Focus Article January 2018

First of all, I would like to wish you all a happy New Year. I sincerely hope you and your family have had a good Christmas and are looking forward to 2018.

I don’t have to tell anyone how eventful 2017 was for many reasons. Westminster continues to be extremely busy and I am looking forward to meeting the challenges that the New Year will inevitably bring. Just before Christmas I visited schools which as I have said many times is particularly enjoyable. The questions students ask me vary, from a reception class pupil asking if I had met the Queen to being grilled on Government policy by sixth form students. I hope to welcome more schools from the constituency down to Westminster to visit and I also intend to continue to visit and champion our outstanding schools locally.

Flooding continues to be an important issue which has affected residents from across the constituency. The heavy rainfall in November caused flooding in many areas. Although the banks of the Wyre held, some properties in the area did flood due to the sheer amount of rain. At the end of last year the Environment Agency published its “Upper Middle Wyre Strategy Report”. I had hoped this long awaited report would look at improving flood defences in the constituency. However, I am concerned that the real focus of the report appears to be the future of the flood basins in Catterall and Garstang, with the case being made for them to be decommissioned. The flood basins have been operated more frequently than envisaged in recent years and have, in my opinion, reduced the risk of flooding further downstream. The Environment Agency has acknowledged that decommissioning the flood basins will increase the number of properties at risk of flooding and proposes no means of mitigating this increased flood risk. I am greatly concerned and have called the Agency to meet with me to discuss this further and ensure that my constituents are protected. I would like to commend the various local flood groups in the area who ensure that local residents are kept informed of progress being made to tackle flooding. They also play an important role in alerting residents to flood warnings. I know the Churchtown Flood Forum have also been using their expertise and personal experiences of flooding to help residents who have been affected recently by flooding in other areas.

You may recall that when the Communities Secretary considered Cuadrilla’s appeal against Lancashire County Council’s decision to refuse their application to commence fracking, he gave the company an opportunity to address concerns which had been raised about the transport arrangements to and from their Roseacre Wood site. Cuadrilla is now consulting on three possible HGV routes. I will be objecting to all the routes proposed as I do not consider them to be safe or viable. I would encourage you to participate in the consultation process. Further details can be found on Cuadrilla’s website: www.cuadrillaresources.com/site/roseacre-wood. The consultation closes on 10 January.

Another priority issue which I will continuing to raise in the year ahead is mental health, particularly crisis care. I am due to meet the Chief Executive of Lancashire Care in the coming weeks to discuss crisis care and the provision of mental health in-patient beds across the county. As well as raising concerns which have been highlighted to me as a result of individual cases, I will be offering my support to lobby for greater central government funding for our area.

I receive a great deal of correspondence from constituents on national and local issues. I am always interested to read the views of my constituents and these do inform my own opinions. The highlight of my role as your MP continues to be the time I spend meeting local people. I want to visit as many local businesses, charities and community groups as possible this year so, if you would like me to visit you please let me know.

If 2018 is half as eventful as last year, then we are in for another roller coaster ride. I continue to believe that even though many things are sent to test us here in North Lancashire, we have the resolve to deal with them. We remain an area of high employment and due to our amazing schools our young people are ready for any challenges they may face.

If I can be of any assistance to you please email me at wallaceb@parliament.uk or write to me at the House of Commons (The Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA). Alternatively you can contact my Office at the House of Commons on 0207 219 5804 or my Constituency Office on 01995 672977.