As Parliament returns following the summer recess we begin to turn our attention to debating the Great Repeal Bill and Britain’s new future outside of the European Union but, we do so without the familiar background ‘bongs’ of Big Ben to guide our proceedings. Major conservation work being undertaken to The Elizabeth Tower means that Big Ben fell silent for the last time in August and with the exception of national events such as Remembrance Day, it will not resume regular duties until 2021.
Closer to home my attention has been focussed in recent weeks on the Black Country Core Strategy, a critical planning and regeneration consultation document that covers the whole of the Black Country and my Aldridge-Brownhills constituency. Central to its ambition is meeting the development challenges and opportunities we will face in the next two decades. This strategy seeks to determine a plan for housing, employment, transport and the environment. It is vital that we have our say and that our views are heard and listened to. In particular I want to ensure that this strategy does not simply grant developers a license to destroy our much-loved Green Belt.
Since becoming your Member of Parliament, I have always fiercely defended our Green Belt. Time and again in the recent general election campaign residents from across the constituency endorsed my campaign for a ‘Brownfield First’ approach towards development and regeneration to always be the first option.
In my response to the consultation I have therefore made it clear that our much-loved Green Belt is vital to protecting our local communities. Sensible and sustainable development is what is needed, not a route to Aldridge-Brownhills becoming simply a suburb of a ‘Greater Birmingham’.
The Black Country Core strategy must surely also be an opportunity to review and update the regeneration plans of our local centres and High Streets and that includes keeping Ravenscourt in Brownhills firmly on the radar for action by Walsall Council.
There are two further important public consultations at the moment, both by NHS Walsall Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which I would encourage you to have your say on too as they affect us locally – ‘Hospital Stroke Services’ at Walsall Manor and ‘Improving Urgent Care Services’. There is to be a public event on Wednesday 20 September at Aldridge Community Centre between 10am – 12 noon, and further details can be found at www.walsallccg.nhs.uk
This weekend I will once again be joining the many ladies who are taking part in The Starlight Walk around Aldridge in support of St Giles Hospice. Always enjoyable and always a reminder, if ever we need one, of the terrific work of our local hospice. I am looking forward to it.