WEBLOG JEF GEYS

NEWSLETTER FROM RORY STEWART

Posted in Woodward Avenue by gvd on April 4, 2013

Dear Jef,

Apologies for not replying to your previous email. You are more than welcome to post my Newsletter on your blog. I hope you enjoyed reading it.

Best wishes,

Rory

—————————————————————————————————————————–

Dear Friend,

85 per cent of people in Britain feel politics is broken. Even more feel society is broken. Many people sense they have lost control, faith, and balance in their lives. Voters can feel powerless to change the world, and sometimes want to have nothing to do with it. But, that has never been true here, and Cumbrians should be particularly proud of 2012. Last year, in countless local projects, Cumbrians protected and shaped their environment with energy and immense success. I was lucky enough to be able to support some of these, and I would love to support more over the next two years. Here are some examples: please get in touch if you would like support in such initiatives in 2013.

First – inevitably – there is broadband. In 2012, we managed to secure more money for Cumbria than any other county and we are the first county to sign a broadband contract. It has often been a bewildering and frustrating process. But we were able, on the banks of Ullswater this December, to get a broadband contract signed (huge thanks to Elizabeth Mallinson, Jim Savage and Alan Cook of Cumbria County Council). The government money will drive the network deeper and wider in Cumbria than it has ever gone before. I hope we can open the first few cabinets in June. But, as always, communities are the key. We will only get a super-fast service to every rural home with the help of communities. Libby Bateman and the Fell End broadband project has been an amazing example of how this can be done, organising a parish to dig its own trench, negotiate way-leaves and sign up users, which will mean fibre to every home in these staggeringly remote communities of Ravenstonedale Parish. Now we have to repeat this model in fifty more communities.

Second, affordable housing. This year, David Graham and the community of Crosby Ravensworth have solved one of the biggest problems in any rural area  – with extraordinary style. Two years ago, they bought and saved their pub. Now they have taken over a brown field site in the centre of the village, designed the plot and every house, and have built in eighteen months a beautiful, traditional Cumbrian green with twelve affordable houses, each of which is attractive to look at, and costs about a tenth of any other house in the village to heat. The community did the work, raised a huge loan, and will own these houses forever. I was able to provide some support for them, and would love to support more villages to do the same before 2015. Please can people get in touch with me immediately if you are interested in joining a campaign on affordable housing, because there is government support available now.

Third, planning. For decades people have been infuriated by planning regulations, which they feel are completely inappropriate to remote rural areas. Villages want more control over the style, scale and location of housing developments. And they want to allow farming families to do barn conversions to house their children. Tom Woof and others have just created the first community-written Neighbourhood Plan in the UK. It has re-written the planning policy for Upper Eden and it is going to be put to a popular vote on March 7. Please join the campaign to get people to turn out for the vote. It would be great if other communities came forward with their own neighbourhood plans. Again we can help.

All this is slightly different from the kinds of projects we are all involved in before last year. Our 2010 and 2011 campaigns, to save the Penrith Cinema, to keep Newton Rigg Agricultural College open, or to prevent bad wind turbine proposals, were successful. But these new initiatives, from affordable housing to broadband, are more complex, and longer-term. They need much closer co-operation between communities and government. And they require deep technical understanding, organisational ability and the patience, political skills, and confidence to see things through over years. Communities have proved they have the necessary skills. They can shape Cumbria, in ways that will define our infrastructure and landscapes, for years to come.

Take fuel poverty: we have now begun in Wigton n a smart grid project which could make it the first fully connected smart energy town in Britain. It is the community which will bring the latest “smart’ meters into houses. These will communicate directly with the grid, allowing serious efficiency savings. In Threlkeld, we have worked on the latest 4G mobile technology with Everything Everywhere, achieving previously unheard of upload speeds for small rural businesses. Caldbeck is running a trial with Vodafone, and Kaber with Three. For the people who have led these projects, it has been more than simply a way of getting a job done. Many people remind me that building something in your neighbourhood – a hall, a school, an affordable housing estate, or even something as intangible as a planning policy, or a broadband network – often brings pride, in its most positive sense – gives a communal achievement, you can see and live alongside.

At the beginning of February, I was lucky enough to be able to host the first ‘Cumbria Day in parliament, showcasing the very best of Cumbria to ministers, MPs and the tourism industry. We began with a mention in Prime-Minister’s Questions, and went onto a Prime-Ministerial visit. The event was a great success and put our landscape, the beauty, its challenge, and the extraordinary response of Cumbrian communities at the heart of the day. So I think – despite all the gloom – there is a great deal to be proud of. We have the chance now to develop a true, constituency-wide movement. I would love to find at least one representative in every village in the constituency who can push ideas forward and share them with other communities. If you are interested in being one of these community champions, or are interested in more community work, or in helping foster a Cumbrian movement, please get in touch.

In the meantime, thank you for all you are doing, and have a very happy 2013.

Rory

Rory Stewart MP

Penrith and The Border

www.rorystewart.co.uk

DISCLAIMER: The information in this email is confidential. The contents may not be disclosed or used by anyone other than the addressee. If you are not the intended recipient(s), any use, disclosure, copying, distribution or any action taken or omitted to be taken is prohibited and may be unlawful. If you have received this communication in error please notify us by e-mail and then delete the e-mail and all attachments and any copies. I will treat as confidential all personal information you give to me or to my staff, however I may need to pass on this information to others so they can help you. I undertake to handle the information you give me in line with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998. I would also like to use your information to let you know about constituency news and events that may be of interest to you. If you do not wish to receive any information, please let me know by return. You can contact us at any time if you change your mind and no longer wish to receive information from me.

Advertisements
Tagged with:
%d bloggers like this: