lincoln MP Karl McCartney added: “This is obviously a very important issue. We more than touched on the Swanpool – Western Growth Corridor development.
“[Owen Paterson] made it very clear what the government guidelines are, that you should look at not developing housing on a floodplain.
“Whilst many of us have got various issues with the previous planning application, the one that’s being mooted at the moment I don’t think has been properly thought out.
“I am not against development in our community, but I think it has to be the right type of development, and some times, some people are perhaps a little bit too set in their ways.”
City of Lincoln Council Leader Ric Metcalfe has previously explained the Western Growth Corridor is a critical development opportunity.