Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 7th April 2018
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A slightly different newsletter this week. Long-term readers will know that occasionally it takes the form of a diary, giving a snapshot of a couple of days of constituency activities. We're currently in the Easter parliamentary recess, but this doesn't mean it's a fortnight's holiday. As I've said before, the recess is actually an opportunity to do more visits and meetings in North Devon, because I'm not having to spend four days a week in Westminster. So here's a run-through of my activities over the last couple of days. I hope it gives an interesting insight into your MP's constituency work.
The day began with a constituency surgery in Ilfracombe. Surgeries are a way to meet residents face-to-face to discuss either a complex personal issue or a pressing policy concern.
At this session I met three constituents, and subjects ranged from housing policy to the NHS.
I don't do 'walk-in' surgeries, because that could mean a long wait for people, as well as not always being terribly constructive. Instead surgeries are by appointment, so please contact the office. However, remember that in the vast majority of cases there's no need for a face-to-face meeting for me to act on your behalf; we can make a start on resolving most issues straight away without the need to wait for an appointment.
On the way to the surgery I met Ilfracombe's Mayor, Cllr Paul Crabb, and handed over a bottle of House of Commons whisky. Not for his personal use, you understand, but as an item for his mayoral charity auction. I hope it raises a lot of money for local good causes.
Thomas is Ilfracombe's Michelin-starred chef. His restaurant, The Olive Room, has put the town firmly on the foodies' culinary map. Thomas had invited me to visit his new venture, Seafood & Grill on the High Street.
The building has been a number of restaurants, pubs and bars over the years, and has now been transformed into a pretty chic dining and drinking venue. Thomas and I discussed his business venture and plans for the future, as well as the food and tourism economy of Ilfracombe in general.
His reputation is bringing a lot more business to the town and providing a positive boost to the area.
Thomas was kind enough to give me a sample of some of the menu, and it was delicious. I can feel another Michelin star coming on.
Then it was on to Braunton for another surgery. One of the appointments concerned a personal issue so of course I can't go into details. But I also met Marie Ash, who runs the excellent North Devon Suicide Prevention Alliance.
I've mentioned Marie and her work before. Her organisation is invaluable helping to prevent the tragic loss of life through suicide. It's an issue in which I take a particular interest, especially where young people are concerned.
Sadly, suicide is the biggest cause of death among people under the age of 30. More youngsters take their own lives than die through drugs, crime, car accidents or illness. It's a real tragedy.
I'm working with a number of different organisations to try and highlight the issue and set up a proper network to provide help and support. Marie and her team are doing great work in this area, and we agreed a number of next steps to take in the coming months.
Business Visit 1
From Braunton it was on to Barnstaple, and a visit to Principal Doorsets Ltd. This is a relatively new manufacturing company which has recently relocated to Pottington. They employ about 45 people, and make bespoke doors for a whole range of buildings, from hospitals to high-rise flats.
We discussed a range of issues, including the North Devon economy, their plans for the future, and – inevitably – Brexit.
I make a point of visiting as many businesses as I can, and the overall message at the moment seems to be that Brexit is creating some uncertainty, but the government is doing the right thing by getting on with it. Indeed, this was the very message I gave Theresa May during Prime Minister's Question Time last week.
It was good to visit this business and have a tour of their premises. It's another example of a great manufacturing company in North Devon that we need to shout about more.
Business Visit 2
From Pottington to Roundswell, and a home visit. I say 'home', but this was actually another business. The subject of the meeting was what's called GDPR – a new regime of data protection which is coming into force next month.
It'll affect nearly everyone who holds data of any kind, but frankly there's not enough information available for businesses telling them what they have to do. I committed to pass this message on to government. Oh, I can't say which business I visited because, of course, of data protection!
Another day and another visit to Ilfracombe. Well, nearby.
Hele Valley is a park site providing camping, holiday lodges and permanent homes close to the lovely bay. I'd been invited to visit as part of Tourism Week a short while ago, but we couldn't fit it in the dairy at the time. So this was a perfect example of recess being an opportunity to do more.
I met the team at Hele Valley and we discussed a whole range of issues, including the tourist economy, the Link Road and their own plans for the future.
This is a great example of a successful business forming part of North Devon's vital tourism economy, and it was a pleasure to visit. The sun even shone on this perfect holiday destination.
I then headed back through Ilfracombe towards Braunton, for a visit to the Dogs Trust. I've been there a couple of times before, and it's always a pleasure to return.
There were many friendly faces to meet, chief amongst them was my near-namesake, Pete. As you can see from the photo, Pete and I really hit it off. If he wasn't going to a new home next week, I might have been tempted to adopt him myself.
The Dogs Trust do fantastic work, placing animals with new homes and ensuring the two are a perfect match. I'm delighted to say they've invited me to open their new training centre later in the year. This is a major investment in the local area, and I can't wait to return to do the honours.
Honey's Bravery Bags
Next, into Barnstaple and the Roundswell Business Park. Tucked away there is the office of this fantastic little charity. They provide support and gifts for young people facing challenging health conditions, as well as giving siblings and families some important respite too.
The organisation is the brainchild of Grace Brown, mum to Honey, who is a real inspiration. I heard about their work and the constant need to raise funds and secure donations. We also discussed the wider issue of the care offered to young people in Devon, and I've pledged to meet the service providers to bring some of these issues to their attention.
It's a privilege to meet people like Grace who are doing such brilliant work helping others. If you'd like more details of Honey's Bravery Bags, please search online for their website and social media.
In case anyone thought the life of an MP is in any way glamorous, the day ended with me sitting in a car park on an industrial estate, having a telephone conference call as the rain fell gently outside.
It was one of my regular catch-ups with the Leader of North Devon District Council, Cllr Des Brailey. We discussed a whole range of local issues.
There's a clear distinction between the responsibilities of a local authority and an MP. There are many matters in which I have no powers whatsoever: planning is an obvious example. However I regularly discuss a range of matters with Des and other local councillors, and this was an opportunity to do so, albeit on the phone.
Business concluded, I then drove towards home, stopping in South Molton for fish and chips!
So, a very busy couple of days, and actually fairly typical of the activities I undertake in the constituency. It's good to have extra days to do so during recess, and to have more time to meet the many people who make North Devon such a great place to live, work and visit.
Peter Heaton-Jones MP
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Mail: 1st Floor Office Suite, Church House, Church Lane
Barnstaple, North Devon, EX31 1DE
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