This blog contains a brief overview of some of the key local constituency issues I am currently working on. It is intended that future blogs will be more thematic and provide more detail about specific issues.
I have recently appointed Gareth Owen as my Constituency Communications Manager. Gareth will be helping me to address local policy issues which affect us all and act as my primary point of contact on constituency policy matters with local and county councillors. Based in in the Reigate constituency office, Gareth will join Teresa Craig, my Senior Casework Manager, who ably deals with the numerous and regular individual enquiries that I receive from constituents.
Legal & General
The announcement of the forthcoming closure of Legal and General’s site in Kingswood has caused local concern and I am working with Legal and General and Reigate and Banstead Borough Council (RBBC) to try to mitigate any negative effects this may result in for employees and local residents, and also to ensure that this campus site does not become victim of inappropriate planning proposals in the future.
The quality of local railway services remains high on my agenda. I am more than aware of the high cost and poor service commuters into London in particular are currently experiencing. In response to this, I called a parliamentary debate on 12th January to challenge Claire Perry MP, the Minister responsible for railways, to account for the Department for Transport’s oversight of the Govia Thameslink management contract and to respond to local rail users’ demands for fairer fares. As President of the local rail user group, I am committed to continuing our fight to gain an improved service and a fairer fares structure, especially from Reigate, Mersham and Redhill. Furthermore I am closely monitoring the recently announced proposal to close the ticket office at Reigate and Merstham Stations and will be doing all I can to ensure that any final decision does not reduce the quality of ticketing services for passengers using the station.
Gatwick departures flights paths
On the subject of transport, I am also monitoring changes in take-off flight path arrangements at Gatwick airport which have been causing noise concerns to residents, especially in the south Reigate and Redhill areas. I will be monitoring any new future flight path plans over the constituency, including those from Biggin Hill, to avoid and minimise noise pollution for those living in the vicinity. Gatwick Airport will be reviewing all departure routes during this year. I remain chair of the Gatwick Coordinating Group which is leading the campaign against a second runway at Gatwick Airport. The decision on this has been unreasonably delayed since the Airports Commission unequivocally recommended Heathrow in July 2015, so the campaign continues.
I remain a strong advocate of retaining the constituency’s designated ‘green belt’ areas and protecting them from development. In this context I have been liaising with RBBC about their new Local Core Planning Strategy and have recently responded to the government’s National Planning Policy Framework consultation to ensure maximum protection of our Green Belt from planners and unwanted development. I am also monitoring current parliamentary discussions on designation of airfields as ‘brown-belt’ land which may in future have implications for development planning around Redhill Aerodrome, and remain mindful of the need to build more affordable homes and social housing to support low income and homeless people in the constituency.
In response to constituents concerns, I am also in close contact with Surrey County Council about their plans for managing the high demand for school places in the constituency and have expressed some concerns about decisions to extend existing primary schools rather than develop a robust plan for future new school builds. We need more clarity on the number of primary and secondary school places projects and how to safely accommodate the education of our children and young people.
Local government and local business
Other issues I am closely watching include proposed devolution plans to local authorities by Surrey County Council, longer terms plans for a possible hospital in Sutton, potentially serving residents in the north of the constituency, the new settlement reducing the local Central Government Grant to Surrey and RBBC and future plans for Reigate and Banstead’s business rates settlement.
Additionally, I am continuing my work to support local business and employment. Recently, l hosted the latest of my Reigate Business Club meetings at the House of Commons, with Kenneth Clarke MP as guest speaker, and I am working closely with RBBC to support their local Economic Prosperity Programme which includes a number of initiatives to support small and large businesses in the constituency and to stimulate employability initiatives in partnership with local schools, universities and colleges.
For any more information, questions or concerns about local policy issues, please do not hesitate to contact me at my constituency office.
Crispin Blunt MP