North Devon Journal column15th March 2018

When the Beast from the East clashed with Storm Emma, the impact on some of North Devon's isolated communities was particularly serious.

I kept in close touch with the situation in Lynton, which was cut off by huge snowdrifts blocking the roads in all directions. Blackmoor Gate, an important crossroads on routes to and from Barnstaple, Ilfracombe, South Molton and the Exmoor coast, was impassable for a time. There were many other reports of extremely difficult conditions across the area.

The community pulled together brilliantly. Can I take this opportunity to thank all the emergency services, military personnel, council staff and contractors, health and education professionals and all other workers who went above and beyond the call of duty.

And to the volunteers: farmers, 4WD owners, charities and neighbours who reminded us all how lucky we are to live in such a community-minded area.

One of the many events that fell victim to the weather was the Combe Business exhibition in Ilfracombe. This annual event brings together the small and medium sized enterprises which form the backbone of the area's economy, linking them with customers, clients and each other.

I've always attended, and occasionally brought a government minister with me too.

I'm delighted that the organisers have just confirmed it's been rescheduled for Friday April 20 and I look forward to taking part again in this important event, albeit slightly later than planned.

On the same subject, last Friday I was delighted to be invited to speak at the Barnstaple & District Chamber of Commerce business lunch.

We discussed a range of issues; yes, Brexit was never far away, but there was much else besides. Overall I was stuck by the continued determination to innovate and 'push the boundaries' which have always been hallmarks of the North Devon business community. As I said, and have said for a long time, we just need to shout about it more.

North Devon is a great place to invest, to do business, and to work. Let's get the message out there. And let's hope Emma and The Beast don't ever get together again.