Friday 6th January 2017
As Twelfth Night arrives and with it the need to take down your Christmas Decorations, it is time for my latest update.
I hope you had a good Christmas and as this is the first update of 2017 may I take this chance to wish you and those you care about a very Happy New Year.
Hazel and I spent some time visiting family over the last two weeks having attended three wonderful church services on Christmas Eve. Particularly memorable was the sight of large numbers of excited children at St Martin’s Barton for their Crib Service, which included a contest to see which group could sing “Little Donkey” loudest. We followed this with the special atmosphere at Paignton Parish Church created by hundreds of candles lighting this historic building, along with one of the largest indoor Christmas Trees in the bay.
My first meeting of the New Year was an interesting and, surprisingly, historic one. The photo above shows my attendance at the Torbay and District Trades Union Council meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the ongoing campaign to protect the services provided by Paignton Hospital.
As most reading this update will guess there are some significant differences of opinion between myself and the Torbay TUC, yet I am always happy to meet with groups working in the bay to discuss issues where we can work together. The historic part of it was that I am the first Conservative MP for Torbay to attend one of their meetings in the 105 years the Torbay and District Trades Union Council has existed.
Earlier today Dr Sarah Wollaston and I meet with Torbay’s Elected Mayor Gordon Oliver, his Executive Leads, Senior Officers and the Leadership of the Conservative Group on the Council to discuss a range of issues including Torwood St, Progress Being Made in Children’s Services, Plainmoor Stadium, Future Social Care Challenges and a number of other issues affecting the bay.
There is more on some of these issues below as part of this week’s update: A True Knight, Digital Radio Bill, Healthwatch Consultation Report Published, Save Our Trains Update, TUFC Plainmoor, Torbay Hospital Pressures, Injured Torquay Man Flown Back To Britain, Bravery Award For Torquay Couple, Latest News on Former Nortel Site, Councillors Set To Tie The Knot, Consultation On Press Regulation, Latest on Parkfield, Forgiveness For Vandals At St Martin’s, Kev’s Column: Happy New Year and finally…….The Hot Political News.
A True Knight,
For many years after the war “Johnny” Johnson, the last surviving British Dambuster, lived in the bay making a huge contribution to service charities, air cadets and community life.
Those who have had the privilege to met him will know that he is as mild mannered and modest as he was heroic during the night of that iconic raid. Johnny is a true knight in every sense of the word and I believe it is high time he was recognised officially as such, hence backing the campaign launched this week to get him a KBE.
I hope all update readers will join me in this by clicking here to sign the petition. Any knighthood secured by this campaign will not be about honouring one man, but a final symbol of recognition for all who took part in the raid, including those who never returned from it.
Finally I hope this campaign will also prompt the Government to consider more widely what final recognition we should give as a nation to the last representatives of a generation of men and women that fought Nazi Tyranny 70 years ago.
Digital Radio Bill,
Next Friday I will be presenting my private member's bill on Digital Radio Licensing that aims to change the licensing system to allow community and more local stations to broadcast on DAB.
The current structure of broadcasting is (roughly) county based systems that are perfect for national chains or stations looking to cover a very wide area. Yet for smaller or community stations they can face the cost of using a system that covers an area far wider than they are looking to appeal to. For example a community radio station just looking to serve Torbay would, under the current digital licensing regime, end up covering a large area (where adverts from local companies would be irrelevant) just so it can broadcast.
My bill will be the first to be debated so if you would like to listen to the debate it will be broadcast live on BBC Parliament, starting at just after 09:30am. You can read a copy of the bill by clicking here.
Healthwatch Consultation Report Published,
Earlier today Torbay Healthwatch published its report on the consultation undertaken on proposals to alter Health Services in our area that include plans to close Paignton Hospital.
I have not had chance to read the document fully myself, but you can find it online by clicking here.
Save Our Trains Update,
The campaign to stop Crosscountry Train’s proposals to axe most of their direct services to Torquay and Paignton is continuing.
As reported in my last update Dr Sarah Wollaston and I handed in the petition collected by my team and the Herald Express to the Rail Minister just before Christmas, although you can still sign it online by clicking here.
This week Torbay Council sent in a detailed objection to the cuts and at Transport Questions on Thursday I will again be urging Ministers to use their powers to block them.
Following the recent takeover by GI several Gulls Fans have been in touch with me to express their concerns about the future for Plainmoor Stadium given past talk of a new stadium and a potential council sale of the freehold.
During my meeting with the Mayor earlier today I was advised that a formal approach has not been made to the Council by the new owners in terms of the stadium’s freehold. There were indications though that they would consider any approach made on its merits.
I will look to arrange a meeting with the new owners to discuss what they see as their vision for the club. Whilst I do not have direct decision making powers in terms of the Plainmoor Stadium or any proposal for a new stadium, I want to hear what their vision is and how they will act as custodians of our football club.
I will include any further news in future updates.
Torbay Hospital Pressures,
This week has seen several reports on the pressures being placed on local health services from financial issues and heavy demand after the festive season.
You can read more on the issues relating to Torbay Hospital on the Herald Express website by clicking here.
Do remember that if thinking of visiting A&E it is worth checking out other options, such as local Minor Injuries Unit, first unless the situation is
serious or life threatening. You can find out more, plus check current waiting times, by clicking here.
Injured Torquay Man Flown Back To Britain,
Over the festive period many local residents may have followed the case of Chris Tester, a Torquay man who was shot in the head during a robbery at his parents’ bar in Antiqua.
Thankfully Chris is now back in the UK and being treated at Derriford Hospital following a fundraising campaign that raised £105,000 to pay the costs of bringing him back home. You can read the latest on his case on the Herald Express website by clicking here.
I was in contact with the family over Christmas and it is a relief to see he is back, yet it is a reminder of why getting travel insurance before going abroad is so important. You can read the latest Foreign Office Advice on this by clicking here.
Bravery Award For Torquay Couple,
A Torquay couple who rescued a woman from the River Avon while celebrating the New Year in Bath are to be commended with a bravery award.
Mark Burdis and Lisa Haynes are to receive the Royal Humane Society Award after coming to the woman's aid at around 1am on New Year's Day.
You can read more on the Herald Express website by clicking here.
Latest News on Former Nortel Site,
For many years the former Nortel site on Long Road Paignton has been an eyesore and in need of redevelopment.
This week there was news that revised plans for a major housing and retail park development have been submitted to the Council for approval. These plans include suggestions that retail chains The Range and Pets at Home will move onto the site.
The site, which is one of Torbay’s largest brownfield sites, needs significant infrastructure and improvement works before building can start, hence the long delays in getting it reused. You can read more on the Herald Express website by clicking here. and see the full plans on the Council website by clicking here.
Whilst in the ideal world it would have been great to see a further industrial or high tech usage, perhaps as part of an expanded South Devon College, this site has been a prominent eyesore for such a long time it is welcome some plans for improvement are now moving forward.
Councillors Set To Tie The Knot,
Despite what you might read in the press love is in the air at the Town Hall as two Paignton Councillors have announced their engagement.
Cllr Chris Lewis (Preston) proposed to his partner Cllr Barbara Cunningham (Roundham with Hyde) over the festive period and she was quick to say yes.
I know all update readers will want to join Hazel and I in send our congratulations to them both.
Consultation On Press Regulation,
A number of residents have been in touch with me about an ongoing Government Consultation on press regulation.
The focus of the consultation is Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 that was enacted by Parliament under the Coalition, but has never been brought into force. The consultation will run until 10 January 2017 and further details are available by clicking here.
This is a complex issue that is hard to do justice to here, but one point that has been lost in much of the debate around the print press is that the era when they were the sole or even dominant source of news is long gone. Many now face a real struggle for survival, with even some famous national titles losing money. Some newspapers based in other parts of Devon have a lower circulation than many of my leaflets or even these regular updates (Neither of which would be covered by any system of press regulation).
Journalists who behave poorly should be held to account and redress available to victims, but fake news is now virtually always being circulated online, not in a newspaper. It is therefore vital that attempts to deal with the poor behaviour of a small number of journalists on national papers in the past does not see our local print media silenced permanently.
Latest on Parkfield,
Long standing readers of these updates will have been following the ongoing debate about the Parkfield Centre and proposals to relocate Torbay School to it.
Late last year Councillors on the Development Management Committee voted to refuse permission for the relevant planning application which had been expected to go before all councillors this month for a decision.
The latest indication is that a revised planning application will be drawn up and considered by the Committee again. When there is any further news I will include it in a future update.
For clarity I am advised there will be no changes proposed to the Skatepark or BMX Track.
Vandalism At St Martin’s Barton,
Regular readers of these updates will recall the news a few months ago that St Martins Barton had been the victim of three nights of vandal attacks.
Four of those involved in the attacks have been identified and in this month’s St Martin’s Parish Magazine there is a report on two meetings held in December as part of a restorative justice process. The process involved the four boys concerned visiting the church with their parents to hear first-hand the upset their actions caused, to explain why they had behaved in that way and to see for themselves the damage done to the church.
The comments on the process in the magazine from Trevor Snowden and Fr Gorran are interesting to read and copies are available from the church priced 40p.
The appeal launched in November to fund the necessary repair works and to protect the windows from future attack now stands at £20,335.00, with a target to reach of £25,000. If you could help them get to their total you can get in touch via the contact details given on their website. Just click here to be taken to it.
Kev’s Column: Happy New Year
Every fortnight I write a “Kev’s Column” for the Herald Express and you can read the latest edition by following the link below:
and finally…….The “Hot” Political News.
Ending on a lighter note there was some “hot” political news this week as an SNP MP was voted the most attractive MP thanks to a website dedicated to this subject.
Apparently having a bit too much time on his hands Made in Chelsea star Francis Boulle has created a website where visitors can choose which MP (From two random choices) they find most attractive. A visitor can choose to pick from two Male, Female or Mixed choices, with the “winner” overall being the one picked the most times in individual match ups.
You can read more on the Herald Express website by clicking here, but safe to say this poll of the electorate’s view on politicians is the one least likely to predict anything about future elections!!!!
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.