On Friday, Michael opened The Vales, a new affordable housing development near Bat & Ball Station in Sevenoaks.
The development is owned by Moat Homes, which has worked in collaboration with SDC to build 11 new properties. The properties are a mixture of shared ownership and affordable rent homes.
Michael spoke to the assembled guests, which included representatives from SDC and Moat and several of the new residents. He congratulated Moat on the development, which is built on the site of the former ambulance station, before joining guests for a tour of the new properties.
Michael said: “I was delighted to open The Vales. We need more housing in Sevenoaks but we also want to protect our environment and the Green Belt. This innovative scheme is an example of how collaboration between councils and developers is reinforcing the bottom rung of the housing ladder, helping young families to work towards owning their own home.”
In response to Weald of Kent’s proposal to exclude several parts of his constituency from Category A of its new admissions policy, Michael has made the following statement:
“I am deeply concerned about the proposal to exclude areas like Westerham, Brasted and Crockham Hill. The original proposals, published before the annexe was confirmed, recognised that the lack of grammar school provision in Sevenoaks meant that priority ought to be given to applicants from the area. Now that we have an annexe, it is even more important to ensure that the places go to local pupils.”
Last Friday, Michael spent a busy day in Sevenoaks and Swanley. He visited Amherst School in the morning, answering pupils’ questions in a special assembly, before meeting local councillors in Swanley.
In the afternoon, he joined residents and staff of Gloucester House Nursing Home in Sevenoaks to celebrate its 25th anniversary celebrations.
Speaking about the visit, Michael said: “I was very pleased to help the staff and residents of Gloucester House to celebrate this anniversary. Speaking to the residents, it was clear that they have happy, fulfilled lives at the home thanks to its hardworking staff. That local, tailored approach is vital and we need to replicate it as much as possible.”
After speaking to residents, he travelled to Prime Place in the heart of Sevenoaks, where he joined the Mayor of Sevenoaks, Cllr Stephen Arnold, to open the new sales and marketing suite. Commenting on the opening, Michael said: “I first visited Prime Place, Sevenoaks last year, when it was little more than a building site. It’s a pleasure to see how much progress has been made and I look forward to seeing the completed development next year.”
In his latest column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Michael has written about the challenge of dementia:
Dementia is one of the biggest challenges facing our country. There are an estimated 850,000 sufferers in the UK. In Sevenoaks there are almost 600. Dementia costs the economy £23 billion a year – more than the costs of cancer, heart disease or strokes.
It is a situation that is only going to become more serious. By 2040, the number of dementia sufferers is expected to double, with the costs predicted to treble.
I recently visited the Forget-me-not Memory Café run by local volunteers. Despite only starting in October last year, it already attracts dozens of dementia sufferers and their carers. They come for conversation, companionship and cake. My first question for them was “where did you go before this?” The answer of course was “nowhere”.
The Memory Café is bringing people together, many of whom would otherwise rarely leave their own homes. The problem is that these initiatives are few and far between.
We are making some progress. Since 2010, a 50 percent increase in our dementia diagnosis rate has made it the highest in the world. Local NHS organisations tell me that they are working positively with the voluntary sector. Fewer people with dementia now have to travel long distances to unfamiliar surroundings for treatment.
But there is still more to do to achieve the ambitious goal set in last year’s ‘Challenge on Dementia 2020’ for the UK to be the best country in the world for dementia care and support for sufferers, their carers and their families.
For too many people, there is still “nowhere”. But with initiatives like the Memory Café, we know how to start fighting the challenge of dementia. The priority now is to make sure we do it.
On Friday, Michael opened the fifth annual Sevenoaks Business Show at the Stag Plaza.
In his speech, Michael spoke about the 600 new businesses that have been established in Sevenoaks since 2010 and the constituency’s historic low level of unemployment, which has fallen by sixty percent since 2010. He also referred to the Government’s support for the ‘South East Accelerator’ with lower business rates and corporation tax.
Michael concluded by saying: “This is the fifth annual show and each year there is more and more evidence of the incredible success of our local enterprises. I am always proud to be Patron of the Sevenoaks Town Partnership – but I am never more proud than when I open this annual Business Show.”
Following his speech, Michael spent time speaking to each of the 32 businesses with a stall at the show and meeting a number of local apprentices.
Michael has helped to secure victory in the campaign to continue the use of vellum for printing Acts of Parliament.
On Wednesday evening, he joined MPs from all parties in supporting a backbench motion to oppose the decision by the House of Lords to unilaterally end the use of vellum. The Commons voted 117 to 38 to approve the motion.
Michael said: “I was proud to vote for this motion. Vellum is a vital part of our national heritage. The strong cross-party support of the House of Commons for its continued use is welcome. The short-sighted attempt to end this tradition must now cease.”
Local calligrapher Patricia Lovett, who was in Parliament to watch the debate, said: “The success of the campaign is an indication of how democracy can work. I am so grateful to Michael Fallon for the interest that he has shown in the campaign, his support, and the work he has done to ensure that the significance of vellum and the actual cost, £37,000, was made known in Westminster.”
Michael has launched a defiant defence of Sevenoaks Hospital following the announcement that King’s College Hospital Trust is to withdraw its services.
He recently demanded assurances that the hospital will remain open from the local Clinical Commissioning Group and Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust, which operates the other services at the hospital.
In a response, Dr Bob Bowes, Clinical Chair of West Kent CCG, confirmed that all patients seen under existing arrangements will either continue to be seen at Sevenoaks, but by Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust staff, or will transfer their appointments to Princess Royal University Hospital.
Dr Bowes also confirmed that Sevenoaks Hospital is part of a wider review of local health services. Michael is concerned about this process and will continue to watch developments closely.
Michael said: “I have always defended Sevenoaks Hospital against the threat of closure. I am as determined as ever to protect the vital services it offers for local people. I want to see more services in Sevenoaks, not less.”
Michael is currently awaiting a response from Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust and has requested a meeting with the Chief Executive.
Last Friday Michael visited Age Concern’s charity shop in the heart of Swanley. The recently-refurbished shop supports the work of Rural Age Concern Darent Valley.
Michael is a strong supporter of the charity’s services, which include the Cottage Day Centre in Fawkham.
Michael was met by Chief Officer Liam Curran, who showed him the state-of-the-art till system that has been introduced into the shop. They were joined by local district councillor Fay Parkin and some of the charity’s Trustees.
On his latest regular day in Sevenoaks and Swanley, Michael also visited local businesses and met Chief Inspector Roscoe Walford of Kent Police to receive an update on falling crime levels in the constituency.
Michael was given a fresh insight into Westerham’s strong community spirit on Friday. In a series of visits, he heard about local concerns and voiced support for the town’s businesses and initiatives.
Michael participated in an assembly at Churchill C of E Primary School and answered questions from pupils. He also heard about and endorsed the school’s ‘Traffic Watch’ scheme to reduce speeds on nearby roads.
He joined local residents and volunteers at the ‘Forget-me-not’ Memory Café at Westerham Congregational Church, which brings dementia sufferers and carers together once a month for conversation and companionship.
Visiting a number of small businesses, including Westerham Cyclery and Chartwell Apothecary, he discussed the state of the local economy and the impact of the changes to business rates announced in the Budget last Wednesday.
Michael said: “With innovative local businesses like Westerham Cyclery and its strong community atmosphere, I was pleased to see that Westerham is as vibrant as ever.
Abolishing business rates for small businesses and shops should be a big boost.”
Town Clerk Angela Howells said: “The Forget-me-not Café has been running for seven months and we were pleased that Mr Fallon was able to come and hear about the need that this initiative is meeting.”
Michael was in Sevenoaks and Swanley on Friday 11th March for his latest busy constituency day.
He travelled in the cab of a Southeastern train to learn more about the impact of the ongoing work at London Bridge on the services used by his constituents every day.
Following this, he spoke to pupils at Combe Bank School in Sundridge, answering questions on issues such as defence and the EU referendum.
In Swanley, he accompanied local councillor Victor Southern to the Swanley Therapy Centre, which relies on charitable donations to offer oxygen treatment to local patients. He also visited Lockdecoders, a vibrant local business run by Victor’s son Peter.
Returning to Sevenoaks, he received a tour of the latest progress at Knole House, where significant restoration work is transforming the medieval site.
Michael ended the day with his monthly advice surgery in Sevenoaks.