Health secretary visit cancelled after Stevenage MP calls A1(M) housing plan ‘an absolute joke’

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland called the plans an absolute joke

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland called the plans an absolute joke - Credit: Archant

A planned visit by a government minister was cancelled after the MP for Stevenage criticised a £200 million economic development plan for Hertfordshire.

MP Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of state for health, was set to visit the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst on Monday as a funding deal between the government and the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership was agreed.

The money, with a confirmed £53.3m for this year, has been earmarked for the building of 17,000 homes – including housing along the A1(M) corridor – and to generate up to £180m public and private investment.

There are also plans to ease congestion on the A1(M) and A602, with the funding estimated to create 13,000 jobs.

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland has claimed the LEP has “no idea what is needed for our area”, and called plans for a housing corridor along the A1(M) an “absolute joke” as he believes residents would reap greater benefits from the stretch of motorway being widened.

Following Mr McPartland’s comments, Mr Hunt’s visit was rearranged for the BioPar research centre in Welwyn Garden City.

The Stevenage MP told the Comet he has helped secure a commitment from the government to invest a minimum of £19m into regenerating Stevenage town centre, with £2m earmarked for 2014/15.

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He said: “The problem is what is contained in the rest of the announcement, such as the rubbish about a housing corridor along the A1(M), which is an absolute joke – 16,000 houses to be built between Hatfield and Letchworth when every local person knows we really need the A1(M) to be widened. Instead, it will probably turn into parking for the new houses as there is no mention of any A1(M) widening.

“It is well known that I have been in talks with senior government figures for months about the regeneration of Stevenage town centre and we have made massive progress.

“I will continue my campaign for the widening of the A1(M) and work hard to push forward with the regeneration of Stevenage town centre. We now have the opportunity to make real progress.”

Speaking about the funding plan, John Giroud, chairman of the Hertfordshire LEP, said: “I am delighted the government has recognised the importance of targeted investment in Hertfordshire’s infrastructure, skills and businesses in ensuring we meet our incredible economic potential. This funding can ensure Hertfordshire has a brighter future.”