On Friday last week I chaired the first meeting of the Folkestone and Hythe District Council's ‘accelerated delivery board’, which was held at the Civic Centre in Folkestone. The board brings together representatives from the District and Count Councils, the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, Network Rail, and some of the major development projects in our area, like the Otterpool Park Garden Town, and the Folkestone seafront scheme.
The purpose of the accelerated delivery board is to take a strategic look at the progress of important projects like these, whilst not being involved directly in their delivery. We will also consider other issues that are linked to economic regeneration and job creation in our area. This could include bringing empty shops back into use in our high streets, assessing the need for additional commercial space to support business growth, and ensuring that we are meeting the local need for skilled workers. This is particularly important in growing sectors like housebuilding and construction. It is essential that we have an overall strategy for supporting economic development locally, considering the future challenges and changes that might come to the way we live and work. The investment we see being targeted into the Folkestone and Hythe constituency is a real vote of confidence; last week for example the formal planning application for Otterpool Park was also lodged with the council. I’m pleased to be involved with this process and look forward to our future meetings.
Along with my fellow Kent MPs, I met last week with the Roads Minister, Jesse Norman to discuss the progress with contingency plans for our local motorways following Brexit on 29th March. The work to install the barrier on the London bound carriageway of the M20 is almost complete and will be fully operational in good time before the end of the month. If needed, the barrier will allow the police to operate a contraflow system allowing two lane movement of traffic in both directions on that carriageway, whilst lorries queue on the coastbound route, if there are delays in exiting the country from the Port of Dover of the Channel Tunnel. These restrictions will be in place on the M20 between junctions 8 and 9. If further capacity for holding lorries is required then Manston Airport will be used, and if that is full, the police will have the option of using the M26 as well. We all hope that this will not be required, but it is right that we have plans in place should they be needed in the period after we leave the European Union.
Last week I was also officially re-adopted by the Folkestone and Hythe Conservative party members to be their parliamentary candidate at the next general election, whenever that is called. We are not anticipating that an election will be called this year, and one is not required until 2022. Nonetheless, I was honoured to receive their support once again to continue in my work as your Member of Parliament.