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Conservative MP Julie Marson on COP26, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Covid booster jabs and the Gilston Park Estate

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Julie Marson, MP for Hertford and Stortford, writes a column for the Bishop's Stortford Independent...

Responding to emails and letters from constituents makes up a large part of the work that we do as MPs. A great deal of these cases are personal matters, often deeply sensitive, that must remain confidential and be handled with great care.

Conversely, other mail I receive often relates to questions or complaints that are either locally significant or to do with national policy issues. The recent COP26 conference in Glasgow, for instance, has precipitated a whole raft of questions from people about what the different announcements will mean for them and also for global efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

My own view of its success is that we clearly made big strides in some of the key areas we were hoping to, like reductions in coal use and global agreements around new investment, but we still have a long way to go and need countries like China and India to commit to more when they return for the next COP conference. Progress is being made, but it needs to go much faster in some parts of the world that are currently lagging behind.

Because of the sheer volume of this type of correspondence, I sometimes use my website to give responses to policy-related questions or campaigns. However, I recognise that this column also gives me an opportunity to respond to some of the more relevant issues for people in Hertfordshire.

One issue that has really stood out in my inbox is the distressing detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. I share this concern and can only imagine how awful these past five years have been for her and her family.

Julie Marson (53295878)
Julie Marson (53295878)

I visited Nazanin's husband, Richard, during his hunger strike in Westminster recently to offer my support. Some constituents have emailed me to ask about what the Government is doing to bring Nazanin and other dual citizens like her back home. It is an incredibly complicated issue to resolve, but I have spoken to ministers about her situation and they assure me the Government continues to raise it with Iranian authorities at the most senior levels.

Quite a few people have contacted me over the last couple of weeks about the more local issue of booster jabs. They have raised specific queries about how far away from home they have to travel to receive a booster jab. I appreciate the concern this has caused, particularly for those for whom travel is difficult, and have made urgent enquiries
in response.

I am told that in some cases where people are having to travel to larger sites further away, people have been booking jabs before receiving a letter from their GP, so these sites have been used to accommodate numbers. However, I also know that there were some issues towards the beginning of the roll-out as new centres were first being set up, as they still are now.

GPs and others are responding to the local demands, though, and new jab centres are appearing, like the pop-up, walk-in service at Bishop's Stortford Football Club. Though I am pleased this is now increasingly becoming the case, I am still monitoring the availability of all of these options closely to ensure our vaccine roll-out remains as accessible as possible for all local people.

I firmly believe that people like those who write to me should also be given a proper voice when it comes to more of the local issues that directly impact them, such as developments. I have had letters from local people about the proposed development at Gilston Park and have passed on concerns to Michael Gove, in response, about the power imbalance between developers and local people that exists in the current planning laws.

I have spoken before in the House of Commons chamber about this subject, too, and met with various ministers for housing to stress the need for more influence for local people over decisions to do with planning that will impact them most. The Gilston development will be an ongoing matter for years to come and I am using what influence I have to get the voices of local community groups elevated in all of these discussions.

The St James' Park development at Stortford South has been another issue of significance recently. Earlier this year, I surveyed nearby residents' opinions on proposals from the developers to create a 24/7 distribution centre at the site, and, having collected their opposition to what would have been hugely disruptive plans, I am pleased these were scrapped.

I am now working with the developers and local councillors to find an alternative solution that best meets the needs of our community. I held a meeting with stakeholders last week to discuss new plans for the site and ensure local people are provided with as much opportunity as possible.

Our part of Hertfordshire is a life sciences hub for the East of England and I recognise that creating high-skilled jobs for local people is a huge part of this. I have continued to raise this in such discussions and remain committed to supporting every effort to facilitate this in the future.

I thank people for having been so engaged on many of the above issues. This sort of communication remains the best way to ensure solutions that work for everyone are found. To this end, and where all matters of casework are concerned, constituents should please continue to write to me at julie.marson.mp@parliament.uk.

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