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All-Party Devon and Somerset Support for High Speed Broadband

Tuesday 24 May 2011, 14:04
By David Heath MP

David Heath MPIt takes something a little unusual to get Members of Parliament of all three main parties, their counterparts in local government, Somerset and Devon County Councils and the newly established Local Enterprise Partnership to agree on anything, let alone to jointly lobby the government. However, ensuring that the west country benefits at the earliest possible opportunity from high-speed broadband is something which is so self-evidently important to our future, both economic and social, that colleagues needed very little encouragement to come together and present a rare united front.

I had originally been asked to arrange a meeting with Culture Minister Ed Vaizey for the five Somerset MPs, but by the time the meeting happened, on Monday this week, we had our Devon colleagues eager to play a part as well, and I'm grateful to all of them, but particularly David Hall, the portfolio holder for Somerset, his equivalent at Devon, and Jeremy Filmer-Bennett, the chair of the LEP, for presenting the case so well. I know from subsequent conversations with civil servants that their clear enthusiasm, but more importantly the planning and commitment demonstrated, went down well.

Why is it so important? It isn't simply to allow people better and faster connections to their Facebook sites or YouTube. It's an economic necessity. We don't have the best of transport links with the rest of the country, even if I achieve my long-term aim of finally getting the A303 improved and the Great Western line electrified. We will certainly not represent a good deal for businesses wanting to grow or to relocate if we can't provide adequate IT infrastructure, and in a part of the country where we increasingly depend on businesses heavily reliant on good IT links that is a massive discouragement to growth which frankly we cannot afford. It is made worse by the fact that Cornwall to the south west and the Bristol and Bath area to the north are already ahead of us, so to leave a massive area in the south west peninsula still depending on appalling internet links - I often say that a man with a forked stick would in many cases be quicker in taking a message than my so-called broadband in my home village of Witham Friary - would be disastrous, and in the not too distant future as well.

Were we persuasive? Well, I hope so, but we shall know in a few weeks time when the decisions are made on the "Tranche 2" winners and losers. Certainly I hope that even if we are not successful this time we will be able to make rapid progress, because I honestly think a lot depends on it.

Meanwhile, I took an hour out of Westminster on Tuesday last week to look around the biggest construction site in Britain - the 2012 Olympics site. Probably not that many locals will be that familiar with the bit of East London where the Olympic Park is being built, but as someone who has played the odd game of rugby on Hackney Marshes, not to mention rowing a few times on the River Lea, let me tell you the transformation is extraordinary. What was derelict industrial wasteland, washed by a river resembling a toxic sump, is almost unrecognisable.

It's not all finished yet - after all, there's still a year to go - but there's no longer any real doubts about it being ready for business when the time comes. I went inside the Olympic stadium, which is virtually finished, saw the beautiful cycling velodrome, and the aquatic sports centre. The river looks wonderful, landscaped and cleaned up. And the press and media building is immense; apparently it would comfortably hold three jumbo jets.

There's every sign that the London games will be a success. While I was there, I was asked if there were any local people I would like to nominate to take part in the relay to carry the Olympic torch. So how about it? If you know anyone, particularly a young sportsman or woman, who deserves to be put forward, let me know.

Lastly, congratulations to all those elected to their District Councils last week, and commiserations to those who didn't make it this time. Of course, I'm delighted that South Somerset will remain under Liberal Democrat control for another four years - a remarkable achievement given what was happening around the country!

David Heath




Comments

Dan Dare
Posts: 1
Comment
Re: All-Party Devon and Somerset Support for High Speed Broadband
Reply #1 on : Thu November 10, 2011, 16:03:41
Is this all you have to say in the last 6 months?
I would like to hear more from you on local topics of housing, policeing jobs....
mandycochrane
Posts: 1
Comment
Regarding News from David Heath
Reply #2 on : Thu November 10, 2011, 16:25:19
Hi Dan,

In keeping with Wincanton Window’s aim to be a truly local publication, we took the decision a little while ago to only publish press releases from David Heath’s office (or from any other politician or councillor for that matter) if they had a truly local connection. Otherwise, we were in the position of becoming over-run with articles about events which, whilst written by our local representatives, had no direct relevance for our area and were more appropriately covered by national or regional media.

Having said that, if Mr Heath were to issue a press release that is truly relevant to Wincanton and the surrounding villages, we’ll be delighted to publish it.

If you’d like to keep up with news from David Heath’s office, his web site is: http://www.davidheath.co.uk/.

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