I was pleased to hear last week that Taylor Wimpey have withdrawn their planning application to build 48 houses in Lydiard. I objected to these proposals along with local residents, community groups and heritage groups because they were wholly inappropriate due to the historic setting of Lydiard House and St Mary’s Church. These plans were also outside Wiltshire’s Local Plan. Not only is this decision good news for Lydiard House and Country Park, it shows that the community can make a real difference. I will do all that I can to continue fighting against inappropriate development like this, as I have done many times in my constituency.
Moving onto other local issues, I was thrilled to hear that contracts have been signed which will see the Corn Exchange and Old Town Hall buildings restored as part of a £35m regeneration project. The beautiful Grade II listed building, which is owned by Swindon Corn Exchange Ltd, has spent years in the early planning stages and I have spoken to many local residents over the years who are incredibly passionate about protecting the historic building. I am pleased to learn that the project is now in a position to move forward and the Corn Exchange will finally become the heartbeat of Old Town.
On Thursday evening I was delighted to be asked to speak at The Dorcan Academy Year 11 Leavers Presentation Assembly, an event that I thoroughly enjoyed. I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of the former pupils the very best of luck as they move onto the next stage of their lives. On Friday, I visited sixth form students at Commonweal School as part of UK Parliament Week, which is an annual programme of activities and events designed to inform, inspire and connect people all over the UK with democracy and the world of politics. I enjoyed speaking to students about my role as MP for South Swindon, as well as participating in an excellent question and answer session. I was very impressed by the varied selection of thought provoking questions that I was asked.
Continuing on the subject of local schools, I recently held a meeting with the Regional Schools Commissioner in Swindon together with North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson to raise issues from the OFSTED letter that I wrote about in last week’s article. It was a positive and productive meeting and will lead on to further action from all those who have responsibility for local education.
Last week was National Anti-Bullying Week, a time to shine a spotlight on bullying and encourage anyone who is experiencing bullying to take action. I was pleased when the Government recently announced that a £4.4 million fund will be used to back projects including ‘Tootoot’ - an online platform providing 24-hour support to young people who are victims of bullying or online abuse. An online app, that lets children report bullying using screenshots of social media, will also be rolled out to hundreds of schools. Cyberbullying using social networks, games and mobile phones is an increasingly common form of bullying and I am pleased that the Conservative Government is taking positive action to help combat it.
Speaking of local charities, I was delighted to present a cheque to the Brighter Futures Appeal recently for £20,000 on behalf of Martin Wilson who is the Managing Director of a Swindon based Demolition and Licenced Asbestos Removal Company. Martin, who is also President of the NFDC (National Federation of Demolition Contractors) raised £20,000 along with fellow members of the NFDC by holding a charity raffle and asking for member donations. I would like to thank the team at the NFDC for all of their hard work and for choosing to fundraise for the Brighter Futures Appeal, an appeal which is very close to my heart.
Continuing on the theme of charities, I campaigned for Swindon’s Central Library to be lit up orange for the rest of the month as part of #ColourTheWorldOrange to highlight Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. CRPS is a chronic pain condition most often affecting one of the limbs (arms, legs, hands, or feet), usually after an injury or trauma to that limb. CRPS is believed to be caused by damage to, or malfunction of, the peripheral and central nervous systems. It's difficult to estimate exactly how common CRPS is, as many cases may go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. However, a recent study suggested that up to 1 in 3,800 people in the UK develop this painful condition each year.
I have been in contact with many residents and local swimming groups who are concerned about the future of the Health Hydro. I am wholly sympathetic to the concerns that have been raised over this much-loved facility. I have been in contact with GLL, the charitable social enterprise that operates the Health Hydro and I will continue to work closely with local residents and swimming groups over the coming months and do all that I can to secure the long-term future of the Health Hydro.
Finally, I would like to offer my congratulations to staff and pupils at Lydiard Park Academy after the school won an award for its dedication to embracing digital technology. The school is one of the first in the UK to be named as a centre of excellence by Europe’s largest provider of digital learning platforms, Itslearning. The award is for using a system which enables parents and teachers to monitor pupils’ progress, attendance, achievement and behaviour.