This has been a successful year for Sevenoaks and Swanley. Unemployment in the constituency has continued to fall in the last twelve months from 492 to 435. And we have had other very positive news too.
In particular, I welcome the Government’s decision to approve Weald of Kent Grammar School’s application to open an annexe in Sevenoaks. This long-awaited decision will lead to more school places and more choice for local parents and pupils. There must now be no further delay.
Of course, there is still more work to do. From aircraft noise to local healthcare, I am committed to ensuring that the interests of my constituents are properly represented. I also remain resolute in my desire to secure the extension of the Oyster network to Sevenoaks and I will be meeting with the relevant organisations in the spring to seek further progress towards this ambition.
I look forward to continuing to serve Sevenoaks and Swanley in Parliament in 2016. I would like to wish all of my constituents a very happy Christmas and New Year.
Responding to the current uncertainty about West Kingsdown Medical Centre, Michael said: “I am concerned about the situation facing the residents of West Kingsdown. I have received representations from a number of constituents, whom I have advised to participate in the current consultation process. I have also written to NHS England to request further information and clarification on the subject.”
Michael has expressed concerns about the closure of the Knole Centre in his Sevenoaks constituency.
The centre provides neuro-rehabilitation care for patients across West Kent. It is run by Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT), which announced its intention to close the service earlier this year. This has taken place early due to concerns about safe staffing over Christmas.
Michael said: “Clearly this is not an ideal situation. People will be understandably concerned about the closure of the service just before Christmas. Ultimately, patient safety has to come first. If the Knole Centre is unable to guarantee patient safety then it is right that it closes.
I am confident that significant planning has gone into managing the immediate situation but I will be seeking assurances that the new permanent services will provide a high quality of local, personal care.”
Michael has warned commuters in the Sevenoaks constituency to be prepared for significant rail disruption over the Christmas period.
In addition to the regular reduced service level between Christmas and New Year, no trains will be stopping at Charing Cross, Waterloo East, Cannon Street or London Bridge from 8pm on Christmas Eve until 4am on Monday 4th January. Service frequency will begin to reduce from the afternoon of 24th December. All trains will be redirected to Victoria, Blackfriars or New Cross and tickets will be accepted on Transport for London services.
Kent’s Members of Parliament met Southeastern’s Managing Director, David Statham, and his team earlier this week to hear more about the plans, which are part of the Thameslink improvement programme at London Bridge.
Michael said: “Whilst I understand this major disruption to services is necessary for the ongoing redevelopment of London Bridge station, I will be monitoring the work to ensure that the reopening of the stations is not delayed. Passengers must not experience any more disruption than is absolutely necessary.”
On Friday, Michael was delighted to visit Knole Academy in the heart of Sevenoaks.
Michael answered questions about his work as a Member of Parliament and Defence Secretary from a range of students, including the Head Boy and Girl, the School Council and students involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Amy Edwards, who Michael recently welcomed to Parliament in her capacity as a National Citizen Service national ambassador, was also present to greet him.
Michael said: “It was excellent to be back at Knole hearing about their latest achievements. It was also good to see Amy again and to meet some of the school’s leading students. The quality of education available in Sevenoaks continues to improve. With Mrs Boyle at the helm, Knole has an important part to play in that progress.”
On this latest regular day in his constituency, Mr Fallon also visited Rockdale Housing Association and held his regular advice surgery.
On Sunday, Michael was honoured to attend events for Remembrance Day in Swanley. After participating in the parade, he laid a wreath at the War Memorial before reading the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ at a service in St. Mary’s Church.
For more photos from the day, please visit the Gallery.
Michael welcomed Amy Edwards, who has been selected to become one of the National Citizen Service’s (NCS) national ambassadors, to Parliament last week.
Amy, a pupil at Knole Academy, is one of just 100 young people across the country to become a national ambassador from the 80,000 that took part in the NCS programme in 2015.
Established in 2011 to create a more responsible society, NCS is a three week programme that brings together 16 and 17 year olds from a range of backgrounds to face outdoor challenges, learn skills for life and work, extend their social networks and make their mark on their community. NCS provides programmes across the country that cost no more than £50, with volunteers spending 30 hours delivering a project of their choice.
Michael said: “I was delighted to meet Amy. I congratulated her on her achievement and I look forward to supporting her efforts to promote and expand NCS in my constituency in any way I can.”
Michael has welcomed Southeastern’s commitment to introduce a number of measures to minimise disruption for commuters from the Sevenoaks constituency this autumn and winter.
Michael wrote to Southeastern’s Managing Director, David Statham, earlier this month to seek assurances about what plans Southeastern has to mitigate the impact of poor weather conditions on train performance.
In his response, Mr Statham stated that:
An additional three water jetting trains have been allocated to Kent this year by Network Rail to remove leaf debris;
Additional trackside equipment has been placed in areas that have caused serious disruption to journeys in the past to reduce the risk of disruptive incidents;
Southeastern will run empty trains through the night to keep tracks clear of ice;
Network Rail has installed heaters and NASA grade insulation to points at key locations and protective covers to points and point motors to keep snow out and prevent damage by ice falling from trains;
Southeastern has invested in hand-held mechanical snow ploughs to keep platforms, car parks and forecourts free of ice and snow;
Southeastern has reached agreement with Kent County Council to use its resources to ensure that station approach roads are kept clear.
On 4th October, Southeastern also introduced some changes to their timetable to take account of changing weather conditions and give passengers more certainty about arrival times.
Michael said: “I welcome the assurances that Southeastern have given me. They believe they are better equipped for poor weather conditions than before. But I will be continuing to monitor their performance to ensure that any problems that develop during the autumn and winter are dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible so that my constituents suffer the minimum of disruption.”
Michael enjoyed a visit to Tubs Hill House in the heart of Sevenoaks on Friday. The site formerly consisted of offices and is now being converted into 100 high quality new apartments, which will reinvigorate the centre of Sevenoaks.
The Prime Place project was begun in the summer by contractors Buxton Group, who will be using local tradespeople for the project. Willmott Dixon, who own the site, have a close relationship with Sevenoaks, having already constructed brand new buildings for Trinity Free School and Knole Academy.
Michael said: “It is essential that we build the homes that we need for future generations. Redevelopments like the one being undertaken at Tubs Hill House are an intelligent way to create more homes and reinvigorate our town without creating further urban sprawl or intruding on the Green Belt. It was a pleasure to see the latest progress on the site.”
On this latest regular day in his constituency, Mr Fallon also met Inspector Robert Slade at Swanley Police Station to discuss a number of local concerns and held his regular advice surgery at the offices of Sevenoaks District Council.