During the summer recess, I’m aiming to cover much of the 200 square miles of constituency on my bike. This would be a leisurely exercise were we to be living in the Cambridgeshire Fens. However, our beautiful hills present more of challenge but it allows me to see parts of the constituency which are less accessible by car.
On a day spent on my bike in and around Battle last week, I managed to visit a local Housing Association, the Battle Museum team, Battle Brewery, our County Councillor and Town Council, attend a local health meeting and, of course, meet with many residents. This is an ideal day for me -spending time with those who are setting up in business, running our essential public services and delivering local democracy.
The following day, it was an early start having been invited by the Bexhill Chamber of Commerce to their 7.30am breakfast meeting at The Picture Playhouse, the new Weatherspoon’s pub on Western Road. This is yet another example of Bexhill’s continued regeneration. It gave me great pride to welcome the Weatherspoon’s team to Bexhill and thank them for delivering a business which is employing over 75 local people and cost in excess of £4million to deliver. Working closely with Bexhill Museum, the company have ensured that this fantastic new pub captures the history and spirit of Bexhill. The tills are already ringing and, contrary to the perception that Bexhillians are behind the times, in its first 6 days the Wetherspoons App took more orders in our town than anywhere across the country.
Later that day, I caught up with the Chief Executives of Rother District Council to discuss other regeneration projects. There is much to be excited by. On my list was the proposed new housing on the Link Road which has been in the pipeline for some time. It must be 18 months ago when I was in the audience of the Town Forum listening to the developer, Bovis, outlining their plans for the development.
Since I have been in Parliament I have campaigned for changes to incentivise house-building. There is too much land-banking going on. Currently, developers only pay for community infrastructure once their buildings are completed. I would like to see developers charged for infrastructure twelve months after gaining planning permission. Another suggestion is to start charging Council Tax at this time. Developers who sit on land would then have to pay to do so. The Government fears that this change would reduce planning applications so is giving developers one last chance with the current regime. I am not so generous and will be writing to Bovis to tell them that any delays in Bexhill will motivate me to continue my campaign when Parliament returns. Most residents favour putting housing development in larger suitable sites such as that adjoining the Link Road. When these are not built as hoped, it puts pressure on our local council to approve smaller sites. Smaller sites are more likely to be built quickly but they may not be as suitable and may not have the scale to deliver meaningful community infrastructure.
My last visit of the day was to Torr Scientific in Pebsham. This is the sort of high tech/high productivity business and employer which new housing and regeneration can support and vice versa. Meeting the great people in this constituency who build businesses, serve their community and deliver opportunities for others reminds me that we live in an area which is rich in talent. I am motivated to peddle harder in Parliament to do my bit.