Over 100 residents, staff, friends, volunteers, patrons, trustees and many who had worked on this project attended the official opening of Rockdale House. Sam Footitt, Chairman of the Appeal Board, set the scene by explaining the history and background to the new development and thanking all who had been involved with the design and build of this new residential home. Fundraising had started over 13 years ago and over £1.75m had been raised through the public appeal. Before performing the official opening Michael said:
“Rockdale Housing Association has a fantastic story. Set up 65 years ago it has continuously provided housing and care for older people in Sevenoaks and this new project shows the affection in which Rockdale is held. It must be an obligation as individuals, families and the community to help provide such resources for future generations and personally I am extremely proud to represent a town which cares so much.
“Sam Footitt had led the Appeal Board tirelessly and he and his colleagues should be congratulated for all their considerable efforts over the years, started well before The Big Society was ever mentioned, which have culminated in this magnificent building which will now accommodate 48 residents.
“I am delighted, as a Patron of the Rockdale Appeal, to open this brand new residential home.”
Michael has welcomed the Government’s announcement that will see train operators’ ability to increase fares capped at two per cent.
Backing the cap, Mr. Fallon said:
“Travel costs are one of the biggest outgoings for hardworking families in Sevenoaks and Swanley. This government is introducing a series of measures to help families with the everyday cost of living. We’ve already frozen fuel duty and council tax.
“The two per cent cap will keep down fare increases and help prevent the large rises commuters have seen in the past”.
Michael visited a UK Power Networks training centre near Sevenoaks recently. He was there to learn about the company from Murdo Allan, director of health, safety, sustainability and technical training, as well as hear about the company’s business plan for 2015 to 2023.
Other senior managers were on hand during the hour-long guided tour, showing Mr Fallon the variety of the 120 courses available at the centre, which plays an important part in training 60 apprentices each year how to maintain and repair underground cables and overhead lines.
As Minister of State in the Departments of Energy & Climate Change as well as Business, Innovation & Skills Michael, who has responsibility for security of electricity supply as well as smart grids, said: “It has been very interesting to learn more about UK Power Networks’ training centre at Sundridge and the vital work it does for my Sevenoaks constituents and the wider community.
“Training and safety are obviously top priorities for the company, helping to fill important roles within the organisation for the benefit of customers.
“Having met and spoken with apprentices, I am pleased to see that a leading energy company is taking training seriously, creating a large number of new apprenticeships each year, and investing in the future.”
The distinctive vintage double-decker red bus which has been seen around Sevenoaks all through the summer had a new conductor on board last week. Michael met passengers alighting at Knole and dropping off at the main points of the journey around the town. He met visitors who were from far and near – all said how much they appreciated and enjoyed the service. Some young children were having an adventure as they had never been on a double-decker before whereas others were just appreciating a trip from Knole House into town to do a little shopping and visit the Food Fair on the Vine before returning home.
The bus, which had been sponsored by Sevenoaks Town Partnership with assistance from Go Coach, Knole, Sevenoaks Town Council, Sevenoaks District Council, Sencio, Stag and all the volunteer bus conductors will not run after the end of September but all involved are hoping that it will return in the spring 2014.
Ide Hill Post Office, which had been temporarily closed for more than two years, had an official opening ceremony on Friday 27 September, at its new location – the newly-built Ide Hill Community Shop, next to the Village Hall.
Michael cut the ribbon to open the new Community Shop and Post Office at 8pm. This was followed by a big village celebration, hosted by The Chairman of the Ide Hill Community Shop Community Interest Company, Andy Edmonds, and the new Subpostmaster Richard French, to thank everyone who had helped with the shop and Post Office project.
Ide Hill Post Office was forced to close temporarily in July 2011 due to the withdrawal of the old premises for Post Office use. From 28 September it is operating from the new Ide Hill Community Shop. Until recently the shop had been run from a shipping container organised by the Ide Hill Community Shop Community Interest Company. The group then rallied villagers and local businesses to raise funds for more suitable premises, which could also accommodate a Post Office.
Mr Fallon said: “Post Offices are vital to the local community and I am so pleased that Ide Hill once again has a Post Office. I am delighted to be re-opening this branch at a wonderful new location. The new Village Shop has been funded by villagers and businesses; this shows just what is possible when a community puts its mind to a project. Everyone involved should be congratulated.
“The Post Office is now open for longer hours than before and is conveniently open seven days a week. The branch will be open for the same number of hours as the Village Shop.”
The branch is now one of the Post Office’s modern new-style open-plan “local” branches. Post Office Local is a new concept for delivering Post Office services from an open plan counter with Post Office products and services available alongside retail transactions during shop opening hours, allowing Post Office services to be available for longer offering greater convenience to customers.
The new opening hours are Monday to Friday: 08:30 – 16.30; Saturday: 08.30 – 14.30; Sunday: 08.30 – 12.30.
Subpostmaster Richard French said: “This is a very proud day for myself and the residents of Ide Hill, who have worked extremely hard to fundraise to make a dream of a village shop and a Post Office in a wonderful new building become a reality. This fabulous shop and Post Office will mean that residents will have essential services right on their doorstep.
“There has been a terrific Community Interest Committee, including our superb Chairman, Andrew Edmonds, which masterminded plans for the shop. Our plans would have amounted to nothing without the generosity and support of villagers from Ide Hill
Michael opened the newly refurbished swimming pool at Amherst School today. Funds had been raised by parents, staff and Sport England. The Headmaster, Mr Derry Wiltshire officially thanked School Secretary, Mrs Jane Parish, who had worked extremely hard to co-ordinate the whole team effort and secure the funding for an all-year activity for the whole school. Congratulations go to all involved.