All five candidates for the Faversham and Mid Kent Constituency which includes Hollingbourne at the General Election on 8th June have been asked for their views on local issues. These include the impact of Brexit on the ability of the NHS locally to retain staff recruited from the EU, the effect of no Customs Union with the EU which could lead to major traffic delays on the M20, and the move of passport controls from Calais to Dover which could also create problems. Additionally candidates were asked for their views on the long promised resurfacing of the M20 between Junctions 8 and 9 and development at Junction 8 of the M20 at Woodcut Farm.
Mrs Helen Whately, the Conservative Party Candidate writes:-
In the last two years as MP, I’ve worked hard for people in this area and I’ve made progress. We’re getting £250 million to fix Operation Stack, more money for health and social care and two new schools.
If I am re-elected on 8 June I will continue with my campaigns for better health and social care, more affordable housing – but in the right places so we look after the countryside, investment in roads to tackle traffic and reduce noise, and an end to Operation Stack.
An end to Operation Stack
I was told when I was standing in 2015: ‘Operation Stack has been going on for ages, there’s nothing you can do about it’. Well, together with other Kent MPs, I’ve secured £250 million to stop the M20 closing when there’s disruption at the Channel crossings.
A site for a new lorry park has been identified, but progress is currently being delayed by a judicial review. The Secretary of State for Transport reassured me just before Parliament dissolved that the Government remains determined to get Stack off the M20 and expects the lorry park to open in 2019.
Timing is even more important now given that we are due to leave EU in 2019. The Prime Minister’s ambition is for a comprehensive free trade agreement and a new customs arrangement with the EU, which will enable us to establish our own trade agreements with other countries while continuing to trade with as little friction as possible with the EU.
With an average 10,800 lorries coming in and out of the UK at Dover a day, those of us living along the M20 and the M2/A2 have a particular interest in the future customs arrangements at the border.
We have been told that the introduction of new customs checks could lead to tailbacks in Kent. Continuity in customs processes would be better for us, and businesses have told me – better for them.
However, we also need to be prepared if there are going to be more customs checks and we need the Operation Stack lorry parking area to manage freight traffic. So that is another reason to make sure it’s open in 2019.
Reducing noise on the M20
I’ve told Ministers again and again that the noise of HGVs thundering down the M20 is blighting people’s lives in Hollingbourne and other villages close to the motorway.
As a result Highways England will be inspecting the road surface between Junctions 8 and 9 this year. The next big round of investment in roads is due in 2020, and the Government is currently deciding where the money should go. Highways England have specifically said that “noise issues need to be addressed” so I am confident that fixing this is on the agenda.
Housing without harming the countryside
Housing is the top issue people ask me to help with. Hundreds of new houses are being built so our villages and towns are changing, yet many local families are priced out of the market.
We need affordable homes for the next generation and development that creates jobs – but without concreting over the countryside. One of the first things I did as an MP was speak out against plans to build an industrial complex at Junction 8 of the M20. After that was thrown out by the High Court, I spoke out again against another development on the same spot, and have been urging local councillors to stand firm and reject these proposals.
Junction 8, in the shadow of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and so close to Leeds Castle, is not the right place for development. I will oppose any planning applications that could damage this beautiful part of the countryside.
Supporting our local NHS
Both my parents were doctors, and fighting for the NHS is the reason I got into politics. Though the Government is putting more money – £8 billion a year – into the NHS, there are still big challenges ahead and the health service needs to adapt to meet them.
I’ve been working with local NHS organisations and social services on plans for the future of healthcare in Kent. The vision is to bring health and social care closer together so that patients can get the help they need, when they need it. I’m campaigning for a new hospital, and a medical school to attract the brightest and best doctors, nurses and therapists to Kent, to be part of this vision.
I’m particularly pleased that the Conservative manifesto commits to increase funding for mental health by £1.4 billion and recruit 10,000 more mental health experts. As chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Mental Health, I’ve been campaigning for an end to unequal treatment of physical and mental health problems.
I recently trained as mental health first-aider –it’s about being able to spot the signs that someone may be suffering and knowing how to help them. I found the training so valuable, and have been urging the Government to put it on a similar footing to physical first aid. So I’m delighted that the manifesto also includes mental health first aid training for teachers and in the workplace.
Pictured below is Mrs Helen Whately near to Junction 8 of the M20. According to the current issue of “Private Eye” she has recently been on a fact finding tour of Saudi Arabia with other Members of Parliament.