Great Western Mainline

The Managing Director of First Great Western, Mark Hopwood, has confirmed "work is progressing well and, subject to DfT agreement, remains on track for the new trains to be rolled out on the network from summer 2018." This will be the biggest fleet upgrade in a generation, with new or more modern trains across the whole network delivering faster, more frequent journeys and millions more seats per year.

Reassuringly, the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, has stated "electrification of the Great Western line is a top priority and I want Network Rail to concentrate its efforts on getting that right."

These upgrades in both the line and rolling stock are essential to improving the transport links to the South West.

 

Great British High Street Awards 2015.

The Great British High Street Awards 2015 celebrate local groups working together to support their high streets and make them even better places to shop and socialise.

This is the second year that the competition has been running and will now include a special recognition award for a person or project that has made a particularly special or unique difference to their high street and a 'Rising Star' award.

Entries are open until September 1st

For further details and how to nominate one of our local High Street heroes click here

 

Bob the Bus has begun weekly trips to Dartmoor National Park.

Moorland Bob takes passengers to some of the most popular areas of outstanding natural beauty that the moors have to offer giving you the chance to visit and explore the ancient clapper bridge at Dartmeet, go for some truly beautiful walks and have lunch or picnics at the very heart of the ancient moorlands.

This exciting development gives people the chance to explore the unspoilt wildlife and landscape of the moors. Such as the famous Dartmoor Pony and Dartmoor's most famous landmark, Haytor or visit the truly lovely village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Take a picnic or visit the local pub, the Rugglestone Inn, which offers a cosy traditional atmosphere for any weary traveller.

Bob the Bus is available every Sunday from Totnes and tickets are available for booking from Totnes Tourist Information Centre or on the Bus itself.

Click here to find out more about Bob the Bus, his journeys and ticket prices.

 

The Daisy Garland


I met Sara and David Garland to hear about the inspirational charity, The Daisy Garland, started by them in memory of their daughter Daisy who died in her sleep at the age of 6 from SUDEP (sudden unexpected death in epilepsy patients). The Daisy Garland work tirelessly, offering help and support some of the 18,000 children in the UK who suffer from drug resistant epilepsy.

In the last 11 years they have funded 13 specialist Daisy Garland ketogenic dietitians to work within NHS hospitals countrywide, successfully treating children with difficult to control epilepsy. Each full-time dietitian costs c.£46,000 p.a. to fund.

In the addition to the above they also provide grants for night-time breathing (SATs/epilepsy) monitors for use in the home, reducing the risk of SUDEP. Each SATs monitor retails at £880 and they have provided over 243 monitors, keeping children safe at night while they sleep.

For further information about The Daisy Garland and the important work they do for children with drug resistant epilepsy, please contact Sara Garland on 01803 847999 or at thedaisygarland@btinternet.com  www.thedaisygarland.org.uk

 

Cycling

Britain's passion for cycling is growing; more than 5.1 million people in England cycle at least once a week and Government road traffic estimates suggest that in 2013 the distance travelled by bike was 12% greater than the 2005–2009 average. Unfortunately, this is still far lower than many other European countries. In the Netherlands, 27% of journeys are made by bike, followed by Denmark on 19% and Germany managing 10%. Britain languishes behind, with less than 2%.

Some British cities are performing well. Having put cycling closer to the heart of transport policy for decades, Oxford and Cambridge boast continental levels of journeys made by bike (17% and 30% respectively). Across the country some local authorities are showing that by working with communities, real improvements can be made and substantial benefits delivered to cyclists and non-cyclists alike. In 2009, the six cycling demonstration towns, including Exeter and Darlington, recorded an increase in cycling of almost a third.

The potential benefits are tremendous. Keeping active through cycling improves the chances of living longer and increases well-being.

We know however, that the single greatest deterrent for those considering cycling to work or school is the fear of collisions.

Following the tragic death of Ying Tao in central London this week, the risk from HGVs especially to women cyclists, is back under the spotlight. Of the 33 women cyclists killed on London's roads since 2009, 27 have been killed by lorries. Cycling to work in Westminster I know that riding more slowly and politely makes me more vulnerable to left-turning HGVs at busy junctions. I also know that I cannot compete with the Lycra racers who push past to the front of the queue. To encourage more people to ride to work or school, metropolitan areas could look at excluding HGVs during rush hour or to giving cyclists a safer head start with phased lighting at high risk junctions. Better still we need to move further on creating segregated cycle lanes or quiet routes within our towns and cities.

Per mile cycled, rural A roads still pose the greatest danger as a result of the speed of collisions and we need to further increase the network of reduced speed routes and off road segregated cycle paths.

Transforming lives with continental levels of cycling however, takes continental levels of investment of at least £10 per head per year as part of a coordinated and prioritised cycling and walking strategy. This would still be a drop in the ocean compared to the overall level of investment in our roads.

Getting more people out of their cars and onto bikes benefits all road users, but Government needs to do more to make it as safe as possible.

The following link will provide further information on cycling and the other recommendations from the All Party Parliamentary Cycle Group's report Get Britain Cycling

 

Broadband

On average, the South West has the lowest broadband speeds in England. This matters because it is holding back new and established business alike, especially in rural areas. Sluggish connections are also hugely frustrating for individuals and families wanting to benefit from the kind of access taken for granted elsewhere.

Figures published last year show that the UK comes out top for superfast, standard and mobile broadband coverage, with 83 households per 100 broadband connected. These figures also showed that (as of March 2014) superfast broadband coverage had increased with 70-75% of households covered. This means that the UK now has the highest level of coverage amongst the EU5: Germany (65-70% of households covered), Spain (60-65%), France (20-25%) and Italy (10-15%).

This is all good news but we are leaving England's rural communities further behind their urban competitors. Currently £1.7 billion is being invested in extending superfast broadband provision across the UK, with the aim that by 2017 95% of the country should be connected. We need this to be fairly spread so that before government commits to yet higher speeds in towns, they make sure that everyone in rural Britain can benefit from a decent connection.

The Government wants rural Britain to have "near universal" superfast broadband by the end of this Parliament but local families and businesses know that there is a long way to go to realise the estimated potential to boost rural economies across the country by £275 million every month or around £9 million every day by 2024.

I am grateful to everyone for keeping me updated on actual speeds across the patch and for pointing out practical issues such as the shortcomings of satellite connections because of its inherent latency. This information is very helpful when pressing for improvements.

This link will provide further information on broadband in our area.

 

Education and Adoptions Bill

This week, the Education and Adoptions Bill was passed by the House of Commons on its second reading,

To read more about this Bill click here

 

 

 

Dr Sarah Wollaston is elected Chair of the Health Select Committee 18th June 2015

I am delighted to have been elected by Parliament to Chair the Health Committee for the next five years. Throughout the recent general election campaign it was clear how much people care about the quality and future of our NHS and care services. I do too, and I am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves on behalf of the public to hold to account, not only the government but those who commission, deliver and regulate those services.

 

 

 

AmnesTEA, Dartington 5th July 2015

On Sunday 5 July 2015 from 11.00-4.00pm at the East Wing Lounge, Dartington Hall the South Devon Amnesty Group will be hosting their annual fund-raising tea-and-cakes-day.

Come and have a sociable time, talk to members and have a cup of tea with homemade biscuits, buns and cakes

Free entry, tea and cakes by donation.

 

 

Wind Turbines

I am delighted that the government has made an early start on one of its election promises. A key subsidy scheme that has fuelled the spread of wind turbines, the Renewables Obligation, will end a year earlier than originally planned. Energy firms had been facing an end to the subsidy on the 1st April 2017 but now this will be cancelled on the 1st April 2016.

Currently there are 5,061 onshore wind turbines in the United Kingdom, producing 18,000 gigawatt hours of electricity which is enough to power 5.5million homes. This is an industry that is now capable of moving forward without financial support from the government but in my view it must do more to seek the support of local communities perhaps by offering them more of a share in the profits. We know that roof top solar continued to thrive even when subsidy levels were adjusted as costs came down.

My colleague Amber Rudd, the Energy Secretary, announced on the evening of the 17th June that "it was time to shift subsidies from onshore wind to other technologies that needed it more."

In 2014 the British government supplied £800million worth of subsidies to the onshore wind turbine industry which produced 5% of Britain's energy needs. From April 2016 these changes will free up resources to other green energy projects and I would like to see more support for community energy schemes and marine renewables.

To find out more information about the cancellation of the Renewables Obligation please visit the following link

 

Who should vote in the referendum on our membership of the EU?

The European Union Referendum Bill has cleared its first hurdle through the House of Commons and this week will continue its progress as MPs debate a series of proposed amendments. There is now little disagreement on the principle that we hold a binding in/out referendum on Britain's EU membership and the debate now moves to issues such as whether the government or their agencies should be able to send out literature in the month before the referendum and who should have the right to vote. The Bill also sets out much of the detail for the referendum and finalises the referendum question, which will be 'Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?'

The negotiations with our European partners have begun with the aim of securing a better deal not only for Britain but for the whole EU. Opening up our trade and allowing a greater say for national parliaments is in all our interests. It is clear that the majority of British people have no interest in an 'ever closer union', as set out in the Treaty of Rome, and don't believe EU migrants should have full access to welfare until they've paid their way for a number of years. As other nations do move to greater union however, it is vital that protections are in place for those such as Britain, which do not. I'm proud to be supporting the Bill, as I have always believed that it should be the wider electorate, rather than politicians, deciding on the final settlement. Some of my colleagues have already made up their minds how they will be campaigning but I would prefer to wait until I know the outcome of those negotiations.

I do however, feel that the vote should be extended to 16 and 17 year olds. Having watched the energy, enthusiasm and thoughtfulness of their involvement in the Scottish referendum campaign I would find it impossible to argue that 16 and 17 year olds should be denied the opportunity to have their say. This decision will have the greatest impact on their generation and they will be living with the consequences for far longer. I have no doubt that they have the capacity to weigh the arguments on the EU and I also feel that this is an important opportunity to reverse young people's disengagement with politics. Debate on the issues around our EU membership need not bring divisive Party politics into our schools but giving 16 and 17 year olds both a voice and a vote would help to make sure that young people's perspective is taken into account.

For additional information on the European Union Referendum Bill please click here:

For additional information on the passage of the European Union Referendum Bill through Parliament please click here:

 

May 2015 Election

I am delighted to have been re elected as the MP for the Totnes constituency. Thank you so much to every one of the 24,941 people who supported me to return to Parliament having more than tripled the majority from 2010.

However you voted, I am keen to listen and learn from your experience in order to represent our wonderful area of South Devon.

My email now returns to the following contact: sarah.wollaston.mp@parliament.uk

The full results of the national and local elections can be found on the following link http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/constituencies/E1400100

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sea vs Land Tandem Challenge!

Congratulations to the amazing

Lang brothers

on their extraordinary achievement

Thank you to everyone for joining us at Oxen Cove, Brixham on Good Friday for the start of the Sea vs Land Tandem TopGear style challenge across the Bay.

Andy and Chris Lang raced across the Bay on their Sea Tandem to Torquay Harbour whilst Adrian and I took the hilly 21 mile inland route via Totnes on our land tandem.

Congratulations to Andyand Chris for raising £2500 all in aid of the RNLI.

 

Flood Prevention

This week, the Government announced that £60m will be used to bring forward a number of flood prevention programmes, including a number of projects in South Devon. These works are part of the Government's £2.3bn national Flood Risk Management programme and this latest announcement will mean that protection for over 2,000 homes in the South-West will be accelerated.

Projects being brought forward include the Brixham Flood Alleviation Scheme, which will be brought forward by a year, the Salcombe Town Tidal Gates project and the Victoria Stream defence improvements in Dartmouth.

The acceleration of these projects is welcome and are vital for the protection of homes and businesses in our area.

 

Torcross Shingle Recycling - Technical Briefing

To read the full technical briefing, click here

 

Picture 1 – Haul road       Picture 2 – Result of shingle recycling

 

Fairness for Park Homes Residents and the Warm Home Discount

Over the past five years I have met with many park home residents to hear about the unfair challenges they face. It cannot be right that they have been excluded from the Warm Homes Discount, as only the primary bill payer is eligible for this, in their case the site owner. I am pleased that following a consultation, the government have published their response which includes the provision of a rebate to eligible park home residents at risk of fuel poverty. This will be welcome news and I am delighted that they will be eligible for this important discount. You can find out more about this via the following link

 

Broadband Programme  9th February 2015

Good news this week on the roll-out of superfast broadband across Devon. New figures show that by 2017, 19,621 homes and businesses in the Totnes constituency (100,083 across Devon and Somerset) will have been connected-up by the Government's £1.7bn Broadband Programme. In 2010, 3 million homes didn't have access to fast broadband and this scheme aims to have 95% of the UK connected by 2017.

High broadband speeds are essential for local businesses and every £1 invested in the Broadband Programme will generate £20 of economic benefits.

As a rural area, it has traditionally been difficult for broadband providers to reach some sparsely-populated parts of South Devon. The Government recently announced the investment of an extra £65m of Growth Deal funding for the South West – part of which will be used to target these rural families and businesses who might otherwise miss out of superfast speeds. Additionally, £10m is being spent developing new technologies, such as fixed wireless and satellites to ensure that the most remote places are connected.

 

Epic News for Whiterock !

The Government has committed £4m of Growth Deal funding to develop an Electronic and Photonics Innovation Centre EPIC, at White Rock. To read more about this click here

 

 

 

 

Good News for the South West Economy

An extra £65m is being invested in projects to boost our economy here in the South West. This new funding, part of the Growth Deal, comes on top of the £130m awarded to the region last summer. The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership estimates that in the next six years, this funding will create up to 22,000 local jobs.

In our constituency this will go towards the creation of a world leading Electronics and Photonics Centre in Paignton. Fibre optics made here are already an important British export, with customers including NASA and the European Space Agency. The investment in this Centre will allow local businesses to access new equipment and increase their ability to export to the global market - securing vital hi-tech jobs in our area.

Additionally, part of the Growth Deal funding will go towards increasing superfast broadband coverage in the region - targeting families and businesses in rural and sparsely populated parts of Devon which are traditionally difficult to reach by broadband providers.

After speaking to Ministers on the benefits to South Devon of the Growth Deal, I am pleased to see them commit to investing in these local schemes. Thank you too, to the Local Enterprise Partnership for their tireless work in securing this terrific boost for our economy.

 

NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group

Many of you contacted me concerned at the end of last year, with regard to proposals by NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to introduce a number of measures as part of their financial recovery programme.

I know the main worry in this area was the possibility they would decide to ration patients to only one hearing aid. I have recently heard again from the CCG that they have now decided they will not be taking any action to restrict hearing aids. I am pleased that the CCG have listened to those who got in touch with them on this matter.

You can find out more about this and the status of other proposed measures via the following website

 

Unemployment Figures

More good economic news for South Devon this week, as the latest figures show that unemployment in the Totnes constituency has dropped by 42% in the past year and 55% since May 2010. Among those aged 18-24, unemployment is also down – decreasing by 42% in the past year and 53% since the general election.

This news follows last week's announcement that the UK economy was the fastest growing in the G7 in 2014.

 

Empty Homes in the South Hams

Owners of empty homes in the South Hams are being urged to bring their properties back to life.

Recent estimates show there are approximately 80 homes in the district which have been empty for more than two years.

South Hams District Council is offering to help owners bring these potential homes back into use and to help people make full use of what could be a valuable asset, not just for the owner, but for a local family looking for somewhere to live.

Affordable homes for local people can be provided in a number of ways and this scheme is one of the viable alternatives to building new homes. By encouraging people to take action and repair or renovate these properties we are also helping to boost the job prospects for local trades people and craftsmen.

A large number of owners will already have plans for the future of their property but others may need a helping hand, and this is where the council can offer advice and information to owners, tenants and landlords.

Financial help may also be available towards repairs and renovations through a range of grants and loans, usually subject to the owner agreeing to rent out the property when work has been completed. Low interest loans are also available for repair work.

The council can offer first-time and existing landlords in the South Hams, a property management service through its 'Direct Lets Scheme'. The council can also put owners in touch with a charitable scheme which offers a grant for essential repairs and a property management service, in return for a lease agreement.

For further information, or to tell the council about an empty property, call South Hams District Council's Environmental Health Team on 01803 861234, email environmental.health@southhams.gov.uk, call in to the council's offices at Follaton House or visit www.southhams.gov.uk

 

Rural Fair Share Campaign

We must have fairer funding for rural Local Government. This week I met with Treasury Minister, Priti Patel MP, as part o

I have received a number of emails about the amendment tabled by John Mann to the Serious Crime Act.

First and foremost, it is of the utmost importance that the government protects children from abuse and addresses concerns that public bodies and other institutions may have failed to act to protect children in the past or deliberately covered up abuse. These must be fully investigated without any fear that anyone could be deterred from giving evidence as a result of the Official Secrets Act

The government has made it clear that John Mann's amendment was not necessary as the Official Secrets Act does not prevent disclosures about abuse being made, this point being clarified by the Home Secretary in the Commons & by the following statement by the Home Office:

The Official Secrets Act is intended to protect certain classes of particularly sensitive information such as security and intelligence matters, and it provides for a number of offences that prevent current or former Crown servants or Government contractors from disclosing certain information without lawful authority. It does not prevent protected information from being disclosed to an officer of an official investigation or inquiry into historical child abuse. In particular, information may be disclosed where the disclosure is made in accordance with that person's official duty or is otherwise authorised. Departments and Ministers can permit current and former civil servants and Government contractors to share knowledge and documentation with an inquiry.

For example, in the case of the Kincora investigation - the Hart Inquiry in Northern Ireland - it has been made absolutely clear by the Attorney-General that prosecutions under the Official Secrets Act will not take place where people are giving evidence of child abuse to the inquiry. The Home Secretary has made it clear that official authorisation would be given for the Goddard Inquiry if a request were made, in a manner similar to that for the Hart Inquiry, and has written to Justice Goddard to suggest that she make such a request to the Attorney General.


Click here to see me being interviewed by Women2Win

 

Click  to listen to BBC Radio 4 Today programme interviewing Sarah and discussing "Do Westminster Primaries Work?"

 

 

 


26 JUN 2015

The Daisy Garland

I met today with the inspirational charity, The Daisy Garland, started by Sara and David Garland in memory of their daughter Daisy who died in her sleep at the age of 6 from SUDEP (sudden unexpected death in epilepsy patients). The Daisy Garland work tirelessly, offering help and support some of...


19 JUN 2015

Macmillan Fund Raising Lunch

Wonderful day at Hope Cove and thank you to everyone who turned out to support the fundraising lunch in aid of  Macmillan Support.


19 JUN 2015

Kingsbridge Advice Surgery

Thank you to everyone for attending todays's Advice Surgery at Quay House, Kingsbridge. If you would like an appointment to meet with me to discuss local or national issues or personal concerns, please telephone 01803 868378.



01 JUL 2015

Child Poverty

Sarah Wollaston Conservative, Totnes I welcome the Secretary of State's determination to break the cycle of disadvantage and to focus instead on outcomes. As he knows, health inequality also traps children in disadvantage. He has touched on alcohol and drug addiction, but will he also look at...


29 JUN 2015

Tunisia, and European Council

Sarah Wollaston Conservative, Totnes Click here to watch Sarah speak Does the Prime Minister agree that, just as we need to do all we can to disrupt vile propaganda from ISIL on social media, it is time for our mainstream broadcast and print media to review their editorial policies and stop...


25 JUN 2015

Education and Adoptions Bill

This week, the Education and Adoptions Bill was passed by the House of Commons on its second reading. This Bill is designed to tackle underperforming schools to ensure that all our children have access to a first rate education. The Bill will require that any school judged to be 'inadequate' by...


24 JUN 2015

A & E Services

Sarah Wollaston Conservative, Totnes  Click here to watch Sarah speak It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford). The House should listen to what she says about the point of targets. I thank NHS staff across the UK and, given the subject of this debate,...


22 JUN 2015

Onshore Wind Subsidies

Sarah Wollaston Conservative, Totnes I welcome the Secretary of State's announcement and it is great to hear that we are on course to meet 30% of our electricity generation from renewables. She is right to divert the resources into less mature technologies, but can she reassure my constituents...





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Sarah's Personal Blog

Click here for Sarah's full blog and to leave comments

Tunisian Tragedy

30 of our citizens are amongst the dead in Tunisia and we can only imagine the grief of their families. Once again, ISIL has waged its cowardly war against the softest of targets. In times of war we should stop helping their propaganda machine to act as a gruesome recruiting sergeant.

Instead of publicising the names and smirking faces of terrorists or their sympathisers, let's see and hear the personal stories of the courageous Tunisians who formed a human shield on the beach; theirs is the true face of Islam. As David Cameron announces his resolve to end the online grooming through social media, isn't it time for the print and broadcast media to question their own editorial policies? The killers crave publicity for their crimes not just for their own vanity but because they know that this draws others to follow their example. We rightly criminalise child pornography but allow links to horrific snuff videos which are the oldest weapon in history; to terrorise and undermine the enemy.

Whilst we grieve with the families of our own dead we should counter ISIL's message of twisted grievance against the West by being clear that overwhelmingly it is Muslims who are being slaughtered by ISIL.

 

Why I will not be voting to undermine the Abortion Act

There is no room for complacency in the UK and we need to remain vigilant.

The Department of Health has updated their analysis of male to female birth rates with data from 2008-2012 and this now includes ethnicity. Without exception, birth ratios were within the expected range for all UK communities, including analysis by ethnicity and birth order.

There may be individual cases but it would be entirely wrong to stigmatise entire communities in Britain by suggesting that this is in any way a common or systematic practice here ...it is not.........To read the full blog and leave comments, click here

Remember The Real Victims of IS

Several press reports describe the latest trio of teenagers as 'jihadi brides' fleeing the country for Syria. In what sense can their actions be described as 'fleeing' when that is defined as running away from a place or situation of danger? There are risks in glamourising these girls by describing them as 'A-grade' students yet in the same paragraph portraying them as if they are merely passive victims of social media grooming.......To read the full blog and leave comments, click here

HSC's Complaints and Concerns Inquiry

Most people experience really great care in the NHS but sometimes things can go wrong. Most of those who complain about NHS services do not seek financial redress. They do so because they wish to have their concerns and experiences understood and for any failings to be acknowledged and put right so that others do not suffer the same avoidable harm....To read the full blog and leave comments, click here


We owe a debt of gratitude to returning aid workers, subjecting them all to compulsory quarantine would be counterproductive and unnecessary 2nd January 2015

As the nurse Pauline Cafferkey fights her own battle with Ebola at an isolation unit in London, questions have been raised not only about why she was allowed to board a flight from Heathrow to Glasgow, but also about whether all returning aid workers should be placed in quarantine..... To read the full blog and leave comments, click here

 

Fair Representation for England 18th December 2014

This week, William Hague set out the options to ensure fair representation for England following the agreement to devolve greater powers to Scotland. Whilst 'English Votes for English Laws' is rarely top of the priority list, the subject regularly comes up at my open meetings as people are rightly annoyed that Scottish Labour MPs regularly vote on issues which have no effect whatsoever on their own constituents. Imagine the fuss if the situation was reversed! https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/387598/implications_of_devolution_for_england_accessible.pdf

Following the Scottish independence referendum, the transfer of additional powers to Scotland will significantly worsen this injustice to English voters.

In the Houses of Commons, William Hague set out the three options put forward by the Conservative Party:

1. Bills that deal with English matters could only be able to be voted upon by English MPs at all legislative stages.

2. Bills that deal with English matters could be voted upon by all MPs at Second and Third Readings but only by English MPs at Committee and Report Stages.

3. There would be the creation of a new legislative stage in between Report Stage and Third Reading at which English MPs could veto and approve legislation which deals only with English matters.

I am pleased that all three options look to address the 'English question' within Parliament rather than proposing that another raft of structures and politicians be created. The idea of regional assemblies was rejected during a 2004 referendum in the North-East and I have yet to meet a constituent who asks me to campaign for more politicians.

I'm keen to hear your views.

The first proposal has the advantage that it would not add extra stages to the already lengthy legislative process. Although it is true that some parts of bills may apply to devolved nations but not others, in reality Labour oppose this as it would reduce their ability to push through unpopular, burdensome and expensive legislation should they ever return to power. The SNP have long taken the view that they should not vote on English only legislation and rarely do so, thus demonstrating that it is not the complicated morass wrongly claimed by Labour.

This is about fairness to England.

Update on meeting with Planning Minister Kris Hopkins 14th December 2014

Last week, I met with Kris Hopkins – Minister from the Department for Communities and Local Government – to discuss challenges for South Hams District Council (SHDC) with solar and wind farm planning policy.In recent years, our area has seen a significant increase in the number of applications. SHDC has either approved or is currently processing applications for solar farms covering 305 acres – the equivalent of 170 football pitches. I have received a large number of representations on this from people across South Devon who are concerned about the impact that these development have on the countryside. The South Hams is renowned for its outstanding natural beauty and I am concerned that overdevelopment with vast industrialised solar arrays will impact on vital tourism and the land we need to feed the nation.

This year, the Government announced reforms to the subsidies provided to developers to remove Renewable Obligation Certificates from solar farm developments over the size of 5MW – removing the incentive for large solar farms to be built. While this news is welcome, there are concerns that this will lead to a large increase in applications in the short term, as developers seek to beat the 1 April cut off for subsidy.

At the meeting we discussed some of the problems that the Council faces when solar and wind farm applications come in. Developers have the right to appeal if applications are rejected and the associated costs for the Council can be high if their decision is then overturned. This can leave Councils with a difficult decision when rejecting an application as they need to sum up the risk to council tax-payers money if their decision is overturned on appeal. Additionally, I have concerns with the appeal process allowing unelected Planning Inspectors to overrule the decisions made by local representatives who have detailed local knowledge and opinion.

Of course all areas must take their share of renewables but it is clear that the South West has been far more attractive to developers because the returns on solar are greater. We have more than fulfilled that obligation locally and nationally we are already on course for reaching our target for energy generation from renewables. It is time to genuinely shift the balance to installations being where the public expect them to be, on rooftops or brownfield sites, not desecrating our beautiful landscape for the profit of a few at the expense of subsidies paid by those who are fuel poor.

We have asked the Minister for stronger and clearer guidance to help Councils reflect the wishes of local people and I look forward to seeing the Department's future plans to support local councils in achieving this. Councils must be able to turn down applications where they feel they are inappropriate, safe in the knowledge that council tax payers will not be doubly penalised in having to put up with these monstrosities as well as pick up the tab for the appeal.

Thank you to representatives from the council and the CPRE for coming to London to help to set out the position so clearly.

Childhood Obesity

Almost one in five children are obese before they leave primary school. 85% will go on to become obese as adults with increased risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Do you feel that we should do more to help them?

Your email address:

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A Short Life: Devon based Charity Auction raising money for Little Bridge House Children's Hospice

A Short Life was set up by Jon Rowe, who recently lost his 11 year old sister to the disease Mucopolysaccharide (MPS).  Click here to find out more about the charity auction that Jon is organising to raise money for the MPS Society and Little Bridge House Children's Hospice.