I have maintained a strong rural focus during the past fortnight with events and meetings taking me to Eggesford, Chawleigh, Nomansland, Black Dog, Kennerleigh, Sandford and Copplestone.
In Eggesford I caught up with Cllr Clive Eginton, Deputy Leader of Mid Devon District Council. We discussed several key issues including the council’s successful £2.8 million bid to the Government to help the council reduce its carbon footprint. The funding will transform the energy supply for two council-run leisure centres (including Lords Meadow in Crediton in our constituency) away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
After visiting two businesses in Eggesford I headed to Chawleigh, where I spoke with Parish Council Chairman Steve Godley and visited the Village Store which hosts the post office. As well as providing a valuable service to local residents, our village shops and post offices are vital in our mission to reduce our carbon footprint. Just as powering a busy leisure centre in a major town with renewable energy is important, so also is avoiding unnecessary car journeys by being able to walk to a village shop. I was pleased to hear that the Earl of Portsmouth is open again after a closure of more than two years – I know how important the pub is to residents as a community hub and have enjoyed speaking at events there in the past.
After returning to Westminster for a busy few days, including chairing sessions of the Treasury Select Committee it was back to Central Devon to Black Dog Eggs between Morchard Bishop and Puddington. The farm supplies homes, businesses, restaurants and schools all over Devon. I have worked hard to champion our rural businesses and make sure the Government doesn’t just focus its support on high streets in our cities and towns. They are important too, of course, but so are the business operating out of sight in the countryside, that serve as vital parts of domestic supply chains and are an important source of employment in rural communities.
Onto Kennerleigh next where I met with county and district councillor Margaret Squires and Adrian Miller, who chairs the Kennerleigh Community Shop committee. The shop was recently granted planning permission to expand and modernise, which will improve accessibility for wheelchair users and install better-functioning plumbing, drainage, insulation and ventilation (again with a reduction in carbon emissions).
Then to Copplestone for a meeting on social housing with Cllr. Stuart Penny, who has just joined the cabinet at Mid Devon with responsibility for Housing and Property Services. I was really encouraged by some of his plans for low-income families in the district, as well as his focus on developing new homes on plots the council already owns and on brownfield sites where possible, to avoid losing valuable green spaces. We also spoke about the need for new homes to be eco-friendly, important because the single biggest challenge we have as a country when it comes to reducing carbon emissions is heating our homes.
Photo: Mel visiting Eggesford Crossing Cafe.