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Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson on Covid vaccinations for over-18s, the Bishop's Stortford South distribution centre and Gilston neighbourhood plan

Julie Marson, MP for Hertford and Stortford, writes for the Indie...

Last week’s announcement that restrictions are to be extended until July was grim news for many people. It is painful for those still unable to visit family members abroad and especially hard for businesses that can’t function properly and, in some cases, can’t operate at all.

It has been a very long 16 months' wait for a return to normality. False starts and dashed hopes have been indicative of the virus’ nature and our globalised society.

While most people understand the need for the extension, my heart goes out particularly to those working in sectors like hospitality and travel who have managed their way through the crisis superbly and now have to fight a little longer.

As throughout the pandemic, I have been passing on to ministers various industry challenges, concerns and ideas that I receive from constituents and doing my utmost to make sure local voices are listened to.

I believe that the end is still in sight and that we can look forward to better days ahead. We are seeing some very positive data about the vaccine’s effectiveness against the new Delta variant, and it’s vital that we continue to push to vaccinate as much of the population as possible.

Everyone over the age of 18 can now book their Covid-19 vaccination
Everyone over the age of 18 can now book their Covid-19 vaccination

All people over 18 can now book their jabs. And I would really encourage everyone to do this as you can help protect against transmission. We are in a race against the virus, so please, when you are invited for a vaccine, book your appointment immediately.

On Wednesday July 14 I am partnering with Google to hold a webinar with Google Digital Garage. This is a free event for businesses in Hertford and Stortford to help you grow your business, career or just your confidence by brushing up on your digital skills.

The session will give participants access to some of Google’s digital experts and is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about digital marketing from the real experts.

I know how much businesses have had to adapt to survive during the pandemic, and I hope many can take the opportunity to thrive by embracing new technology, to grow and reach more customers than ever.

You can sign up for your free spot at the webinar via events.withgoogle.com/hertford-and-stortford-digital-garage/registrations/new/or email me for more information at Julie.Marson.MP@parliament.uk. The event runs from 10am to 11am.

Spaces are limited and I will start posting about the event through my social media pages over the next month, so I encourage you to sign up now and tell others about it.

My mailbox is consistently busy with queries and concerns about local development. The latest is a proposal for a distribution centre at the new Bishop’s Stortford South housing development. I oppose any such proposal and am making my views clear to East Herts Council.

Given the complexities involved in the planning process, it is understandable how it can quickly become such an emotive subject. The need for more homes to keep up with rising demand has to be measured against the need to protect and preserve our existing communities and environment. This is a question that the Government is trying to grapple with now and Parliament will too as and when proposed planning reforms come to the House for debate later this year.

In my conversations with the Government, I have constantly stressed the need for local views to be heard throughout the development process. It’s not just because people should have a right to their say on changes to their area but also because the involvement of residents delivers better results. It encourages long-term thinking, creates more accountability and establishes buy-in from local communities who have been engaged with the process.

The development at Gilston still has some ongoing challenges, but the incredible results that can be achieved through community involvement was highlighted by the Hunsdon, Eastwick and Gilston Neighbourhood Plan Group’s award for their neighbourhood plan at the Planning Awards 2021. They have set a model for how community groups can contribute to development projects which should be replicated in other parts of the country now.

Listening to people’s concerns should also change the way in which we design new homes. We have embarked upon a national effort to decarbonise our economy and housing has a key role to play in those efforts. Forty per cent of the UK’s emissions come from households. That has got to change as we move towards our net zero targets by utilising new technologies that create energy-efficient homes.

Any planning reform proposals the Government does put forward this year should mark a step change in the way homes are built. And we need a new green homes revolution for our country that helps the environment rather than hinders it and puts the concerns of local people at the forefront of plans.

Over the next few weeks and months, I am keen to take views and ideas that constituents have for these reforms so that we have a bottom-up process where local people are listened to. I would be grateful for all those with an interest in this area to email me with their suggestions at Julie.Marson.MP@parliament.uk.

A quick reminder that the deadline for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme is June 30. There have been over five million grants of pre-settled or settled status so far and we want to reach as many people as possible before the deadline. Please help spread the message and make sure any residents that you know who might be eligible keep their right to live work, study and access free healthcare and benefits. Applications can be made at www.gov.uk/eusettlementscheme.

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