Dan Rogerson, DEFRA Minister, visits West Berks

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Dan Rogerson being interviewed by Judith Bunting, Parliamentary Candidate, Newbury and West Berks Lib Dems.

DEFRA Minister, Dan Rogerson, came to Hamstead Marshall, recently, to meet West Berkshire residents at the Elm Farm Organic Research Centre.

Judith taxed the Minister on rural broadband, Thames Water, council housing and her campaign to get proper funding to maintain lively, vibrant rural communities.

“Urban areas receive £153.47 per person more than rural areas, each year, via the current local government finance settlement. This is unreasonable,” Judith Bunting said.  “That much money could add up to a lot of additional services for local residents.”

As MP for North Cornwall Dan has a lot of sympathy for the rural funding campaign.

Save our Footpaths

As Minister for rural affairs, Dan has been an enthusiastic supporter of ramblers, footpaths and walking, overseeing the investment of £5.3m to speed the opening of the full English coastal path.  The audience at the event included members of the local Ramblers Association and the Mid and West Berks Local Access Forum, who pressed Dan on the recent withdrawal of govt funding for the Environmental Stewardship Scheme.

This withdrawal sadly threatens the future of 11 popular routes in West Berkshire, including paths at Little Hidden Farm and the Eddington Estate, near Hungerford, and circular walks at Earl’s Court Farm, near Lambourn. Judith encouraged the groups to keep lobbying West Berks Councils to work with our local landowners to encourage them to keep the routes open.

“Walking is good for health and community, she said, “Not to mention the benefits walkers bring to the village economy, in the for of pubs and restaurants!”

Good news followed, as Nic Lampkin, Director of Elm Farm Organic Research Station, stood up and confirmed that the circular walk at Elm Farm, will remain open after the Environmental Stewardship scheme comes to an end. (See: https://judithbunting.co.uk/2014/11/17/good-news-for-ramblers/.)

 

Discussion during the evening also covered actions against flooding this winter, including cracked sewers along the Lamborn and Pang Valleys, in Newbury Centre, Woolhampton and East Ilsley, and how we can make Thames Water act to remedy the problem. Dan has promised to help me get access to the highest levels of the Environment Agency, to fund out what they are doing to ensure Thames Water live up to their commitments.

We also covered the problems suffered in West Berkshire villages with rural broadband; and the need to renew the council house building scheme in West Berkshire and across the country – an idea which received warm applause around the room.

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