The Government has announced measures to support fishermen who have lost equipment in the winter storms. £11m has been made available for the cost of replacing lost or damaged equipment under the Storm Damage Gear Replacement Scheme. The fund will be managed by the Marine Management Organisation and applications must be made by 6 June 2014.
For any queries about applications, the Marine Management Organisation can be contacted directly on 01913 762 676.
The Government has also announced flexibility on quota allocations to allow fishermen to make up for lost income when weather conditions return to normal. The Marine Management Organisation is looking to raise catch limits where possible during the remainder of 2014 to provide fisheries with the best chance to catch a full quota for this year. Further information is available through the organisation's Business Support Team on 01913 762 694.
Planning exemptions in National Parks and AONBs
I was really delighted that the government listened to concerns about the unintended consequences of a proposal to allow permitted development rights to convert agricultural buildings across our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty. Unfortunately this would have led to a reduction rather than an increase in affordable housing and severely affected our most beautiful rural landscape.
On Dartmoor alone there are many thousands of outbuildings that would have been at risk of conversion. I believe we must do more to support affordable housing for local people and I am glad that the government has listened to concerns.
Click here to read the Minister's written statement announcing the exemption of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty from the proposals.
"Can do" Guide
Voluntary and community events are an important part of everyday life that strengthens communities and encourage people to play a more active part in society.
A lack of clear guidance has often meant that people organising events focus on what they cannot do rather than on what they can do. Now, new guidance has been published to provide a central source for people planning community led events. It also signposts people to relevant specialist advice such as DCLG's guidance on organising street parties.
Tootles Troop Totnes
If you are battling with dementia or care for someone suffering with dementia, join the Tootles Troop Totnes for Music Memories on the 22nd March from 2.00-4.00pm at the Kingsbridge Inn Totnes. Admission is free!
There is also a Purple Party is being held on Saturday the 26th of April by the Tootles Troop Totnes to raise funds for Young Dementia UK. The party starts at 7.30 pm and is at the Kingsbridge Inn on Leechwell Street.
Tickets cost £15.00 per person and you can get them from the Kingsbridge Inn or by emailing Kirsty-Ann Heath at email@example.com A buffet and entertainment is included and you must wear something purple!
Proposed Changes to Devon Youth Service
Devon County Council is proposing to deliver a reshaped youth service and a 12 week public consultation was launched on the 3rd February and can be accessed via the following link.
There will now be a consultation on these proposals and a public consultation event will be held on Wednesday the 2nd of April at Dartington Hall from 7.00 pm to 9.00 pm. I would strongly recommend that anyone with an interest in this area attends.
Sport England's £5 National Lottery Sport Flood Relief Fund
Sport England is today announcing a special £5 million flood relief fund to help restore pitches and repair sports facilities damaged by the recent floods and storms.
£5 million of National Lottery funding will be made available to sports clubs, local authorities and other community organisations for emergency repairs to damaged facilities such as football, rugby and cricket pitches, water sports centres, pavilions, changing rooms and floodlights.
Sport England want to play apart in helping communities get back to normal, and theywill consult both locally and with the affected sports about the best way to achieve that.
Early indicators suggest that the biggest impact of the bad weather has been on sports such as hockey, rugby and football because of flooded and waterlogged pitches, and water sports where many clubs are on riverbanks or in coastal areas.
Sport England's first priority is to assess the full extent of the damage and consult with the worst affected areas and sports to set the priorities for the new Fund.
From today, clubs, charities and similar organisations that will need help in restoring facilities are being encouraged to contact Sport England at www.sportengland.org/floodfund to register their interest.
Those needing funding to clean up and get up and running quickly can request up to £2,000 of emergency funding which could be awarded within three weeks. Those with more extensive damage which will take longer to repair will be invited to apply to the fund when it opens on 24th March.
Organisations that do not qualify for the Flood Relief Fund will be given advice about other sources of funding that could help.
The new £5 million National Lottery fund has been created specifically to help with the damage caused by the exceptional weather, and is in addition to Sport England's other grant programmes which will continue to operate as normal. The fund will remain open until the autumn to ensure that those who are currently unable to assess the damage will not lose out.
Health Unlocked is a healthy evidence forum that has been launched by Sense about Science and NHS Choices Behind Headlines. It is a great way to challenge the evidence behind bogus health claims from any organisation.
Which? Birth Choice and Which ? Elderly Care
I was pleased to meet in Westminster recently with Which? and they informed me that they have now launched Which? Birth Choice aimed at helping you decide where you want to give birth and understanding your birth options.
They have also launched Which? Elderly Care providing advice about caring for older people; there is advice about housing options (care in the home and care home providers) and tips on finance options including governance benefits.
Kingsbridge mooring project gets underway ...
Work on providing bespoke step-on step-off pontoon facilities with easy bridge access from the Quay, for Kingsbridge boating enthusiasts – is now well underway.
Contractors started work on February 13 and brought in a large crane to lower the pontoon sections into the estuary ready for the arrival of the piling barge next week which will drive in the securing risers that will keep the pontoons in position.
The project follows extensive public consultation by Harbourmaster Commander Ian Gibson and his team on Salcombe Harbour Authority when agreement was reached on a bespoke 222 metre long pontoon with finger berths for 132 boats – two more than could be catered for by the old moorings. Work is likely to take four to five weeks.
I was glad to meet this morning with Transport Minister Stephen Hammond, the Managing Director of First Great Western and Route MD of Network Rail.
South Devon MPs impressed upon them that it is absolutely essential to the South Devon economy to maintain the main line through Totnes and Newton Abbot and also welcomed the fast tracking of their study into adding resilience across the network.
I would like to thank all the staff who are working in awful conditions to restore our link and I was pleased to receive the following statement from Patrick Hallgate of Network Rail:-
Dawlish, western resilience and route study options
Thank you for attending the meeting we held in Parliament this morning.
It was useful to have the opportunity to discuss the issues we've faced at Dawlish, our response, improving flood resilience and our route option study. The slides that we used are attached. We will also send a refreshed briefing on the top 10 resilience schemes in the next few days.
As we discussed, we are not currently able to give a precise date when the railway through Dawlish will be restored. The first 10 days of work on site are crucial to prevent further damage to the sea wall and to assess the scale of the repairs required. We expect to be able to let you know more definite timings on Wednesday 19 February. The Department for Transport is planning to arrange a conference call on that day for us to provide you with more information.
We have also drafted statements, seen by DfT and First Great Western, to clarify our positions on the route options study and the flooding resilience work we're undertaking.
South West route option study
We are accelerating the study of future lines and investment in the South West, which was already underway. It will consider all reasonable options in light of the storm damage at Dawlish and wider disruption on the rail network. Alternative diversionary routes will be explored as part of this study.
Without preempting the outcome of the study, we recognise the importance of the Dawlish rail route and the socio-economic benefits that the railway brings to the wider community. It is important that we get the views of a wide range of stakeholders, as well as explore the individual engineering challenges in detail, which we will do over the period of the next nine months.
Our immediate priority remains to the get the existing railway at Dawlish and routes into the south west back in place as soon as possible.
Network Rail's flooding resilience work
We are pleased with the Government's statement on the £31m for railway resilience from flooding in Western route. We have already undertaken work on Cowley Bridge, Whiteball tunnel, Chipping Sodbury and better flood prediction systems on the Exe and Culm catchments.
We identified how we might best mitigate flooding at ten of the most disrupted sites after extreme weather in winter 2012/13. The interventions we proposed have clear time frames associated with them between 2013 and 2016, all of which we are on course to meet.
We were always expecting this funding to be confirmed and to have it announced before the end of the financial year is a welcome boost.
These schemes will help mitigate the worst impacts of flooding and allow us to restore the operational railway more quickly when there are problems. Although clearly there are long-term national challenges to resolve with flooding that, given the scale of relentless wet weather, go beyond the railway.
Tourism Award for Dartmouth Tourist Information Centre
Dartmouth's self-funded Tourist Information Centre has won a Silver South West Tourism Excellence Award, highlighting the excellent service it provides visitors to the town and port.
The South West Tourism awards were announced last week (30 January 2014) at Plymouth's Holiday Inn, where 66 different awards were given out following a rigorous judging process in which a record 350 entries were considered from across the South West region which covers Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and the Scilly Isles. The team received a handmade engraved glass trophy.
The centre was also recognised in the Devon Tourism Excellence Awards last November, receiving a Silver Award. The centre is staffed by eleven volunteers, three un-paid directors, one full-time member of staff and three part-time staff all of whom were praised for being "charming, professional and knowledgeable".
In the past year the Information Centre has helped over 114,535 visitors, dispensing 22,600 attraction leaflets, booking accommodation, tours and selling thousands of tickets and programmes for Dartmouth's many festivals and events.
The team are thrilled to receive such a prestigious Award. They have worked extremely hard to make the Information Centre a success and Dartmouth is now reaping the rewards of their outstanding commitment.
In the photograph; Left to right: Sponsored by Quality in Tourism, Director Angela Cairns-Sharp, Manager Lesley Turner, Travel writer Sally Shalam, Manager Sue Stone , Director Nigel Way and Volunteer Jean Boyacigiller
Dartmoor National Park
The following article has been written by Bill Hitchins, Chairman, Dartmoor National Park Authority
National Parks, like Dartmoor, have stood the test of time. They were designated as part of the far reaching reforms aimed at 'building a land fit for heros' which also saw the establishment of the National Health Service.
National Parks were given two statutory functions: to conserve their natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage, and to promote public understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities. National Park Authorities are the planning authorities for their areas. They do not have any more powers than other planning authorities but operate slightly more restrictive planning policies. In following national policy they seek to ensure that development does not damage the special qualities of the National Park.
Current proposals to relax planning rules and allow the conversion of agricultural barns to open market housing could threaten the very landscape that millions cherish whilst not doing anything to help provide affordable housing or sustain rural communities. Whilst recognising the need for our National Parks to be living landscapes we must ensure that the Authorities charged with overseeing their conservation have the necessary tools to do the job. Creating permitted development rights for agricultural buildings to be converted into open market housing would remove a key tool for conservation. We need to ensure that development is good for our National Parks. The planning system exists to protect that public interest and in the large part has achieved that goal. Relaxing these planning rules could lead to the suburbanisation of the countryside – it is not just the conversion of the buildings but the tracks, driveways, services, gardens, sheds etc that go with this development. Dartmoor National Park Authority estimate that there are approximately 4,000 buildings that could potentially be developed if these changes go through. Our National Parks are an economic and social asset, as well as an environmental resource, we must not lose sight of their intrinsic beauty and importance in the pursuit of economic growth. They are the crown jewels in our 'green and pleasant land' and deserve to be cherished not overdeveloped.
Devon Partnership NHS Trust to hold a series of listening events
England's Chief Inspector of Hospitals is urging people in Devon to tell his inspectors what they think of the services provided by Devon Partnership NHS Trust. Their views and experiences will help inspectors decide what to look at when they inspect.
Devon Partnership is one of the first five mental health trusts to be inspected under radical changes being introduced by the Care Quality Commission. The formal inspection by a team including clinical experts and people who have experience of using mental health services, will start on Monday 3 February.
In the first wave of pilot inspections, CQC has given priority to organisations including Devon Partnership that are aspiring to be foundation trusts.
To ensure that the views of people using mental health services are properly represented, inspectors will be on hand to meet people at three events which have been organised by Be Involved Devon the mental health engagement strand of Healthwatch Devon, who help people with mental health issues to have a say.
• Exeter, East and Mid Devon: Thursday 23 January, Exeter CVS, Wat Tyler House, King William Street, Exeter, EX4 6PD
• North Devon and Torridge: Tuesday 28 January, Alexandra Road Resource Centre, 19c Alexandra Road, Barnstaple EX32 8BA
• Teignbridge, South Hams and West Devon: Friday 31 January 2014, Totnes Work Hub, South Devon Rural Housing Association, South Devon House, Babbage Road, Totnes, TQ9 5JA
All meetings start at 1pm. CQC inspectors will be available from 3pm. Be Involved Devon contact details are as follows
Tel: 01392 201218, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
5th February National Voter Registration Day
5th February 2014 marks the UK's first National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) The aim of the day is simple - to empower future generations of young people to realise that they have a say and a stake in decisions affecting their future. If you are 16 years old or over you can now register to vote.
Fishing is absolutely vital to our local economy. Brixham has the highest value catch in England, with £27 million worth of fish landed in 2012. In Brixham alone there are 25 beam trawlers and 40 day boats. Every job at sea generates a further 5 on land; the crabbing fleet alone supports 30 families.
There is however an ongoing disagreement over the level of quotas available to the Under-Ten and Over-Ten fleets. Both an integral and indispensable part in the UK fishing industry but there have been concerns over the relative share of Fixed Quota Allocations (FQA) to which each fleet have access.
FQAs, many awarded as compensation for decommissioning, are a tradable commodity with a monetary value, and as such have changed hands numerous times. It has become increasingly difficult to keep track of who holds FQAs so the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), in an effort to improve transparency and the management of the quota in general, has published an up to date register of FQAs.
This register however reveals that 95% of the quota is now controlled by 24 Fishing Organisations, while the Under-Ten fleet fish to a quota based on the remaining FQAs held by DEFRA.
The Under-Ten fleet want the distribution to be more equitable. This is of course a contentious issue and whilst the Under-Ten fleet are disadvantaged by the current arrangements, any change should be negotiated.
If you have any thoughts on the register and how this could be resolved, please send me your views.
The exceptional weather has brought the misery of flooding to many households and businesses across South Devon. Tidal surges and strong winds have added to the pressures and I want to thank the emergency services, the Environment Agency and local councils for their work. Many people have worked tirelessly and in dreadful conditions to avert further problems, including the team from Exjet Ltd, who worked through the night at North Sands and kept Salcombe's sewage system functioning to ensure that damage to property was kept to a minimum. Once the weather has stabilised and the water levels have receded, it will be time to look at what further work needs to be prioritised.
Access to flood insurance is essential. It has, however, become increasingly difficult for those in high risk areas to obtain affordable insurance. I have supported legislation which will remedy this by imposing a cap on the total cost insurers can charge for flood insurance. All householders will still be able to shop around for the best deals on the market, but 500,000 high risk households are expected to benefit by seeing their premiums come down when the scheme is implemented in summer 2015.
The scheme, known as Flood Re, operates by placing a levy on home insurance premiums (averaging at about £10.50 per annum) that is to be used to offset the increased losses insurers are expected to make due to the cost of flood damage. The level of the levy and cap will be linked to council tax banding - Bands A and B will be capped to £210 per annum, rising to £540 for properties in Band G. However, not all property will be included in the Flood Re scheme; in order to avoid incentivising building in high risk areas, houses built after 1 January 2009 will be excluded, along with houses in council tax Band H. Only those businesses based in properties that are primarily a residential property (and therefore pay council tax) are to be included.
Further details on Flood Re can be found in the following helpful links:
Those suffering from certain medical conditions may be interested in the UK Clinical Trials Gateway (UKCTG) where you can find out information about clinical research trials running across the country.
The UKCTG is designed to enable you and your clinician to locate and contact trials that may be of interest to you. Of course this should always be discussed with your doctor first. You can find out more about the UKTCG via the following website
Winter Fuel Payment
You could get between £100 and £300 tax-free to help pay your heating bills if you were born on or before 5 January 1952.
Click here to see if you qualify.
Most payments are made automatically between November and December, but only if you are in receipt of the State Pension or another social security benefit (not Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction or Child Benefit).
If you are eligible and do not get paid automatically, you will need to make a claim.
Frogmore Post Office
I was delighted to hear that the Post Office is now preparing to introduce a limited service post office counter back at Frogmore Bakery. Terms have been agreed with Monica Pound, who will be operating as a peripatetic postmistress, covering Frogmore, Slapton and possibly other rural locations, the counter will be available for 3 afternoons per week in Frogmore, Monday, Thursday and Friday, commencing in January 2014.
Paul and Fiona Brayton at the Bakery welcome the development and look forward to accommodating the service. But a word of caution; the Post Office reserve the right to cancel what they term 'outreach' services at short notice, so having fought for it, do ensure that the facility is used to its maximum!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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