Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 7th August 2019
Thank you and welcome to my latest Newsletter. Please do forward this on to someone who you think may be interested, and urge them to sign up.
North Devon Show
This edition of the newsletter been held over until today to include news from the North Devon Show. I’ve just returned from the showground at Umberleigh. It’s been a really successful day. The weather has been mixed, it’s true, but it was never too wet underfoot and actually this was better than some of the very hot conditions we’ve had in the past.
The photo montage shows just some of the many, many people I’ve met today and the large number of exhibitors who were kind enough to welcome me to their stands.
I was honoured this year to be asked to judge the main outdoors section of the trade stands. It was a daunting task, with so many impressive entries.
In the end I awarded first prize to a small Devon business: BGS Fencing & Landscapes and their affiliate company Easigrass, which has just expanded into South Molton. They produce artificial grass for homes, public spaces and sports pitches. Their stand was without doubt one of the most eye-catching, thanks largely to ‘Arti’, the artificial grass bear – see him in the montage, top right. I was delighted to be able to recognise one of the local small businesses which form the vital backbone of the North Devon economy. Congratulations!
In Second place was Evans Transport, a familiar name on North Devon’s roads. Third was Andrew Symons, the agricultural engineers with branches in South Molton, Holsworthy and Crediton – this is, after all, an agricultural show. And highly commended was The Voice, just for the sheer enthusiasm gushing out of their stand.
Overall the high number and quality of trade stands goes to show what a vibrant and successful business community we have here in North Devon. Well done to all.
My other main appointment at the Show today was to address farmers at the packed NFU marquee. I never miss the opportunity to do so.
As you might guess, Brexit was on everyone’s mind. I said what I have always said: we must deliver Brexit, with a deal, and end the current uncertainty which is so worrying for our farmers. That’s why I have voted for the withdrawal agreement on every possible occasion in the House of Commons, because that’s the best way to avoid a no-deal Brexit. I was heartened by the many supportive comments for the government’s position, but received the message loud and clear that we’ve still got a huge challenge to achieve the right outcome for our farming industry.
The other main issue on the agenda was the new Agriculture Bill. I share the concerns of many that the Bill, in its present form, does not sufficiently reflect the primary role of the farming industry: food production. Or more precisely, secure, safe and sustainable food production. I have pledged to raise this with the newly re-appointed Farming Minister, George Eustice, and my parliamentary neighbour, Neil Parish, who chairs the DEFRA select committee.
These are challenging, uncertain and worrying times for farmers. I get that. But I will keep lobbying strongly in Westminster and Whitehall on behalf of North Devon’s farming community.
There was so much more at the North Devon Show today but it’s impossible to cover everything here. I do, though, want to take this opportunity to thank the organisers, stewards, marshals, volunteers, exhibitors and everyone else who contributes to making this Show such a success. It really is a highlight of the North Devon calendar.
Just one other important matter I want to cover in this newsletter, and I’ll do so by providing a sneak preview of my article which will be appearing in the North Devon Journal tomorrow….
I am deeply concerned by some of the proposals currently being considered by Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service. A public consultation is underway after the organisation put forward a series of options for the future. In North Devon, these include the proposed closure of Woolacombe fire station, and changes to the level of cover provided at Lynton, Ilfracombe and Barnstaple.
The Service says it needs to undertake a radical overhaul across its entire force area for several reasons. These include a significant reduction in the number of call-outs over the years, and a shift towards prevention rather than reaction. There are thankfully fewer serious fires now than even a decade ago, due to better education and widespread use of smoke alarms, for instance. The organisation says it has to use its resources in a way that reflects today’s demands.
I understand that, and indeed agree that the overall operation in Devon and Somerset does need to be reviewed in a wide-ranging and holistic way. But, having had detailed discussions with the Chief Fire Officer and heard the community’s concerns at public meetings, I have now heard both sides of the arguments.
As a result, I am firmly opposed to the closure of Woolacombe Fire Station.
While I have reservations about many of the other changes being proposed, the closure of a station is final. Factors such as crewing patterns or the number and location of appliances can be adjusted over time. But if we lose Woolacombe station, it won’t be coming back.
I cannot accept the closure of Woolacombe and am sceptical about the other changes in Ilfracombe, Lynton and Barnstaple. I will be writing to the Chief Fire Officer and every member of the Devon and Somerset Fire Authority directly, and I invite you to do the same.
Communities across North Devon need to have their opinions heard. This is a genuine consultation and the Fire Authority want to hear your views. Please fill in the questionnaire online at www.dsfire.gov.uk.
Finally, thank you to the fire officers, staff and volunteers who do such great work on our behalf across North Devon. Long may it continue.
Finally, my annual reminder that although Parliament is on its summer recess, work very much goes on. This is a huge opportunity to do more in North Devon on days when I would otherwise have to be in Westminster.
There’s been a packed diary. Since Saturday, I’ve seen a dozen people in various residents’ surgeries; opened the Umberleigh garden show; toured Combe Martin to assess the flood risk; visited a host of community organisations in Ilfracombe; held meetings on topics ranging from broadband to homeopathy; been on a walkabout in Instow to discuss dogs, sand and parking; met North Devon's Member of the Youth Parliament; answered a vast range of correspondence at the Barnstaple office; and then today, been to the North Devon Show.
Of course, it’s a huge privilege to sit on the green benches in Westminster, but somehow this feels far more productive!
If you are having a summer break, enjoy, and I hope our changeable August weather is kind.
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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