I’m sitting at my desk in Dorset, the mid-autumn sun is shining. I’ve got windows and doors open and the bird are busy at the feeders (a blue tit, I kid you not, has just flown in and perched on my laptop. Was he proofreading?). Our Covid related numbers in Dorset remain thankfully low and our schools remain open providing that learning opportunity that our young people need. The same cannot be said for all parts of our country and my thoughts and prayers are with those who do not have the good fortune to live in Dorset. Likewise, those in our local hospitality sector continue to feel the pressure on their trade. Dorset is not out of the woods yet. That said, I thought I might provide a short compendium of ‘good news’ as far as North Dorset is concerned.
· It was great to join Councillors Jane Somper and Sherry Jespersen to witness the new vehicle control signage being installed in Melbury Abbas on the C13. We all know the problems that uncontrolled traffic has created through the village and hopefully using modern technology to better control traffic flow will help. Good news too that Dorset Council making progress on stabilising the banks of Dinah’s Hollow. We cannot afford another prolonged road closure;
· Brilliant that the iconic Dorset Steam Fair is to receive £236k as part of the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund. This will make a real difference and ensure this important rural event continues following the cancellation due to Covid of this year’s event;
· HMP Guys Marsh is one of four UK prisons to receive a slice of £2.5bn investment in prisons. This will increase the prison capacity by around 180 spaces, replace the burned-out Wessex building and create some new jobs. I will continue to support the prison and always push that reskilling and education are central elements of a prison sentence;
· Many of us in North Dorset look to Dorchester County Hospital for healthcare and what great news to hear that we will be seeing a new community hospital, emergency department and intensive care facility there. This on top of the wise decision of Dorset Council to approve the car park extension application addressing a problem that is often in my postbag;
· Two new independent businesses have announced in recent days that they are coming to Shaftesbury thus demonstrating that our high streets have a future if we focus on local, independent, quality and provenance;
· Fellow Dorset MPs and I met the Digital Minister, Matt Warman, to discuss the importance of broadband/5G to our rural economy and how the commercial demands of lockdown have made wider, faster coverage even more important. The good news is that Dorset is very much at the top of his in-tray and is leading the field in terms of funding bids. While it is true that there’s many a slip between cup and lip, so no room for complacent, colleagues and I working with Dorset Council, will keep the pressure on Government to ensure our rural communities have the digital tools to thrive.
So, all in all, quite a lot of good stuff happening for our North Dorset community.