Tuesday 10th December at 7.30pm at Thurlestone Parish Hall.
This is the chance to hear about the options for improving Broadband in the area- and to have your say on which is best for you.
This a community meeting with BT, Connecting Devon and Somerset and South Hams Broadband.
Torbay Marine Conservation Zone
I received a letter from George Eustice MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for farming food and the marine environment at the Department for Food and Rural Affairs, with regard to the Torbay Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).
I was pleased to receive reassurance from George that the designation of a MCZ does not mean an end to marine activities, but that restrictions vary according to the important eco systems that need protection.
You can read the letter about the Torbay MCZ by clicking the following link
Small Business Saturday
The 7th of December marks Small Business Saturday, an opportunity for us all to support the small businesses which give our constituency its personality. Starting in the USA, Small Business Saturday seeks to celebrate small businesses and encourage community support for them at a crucial time in the shopping calendar.
Totnes is blessed with a shop vacancy rate that is half the national average and I feel this vitality is down to the huge number of small businesses which have made Totnes their home, giving them a real stake in the local economy. Eight of ten businesses in Totnes are independent, a ratio which I applaud. However, these are tough times and I encourage people to observe Small Business Saturday, simply by shopping on your local High Street on the 7th of December, as I will be.
What goes for Totnes also goes for Kingsbridge, Brixham Dartmouth and right across the constituency; small businesses are at the very heart of our communities, often providing a social element in addition to their good value for money. I hope to see our High Streets as vibrant as ever on Small Business Saturday, but do remember that these businesses need our support and custom all year round. A small business is for life, not just for Christmas!
Help with fuel bills
Rising energy bills cause real harm to people in the constituency, which is why I am making sure that my constituents are aware of all the ways in which they can save on their energy bills. If you click on the following link, it will take you to a page on my website where there is more detailed information on this issue.
The History of Parliament. From the Grassroots.
An appeal for volunteers. A ground-breaking heritage project has been launched by The History of Parliament. 'From the Grassroots: An Oral History of Community Politics in Devon' is creating a sound archive of people involved in local politics within the county from the Second World War until the present day. The project will build a rounded picture of Devon's rich political heritage as told by the participants themselves, recording the memories of activists and campaigners, to discover why they became involved in political activism and what impact they had on the democratic process.
Volunteers will be at the hub of the project, and they will have the opportunity to learn new skills in areas such as oral history, writing research articles and digital storytelling. If you want to gain new skills and meet new friends by volunteering in 'From the Grassroots', then please get in touch.
They are also looking for people to take part in oral history recordings. Whether you are a current or retired party activist, local party officer, MP, councillor, a relative of someone involved in local politics, or you know of an ideal oral history candidate, the project team would be delighted to hear from you.
From the Grassroots has been made possible by the support Heritage Lottery Fund, which has awarded the project over £53,000. Over the next 18 months the project will be delivering a variety of outreach events with the aim of engaging people in the political history of Devon. Highlights will include a touring exhibition, website, schools programme, and a series of workshops and talks, so there are plenty of ways to get involved. The new archive of oral histories that volunteers help to record will remain in Devon as valuable research resource in political history for current and future generations.
The project is based at the Devon Heritage Centre, and also has the support of the Houses of Parliament's Public Engagement and Learning team, Devon County Council's Heritage Service, Plymouth University and Plymouth City Council's Arts and Heritage Service.
This Sunday I am honoured to be attending the Remembrance Day parade in Kingsbridge. Since becoming an MP it has been a privilege to meet and represent so many people who have fought on behalf of our country and who are still serving in our armed forces today. My thanks go to the Royal British Legion which continues to provide vital support to our ex-servicemen and their families.
Spectator Awards: Parliamentarians of the Year
I was delighted to be named as one of the joint winners of the Spectator's Parliamentarians of the Year Award
No 10 Policy Board for Businesses
I was recently contacted by Nadhim Zahawi MP who has recently been appointed to the Number 10 Policy Board, with a focus on economic affairs and the Business, Innovation and Skills brief.
Nadhim is an award winning businessman and is aware that the issues businesses face vary enormously. As such, Nadhim is keen to hear directly from businesses to ensure they have the opportunity to feed in to the policy making process.
If any local business wishes to share their views with Nadhim they can do so via the following website
I received a letter this week from the Minister, Gregory Barker after voicing concerns surrounding planning and solar arrays. To read the contents of this letter please click on this link
Fashion with a Difference
On Thursday, the 7th of November, the Royal Seven Stars in Totnes is hosting Fashion with a Difference, a musical evening and fashion show featuring the renowned 'Rowcroft All Stars.'
The event starts at 7.00 pm and is in aid of two fantastic charities, Rowcroft Hospice and Anjara Children's Support Project. I am sure it will be a fantastic evening and to find out more or purchase a ticket please call 01803 210846 or 01803 863245.
Tickets cost £10.00 and this includes a glass of wine. Tickets can also be purchased from the Rowcroft Hospice Shop in Totnes or on the night.
A reminder to have your flu jab this winter!
Flu can be a very serious illness for certain groups of people. I would therefore encourage all those that are over the age of 65 or are in one of the 'at risk' groups to visit their surgeries and get vaccinated.
Amala Fest 16th November
A community organisation is putting on an event at the Civic Hall in Totnes on Saturday 16th November 2013 called Amala Fest to raise money for the Children of Syria Appeal with the charity WarChild.
The event is split into two parts; Day Fest and Night Fest;
Day Fest runs from 10.30am to 5pm and is free entry. During this time they will be holding craft and artisanal market stalls from local traders. There will also be craft activities and workshops for children and adults to participate in. There will be performances by children from local schools as well as local musicians, artists and DJ sets. A bar is provided by Hunters Brewery and a café run by Maisie's Café.
Night Fest runs from 7pm until midnight, tickets will be available to buy in advance at £8 a ticket, or £10 on the door. There will be some poetry readings and a comedy sketch to be followed by live performances from local bands and artists such as Makiwa and Matthew & Me (plus special guests to be announced closer to the event) as well as well as DJ sets to end the night.
Throughout the event there will be guest speakers raising awareness of the situation in Syria and surrounding countries. So far Paul Conroy, war photographer for The Sunday Times, David Glover from the charity Shelterbox and Jacqui Cousins on behalf of Warchild have all confirmed their attendance.
Warchild is a small international charity that protects children from the brutal effects and consequences of war, working in some of the worst affected countries in the world.
Meeting at Thurlestone Village Hall 4th November
Representatives of the Connecting Devon and Somerset Broadband Programme will be attending Thurlestone Parish Council meeting on Monday, November 4, at Thurlestone Village Hall to explain what this vital scheme means for local residents and businesses.
The meeting starts at 7.30 and it is hoped members of the community will attend to find out more about the scheme.
CDS representatives will explain how this publicly funded scheme is being rolled out and how communities who will not receive a commercially funded service will benefit.
CDS representatives are also coming to listen and this is an essential part of CDS' understanding of the wider community's support for the Thurlestone Community broadband project (or indeed the CDS roll-out).
CDS want to use the meeting as a sounding board to better understand whether Thurlestone should remain within the CDS roll out or be served by the Thurlestone Community Broadband project.
It may be that further consultation with Thurlestone residents is required, but CDS hope to see as many of you there on Monday as possible.
Infertlity Awareness Week 28th October to 3rd November
Nation Infertility Awareness Week hopes to educate the British public about infertility, how it affects people and where people can go to receive help.
Today, infertility affects around 2 in 10 couples who cannot conceive after 2 years of trying for a child. The major causes of infertility are damage to the female and male reproductive organs as well as other common health risks such as excessive drinking, smoking, eating disorders and stress.
Infertility can sometimes be temporary however, more often than not; the damage is a permanent. Currently, the NHS provides IVF (In-Vitro Fertilisation) around 2% of babies born in the UK are conceived by IVF. In 2011, 48,147 women had IVF treatment and together these women had 61,726 cycles of the IVF treatment.
NICE have recently released the new guidelines to determine who is eligible for NHS funded IVF. According to the guidelines, women aged under 40 should be offered three cycles of IVF treatment on the NHS if you have failed to conceive after 2 years without contraception or if you have been unsuccessful after 12 cycles of Artificial Insemination. However, if tests show IVF is the only treatment likely to help you get pregnant, you should be referred for IVF straight away. Women aged 40-42 must have also never received IVF before and have no ovarian health issues.
This week take the opportunity to find out how fertile you are and if infertility affects you, get some support from your local clinic and find out if you are eligible for assistance.
For more information on infertility click here or call 0800 008 7464
Help me to end Scam Mail.
We have all received those annoying letters through the post declaring that we have won millions, most people throw them away, however, there are some people who respond. There are thousands of people across the UK who have lost millions of pounds to these scammers, hoping that they will eventually receive the promised prize. Whenever someone responds to one of these scams not only are they losing money but their details are being sold on to other unscrupulous scammers. The problem often escalates.
I am working alongside a number of my Parliamentary colleagues to end this terrible situation.
I have placed a box in my constituency office (above the Totnes Conservative Club) Station Road, Totnes, TQ9 5HW) and I am asking you to bring in any examples that you receive so that we can illustrate quite how wide and far reaching this problem is.
If you are concerned about a friend or family member who has a problem with scam postal mail, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Have your say.
Health and social care services in the area will be changing and I am glad that the South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group are ensuring that local people can have their say.
The CCG want to agree on a clear plan for local community services for the next five years and are holding open meeting to allow residents to communicate their views. The meetings are as follows:
Harbertonford Wednesday 30th of October from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm at the Village Hall
Totnes Thursday 14th November from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm at the Civic Hall
Buckfastleigh Thursday 21st November from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm at St Luke's Church
Dartmouth Tuesday 26th November from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm at the Guildhall
Stokenham Wednesday 27th November from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm at the Village Hall
Brixham Thursday 5th December from 2.00 pm to 4.00 pm at Brixham Town Hall
I strongly recommend that anyone with an interest in health and social care services attends a meeting and shares their views.
Review of in-house Day Service Provision
Devon County Council is carrying out a review of their day care centres over the coming months, though it should be noted that this does not include centres provided by voluntary or independent providers.
The Council has had great success with providing people with direct payments and personal budgets which means that many people now choose which services they want to utilise. However this has meant a drop in the use of day centres as people have expressed a desire for more flexible services.
I can assure you that the Council remains committed to ensuring that peoples' care needs are met. The review is about ensuring that they can best respond to the choices that people are making in relation to their day time needs. Some people may wish to receive day services through their personal budgets while others will wish to attend day centres.
I do encourage anyone with views on this matter to contact the Council to share them and you can do so via the following:
Telephone: 0345 155 1012
Grow Your Tenner
From the 15th October, local charities and community groups can receive double donations thanks to the Grow Your Tenner campaign, a £500,000 match Fund on localgiving.com
The Office for Civil Society has made money available to support small charities and groups working in local communities- if you would like to support a local charity, go to http://www.localgiving.com/gyt to find out how you can share in the pot! Some of the local charities that may benefit from your generousity are the Shekinah Mission, the Kingsbridge Cookworthy Museum and Dame Hannah Rogers Trust.
Katie Sowden is a young Sanctuary Housing resident living in Paignton, who is concerned by the lack of creative outlets for young people with mental health conditions. Katie runs a youth group in Paignton, which encourages young people to tackle mental health conditions through creativity. With support from Sanctuary Housing and charity project Fixers, 22-year-old Katie is creating a poster campaign, bringing Torbay to life through the eyes of young people. To make this happen, Katie is calling on young artists, aged 16-25, in the Torbay area to contribute towards the campaign. This project has given her the opportunity to help young people who suffer from mental illness to get creative, she feels empowered to know she can make a difference to the community
If you are interested and would like to put your creative skills to use for a good cause, please contact Katie Ost, the Fixers Young Person's Coordinator for the West Country, by emailing email@example.com.
Response to Ed Milliban's Energy Policy
It is well worth reading an article written by a Kingsbridge resident as a response to Ed Milliband's announcement on energy policy.
Transition Town Totnes
Transition Town Totnes have been short listed in the Guardian Charity Awards. One of 30 charities out of 1300 entries; It is a great endorsement of the enormous amount of goodwill and support that Transition Town Totnes has had over the last few years. The winning charities will be announced on Tuesday 3 December 2013 in London.
Brixham Heritage Museum
Undercover family judges have crowned Brixham Heritage Museum the joint winner of the Telegraph Family Friendly Museum Award alongside The Horniman Museum and Gardens (Forest Hill, south London). Both museums beat 140 entrants nationally to the coveted top spot for providing outstanding and stimulating experiences for the whole family.
Dr Philip L. Armitage, Curator of the Brixham Museum, said: "We are extremely honoured to be a winner of the Telegraph Family Friendly Award, and especially delighted given that our museum compared with others shortlisted is very much smaller in scale. Despite our modest size, the part-time staff and dedicated team of enthusiastic volunteers aim to ensure visiting families have an enjoyable and worthwhile experience. Receiving this award judged by the families themselves is a very much appreciated accolade for all the hard work the museum has put in to provide family friendly facilities."
Brixham Heritage museum has developed its offer to young children over the past few years through the Mini Museum Project. The project, co-ordinated by the museum, focuses on teaching young children about Torbay's heritage through a range of early years activities such as mini digs, storytelling, trips and guided walks to sites of local historic interest.
The project is being delivered by Torbay Childminders in partnership with Brixham Heritage Museum, Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust, Torquay Museum and Torbay Council, which contributed £1000 towards the scheme.
For further information please contact Philip Armitage at the Brixham Heritage Museum on 01803 856267 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
As a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ovarian cancer I was delighted to receive the news that as part of the Be Clear on Cancer campaigns in England, ovarian cancer will now be trialed at a regional level early next year.
I am so pleased that the government has committed to raising awareness of ovarian cancer as studies have shown that symptom awareness among women is not improving and this urgently needs addressing.
Cross Roads Care, Torbay
Crossroads Care Torbay is for all Carers in the Bay. Anyone who cares for someone, a friend, relative or neighbour because they need a bit of extra help or can't manage on their own.
They care for 'Carers'. They listen to how things are, what's going well and what the challenges are. They help by making the links into networks of support or by sitting alongside Carers at tribunals or meetings, professional or medical. They don't 'fix' they enable. They work together often making a plan of action with the Carer, where some jobs are taken on by Crossroads and some by the Carer.
They are kind and put Carers needs first. If a carer is in "a bother" Cross Roads Care want them to know they are not alone and don't have to go through this by themselves. There are three Carers Centres in Torbay- the Olive Carers Centre, Victoria Park Road Torquay, Paignton Library Carers Centre and Brixham Carers Centre (Kings Street).
They work out of The Olive Carers Centre, and help man the Brixham Carers Centre. Pop in or ring them on 01803 323510 to make an appointment.
In 2012, British Photographer, Paul Conroy, was injured in Syria when shells struck a make shift media centre. His colleagues, Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik died in the incident and now you can read his unique insight into the situation in Syria by clicking here
You may be interested to read an article I have written for the ITN website
Parliament has been recalled this Thursday to debate whether we should take military action against the Syrian regime as a result of their use of chemical weapons.
The pictures from Damascus scream out for action but without a UN mandate or action being led by the Arab League that would, in my opinion, risk an escalating conflict with the possibility of many hundreds of thousands more deaths. I fear that unilateral action will harden attitudes and be interpreted as an act of war. If there is an escalation, how long could we commit to such a war and with what resources or exit strategy?
The situation in Syria is far more complex than Libya where a no-fly zone was relatively easy to enforce. The moral responsibility for inaction lies squarely at the doors of Russia and Iran. Those who have the greatest influence in Syria must understand their own role in averting an escalating conflict. The best hope for long term peace lies in a regional settlement that comes from within not one imposed with force by Western powers.
Military intervention cannot create a just and lasting peace in Syria, at best an uncertain deterrence against the further use of chemical weapons. Our outrage at their use by a vile regime does not however justify unilateral action without a realistic appraisal of the wider risks and costs of escalation.
The first duty of Government is to protect our own national interest; exploding a proxy war into global conflict is in no one's interest, least of all the people of Syria. We do not turn our backs by providing humanitarian assistance and collecting the forensic evidence to hold the guilty to account.
Parliament can act as a natural brake to the headlong rush to intervention and I am interested to take your views with me into that debate. Please could you let me know as soon as possible whether you support my view or would rather see Britain support the US in military action without UN consensus, by emailing email@example.com with the heading INTERVENTION or NO INTERVENTION. Please do include your full address if you live in the constituency; if you do not live in the constituency, please contact your own MP.
Congratulations to everybody collecting their GCSE results today and I do hope everyone got the grades they needed for whatever they want to do next! I was glad to see such fantastic results across the schools in the area. If your results were higher or lower than expected and you want to know your options you can call the Exam Results Helpline on the following number: 0808 100 8000.
PIB and our wildlife
Many will be disappointed to see that it has not been possible to bring about a successful prosecution following the disastrous recent chemical pollution incidents which have had such a devastating effect on marine bird life. I received the following letter from the Minister Stephen Hammond explaining why a prosecution has not been feasible:-
We met on the 20th June and discussed the recent tragic loss of seabirds contaminated with polyisobutylene (PIB). I said I would keep you in touch with our investigations. I have to tell you, however, that despite the very best efforts of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA)'s Enforcement Officers, it has not been possible to identify the source of the contamination.
You will understand that a successful prosecution is dependent on knowing the precise ship that was the source of the pollution including its nationality and ownership, establishing that the offence occurred within the UK's area of jurisdiction, and securing unequivocal evidence of a clear failure to follow the relevant rules and regulations. That is a complex jigsaw of information that needs to be pieced together against the background of a potential offence to which there were no witnesses and a time-lag between when it may have been committed and when its effects became apparent.
The MCA's investigation has been intelligence led and forensic. On the basis of tidal information and what was known about the location of the contaminated seabirds, experts could establish where and when the discharge of the PIB substance was most likely to have occurred. Analysis of the substance showed it had a molecular weight of around 1300.
The form of the pollution indicated that tank washing was the most likely source. Information from the European Marine Safety Agency showed details of 59 chemical tankers in the area. Investigators reduced the list because they were only interested in those in ballast, and only those outward bound from the UK because tank cleaning operations (the most likely cause) are usually conducted on departure. Similarly the list was further reduced to only include ships were voyages started in the UK or near the continent (Netherland, Belgium and France). That allowed the investigation to focus on 16 ships.
The investigation involved checks with many other authorities including the Dutch water police, The US Coastguard, The Portuguese Maritime Authorities, The Interpol Environment Desk, The National Coastwatch Institute, local Harbour Masters, the European Chemical Trade Association, colleagues in HM Revenue and Customs and the Maritime Authorities in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Part of the investigation talked to the known importers of PIBs into the UK, but it became clear in those discussions that this was related to material in drums and portable tanks rather than as a bulk cargo. The characteristics of the substance seen on the seabirds and in the sea meant that it was highly unlikely to have come from a portable drum or tank, and none have been reported as lost or missing.
On the basis of the information that the MCA has received and considered from all relevant authorities, it has simply not been possible to identify the source of pollution and there can be no prospect of a successful prosecution at this time.
In terms of action at the international level, further independent testing undertaken during the investigation of the samples obtained from affected seabirds, indicates that the product is a chemically distinct form of PIB from that commonly shipped. In light of that evidence, the UK will approach the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to discuss this PIB variant to determine whether it is being carried appropriately on ships. If the IMO concludes this is a new product that has not been assessed, then industry will need to submit an application to have it assessed before it can be shipped in accordance with MARPOL Annex II requirements.
Funding for cycling projects
Today ( August 12th) marks the biggest single cash injection into cycling projects around the country.
Locally the main benefit will be for all those who enjoy cycling around the Dartmoor National Park.
DfT funding will contribute £4.372m boosted with a local contribution of £3.05m.
It will allow major improvements to 200km of cycle ways, with a further 140km benefitting from smaller upgrades (such a improved signage).
Cycling funding is not just directed at our world class athletes and club cyclists but aimed at opening this great sport to everyone. That is why the focus of the scheme is new family-friendly multi use routes east to west across the park, supported by information points and provisions for access by those with limited mobility.
The following outlines the local plans in greater detail.
a) Cycling on Dartmoor
• Cycle Trail improvements and crossing of the B3212
• western Cycling hubs at Postbridge, Princetown and Moretonhampstead
b) Access to East Dartmoor
• Improvements to the Wray Valley Trail between Moretonhampstead and Newton Abbott (including A38 crossing improvements)
• Exeter to Dartmoor Route Development, developing a cycle path parallel to the A38 and via Haldon Forest Park on quiet roads.
c) Access to West Dartmoor
• Improvements to the Devon Coast to Coast Granite Way - connecting new developments in Okehampton, southerly to Station Road in Bridestow, Pegasus Way and Rattlebrook Railway Trail
• Improvements to the Devon Coast to Coast Drake's Trail at Bere Alston to Tavistock; Clearbrook Ramp; and Plymbridge Woods Trails & hub
d) Accessibility and Signage Improvements
• Route signing and branding round Dartmoor Way
• Improved signage on the Cycle West Route development
• Improvements to the Newton Abbott Cycle Hub
On a separate note, it is fantastic news that the tour of Britain returns to Devon on September 20th with a spectacular finish on Haytor: http://www.devontourofbritain.co.uk/
A Cutlure of Fear and Blame won't Fix the NHS
Yesterday (the 6th of August) saw the publication of the Berwick Review in to patient safety.
This report highlights the main problems affecting patient safety in the NHS and makes recommendations to address them.
You can read my piece for the Telegraph on this matter here.
The full Berwick Review can be accessed here
Communities now have a greater say on the siting of wind turbines and solar farms in new guidance published today.
Today on the 29th July, just over 2 weeks after the debate I convened in Westminster Hall and pursuant to Gregory Barker's (Minister of State (Climate Change) comments on my questioning of solar arrays, the Department for Communities and Local Government have just published revised guidance on planning and renewables.
The Government press release can be read here
Heritage Lottery Fund. First World War;Then and Now
With a year to go until we mark the centenary of the UK entering the First World War, the Heritage Lottery Fund has a £6 million small grants programme to help communities to mark this historic event. There are many aims of the 'Then and Now' project from conserving our existing memorials to researching, identifying and recording our local heritage in relation to the Great War. For those who want to find out more about the First World War legacy or those who wish to mark the Centenary I would urge you to apply for an online application pack http://www.hlf.org.uk/ThenandNow.
New Village Green in Strete
A two acre site in the centre of Strete has just been awarded Village Green status by Devon County Council. The application took nearly two years to process and was enthusiastically supported by over 93% of local residents, a total of 180 of whom signed up to the successful bid. Villagers were determined to protect its future as an open space for use by the whole village.
The land, which has been used by villagers walking and exercising their dogs for more than 30 years is actually owned by Devon County Council. Local people can now enjoy the land by right and are delighted that this small part of our heritage, a national asset, is now preserved for future generations to enjoy.
The picture shows four of the five villagers responsible for the successful application, in the field which has become the Village Green. Richard and Joan Hacon, Hilary Peart and Stuart Litster.
Brixham Heritage Museum
GREAT WAR APPEAL
Brixham Heritage Museum, along with the rest of our nation, is preparing to commemorate the centenary of World War I in 2014. A 'virtual' War Memorial has been created on the Museum's website, researched by Museum Co-ordinator Louise Cresswell. An entry with a photograph has been created, giving details of the life, War service and death of each person commemorated on the Brixham Memorial to the Fallen. Each person remembered has their own page.
They are interested in photographs, diaries, reminiscences and anything else relating to Brixham in the Great War. Can you help complete their virtual memorial, or donate or lend photographs to illustrate a booklet about Brixham's fishery during this time? If you have photographs of families or harbour/street scenes they would love to see them!
Please contact Louise Cresswell or Cathy Craig at Brixham Heritage Museum
Tel: 01803 856267 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The 'virtual' War Memorial can be seen here
Many congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their baby son!
I was so glad that Shoalstone Pool finally opened in time for the glorious weather. This was only possible thanks to the huge community effort. Volunteers put in countless hours so that our historic open air pool can be enjoyed by local residents and visitors alike.
I think it is a testament to the community spirit of Brixham that the pool remains free to use, though of course there are sun loungers and deck chairs to hire. The pool is easy to access, there is a pay and display car park and disabled access facilities. Lifeguards are on duty in the summer together with a lovely café and picnic area. So many people have fought hard to ensure the pool can open this year and I urge everyone to go and enjoy it! Thanks to the Brixham Community Trust and the Friends of Shoalstone Pool Group for everything they have done to save the pool. Photo by kind permission of Jenny Harriman.
On Saturday 3rd August Neighbourhood Healthwatch are holding an open meeting from 10.00am to 11.30am at the Totnes Methodist Chuch Hall where you can hear how this inspiring project is helping communities support each other's health needs and how it is possible to set up groups in Totnes.
Norman Lamb, Department of Health Minister is supportive of their work and wrote an article on this issue for the Guardian
Charities like Dartmouth Caring make a real difference and deserve more support
Talking on Radio Devon this morning I spoke about why Clinical Commissioning Groups do have the power to support local caring charities. Below is a transcript of the conversation that took place when Dr David Bennett, Chairman and Chief Executive of Monitor, gave evidence to the Select Committee and was questioned by me about the situation facing locally based charities like Dartmouth Caring.
Stop and Search
The public have to be able to trust those who enforce the law. I am glad that the Home Secretary has taken account of the concerns about the variation in the use of stop and search powers and has announced a public consultation on these powers.
I do not think many would argue that these should be taken away from the police, however it is time for a review. Stop and search has spiralled from being a sensible tool for the police into a numbers game whereby many people are searched with less than 1 in 10 of them resulting in an arrest.
I think it is right to review whether stop and search should be used more sparingly as currently there is concern that it may be wasting too much police time. Even worse some members of the public may be repeatedly stopped, fuelling resentment.
Stop and search needs to be reformed so it is only used when the police have valid suspicions but first we need a debate about the right balance between protecting public safety, preventing crime and protecting civil liberties. I would encourage you all to submit your views on this matter to the consultation which is running until the 13th of August. You can access the consultation here.
I welcome work experience students in my office. University student William Matthewman, spent a week in Westminster over the period of the spending review and you are able to read his critique by following this link
I know that solar arrays are a contentious issue in the constituency at the moment.
As such, I thought it may interest people to know that there is a public exhibition on Monday the 1st of July at Diptford Village Hall between 2.00 pm and 8.00 pm with regard to the proposed 11MW solar array at Coombeshead Farm. For more information on this proposed application visit www.coombesheadsolar.co.uk you will also be able to submit comments. I would also encourage people to visit other solar arrays in the constituency so they can be fully aware of the impact they can have.
Travel from Diptford to Totnes and it is impossible to miss. To put this in context each MW of capacity requires around 5 acres of land.
I do think we need further debate about their impact, the loss of land for food production and the industrialisation of our landscape driven by distorting levels of subsidy. These subsidies translate into higher costs for everyone. I also have concerns about these sites becoming brownfield sites for further development after decommissioning even where they would not have been currently have been contemplated for housing use. What do we need more, affordable housing or solar arrays? I would suggest the former.
PIB and Our Wildlife
On Friday 21st June, The Devon Wildlife Trust, the RSPB came with me to meet the shipping Minister, Stephen Hammond MP. We discussed the recent chemical pollution incidents which have had such a devastating effect on marine bird life, especially guillemots. Over 4000 birds were washed up onshore with as many as five times this number likely to have been killed at sea following the most serious incident between April and May.
The Minister assured us that the Marine Conservation Agency is continuing with an active and international investigation. Once that investigation is complete, the Minister will be able to make representations to the International Maritime Organisation with a view to reclassifying chemicals known as PIBs (polyisobutene) as there is real concern that the nature of these has changed and more damaging variants are being carried without adequate safeguards against discharge at sea.
It is currently legal to discharge PIB at sea, with conditions, under an international Convention, after tanks have been pre-washed at port reception facilities. Up to 100 litres can be legally released in each tank discharge, depending on the age of the ship. However, the impacts of PIB on marine ecosystems, and the amount of PIB released routinely as part of legal shipping operations, are not well known or understood. Alec Taylor, Marine Policy Officer for the RSPB, said, "as the use and transport of PIB chemicals increase, their environmental risks continue to be underestimated. It is vital that we both complete the actions necessary in the short term to establish how these tragic incidents occurred, and set in place the longer term work needed to review and reclassify these substances under international shipping law." The shipping and ports industries have made great advances in the transportation and handling of chemical and non-oil products in recent years, and it is important to support fair and effective regulations on the release of these potentially harmful substances.
Harry Barton of the Devon Wildlife Trust said, 'this is one of the most serious pollution incidents ever to have taken place off the British Coast. It is a tragedy for wildlife but also a huge potential concern for our coastal environment and crucial for the economy of the Southwest'. In the sea, however, the polyisobutene transforms into a glue-like, waxy formation, coating the feathers of birds, preventing them from diving and finding food.
The RSPCA has worked incredibly hard to rescue the birds, treating many hundreds of birds at its West Hatch wildlife centre in Somerset.
Personally, I am relieved to hear that the emergency response to incidents such as this is being reviewed. We need to make sure that all agencies can work together at an early stage to reduce the risk of further discharges of PIB affecting marine wildlife and to make sure there is a coordinated plan to identify and deal with incidents should this ever happen again.
Shipping Minister Stephen Hammond said: "We take very seriously any incidents of marine pollution and are focussed at the moment on identifying the source of the PIB in this case. This is a complicated ongoing investigation which has required a significant degree of cooperation both from international partners, industry and civil society groups.
I'd like to thank all the volunteers and the wildlife NGO's for their efforts during this incident and would reassure those with concerns that we are endeavouring to identify the cause of the pollution so that steps can be taken to avoid a recurrence of this incident."
Leatside Surgery has an e-bike, which is available for rent all year round, which allows people to have a taste of the amazing feeling of an electric bike and how it can help conquer the frustrating hills around Totnes that puts so many people off cycling.
If you would like to try out the e-bike please telephone 01803 862671 and ask to speak to Debbie or Sally
Design a Christmas stamp!
I know it is only June but the Royal Mail's Christmas Children's Stamp Art Competition is already open. I realise many of you don't yet wish to be contemplating Christmas but it would be a shame for children to miss out on the fantastic opportunity to design their own stamp!
The competition is open to primary school aged pupils from age 4 to 11 and the theme is 'What does Christmas mean to you?' Designs can of course be either religious or secular and will be approved by the Queen herself. I am proud to represent a creative constituency and would love to see a stamp designed by a child from this area on envelopes across the country this December.
Entries must be received by the 19th of July and more information about the competition can be found here.
Humanitarian Citizen Award 2013
I know that there any many extraordinary young people within my constituency and nominations are currently open for the Humanitarian Award 2013. The British Red Cross runs the award every year with the aim of highlighting the work of those whose selfless actions often go unnoticed.
The award is open to those 25 or under and celebrates achievements in first aid, volunteering, community action and fund raising. I would encourage people to submit any nominations to www.redcross.org.uk/theaward
I believe the Totnes constituency is full of those doing great work in the community and I would love to see someone from this area have their contribution acknowledged.
Marldon Post Office
I was so glad to hear that Marldon Hill Post Office is to become one of the Post Office's new main style branches. This is fantastic news as it means that the branch will be refurbished and open for longer.
The changes to this branch is part of the largest investment and support programme in the history of the Post Office and the aim is to make using the Post Office both more modern and convenient. I will be attending the official opening on August 15th at 3.00pm
Whilst the branch is closed for refurbishment the alternative ones are Marldon Post Office, Marldon Cross Hill, TQ3 1NE and Paignton Post Office, 34 Torquay Road, TQ3 3EX.
South Devon College
I am so pleased to offer my congratulations to Rob Shears of South Devon College who has been awarded the Pearson Award for Outstanding Use of Technology in Education in the South West.
Rob is a well respected teacher who works in both engineering and computing and has done so for over 25 years. His passion and pragmatism are what won over the awards judges and he very much deserves this prestigious accolade.
The Pearson Teaching Awards are given out every year to celebrate exceptional teaching and highlight the impact that inspirational teachers can have on the lives of young people. Rob was nominated for the award by one of his colleagues and he now goes forward to the National finals of the awards this October, I shall certainly have my fingers crossed for him!
Further details about Rob's achievement and the Pearson Awards can be found here.
Global Poverty Action Fund
I know that many in the constituency work hard to help those less fortunate than themselves across the world. As such, I am pleased to announce that there is currently an opportunity from the Department for International Development (DFID) to bid for money from a £4m fund to support efforts to reduce global poverty.
The idea behind the fund is to provide small organisations based in this country with the opportunity to propose innovative ideas in pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals to help the world's poorest. Projects will be selected on how effective they would be and the clarity of their aims. Value for money will also be taken in to account.
Bids can already be submitted but must be in by the 9th of July. Applicants do not have to be registered charities but must be not for profit organisations. You can bid for up to £250,000 and no match funding is required.
I know that many large organisations do a huge amount of good but I think that smaller ones can often achieve a large amount in specific areas by tackling individual problems. I would encourage any fitting organisation to apply.
More details can be found via the following link
The real meaning of "Community Immunity"
This compelling piece comes from a local Totnes parent, it sets out the real meaning of "community immunity"
What the MMR means to me:-
As the controversial topic of vaccination hits the news once more I wanted to offer a personal perspective as to why immunising your child doesn't just affect you and your child, it has an effect on the whole community.
When someone says 'measles' a shiver goes down my spine. For our three year old son, Nathaniel, coming into contact with the measles is life threatening. When Nathaniel was a baby, he was diagnosed with a rare and life threatening liver disease called Biliary Atresia, and after many agonising months at Birmingham Children's Hospital he had a liver transplant. The medication that he takes to keep his new liver healthy has the side effect of suppressing his immune system, making him extremely vulnerable to viruses and infections and he is unable to have vaccinations such as the MMR.
Measles is a particularly serious and virulent virus, and is potentially fatal for healthy children, never mind children like Nathaniel who are immunosuppressed. Measles is not something to be ignored or taken lightly, with potential complications and effects including meningitis, swelling of the brain, blindness and deafness.
In our town 30% of children have not had the MMR vaccine, which is one of the highest rates in the country. This makes the children of Totnes vulnerable. It is a very alarming and frightening situation for our family who are relying on the community to help us keep our son healthy. Our community needs to reach a level where 95% of children have been vaccinated to stop a potential measles epidemic within the area.
Don't just think of our son, make sure your child is protected by giving them the MMR, and by doing so you will also help to protect my vulnerable child. Leatside surgery and Catherine House Surgery are offering special MMR clinics during half term for children who have not yet been vaccinated, so please, please spare five minutes to make sure your family is protected. Let's learn the lessons of the measles epidemic in Swansea.
I recently met with a number of local business owners who are concerned that the footfall to their premises has significantly reduced since the reversal of traffic flow through the town. Four businesses reported that unless this improves they could be forced out of business altogether.
Trade had only picked up slightly since the end of the gas works. Further concerns were expressed at the speed of traffic, so whilst there were fewer cars, businesses reported they were travelling faster down Fore Street. This is a contentious issue as I also hear from people who would like me to join the campaign to make the town centre car-free.
There is no doubt that businesses benefit from income that comes via passing trade from people who drive and want to pop into the shops having parked. I may be a keen walker and cyclist myself but the reality is that some people simply will not shop unless they can park very close by and this is often because of restricted mobility. Rather than driving their custom elsewhere and reducing the income for local businesses, we should in my view, carefully review the impact on their trade and of course on pedestrian safety over the coming months.
There may be a period of adjustment whilst visitors get used to the new layout but it would be dreadful to lose more businesses from Fore Street by not responding to evidence at a time when conditions are already challenging. I will be meeting businesses again to monitor the effects and calling on Devon County Council to do likewise.
In the meantime I am backing the call from Transition Town Totnes to shop locally as much as possible to support our High Street and keep money within our local economy. I am also keen to hear the views of residents and visitors on this matter, however I must recommend businesses to contact the Chamber of Commerce also as they are best placed to help them be heard on this matter, they can be contacted via email@example.com .
How badge wearing women have changed the world!
Glasgow Women's Library has received Heritage Lottery funding for a new programme of work, "Badges of Honour". This exciting project aims, through the medium of badges, to capture a wealth of stories and memories of women's involvement in and witnessing of activism and campaigns. The Library hopes to show through the badges and the testimonies they are gathering, how badges helped to mark the significant episodes in the historic growth of feminism. The project aims to involve women locally, nationally and internationally in creating badges which reflect issues of importance to women today, and how past campaigns have changed the world.
Glasgow Women's Library is interested in receiving your badges; from women's sporting events, women artists, women's rights, through to peace campaigns and leisure activities.
If you would like more information about this project and how to offer your badges, please contact 0141 248 9969 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I have received a deluge of letters from constituents concerned about the recent incidents of polyisobutene (PIB) pollution and the tragic effects they have had on our guillemots, razorbills, puffins, ganets and gulls, amongst others. Many images have been circulating of birds covered in PIB, a sticky substance which is used by ships to thicken industrial lubricant oil and such exposure leaves the birds in terrible danger of immobilisation and hypothermia.
This has affected a huge amount of birds, with over a thousand already washed up dead or dying on the beaches of the South West. Even worse is the fact that we will never truly know how many birds this has affected as many will have died at sea. I believe that something must be done about this, as two horrible pollution incidents in