"Ahead of the final consultation on the energy infrastructure needed for the East Anglia offshore windfarm projects, I met senior executives from Scottish Power Renewables to ask questions on their decision to site the substation in Friston. SPR chose the Friston site in December following a previous period of consultation where they also considered Broom Covert at Sizewell. Neither of the sites they considered were wholly appropriate and it was my suggestion, via the consultation, that SPR and National Grid find an alternative, such as the proposed nuclear site at Bradwell. However, if the Friston site does go-ahead then it is extremely important that its construction be mitigated. I was clear with SPR that they need to find a solution to enable the substation to be dug into the ground to minimise the impact on the environment. You can find out more, including the detail on the public information meetings at - www.scottishpowerrenewables.com/pages/ea_one_north_phase_4_consultation.aspx. I urge local residents to respond to the consultation before it closes on March 26th.
I arranged for CQC inspectors to come to Parliament recently to brief East Anglian Members of Parliament on the turnaround plan for the Mental Health Trust. This follows a CQC inspection in September 2018, where the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust was put into special measures. I'm a little more reassured now they have now recruited a new Chief Operating Officer and Nursing Director and am pleased to hear they are in talks to recruit a new chair. The Trust will now have an oversight meeting led by the CQC every month and each patient referral that is downgraded is now reviewed to make sure it is an appropriate decision. A 24/7 phone line has now also been put in place for patients.
Finally, following the deeply disappointing news that Marks & Spencer plan to close their Felixstowe branch, I met representatives from the company in Parliament this week to urge them to review their decision. Felixstowe is a town on the rise and with jobs, population and investment all increasing in the town, I'm surprised by the timing of their announcement. While I think it is unlikely they will change their mind, particularly given this is one of their smaller stores, I strongly made the case that it should remain open."
"What a start to 2019 with the vote on the EU Withdrawal Agreement taking place on Tuesday. I voted with the Prime Minister in order to deliver on the decision by the British people in 2016. I think it is important we still deliver on that referendum result but it is going to be a challenge to get a deal on which Parliament will agree. The opposition parties are largely only interested in trying to secure a General Election rather than a new deal.
Locally, the third stage of public consultation on Sizewell C is now open. There have been quite a few changes since the last round of consultation so I would encourage you to read and reply to the consultation document which closes on the 29th March (https://www.edfenergy.com/energy/nuclear-new-build-projects/sizewell-c/proposals/stage-3#exhibitions). I attended their public exhibition in Saxmundham last weekend and I'm currently formulating my early thoughts, which I will share shortly with residents, before I reply formally to the consultation. On transport, they have two major options. Either road-led or rail-led. I've said before that I want to see as much construction material come in by rail and sea as possible rather than putting more pressure on our road network so will be looking in detail at the rail-led option, which also includes by-passes and other significant road improvements. Unfortunately, apart from a beach landing facility which will bring in the very biggest of items the consultation document doesn't include a marine option. EDF need to give more detail on why this is the case.
Finally, good news. The Post Office is intending to open an additional branch in Melton. The new 'local style' facility will open in the McColls shop in early February reflecting the Government's commitment to the Post Office network and the Post Office's ambition to open branches in more areas."
"I know many residents are understandably concerned about the proposal from Scottish Power Renewables for a substation on or near to the Suffolk coast, to connect power generated from the East Anglia One offshore array. I responded to their consultation outlining why neither Sizewell nor Friston are appropriate sites. The AONB was declared in the early seventies after the construction of the first nuclear power station at Sizewell. I believe that a nuclear cluster has always been justified on that basis. That, in itself, does not justify the AONB and the area close to Sizewell nuclear facilities automatically being designated as an area for electric infrastructure. The Friston site is similarly not appropriate, although itself not in the AONB it would mean five miles of countryside would have to be dug up for cables to reach the substation. I think it would be best overall if National Grid were to find another site to connect. There is the expectation of another nuclear site at Bradwell which needs a significant upgrade. That project is the ideal candidate. Scottish Power Renewables will now submit its application to the Planning Inspectorate and there will be more opportunity for residents to give their views. I will continue to press the case with Ministers.
As a coastal MP and Environment Minister, I was really pleased to support the second reading of The Fisheries Bill, when it was debated in Parliament. This new legislation which is great news for our fishing communities along the Suffolk Coast sets out our plans to leave the Common Fisheries Policy and take back control of our waters. This Government has always supported the interests of British fishermen, which is why we have increased the quota given to our under-10m fleet by 13% in the last 6 years - and this new legislation will enable us to have far greater control over fishing quotas. Ultimately, the new Bill will allow us to create a sustainable, profitable fishing industry for the UK.
Congratulations to Woodbridge who received a well deserved Highly Commended Award in the UK's Best High Street category in the Great British High Street Awards. Small Business Saturday was held on the first Saturday in December to highlight the important of supporting our local shops all year round. At this time of year especially, I hope you can you'll join me in buying at least some of your Christmas shopping from the many exciting small businesses that operate in our part of Suffolk."
I have received a large amount of correspondence regarding Brexit in the last week, offering a variety of opinions on what we should do next as a country and how I should vote in Parliament.
"I have already voted so that the UK will be leaving the EU on 29th March 2019. There will not be a second referendum. The 2016 referendum vote was close but decisive, with over 72% of the population expressing a view. That is the highest turnout of voters in nearly 25 years.
I think there has been a huge misunderstanding about the withdrawal agreement published last week. It is not the future trade deal. It is the legal text proposed for the Withdrawal Agreement that sets out a detailed process on leaving the EU and the operational rules for how the implementation or transition period will work in practice. Yes, it contains the so-called backstop on Northern Ireland and it has a new option where we could extend the transition period if we have not agreed the new future trade deal by 2020, rather than use the backstop. Why have this transition period at all? We don't want to disrupt business and jobs by them having to change rules or processes more than once.
But I don't think we will need to use the backstop or extend the transition period as we have already significant progress on the principles for a future trade deal, which are set out in the outline political declaration. This was the more important document published last week. This deal will mean we take back control of our borders, our laws and our money while protecting jobs, security and the integrity of the United Kingdom. We are already agreeing the end of freedom of movement, the freedom to negotiate our own trade deals with other countries around the world, zero tariffs in a free trade area for goods, the UK as an independent coastal state on fisheries and no longer part of the Common Fisheries or Agricultural Policies. There is lot more detail but this short paper is being discussed and negotiated intensively this week to produce a much more detailed paper on which Parliament will vote alongside the withdrawal agreement. This future deal will deliver the referendum outcome.
I will continue to support the Prime Minister, Theresa May, who is handling one of the most challenging and complex negotiations any PM has had to face. Her leadership and resilience are key to securing that comprehensive future trade deal."
"This weekend Suffolk will fall silent as we pay tribute to those who have died in the service of their country. This Sunday our traditional season of remembrance will take on added poignancy as we also commemorate the centenary of the November armistice, which ended the First World War. I will be in Felixstowe, paying my respects at St John's Church and the memorial on the seafront. Local representatives will be laying a wreath on my behalf in some other towns in Suffolk Coastal. I'd also like to thank all the villages and towns that will join the beacon-lighting on Sunday evening, which is a very special way for our county to unite. Remembrance Sunday is also an opportunity not only to remember those who died in war but also to show our gratitude to our serving men and women who do so much to keep us safe. My heartfelt thanks to them all.
Last week in Parliament, the Chancellor delivered the Budget. He outlined how the economy is in a better shape than forecast, that we no longer need to borrow for day to day spending - and that thanks to the careful stewardship of the economy there are more people working than ever before. The economy is forecast to continue to grow - enabling us to deliver our election manifesto pledge one year early in allowing people to keep more of their money - as well as increasing investment in the NHS and other public services. I was especially pleased about his announcement on business rates, which will knock a third off the bills of many of our small and independent shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes. After meetings last year with the Chancellor that helped generate the £300m business rates relief fund which councils could use to help local businesses, I'm delighted that the Chancellor continues to listen to the voices of Suffolk Coastal businesses.
Finally, I attended a meeting with representatives of Saxmundham Town Council last week to hear from Greater Anglia about the future of Saxmundham station. This follows the devastating fire which took place earlier this year. The good news is that Greater Anglia intends to restore the station as a one-storey building with an indoor waiting room, which I'm sure will be welcomed by passengers and residents. At the same time Greater Anglia have also agreed to improve and resurface the car-park, which will help local traffic. Thank you to Greater Anglia for listening."
"I was delighted to attend the official opening of the new Deben Leisure recently as Chairman of the Council, Cllr Nicky Yeo, did the honours by cutting the ribbon. Congratulations to Leisure Portfolio Holder, Cllr TJ Howarth-Culf and all at Suffolk Council District Council for bringing state of the art gyms and an updated swimming pool to Woodbridge. The new facility is fabulous and I'm sure will be well used by its existing and new customers.
Talking of Woodbridge, as the Thoroughfare has been shortlisted for this year's Great British High Street award I visited a number of independent stores recently, whose owners work so hard to make the Thoroughfare such a success. The Thoroughfare is up against 25 other streets in the Champion High Street category. You can show your support for Woodbridge by posting on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, using both #MYHIGHSTREET and#GBHSWoodbridge to register your vote. Unusually, you can vote as many times as you want.
As a result of my letter, the Prisons Minister, Rory Stewart MP, has offered to meet me regarding HMP Hollesley Bay, to hear first-hand the concerns of residents on the inclusion of sexual offenders. Open Prisons are extremely important in helping facilitate a prisoner's transition back into normal life but considering the close proximity of the primary school I share local concerns, especially in relation to certain categories of sexual offender. The Chairman of the Parish Council has agreed to accompany me to that meeting – and I will continue to press the case to try and effect a change on behalf of residents.
Finally, my department launched a consultation this week on banning the distribution of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds to protect our oceans. In England, it is estimated that we use 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds each year. Items that are used for just a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down. We are taking action to turn the tide on plastic pollution and ensure we leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it."
"Following objections from local residents, I'm delighted that Scottish Power Renewables are reconsidering their proposals for a substation in Friston. I previously conveyed residents' concerns to SPR and alongside local Councillors, met Energy Minister, Claire Perry, last month to lobby for changes to be made. If they had got the go-ahead at Friston it would have meant that 5-miles of countryside would needlessly have been dug up for cables to reach the substation. That and the scale of the proposal in that location was not acceptable. Instead they are looking to relocate the planned windfarm substation much closer to the coast, focusing specifically on the Broom Covert site on the Sizewell B estate. By the 2030's it is estimated that our small piece of Suffolk will be responsible for a quarter of the country's electricity supply so we need to be wary of the cumulative impact all of this has on our landscape. Scottish Power Renewables are now undertaking an extra consultation phase including four public meetings in Leiston, Friston, Knodishall and Thorpeness. For more information see here -https://www.scottishpowerrenewables.com/pages/ea_one_north_phase_3_5_consultation.aspx
This week I have been in New York, at the United Nations General Assembly, to discuss ways in which we can further protect the world's oceans. Globally, less than 10 per cent of the world's seas are currently designated as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) – one of the most important ways to protect precious sea life and habitats from damaging activity. It is the UK's ambition to treble internationally-agreed targets for protected areas – and I called on other nations to push for a global target of 30 per cent of oceans designated as MPAs by 2030. Only by working together can we ensure our marine life continues to be a source of awe and wonder for future generations.
Finally, congratulations to Woodbridge which has been shortlisted for this year's Great British High Street Awards. The Thoroughfare is up against 25 other streets in the Champion High Street category. You can show your support for Woodbridge by posting on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, using #MYHIGHSTREET and #GBHSWoodbridge to register a vote."
"New legislation to deliver a cleaner and healthier environment for future generations was introduced in Parliament this week by my departmental colleague, Michael Gove. The Agriculture Bill sets out how farmers will in future be paid for "public goods", such as better air and water quality, improved soil health, higher animal welfare standards, public access to the countryside and measures to reduce flooding. This will replace the current EU subsidy system of Direct Payments, which is ineffective and pays farmers based on the total amount of land farmed. The current payments are skewed towards the largest landowners and are not linked to any specific public benefits with the top 10% of recipients receiving almost 50% of total payments and the bottom 20% receiving just 2%. In its place, a new Environmental Land Management system will start from next year. Under our new system, farmers who provide the greatest environmental benefits will secure the largest rewards. Importantly we will work together with farmers to design, develop and trail the new approach. There will also be a seven year transition period, in which payments will still be made, to enable farmers to invest in new technologies and methods that boost productivity - allowing for a smooth and gradual move away from the Common Agricultural Policy, laying the foundations for a Green Brexit.
New figures published this week show that in the past year, the unemployment rate has remained at its lowest since 1975 and real wages grew for the fifth consecutive month. Since the Conservatives came to power the number of people in work has risen by over 3.3 million meaning more people have the security of a job and are able to provide for their family. We will continue to help more people into work by reforming welfare and delivering our modern Industrial Strategy to help create more, better paying jobs across the whole country.
Following my plea to East Suffolk Extra readers to help me nominate one of our fantastic local pubs for the Parliamentary Pub of the Year Award, I'm pleased to say that we have a winner. We have so many great pubs in Suffolk Coastal (over a hundred) and as I've visited every one it was difficult for me to decide – but in the end I was convinced by the argument that it should be the Oyster Inn, Butley for all it has done in bring the community together and for providing much needed village facilities. Well done to them."
"Congratulations to all the young people who recently received their examination results for GCSEs and A levels. For those who didn't achieve what they hoped for, advice is available via the national helpline on 0800 100900, open 8am to 10pm every day. Well done too to the teachers, staff and governors in our local schools for helping our young people at this critical stage of their lives. That boost for young people will be strengthened by the opening of Suffolk New College on the Coast in Leiston. I was delighted when SNC Principal Viv Gillespie told me a few years ago of this exciting initiative. I hope it goes really well.
The summer recess has been a time for me to fully recover from my operation earlier this year, so I have not undertaken my usual constituency tour nor seen people at summer fetes. That said, the Government has continued to be busy, especially my department. For example, we have announced a ban on third-party puppy and kitten sales in England. The ban will mean anyone looking to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten must either deal directly with the breeder or with one of the nation's many animal rehoming centres. This step follows a commitment by the Prime Minister to crack down on cruel puppy farms, bring an end to the grisly conditions found in puppy farming and tackle a range of existing animal welfare issues. After the consultation on electric shock collars, Michael Gove has announced we will proceed with this but we will exempt those collars used for fencing, used by owners to give animals freedom but keep them safe from wandering off onto the highway. This is a sensible outcome and thank you to everyone who responded.
This week, the Prime Minister has visited three countries in Africa and announced a new approach to our use of international aid. Africa needs to create millions of new jobs every year to keep pace with its rapidly growing population. It is in the interest of the UK and the rest of the world to see that those jobs are created to tackle the causes and symptoms of extremism and instability, to deal with migration flows and to encourage clean growth. To that end we will use some of our development spending to not only combat extreme poverty, but at the same time tackle global challenges and support our own national interest. It is our ambition for the UK to be the G7's number one investor in Africa."
"I have contacted the Prisons Minister, Rory Stewart MP, outlining concerns from local residents after the Prison Service confirmed that Hollesley Bay is to be among several open prisons which will be used to accommodate sex offenders. I recognise that about 18% of all prisoners are in jail for sexual offences and as prisoners approach their release date they need to be fully prepared for life on the outside. Open Prisons are extremely important in helping facilitate prisoners transition back into normal life but they should not be an easy place for potentially dangerous criminals. Considering the very close proximity of the primary school, I fully understand local residents concerns – so I have written to the Prisons Minister and asked him to reconsider.
Before Parliament broke up for recess, I had an important meeting with the Regional Director of Highways England to talk about closures on the Orwell Bridge, which cause so much disruption to residents and local business when traffic is diverted onto local roads. The Regional Director explained that they are undertaking some detailed research into wind speeds and their effects on traffic, to see if they can keep the bridge open at higher wind speeds. They are also looking to see if it would be possible to just close the bridge to HGVs only, as they do at the Severn Bridge. I also took the opportunity to lobby for improvements to the Copdock interchange, particularly for traffic trying to join the A14 from the A12.
Finally, Suffolk Coastal District Council is undertaking a consultation on the first draft of its Local Plan. This is a really important document as it sets out how land across the district will be used in planning terms. It stipulates the scale and location of growth, the infrastructure required and how certain areas will be protected from development. It is also the document in which planning applications are judged against. I urge you to have a detailed look at plan and have your say via Suffolk Coastal's website. The Local Government Boundary Commission is also consulting on warding arrangements for the new East Suffolk Council with the consultation open until 27th August."
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