With spring having finally sprung, I have thoroughly enjoyed taking part in activities across the constituency, including a litter pick in West Kingsdown and some tree planting in Westerham. More details below.
While on the topic of protecting our green spaces, I was delighted this month to hear that Sevenoaks District Council have turned down the large-scale development which had been proposed on Green Belt land alongside Brittains Lane. Earlier this year, I visited the site and met with local councillors Avril Hunter and Andrew Eyre to see for myself how inappropriate the proposal was. Many worried residents wrote to me, and I was pleased to make representations on their behalf to the council. Green Belt land must not be developed without community consent, and if this application goes to appeal, I will oppose it in the strongest possible terms.
In other local campaigns, I recently posted on Facebook asking for your experience locally of our hospitals – especially in relation to visiting friends and family who have been admitted. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to reply. I read all your comments carefully and last week raised them with Miles Scott, CEO of the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust. Following our meeting I am pleased the Trust have now updated their guidance for visitors in the Emergency Department. Each patient can now be accompanied by one guest, which brings it in line with in-patients who are allowed one visitor at a time. I firmly believe that visitors and family and friends are vital advocates for patients in hospital and I will be speaking to other surrounding Trusts to try to ensure this issue is addressed in all other local hospitals. While I would still like all restrictions to be lifted as soon as possible, this is welcome progress – and I thank the MTW NHS trust for making this change.
Finally, I cannot let this months newsletter pass without acknowledging the wider political context. As I have said before, the events in 10 Downing Street should not have happened. There was, and remains, no excuse for anyone breaking the law. And, I remain completely clear that those who make the rules must not break them. Last week a motion was put to the House of Commons to refer the Prime Minister to the Committee of Privileges to investigate whether he knowingly misled the House. I supported the motion being approved and it will now be for the Committee to determine whether the PM knowingly misled the House of Commons. Please be reassured, I am continuing to listen closely to my constituents’ views on the matter.
My office and I, are continuing to work with families across the constituency, as they support finding homes of Ukrainians. However, if there is anything I can do to support you or your family, please do contact me at email@example.com.
Below is a snapshot of what we have been working on. If there is anything, I can do to support you, please get in touch.
- This week in Westminster, MPs debated Childhood Cancer outcomes - it was a deeply moving debate. I was privileged to raise the work of Sara and David Wakeling, who set up the charity Alice's Arc on behalf of their beautiful daughter Alice, who very sadly died of a type of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma, aged just 7 years old. My neighbour Tom Tugendhat also spoke of the wonderful Scott family - who were previously constituents and whom I worked closely with over the pandemic to support their son Liam. Childhood Cancer needs more research, more training of GPs and more awareness raised of the signs. We must now work cross party to address this and help beat childhood cancer once and for all. To watch my speech click here.
- I was delighted to join Henry Warde of Squerryes and the children from Churchill Church of England Primary School, to be part of an exciting project to plant trees in a 25-acre site just outside of Westerham. When the planting is complete, there will be around 18,000 trees, which will not only help with biodiversity but also play a vital role in the journey toward net zero.
- As many of you will know, maternity safely is something I have been campaigning on since becoming an MP, and I noted with interest the Ockenden Report, which concluded that keeping caesarean births intentionally low, contributed to innocent babies dying. I am pleased that following a recommendation from the Health and Social Care Selection Committee (of which I am a member) NHS trusts are no longer being assessed on their caesarean rates; however, we must go further. Following his statement, I asked the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, if he will look at where caesarean rates remain artificially low in trusts, so this dangerous normal birth ideology is eradicated from the NHS, and I am delighted he agreed. We must all work together to remove permanently this practice from our NHS.
- At the end of last month, following on from last year’s success, there was another Spring Clean Weekend across the district. I was very pleased to take part in West Kingsdown with local councillor Lynda Harrison and Emily Bulford. It was a brilliant community effort, and I am very grateful to the organisers, the sponsors, and all those that took part in this superb initiative.
- I am pleased to say, that from Monday 16th May, the existing service from Sevenoaks to Blackfriars will be extended through central London to Welwyn Garden City. This will benefit passengers from Otford, Eynsford, Shoreham and Swanley, who will see quicker journeys to and from central London stations such as Farringdon (connecting with Crossrail when it opens) and London St Pancras International, without the need to change.
- I know the traffic lights on Gracious Lane Bridge are causing ongoing frustrations for residents, so I wanted to provide an update. Although the works on the bridge itself were essentially completed at the end of January, it opened with traffic lights due to underground utilities issues which prevented final completion of works to enable the bridge to open completely. The utility issues have proved to be more difficult than first thought, and whilst now there is a solution, I am told the bridge may not re-open fully until late May, possible early June. When works take place, the bridge will close for a long weekend and will then finally open as normal. National Highways are keeping myself and the parish council updated, and I will share further information when I hear more. My thanks as ever to Weald Parish Council for keeping on top of this problem, and to local residents for their ongoing patience.
- Every child deserves high-quality education and care, and we need to do more to make sure that the process of getting that for those children with SEND works better. Last month the Government launched a consultation on the changes we need to make to SEND and alternative provision (AP) system in England. I have worked with many families locally on this, and it was good to ask the Secretary of State for reassurance in the House of Commons that they are also looking to provide even greater support tackle the backlog caused from the pandemic. I will continue to raise concerns shared with me in Westminster, however this consultation is also your chance you speak direct to Government and share your first-hand experiences - so please do get involved. Together we will make it better. https://sendreview.campaign.gov.uk/
- I was delighted to hear that Swanley Town Council have been awarded £75,000 for improvements to Swanley Sports Ground (the former driving range) by the Veolia Environmental Trust. The project will create a new pitch, changing facilities and toilets at the sports club. By increasing the size and quality of facilities, I hope more residents will be able to enjoy local sporting activities, keep fit and socialise.
- This week, I attended the Internet Watch Foundation 25th anniversary lunch. I have worked with them for many years around protecting children online. The work they do is extremely challenging and very important. I am pleased to be able to help them raise their concerns in Parliament.
- Finally, this month parents and children found out which primary school their child will be due to attend in September 2022. If you are unhappy with the school place you've been offered, please remember you can appeal for any of the schools you named in your application by visiting here. You must submit your appeal before Tuesday 17 May 2022 for it to be considered by Tuesday 19 July 2022. I know this can be a difficult time for parents and their children so do please get in touch with my office at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or problems.