06 JAN 2017

Star Column - 3rd January 2017

"Happy New Year! A grey, damp start to 2017 on the Suffolk coast but I expect the year will be full of colour whether it's the bright-eyed, tanned, white teeth beaming President Trump at his inauguration to the opportunities and challenges as we go ahead with Article 50, triggering our departure for the EU. There are also important elections coming up on the continent, with Angela Merkel up for re-election in Germany, France due to elect a new President to replace Francois Hollande and the Dutch are also due to go to the polls. The ongoing wars, interspersed with temporary ceasefires, and the terrorist attacks are deeply disturbing but we need to press on with our call for freedom and our generous, humanitarian approaches, largely supported by our overseas aid budget. We certainly live in interesting political times. While it is likely that Britain's withdrawal from the European Union will continue to dominate the headlines as the government embarks on the most complex task it has faced since the end of the Second World War, especially as we seek a deal that is bespoke to Britain, there is much else that continues to command our attention on a local and national level.

The second stage of the public consultation on Sizewell C is still open and closes on 3 February. We waited a long time for this stage of the consultation and it is vital that residents and business owners contribute so we maximise the opportunity to improve local infrastructure. Sizewell C will bring huge benefits to the Suffolk coast, in particular bringing high skilled, high paid jobs to our area, but there are legitimate concerns regarding increased traffic and other disruption during the construction phase. This disruption could potentially stretch to the A14 and all along the A12. If you haven't contributed yet, you can find out more about what is being proposed and give your feedback on http://sizewell.edfenergyconsultation.info.

As Environment Minister, I am looking forward to publishing the framework of our 25 year environment plan and, in due course, the full plan itself. As I expected when I started the role, being MP for Suffolk Coastal has been a great apprenticeship for this ministerial position which I have found in the first six months to be an ever broader portfolio than I realised. As floods minister, I checked the flood information service twice daily and had my wellies ready. However, fortunately, we have had a rather dry Christmas season – which is a welcome relief for the staff of the Environment Agency across the country, many of whom have not enjoyed a peaceful Christmas day at home for a few years. This Christmas break has been a fresh chance to reconnect with the special landscape and coast that we all enjoy. I just wish our rescue dog, Jess, was not quite so noise sensitive as she is. Many walks have been curtailed by a sudden bang or whatever and I get the exercise chasing after her. That said, the doggy welcome in many of our pubs is very special – something which many tourists praise too.

The New Year brings an opportunity for resolutions. I really must do one – improving my handwriting for my team. I will also resolve to continue to work with my fellow MPs on helping our great county. I will also be campaigning in the important county council elections. Finally, I will continue to work for residents and businesses along the coast. May I wish you all peace and prosperity for 2017."

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