Supporting sustainable transport in Cornwall

I recently met with the Truro Cycle Campaign group to discuss the importance of the new St Agnes to Truro cycle route. I am very supportive of the group’s desire to see a bridge for cyclists constructed over the proposed new road junction at Chiverton Cross. We also discussed the huge benefits of enhancing and developing new cycle routes around Truro, enabling more and safe commuting and family recreational activity. The health and wellbeing as well as environmental benefits of cycling are well known. The forthcoming updating of the Truro and Kenwyn Neighbourhood Plan is a good opportunity for everyone interested to get involved in developing new walking and cycle routes.  

Cornwall Council and partners have a range of funding opportunities to implement improvements, including funding related to the new A30. 

In recent weeks the government has announced a wide range of measures designed to protect more vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians. These include new measures to combat close passing, training for driving instructors, better collision investigation and £100 million in new investment through the Safer Roads Fund.  

The government is also consulting on new cycling offences, further work on national guidance on cycling and walking infrastructure, and improvements to the Highway Code. 

All these measures are designed to support the continued growth of cycling and walking, with all the benefits they bring to our communities, economy, environment and society. 

In 2016, three pedestrians were killed and 108 seriously injured after being involved in collisions with pedal cyclists. The laws that are currently being used to prosecute cycling offences are ancient and that is why the government has launched a public consultation about proposed changes to the law. 

As part of the Cycling and Walking Safety Review, the government has commissioned the Cycle Proofing Working Group to develop national guidance and best practice for cycling and walking infrastructure, so that all road users can benefit from the best facilities. The government has also announced £1 million will be provided to support the pathfinder demonstration projects for repairing and upgrading sections of the National Cycle Network (NCN). 

Separately, the Department for Transport has also announced that it is gathering evidence on the effectiveness of current laws on pavement parking to address safety issues concerning cyclists, pedestrians, and disabled people using mobility scooters who have all raised their concerns with me about this practise. 

In June, the DfT announced plans for a £500,000 pilot scheme offering driving instructors bespoke training to ensure cyclists’ safety is at the forefront of their minds when they teach new drivers. 

Earlier this year, the department also awarded more than £7 million of funding as part of the first response to the Cycle and Walking Safety Review to fund improvements and new schemes promoting safe walking and cycling.   

So there is a lot going on and I urge as many local people as possible to join these important consultations so that we can all be safer as we use local roads and cycle paths.  

First published in the West Briton 16/08/18

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Welcoming strengthened community planning regulations

Fundamental to building the homes our community needs is ensuring that our planning system is fit for the future.

The recently announced revised national planning policy framework was informed by many local people who contributed. As a champion of Neighbourhood Planning, genuinely affordable homes for local people and enhancing our natural environment I have been frustrated by some of the planning decisions made locally that contradict them. I am pleased that the revised planning framework strengthens Neighbourhood Planning in a number of ways.

Refocusing on the quality and design of proposals which are in line with what local communities want, the framework ensures councils have the confidence and tools to refuse permission for development that does not prioritise design quality and does not complement its surroundings.

With an emphasis on engaging with communities and allowing residents to see proposed development before it’s even built, the new framework encourages councils to make use of innovative new visual tools to promote better design and quality, which will also make sure new homes fit in with their surroundings.

Adopted neighbourhood plans will demonstrate clear local leadership in design quality, with the framework allowing groups seeking such plans to truly reflect the community’s expectations on how new development will visually contribute to their area.

Whilst the framework sets the strategic direction for driving up new build quality, it will remain up to councils to apply these polices in the most appropriate way in their area, recognising that they are well placed to know their area’s unique character and setting.

The revised framework has also been updated to provide further protection for biodiversity; ensuring wildlife thrives at the same time as addressing the need for new homes.

Changes to the framework see the planning system align more closely with the 25 Year Environment Plan. This plan, published in January, aims to leave the environment in a better state for future generations than it was when the Government took office.

It provides strengthened protection for ancient woodland and ancient and veteran trees across England, ensuring they can be retained for the benefit of future generations, whilst giving councils real flexibility to make the most of their existing brownfield land.

To help tackle unaffordable house prices in many areas, the framework sets out a new way for councils to calculate the housing need of their local community, including different forms of housing, such as older people’s retirement homes.

This new methodology aims to deliver more homes in the places where they are needed, based on factors including the affordability of existing homes for people on lower and median incomes.

In addition, to make sure that the necessary infrastructure and genuinely affordable housing is delivered to support communities, clearer guidance for both developers has been published, meaning that developers will know what is expected of them up front, even before they submit a planning application and councils have greater power to hold them to these commitments.

First published in the West Briton 09/08/18

Delivering Investment in Cornwall

You would be forgiven for thinking the only thing happening in Government is Brexit. But as the Chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership writes this month, this is far from the truth.

In his most recent blog Mark Duddridge says : “I’m delighted to report that in recent weeks the LEP has met with a veritable feast of HMG’s finest, including Secretaries of State for business, transport and local government, the Science Minister, Minister without Portfolio, and even the PM herself at the inaugural Council of LEP Chairs at No 10.” 

Local Enterprise Partnerships were introduced by the Government in 2011 to enable local businesses, rather than regional quangos, to shape and drive local, sustainable economic growth. 

As Mark Duddridge goes on to say “And I’m not namedropping for the sake of it. Government wants to know how LEPs are contributing to local delivery of the UK’s Modern Industrial Strategy, supporting business, innovation and investment, and making sure people have the skills they need to play their part in the growth of our nation.” 

The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP works constructively with me and my colleagues and partners in Cornwall to drive sustainable growth in employment, skills and wages and is making a really positive impact on the quality of our lives and opportunities in Cornwall. 

The LEP reports that over the last few weeks we have seen the announcement of a partnership agreement between Cornwall Council and satellite launch company Virgin Orbit to bring horizontal satellite launches to Spaceport Cornwall at Cornwall Airport Newquay by 2021. 

This was a massive achievement and marked the culmination of over a year’s hard work by a team led and funded by the LEP, in partnership with Cornwall Council. The agreement has been warmly welcomed by Science Minister, Sam Gyimah, who said the Government would work with Virgin Orbit and the Council to support our region’s spaceflight ambitions as part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy. 

The space economy is one of the key growth sectors featured in the LEP’s recently updated 10 Opportunities investment prospectus, that spells out in the Space Action Plan –  an ambition to create a £1 billion space economy in Cornwall by 2030. 

There has been more good news from Goonhilly Earth Station which recently secured a £24 million private sector funding injection on the back of the LEP’s £8.4m investment to support deep space communication from Cornwall. 

The LEP has also just signed an agreement with Edinburgh-based satellite launch operator Skyrora to use Cornwall Airport Newquay’s rocket testing facilities with support from the LEP’s Enterprise Zone Infrastructure Fund. 

While we have record levels of people of all ages and backgrounds in employment, there is still more to do to increase local household incomes. I am determined to continue to do everything that I can to enable local people of all ages to acquire the skills they need to make the most of the new opportunities and new industries growing up in Cornwall.  

First published in the West Briton 02/08/18

Promoting equal access to our maritime environment and securing jobs at Falmouth Docks

The summer months more than others bring us closer to our stunning maritime environment and heritage. The recent glorious weather has enabled many more people to experience the simple pleasure of going to the beach or out onto the water. Thanks to many inspirational local people determined to build an inclusive community, more people are able to enjoy these simple pleasures. People with visible and invisible impairments and disabilities are able to get onto the water thanks to Mylor Harbour’s Sail-ability specially adapted boats. Also based in Mylor Harbour is BATs, Cornwall’s sailing club for visually impaired people.  I recently met with the Helford Sailing Trust to learn about their ambitious plans to get more people afloat.

Then there are the special sand chairs at Gyllingvase beach that enable wheelchair users access to the beach and the sea. Cornwall Mobility, in partnership with Disability Cornwall & Isles of Scilly, works with Cornwall Council as well as a diverse range of coastal charities and businesses in providing all-terrain wheelchairs, also known as sand chairs, for the public to use on a number of beaches in Cornwall.  The all-terrain wheelchairs have been designed for outdoor use and have large inflatable wheels which allow them to roll over sand and pebbles with remarkable ease. This has allowed people with mobility challenges the pleasure and freedom to access and enjoy Cornwall’s beaches where they may have found it more difficult in the past.

While the wide range of recreational water-based activities available are undoubtedly fun and good exercise as well as enhancing our local tourist economy, they do bring challenges. I was delighted to open the newly refurbished National Coast Watch look out in Gerrans recently.  Staffed by volunteers who work in partnership with RNLI and Coastguard volunteers as well as our local emergency services coordinated by the Falmouth Coastguard, they help keep us safe on the sea and around our shores and rescue people if necessary. Together they provide an excellent service in promoting safety of the water and preventing harm.

Thank you also to the Royal Naval Association for organising the annual Falmouth Sea Sunday, including the parade from the Moor, a service in King Charles the Martyr Church and a parade to Events Square.

My grandfather was an electrician at the docks in Falmouth and, having grown up here, I understand how proud many local people feel about our close association with seafaring and the Royal Navy. When I was first elected I had the privilege of joining the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme with the Navy. As someone who has not served in our armed forces, this first-hand experience has proven invaluable in my role as an MP supporting our armed forces.

As A&P is one of the largest private sector employers in Cornwall, ensuring that A&P Falmouth secures and wins naval and RFA contracts has been a top priority. By working hard and constructively with both the management and trade unions at A&P Falmouth I am proud of our record of achievement. Not only do RFA ships continue to be serviced and maintained in Falmouth, but we won a new and important contract to weaponise some of the support vessels for our two new aircraft carriers.

A&P Falmouth is working in partnership with other UK yards and doing well in advancing bids to secure additional defence contracts for the docks in Falmouth, including for the new Type 31 e frigate. I have launched a campaign for one of the new frigates to be called HMS Cornwall. I ensure that Defence Procurement Ministers visit A&P Falmouth to see at first hand the excellent work that is undertaken and the positive relationship that we have with the Royal Navy and RFA.

Since being elected I have consistently promoted the industry and was delighted to have secured A&P Falmouth’s involvement with the independent review of British Shipbuilding undertaken by Sir John Parker. All the recommendations he gave to the government for future modernisation and investment have been accepted and I am delighted that the importance to our economy of ports, including Falmouth, is recognised.

I am proud of the investment this government is making in our Navy and that new ships are being built in the UK.  I want to see more and I will continue to work with the unions and management at A&P to secure new contracts and welcome grey ships into our harbour.

First published in the Falmouth Wave August edition

Supporting constituents in Fuel Poverty

Last week I was delighted to welcome the Minister for Energy and the Industrial Strategy to Cornwall to see for herself the innovative work that the Winter Wellness Partnership and, more recently, Warm and Well Cornwall have been doing. This effective partnership is making real inroads into a long standing, stubborn problem by doing things differently. Helping people on modest incomes stay warm and well in their homes by improving energy efficiency remains a priority for me. New technology is playing an important role, for example, free energy efficient central heating systems are being installed in homes in fuel poverty. Most of us take living in centrally heated homes for granted but there are too many cold homes in Cornwall without it. Last week’s Government announcements were welcomed by the partnership as they will enable us to build on our work of helping over 7,200 homes and 16,000 people to stay warm and well in winter by funding more help for more people.

New technology has the ability to improve many aspects of our lives. I am encouraging local businesses to apply for a share of £40million of government funding to develop new ways of charging electric vehicles. Electric vehicles significantly improve air quality, boost the environment and reduce costs for motorists. It’s vital we ensure the charging infrastructure is in place so we keep pace with demand. The government wants nearly all cars and vans to be zero-emission by 2050. A major challenge will be to grow the UK’s charging infrastructure quickly enough to make electric vehicles an attractive choice. The government has launched two competitions, with £40million up for grabs. The first focuses on charging vehicles in public spaces, to support people who don’t have suitable off-street parking. The second focuses on wireless charging of commercial vehicles, such as taxis and delivery vans.

There are so many innovative businesses in Truro, Falmouth and Cornwall as a whole, and it would be great to see some of them secure funding and lead this revolution in UK transport.

The deadline for applications for both competitions is midday on 29 August 2018.

Projects must be led by a business, working with other companies, local authorities, research organisations or charities.

New technology is also important for improving our local NHS. So last week I was delighted to see that the new Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, has earmarked the NHS in Cornwall for a tech-funding boost of over £4 million.

The funding is part of a half a billion pound national package, available immediately to the NHS, to roll out innovative tech aimed at improving efficiency, enhancing patient safety and helping more patients access health services at home.

A good example is Scan4Safety where barcode tracking in hospitals is enabling staff to track all patients and their treatments, manage medical supplies and the effectiveness of equipment.

The funding will be formally allocated once our local NHS and care improvement plan, ‘Sustainability and Transformation Partnership’ is submitted and approved.

First published in the West Briton 26/07/18

Backing our Royal Navy and campaigning to keep jobs in Falmouth Docks

I would like to thank the Royal Naval Association for organising the annual Falmouth Sea Sunday, including the parade from the Moor, a service in King Charles the Martyr Church and a parade to Events Square.

My grandfather was an electrician at the docks in Falmouth and having grown up here I understand how proud many local people feel about our close association with seafaring and the Royal Navy. When I was first elected I had the privilege of joining the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme with the Navy. As someone who has not served in our armed forces, this first-hand experience has proven invaluable in my role as an MP supporting our armed forces.

As A&P is one of the largest private sector employers in Cornwall, ensuring that A&P Falmouth secures and wins naval and RFA contracts has been a top priority for me. By working hard and constructively with both the management and trade unions at A&P Falmouth I am proud of our record of achievement. Not only do RFA ships continue to be serviced and maintained in Falmouth but we won a new and important contract to weaponise some of the support vessels for our two new aircraft carriers.

A&P Falmouth are working in partnership with other U.K. yards and doing well in advancing bids to secure additional defence contracts for the docks in Falmouth, including for the new Type 31e frigate. I have launched a campaign for one of the new frigates to be called HMS Cornwall. I ensure that Defence Procurement Ministers Visit A&P Falmouth to see first-hand the excellent work that is undertaken and the positive relationship that we have with the Royal Navy and RFA.

Since being elected I have consistently promoted the industry and was delighted to have secured A&P Falmouth’s involvement with the independent review of British Shipbuilding undertaken by Sir John Parker. All the recommendations he gave to the government for future modernisation and investment have been accepted and I am delighted that the importance to our economy of ports including Falmouth is recognised.

I am proud of the investment this government is making in our navy and that new ships are being built in the U.K. I want to see more ships built in the U.K. and I will continue to work with the unions and management at A&P to secure new contracts and welcome grey ships into our harbour.

Last week in Parliament, I joined a debate led by the Labour Party about the defence industry and shipbuilding. There was no division. We only have votes when the House of Commons “divides” on an issue. As we agreed there was no division and no vote. Sadly, some Labour politicians are trying to spin the debate to create division where none exists. I hope they will rethink and put local and national interest above local Labour Party politics and back my longstanding commitment and track record of effective delivery with A&P Falmouth.

First published in the West Briton 19/07/18

Working to reduce plastic pollution and provide security for tenants

Thank you to everyone who responded to the recent government consultation exploring how changes to the tax system, or charges, could be used to reduce the amount of single-use plastics we waste by reducing unnecessary production, increasing re-use, and improving recycling.

Last week, I met with the Treasury Minister responsible for this important policy area to discuss ideas developed with local people. I was assured that the government will consider all options for using the tax system to address single-use plastic waste and to drive innovation, and will use the evidence gathered to inform that process. The government wants to look broadly across the whole supply chain, from production and retail to consumption and disposal, in order to gain the best possible understanding before deciding on the best course of action.

Since being elected I have worked with Surfers Against Sewage on their campaign to prevent plastic entering our precious natural environment, especially the sea. In Parliament I support their work and am pleased that we introduced the 5p single-use plastic bag tax that has seen a dramatic reduction in their use. The use of microbeads in everyday products has been banned too. Thanks to many local initiatives to reduce single use plastic, particularly the work in schools with young people, positive change is happening.

Last week I was also delighted to welcome new moves to enable people to have longer and more secure tenancies. The Secretary of State for Communities proposed the introduction of a minimum 3-year tenancy term, with a 6-month break clause, to help renters put down roots, and give landlords longer term financial security.  According to government data, people stay in their rented homes for an average of nearly 4 years. But despite this, 81% of rental contracts are assured shorthold tenancies with a minimum fixed term of just 6 or 12 months.

Local people tell me that this can leave them feeling insecure, unable to challenge poor property standards for fear of tenancies being terminated, and unable to plan for their future or contribute to their wider community. Although tenants and landlords can already agree longer terms between themselves, the majority choose not to do so. Under the proposed longer term agreement, tenants would be able to leave before the end of the minimum term, but would have greater protection if they wanted to stay in a property for an extended period of time.  Being able to call your rental property your home is vital to putting down roots and building stronger communities.  Landlords play a vital role in providing homes to many local people and the proposals ensure that longer tenancies help them avoid costly periods while they search for new tenants and offers them flexibility to regain their properties when their circumstances change.  The government understands that some landlords worry about the time it can take to gain possession of their property in the courts. The consultation runs until 26 August 2018.

First published in the West Briton 12/07/18