Over recess I continued to engage with people re Hitachi and was able to facilitate a meeting for the union team with the Secretary of State for Transport. The meeting will have taken place before you read this, but after I submit this column for printing, so I will provide more details on this meeting next week.
Last week in the Constituency had me meeting the Environment Agency, on Thursday 11th April, to continue to raise concerns regarding the ongoing smells from the quarry. We have seen numerous promises that these were to stop after corrective actions from Ashcourt but, on each occasion the outcome has not been as indicated and I raised these frustrations on behalf of residents again. I have a meeting scheduled with residents of Aycliffe Village to give them feedback and have asked the Environment Agency to join me. I hope, from what has been said to me, that we are finally seeing the end of this saga.
Following this I went to Ferryhill Town Hall where I met residents from Rushyford to discuss the proposed changes to the roundabout. These changes are part of the improvements being made to improve traffic flow in anticipation of the housing developments scheduled opposite the Central Avenue junction with the A167. There was clear consensus that this roundabout is currently dangerous, but the residents are frustrated with the lack of engagement with them. There has been concern for some time about not only the road traffic but the challenges residents of Rushyford face in getting from their homes to either buses or up into Chilton for shops etc. We discussed this in the meeting and then I went back with them to walk the area and take a closer look. I also went back around 5.30pm to see the traffic at its busiest. Ironically, I arrived just in time to watch the Police trying to clear the road after an accident had taken place, just reinforcing residents’ points. I have since raised these issues with the team at Durham County Council and will do all I can to encourage them to revisit the options and look to use the recent extra funding provided by Government to introduce some improvements for pedestrian crossing points or traffic calming.
After this, I went to Chilton to meet the ladies at the Menopause Support Group. I called to see them as I had previously spent time supporting a similar group in Sedgefield and came to appreciate the need for support. As a result, I am a Vice Chair of the Menopause All-Party Parliamentary Group in Westminster and was able to offer them some other avenues for advice. If this is an issue that affects you, I would certainly encourage you to get in touch with Jules Howe on 07809 342192 or email Jules.Howe@nhs.net and join these ladies for mutual support.
Friday started with a meeting with Arriva and the Durham County Council team to discuss progress on improving the local bus offer. Arriva remain unreceptive to my pressure from residents regarding the need to reintroduce the X21 connection to Sedgefield/Fishburn/Trimdon and I am therefore pushing hard with Durham County Council to find another solution. As for Arriva, I am trying to get them to take on board other changes to routes to improve connections so, if there are any you want on the list, please get in touch. I already have suggestions from residents and Councillors (of all political colours) and would welcome others if anyone wants to reach out to me.
After the bus session I joined the team working on the potential Community Hub for the Town Centre and then off to meet the new Town Centre Manager on his third day in post. The afternoon was spent meeting with a number of constituents in my Aycliffe office with the usual diverse range of issues. Then it was off to the Darlington Mayor’s Ball where the Mayor, Cllr Jan Cossins, was raising funds for ManHealth and the Listening Post (a mentoring and support scheme for young people). It was a lovely evening with many local mayors, including our own Cllr Carl Robinson, representing Aycliffe, but also representatives from Mulheim in Germany and Amiens in France, the twin towns of Darlington as the twinning celebrates its 70th anniversary.
Week commencing 15th April we are back in Westminster and start with Oral Questions to the Home Secretary on Monday before the latest iterations of the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill. On Wednesday, as I said earlier, I will host the Hitachi team with the Secretary of State for Transport, Mark Harper MP. I will also have some constituents visiting for a long-planned visit for Prime Ministers Questions so will have my Westminster team helping me look after them. I will be back in the Constituency sometime on Thursday so I hope to catch up with some of you at the end of the week.
As always, if you want to get in touch, please call Newton Aycliffe 01325 790580 or email: paul.howell.mp@parliament.uk