At the end of last year, I sent out my Reporting Back leaflet. It was sent to every household in the constituency (and if you didn’t receive one let me know!). I set out the work I have been carrying out over the last 12 months in both the constituency and in Westminster on your behalf and on the reverse, I had a feedback form which asked how your local town or village could be improved.
I was so grateful that so many of you took the time to reply. Your comments are always so helpful in shaping my local campaigns, and I thought I would use my first newsletter of the year to address the topics that came up most often.
Firstly, Green Belt protections. I know I sound like a broken record, however my view on this is simple and will not change; Green Belt land is rightly protected, and if a planning application is put in for the Green Belt and does not have community support, the answer should be no. This is a pledge I stood on at the General Election 2019. And a pledge I will continue to fight for
We must, and indeed are, building the homes our community needs – but it is vital that these are supported with the appropriate local infrastructure. And, whilst I understand some of you are worried about proposals put forward in the recent Local Plan, we are only at the consultation phase, and sites can, and no doubt will, be removed. And I have been clear in my response to it that our much-loved Green Belt must be protected. Once approved, the Local Plan will also help protect us from speculative inappropriate applications and allows us to help plan for the appropriate infrastructure.
Secondly, roadwork delays. Like many of you, I am extremely unhappy about the number of disruptive roadworks taking place at the moment, often seemingly with no one doing any work on them. Toward the end of last year, I held a meeting with Thames Water and local councillors, where we were able to impress upon the company the huge disruption any works along the A25 cause, and how vital it was to ensure works were carried out as efficiently as possible, and to provide better communication with local people. We obtained a commitment to ensure more communication and to work more closely with other utility companies. I also have written to UKPN and SGN asking for similar commitments – and I have had a positive reaction. I was pleased that having been in contact with SGN about their current works along the A25, they doubled the size of the team working on the gasworks.
Thirdly crime. There has been a trend recently of increases in shoplifting, theft of cars from home and burglaries. I have raised these with Kent Police and am pleased with the actions they have taken. On shoplifting, last year I held a roundtable with the local police, the Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott and local retailers and now a regular business crime meeting has been set up between police and retailers to help deal with the scourge of shoplifting. A second neighbourhood beat officer is also now in place in Sevenoaks. The police officers have been working hard on car theft and burglary, and I was pleased to hear that arrests are being made.
And finally, Royal Mail deliveries. The postal service being delivered locally by Royal Mail remains in many cases abysmal and I have been contacted by so many of you in the last few months regarding your experience. It is unacceptable. As per my updates on Facebook, I had written to the Royal Mail CEO to ask for urgent action to be taken and have requested a meeting with the Minister responsible to discuss. In the interim I have also been in touch with our local hospitals asking them to look into ways of double confirming appointments with those who have not provided (or do not use) email or text, because I am extremely concerned by reports of people not being aware of their appointment dates.
I totally share the local frustrations and will continue to raise this issue at the highest levels. The importance of the Royal Mail's universal service obligation to deliver post 6 days a week must not be underestimated, and that is why both I and this Government remain absolutely committed to ensuring this service resumes.
I am replying directly to everyone who responded to the survey, but I hope this has given you a little feel for the comments which were passed on.
Once again, I really appreciate all of you who took the time to reply and, as ever, if there is anything you wish to raise with me, do email my office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MP for Sevenoaks and Swanley
To see Laura's newsletter in full click here