This weekend our coastline was battered by Storm Ciara with heavy rain and winds up to eighty miles per hour. Whilst some disruption to travel and everyday life is inevitable with this kind of event, we should be thankful for the excellent work of our highways engineers, the environment agency and the emergency services, especially during the peak of the storm on Sunday. In particular their work enabled the M20 to fully re-open by Monday morning after a fallen street light and debris from trees had caused some closures at the weekend. Highways officers from Kent County Council also dealt with over 500 enquiries over the weekend and were clearing trees between 6am on Sunday and 2am on Monday morning. We should be grateful for their dedication to serving the people of our county in such difficult conditions.
I would also like to thank the excellent work of the RNLI Lifeboats who braved a treacherous sea in response to emergency call outs during the storm. UK Power Networks had over one thousand team members out working in the south east on Sunday to address damage caused by the storm, which enabled them to respond swiftly to power cuts in Hawkinge and the Folkestone area, as well on Romney Marsh. If you have any concerns about the response to Storm Ciara or any ongoing problems resulting from it, please let me know by emailing me at [email protected] or calling 01303 253 524.
Last Thursday, Folkestone and Hythe District Council announced that it had completed the purchase of land owned by the Cozumel Estates property company at the former Folkestone Racecourse site at Westenhanger. This agreement gives the Council control of the land that will make up the vast majority of the development for the new Otterpool Park garden town scheme. The District Council will now be in a stronger position to develop the plans for Otterpool with the needs of our local community in mind, including the delivery of more affordable homes for people to rent and buy. The Ministry of Housing also launched last week a consultation on its proposed ‘First Homes’ scheme, which could give first time buyers a 30% discount on the purchase of their property. Veterans of the armed forces will also receive priority support for assistance as part of the Armed Forces Covenant, and local councils will also be able to use the scheme to support front-line workers in their area such as members of the police service, nurses, prison officers and teachers. It is expected that on average, this scheme could save first time buyers up to £100,000 on the purchase of their property. You can find out more about this consultation online at gov.uk/government/consultations/first-homes.
Delivering more homes to rent and buy was one of our most important commitments at the last general election. Turning this into a reality means supporting schemes where they can be built and helping first time buyers onto the housing ladder. I’m pleased to say that in Folkestone and Hythe we are doing both.