Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 25th August 2018
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Read All About It!
One of this weekend's national newspapers has published a major feature about North Devon, focusing particularly on Exmoor. It's the main story in the magazine supplement of today's Financial Times, and I was delighted to be interviewed for the article.
It's a great coup for our area, not just because it's nice to get high-profile coverage, but because of the particular newspaper involved. The FT is read by policy-makers, opinion-formers, and – most crucially – the business community. Bluntly, people and organisations who make investment decisions will be reading it, and that can only be advantageous.
The long feature focuses on Exmoor's Ambition – the blueprint for farming after Brexit which has been put together by a range of local organisations. You may remember a few weeks ago we brought the Environment Secretary Michael Gove to North Devon to persuade him of the plan's merits.
The FT's Business Editor was sufficiently interested to commission this major feature, which has been several weeks in the planning. I was interviewed more than a month ago, and many local farmers, policy-makers and businesses have been included too. It's especially good to see South Molton's Cheese Larder feature so prominently!
The article on the FT's website is behind a paywall, but I'm providing the link here because occasionally the system allows one article to be read free, without a subscription. Other than that, it's a matter of buying this weekend's paper.
This area has been getting a lot of high-profile publicity recently – a few weeks ago we featured prominently on the BBC's Countryfile. I want to acknowledge the role of the South Molton Business Association in helping to facilitate these media opportunities. I'll be working with them again in future to make sure our area remains well and truly on the map and in the minds of the key decision-makers and investors.
Letter to the Farming Minister
In the last few weeks I've had three separate meetings around North Devon with representatives of the farming community. The meetings – in South Molton, Braunton and during the North Devon Show at Umberleigh – all focused on the considerable challenges being faced by farmers.
Many are struggling financially due to a 'perfect storm' of extreme weather, fluctuating livestock prices and delayed payments.
This last factor is key, and I've heard many complaints about the poor administration of the funding schemes on which many farmers rely for their livelihoods.
I've collected together all the main issues raised with me, and put them in a lengthy letter to the farming minister, George Eustice. I'm taking the unusual step of publishing the letter in full on my website. Here is the link:
Meanwhile I thought I would share with you my concluding paragraph, which summarises why this is such an important issue for all of us:
I am looking to you, as Farming Minister, to address these issues, please. Farmers have left me in no doubt that unless urgent action is taken, the effect on their businesses may be irreversible. The consequences for the livelihoods of many rural communities, for our food supply, and for our landscape and environment, could be devastating.
Driving Miss Daisy
You may have seen a feature in the local paper recently about a very welcome new service that's just been launched in North Devon. Driving Miss Daisy is a national initiative that's now operating in our area. In essence, it's a taxi service that does much more than just provide a car and a driver.
To quote from their website:
We provide a caring, safe and reliable community service. Our point of difference from other transportation providers is the companionship you get with each and every journey. For example, if required, we will attend doctor’s appointments with you and transmit relevant information back to family members, assist with shopping, or ensure children safely attend sports practices or music lessons. Special requirements are catered for including assistance with a walker or wheelchair.
As this week's photo shows, I've met Mark Jones and Sharon Hunt, the business partners who've launched the service in Barnstaple. They have big ambitions for the project, and I'm delighted they received their licence and have now begun operating.
There are many excellent taxi and minicab businesses in North Devon, and I know that Driving Miss Daisy will be a welcome addition. The service they provide is already making a difference for many people, and I wish them well for the future.
This weekend is of course a bank holiday - the last before Christmas in fact. It traditionally marks the end of the peak summer season for the North Devon tourist industry, and I know many people have worked extremely hard to make the influx of visitors very welcome.
But the message to send out now is that North Devon is a great place to visit at any time of year. To that end, when Parliament resumes, I'm hoping to organise a debate to highlight the importance of the tourism sector to our local economy. I'll be pressing the government on how we can better support and promote the industry, and of course shamelessly highlighting North Devon as a brilliant visitor destination.
The parliamentary timetable is unpredictable, but I hope to organise the debate before too long in the forthcoming Commons session.
Peter Heaton-Jones MP
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