It has been a privilege to serve as your Member of Parliament for the last nine years; I am standing again as your Conservative candidate because I am proud of the progress we have made on our local priorities since 2010, and I know there is more work to do together.
We have seen huge improvements in local healthcare, with the new Brackley Medical Centre set to open early next year after I intervened with our Clinical Commissioning Group and Healthcare Trusts to deliver the expansion of outpatient services and intermediate care step-down beds that our part of the county has desperately needed for so long. I am working with our fantastic Towcester GPs to see a similar expansion of primary healthcare services for the town and surrounding villages, with a new Vision for Towcester Healthcare well underway. I am also proud to be championing larger patient lists and new buildings for Roade and Byfield surgeries.
Local infrastructure is a top priority for me, and I have been working tirelessly to bring forward the early delivery of the Towcester Relief Road. Prior to my involvement, the road was not going to be open until 2025 at the absolute earliest, but more likely to have been in the early 2030s. I brought the Transport Minister to Towcester to hear from residents, supported the Towcester Bypass Action Group in their petition demanding the road be built as soon as possible, and am holding the developers and local highways authority to account through regular meetings. We secured nearly £4m for the early delivery, the developer has committed to providing the rest of the money to build the road early, and we are aiming for it to open by the end of 2021 – some 8 or 9 years ahead of schedule – with works starting next year.
The Farthinghoe Bypass for the A422 is another key infrastructure project I am working on; I have secured agreement from the Department for Transport that we can bid for funding through the Local Pinch Point Fund; Northamptonshire County Council will be submitting an Expression of Interest in January next year, and South Northants Council has provided £250k for initial route assessments and consultation with the community on the exact route. If re-elected, I will continue to press for this urgent road project to be delivered for the community as quickly as possible.
As many people will know, I continue to raise concerns about HS2 and its value-for-money for the taxpayer. In June this year, I held a debate in Parliament on this issue, and called for an urgent review of the project; I was delighted when it was announced that a thorough independent examination would take place before a decision is made on whether or not to proceed with HS2. Residents along the line-of-route continue to bring individual concerns to my attention and I have been acting on their behalf in all matters; the South Northants HS2 Liaison Group that I founded continues to meet to hold HS2 Ltd to account for its actions in our area.
I know residents near Northampton were disappointed that Northampton Gateway strategic rail freight interchange has been granted a development consent order; we fought long and hard against this proposal for several years, and I pay tribute to all those in the local community for their tireless efforts to oppose it. I responded on their behalf to every consultation, providing large volumes of written and oral evidence against this project, however the decision to proceed was made on the advice on the Planning Inspectorate. If re-elected, I will work with the community to ensure that all development conditions are adhered to, and that the developer works sympathetically with the surrounding villages to mitigate any impact. I was however delighted that, following similar lobbying by myself and the local community, the neighbouring Rail Central SRFI proposal was thrown out by the Planning Inspectorate, and the developer has withdrawn its application.
We all know that access to superfast broadband is as essential in today’s society as access to any other utility like water, gas and electricity. Whether working from home, watching the latest series in high-definition (not sure when I’ll get chance these next few weeks to catch the newest episodes of The Crown!), or talking with friends and family around the world, secure and stable superfast broadband speeds are vital. Nearly 96 per cent of premises in South Northants now have access to superfast speeds, and over a quarter have access to ultrafast. I’ve been working with communities across South Northants to speed-up the rollout of superfast broadband, including in Wootton and Grange Park, and I continue to take up specific “not-spot” areas on behalf of groups and individuals. By the end of March 2021, 99 per cent of the county will have access to superfast, and 65 per cent will have access to ultrafast speeds.
Like many, I have enjoyed visiting Salcey Forest and the Tree Top Way over the years. Since its temporary closure recently due to structural concerns, I have been working with the Forestry Commission, local residents, and others to ensure that it will reopen as soon as possible. Progress is being made, and I have invited the Environment Secretary to visit Salcey Forest at her earliest convenience to see for herself just how impressive the Tree Top Way is, and why it must be funded so it can reopen for the local community and for visitors to our beautiful South Northants.
I know how many fantastic small businesses we have in South Northants, and just how much they contribute to our local economy, employing thousands of people across the county. As the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, we’re supporting smaller businesses right across the UK with £13bn worth of business rates relief, helping them to grow and invest, and the Start Up Loans programme – delivered through the British Business Bank – has lent £500m to support 64,000 entrepreneurs. I regularly visit small businesses across Northants, speaking to employers about the opportunities for them to export more and trade abroad as we leave the EU, and was pleased to organise and host a Taste of Northamptonshire Day in Parliament recently to showcase some of the best food and drink our wonderful county has to offer.
I am proud to champion community groups and initiatives in Brackley, Towcester, Northampton and the 92 parishes and villages right across South Northants. I have helped to set up new coffee mornings, including one recently in Towcester to raise awareness (and funding) for people living with dementia and those who care for them. I was really pleased that the Towcester Evening Women’s Institute won an award at The Climate Coalition’s Green Heart Hero Awards in Parliament earlier this year for their work to highlight the impact of climate change at home and abroad; I am a huge supporter of the WI and am grateful for all their work in the community. I also hold an annual Christmas Card competition to let local primary school children create the winning design for my cards that I use for residents in South Northants and for colleagues in Westminster; the entries are always excellent, and it is very difficult to choose from between all those that are sent in.
I support local businesses in providing apprenticeship and work experience opportunities for young people, and regularly visit local schools to speak directly with students about their views and concerns. I hold week-long work experience placements in my South Northants and parliamentary offices for 16-18 year-olds to give them a flavour of the work I do as their local representative, and each year take a local school leaver on as an apprentice in my Towcester office; I am now on my ninth, and they have all gone onto study at university and/or into full-time employment. I hope, if re-elected, to soon be looking for my tenth for next year!
It really is a privilege to represent South Northants locally and in Westminster, and I have worked tirelessly for you for the last nine years. I hope you will re-elect me as your Member of Parliament on the 12th December so I can continue to work hard for you on all the issues that matter to our area.
If you have any questions or comments about our local priorities, or would like to raise any issue with me, please do get in touch with me via email – I would love to hear from you!
Click here to visit Andrea Leadsom’s website.