Throughout the pandemic my team and I have maintained progress on many campaigns and here is a short update on some of the issues we have been tackling in Maidstone & The Weald:
School closure: There are many villages in the Low and High Weald that will be affected by the shock announcement last September that the High Weald Academy (HWA) is to close. Despite being unable to mount a legal challenge, I shall continue to press for a new non-selective school, working alongside our HWA working group, Cranbrook School and our parish and borough councillors.
Flooding: The forthcoming Leigh Barrier expansion and the Hildenborough embankment are two, interdependent, fully funded schemes that could make quite a difference to our downstream communities in Yalding, Laddingford, Collier Street, Hunton, Mockbeggar and Benover. I have been liaising with stakeholders and the Environment Agency to ensure our residents gain optimal flood protection measures once the schemes are operational.
Sinkholes: In West Maidstone, I believe more could be done by South East Water (SEW) to prevent further ground collapses caused by leaking and broken water mains pipes. I am pleased that, following recent meetings, SEW will be commissioning a geological study from Canterbury University into the areas that are prone to these incidents. SEW are also launching ‘Storm Overflow Taskforce’, a project which will examine developing problems that can be detected before they become real. I will be monitoring the outcomes carefully.
Housing: Across the constituency there remains widespread concern about excessive new housing development. Yes, we need more houses, but only in the right places, with the right infrastructure, and in the right numbers. Working alongside Maidstone Borough Council we have managed to persuade the Secretary of State to reduce the forecast housing need for Maidstone, but we still face a very challenging target and I will certainly be keeping this issue under close scrutiny too.
Covid-19: The last two years have been extremely difficult for everyone. My thoughts remain with all those who suffered debilitation or who have lost loved ones throughout the pandemic. The development of the vaccine, which this country helped to lead, plus the booster programme, has allowed us to fight the omicron variant effectively. Let us hope we shall now be able to move forward with confidence in 2022.