In his latest column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Michael has written about the need to build on Sevenoaks’ progress this year:
2016 was a very successful year for Sevenoaks. In an unsettled year nationally, our local economy remained strong, with unemployment falling to another record low.
Though there will be challenges, I believe 2017 could be even better.
After so many years of campaigning, in September our new grammar school annexe will finally open. I visited the site just before Christmas and I could already see that it will be a great addition to the remarkable range of high-quality school choice that is now on offer in Sevenoaks. There is still more to do to secure grammar provision for boys, though, and that will be one of my top priorities this year.
Meanwhile, discussions on the new rail franchise will be a great opportunity to lobby for the extension of the Oyster network and the many other rail improvements we want to see. I look forward to continuing to make the case for passengers this year.
With an ageing population increasing pressure on the NHS and our care system, we need to continue to protect Sevenoaks Hospital. It is a much-loved feature of our town – but it also has an important role to play in relieving pressure on facilities at Pembury and Darent Valley. Carrying on making that argument will be vital this year.
Finally, we need to make sure the District Council develops a robust and reasonable Local Plan that will give us the homes we need without encouraging inappropriate development in our town and in our villages in the years to come.
With all of these priorities and more, I am looking forward to continuing to represent Sevenoaks this year. After a successful 2016, let’s build on our achievements in 2017
In his latest column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Michael has written about the need to protect the Green Belt:
Like many in Sevenoaks, I was concerned by the suggestion that our district council is considering allowing swathes of new housing on the 300 sites that were submitted earlier this year for possible development, including many on Green Belt land.
While more homes are needed to cope with a rising population, the idea that 12,400 new sites in the District would be developed by 2035 led to understandable alarm. We love our town and villages with the beautiful countryside that surrounds them. The large amount of Green Belt land in this area is one of the many things that makes my constituency one of the nicest places to live in the country.
But it is important to remember that this number is merely an initial target, calculated using national figures without accounting for local constraints.
It is vital therefore that the council undertakes a proper, methodical process to develop its plan. If its plan isn’t sound, unwanted development could run rife, with applications governed by national policies, not local priorities.
We need to get this right. But I am confident the council’s work will demonstrate that the constraints presented by our large areas of Green Belt and AONB make it impossible for so many houses to be built.
We also need to ensure that this process stands up to local scrutiny so that people can have confidence in the final plan. The public consultation that will take place next year must not merely pay lip service to the legitimate concerns of local residents.
Of course we need some more housing. But there are still many brownfield sites awaiting development and any development needs to respect our local priorities and the characteristics that make our town what it is.
At the general election last year, I promised the people of Sevenoaks that I would fight to protect the Green Belt from inappropriate development. I intend to keep that promise.