Michael has welcomed a new consultation on proposals for a new crossing of the Thames.
The Lower Thames Crossing would relieve congestion in the area, reduce air pollution levels and produce significant economic benefits for the region. The scheme, which could be completed by 2027 at the latest, would lead to the creation of 5,000 jobs and boost the economy by £7 billion.
Michael said: “A new Thames crossing would be a vital addition to Kent’s transport infrastructure. The number of complaints I receive about the Dartford Crossing shows that, despite recent changes, a long-term solution is needed. I encourage anyone concerned to participate in this consultation.”
Michael has welcomed the news that West Kingsdown Medical Centre will remain open after he intervened.
After a number of patients raised concerns with him, Michael pressed NHS England South East and Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG to find a solution that maintained a local GP service in West Kingsdown.
Following his intervention, NHS England South East have announced that new local GPs will take over the medical centre, ensuring continuity for patients and opportunities for improved care.
Michael said: “This is excellent news. West Kingsdown needs its own surgery and I am glad that the NHS and the local CCG have listened to the concerns of local people and their representatives. I will continue to monitor the issue to ensure that the transition is as seamless as possible.”
Last Friday, Michael was delighted to meet Pat Moore, a veteran of the Second World War D-Day campaign, at Pat’s home in Sevenoaks.
Pat has recently received the Legion d’Honneur from the French government in recognition of his service. Michael personally intervened after Pat experienced delays in receiving the award.
Pat said: “I met Michael and showed him my award. We talked about my time in the war and his own family’s military history as his Grandfather was a Royal Engineer. The award is a great honour and I’m looking forward to receiving it formally in March at Graye-Sur-Mer, Normandy.”
Michael also visited the Sevenoaks studio of scribe and illuminator Patricia Lovett MBE. He learned about the differences between materials such as vellum and parchment and listened closely to Patricia’s concerns about current plans to use paper instead of vellum
for printing Acts of Parliament.
Patricia said: “I was delighted to welcome Michael to my studio. Michael has been really helpful and most supportive of the Heritage Crafts Association’s campaign about continuing to print Acts of Parliament on vellum and we really appreciate his interest and considerable influence on this.”
Commenting on his visits, Michael said: “I was very pleased to meet Pat again and congratulate him on his award. He is a war hero and this award from the French is a well-deserved recognition of his participation in the D-Day campaign in particular. I am sure he will make the most of the formal presentation later this year.
I was also pleased to be able to visit Patricia’s studio. Vellum is an important part of our national history and Patricia’s incredible knowledge and skill suggests that it will continue to be so for many years to come. I will be urging my parliamentary colleagues to continue the use of vellum.”
Following the news that national campaign group Comprehensive Future will not be challenging the Government’s decision to approve a grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks, Michael said:
“It would have been outrageous for politically motivated national campaigners to attempt to block the expansion of a successful school that is strongly backed by the people of Sevenoaks and Kent County Council.
I welcome the news that the annexe can now start to be built, meaning that local parents will at last have the same choice of schools as elsewhere in Kent.
We need more good school places in Kent in academies, grammars, and free schools. Any successful school should be allowed to expand, so it is wrong to discriminate against grammar schools.”
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.