A local referendum: 23 November 2016

A date has been set for the local referendum on the Community Right to Build Order for Atmos Totnes (the proposed development for the Dairy Crest site). The referendum will be held on 23 November 2016. You can see formal information about the referendum on the South Hams District Council website.

Totnes Community Development Society have been facilitating the process of developing plans for the site with people from across the Totnes community. Thousands of residents and businesses have participated in the design process and earlier parts of the planning consultation. Totnes Community Development Society are inviting residents to look at information about the scheme, and ask questions at a number of scheduled public events so that all residents in the area can cast an informed vote on the 23 November. Details of events and further information about Atmos Totnes can be found here

The area for the Referendum is the designated area for the Totnes Neighbourhood Plan (which mirrors the Totnes Parish boundary). Residents within this area (a map is available) are now being asked to register to vote by the 7 November to ensure that they can participate in the referendum, if they are not already on the electoral roll. To register to vote click on the following link


Anti-Slavery Day – 18 October

Around 300,000 people have undertaken the dangerous sea journey to reach Europe trying to escape war, persecution, poverty or seeking a better life, often in unseaworthy and overcrowded boats. Many have drowned and those who do survive the journey face further danger – they are at risk of exploitation and human trafficking. Today is Anti-Slavery Day, this was created in 2010 by a Private Members Bill introduced by Anthony Steen CBE, then MP for Totnes. Since then it has grown significantly and each year more and more charities, individuals, local authorities and police forces take action to mark Anti-Slavery Day.

The NHS Stay Well This Winter Campaign

The NHS Stay Well This Winter campaign launches this week with the biggest ever flu vaccination programme in England for children. This year the programme is being extended to those in school year 3, offering more than 4 million children protection against flu – around 600,000 more than last year. As well as offering protection to these children aged 2 to 7 years, it will help reduce the spread of this infection to the most vulnerable in the community, particularly younger children, the elderly and those with long-term conditions.

Children aged 2, 3 and 4 can now get the vaccination from their GP. The school vaccination programme gets underway later this week, with parents of children in years 1, 2 and 3 being asked permission for their child to get the free nasal spray vaccination at school.

The campaign is also encouraging pregnant women to get vaccinated against flu. Pregnancy naturally weakens the body's immune system, and so flu can cause serious complications for the mother and her baby. The free vaccine is offered to other groups at particular risk of infection and complications, or liable to spread it to those at risk: anyone aged 65 and over; residents of long-stay care homes; and carers. Those eligible should contact their GP, pharmacist or midwife, as appropriate, to arrange vaccination.

Find more information click here

Big Lottery backs Totnes Share Shop

The Big Lottery has awarded the Totnes Share Shop with a £5000 grant to enable it to open for a pilot period next Spring – using a garage donated by Totnes Town Council.

Local charity, Network of Wellbeing (NOW) has promoted the idea of a Share Shop in Totnes for over a year. Now, with support from the Big Lottery and Totnes Town Council, who are offering use the use of The Guild Hall garage on Guild Hall Yard, the project looks likely to go ahead. A steering group of volunteers has been set up and plans are being made to convert the disused garage into a thriving community facility.

The Share Shop will enable local people to borrow all sorts of useful things at nominal cost so that they don't have to buy them for themselves. The aim is to encourage the sharing economy; to help people connect more, spend less, consume less, and waste less.

NOW's Totnes Project Coordinator, Kate Reed explains:

'A Share shop is basically like a library of things, instead of books people can borrow all sorts of useful things ranging from ladders, drills, camping equipment, gardening equipment, dinner sets, fancy dress outfits, toys, musical instruments- the list is as big as your imagination!'

The Share Shop aims to build community, allow people to use things they may not be able to afford and help people de-clutter their garages and houses of what they no longer want without things going into landfill. By sharing we use less of the Earth's precious resources in creating more 'stuff' and the associated pollution this entails, reducing our impact on the environment.

Share shops are springing up throughout the country; there are currently Share Shops in Frome, London and Edinburgh.

If you are interested and would like to be involved in any way, please get in touch with Kate Reed kate.r@networkofwellbeing.org


Community Potluck Friday 21st October

Network of Wellbeing are hosting another opportunity to share a free meal with the local community.

This will take place at Totnes Civic Hall from 6.00-8.30pm. All are welcome and please bring food to share; this is an event that is free from alcohol. They will also be launching a crowdfunding campaign and there will be singing by "Singing For Refugees" For more information call 01803 849107



Raising Funds for Rowcroft

You are invited to Ceilidh being held at the Berry Head Hotel in Brixham for Rowcroft on Thursday 27th October at 7.30.pm. Thank you to the Berry Head Hotel, Stargazy Pie Ceilidh Band, friends and local businesses for their generosity in supporting Rowcroft.
Food and drinks will be available.
Tickets are available from Hospice shops locally, Berry Head Hotel, Millie and Me or ring 01803 853077.
Price of tickets £7 before the 27th, £8 on night – £3 under 16's.



Join Totnes WI on Friday 14th October

From 10.00am until 2.30pm on Friday 14th October, the Totnes WI will be holding an event focussing on recycling, upcycling, local produce, community activities and wellbeing. The event is free to attend and is being held at St Mary's Church, High Street, Totnes. For more information email WI.Totnes@gmail.com




Mayflower 400 Fundraiser – The Budapest Café Orchestra

To celebrate and fundraise for Mayflower 400, The Budapest Café Orchestra will be performing on 1st October at the Guildhall.

Mayflower 400 is the celebration in 2020 of the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower, the ship that transported the Pilgrims from Plymouth to the New World in 1620. The fundraiser is to make possible a visit to Dartmouth of the Harwich Mayflower and an accompanying ship to produce an extravaganza of memorable events and relive some of Britain's most interesting history.

The Budapest Café Orchestra are an Eastern European gypsy music band with immense skill and profound musicianship. They are one of Dartmouth's own local and most celebrated bands and are sure to put on a fantastic show.

This will be the Dartmouth Mayflower 400's first fundraiser held in The Ballroom at the newly refurbished Guildhall on Saturday October 1st. The tickets are £20.00 and are available from the Guildhall Council Office. For more information telephone 079890 10999


Kingsbridge Carers Facebook Group

One of my constituents wrote to me to tell me there are very few things as life-altering as your partner being diagnosed with dementia. No amount of experience with the illness quite prepares you for becoming a 24/7 carer for your partner.

Sadly, like many carers he was told 'You are now a carer' but got no training nor even a road map of available help or where to start.

As he had to learn the ropes and discover all the groups he could rely upon to support him – the Elderly mental health team in Totnes, Saltstone Caring, the Devon Carers support organisation and many more – he realised that there was one overlooked resource he could draw upon: other carers.

This carer has taken to Facebook to reach out to others: 'Kingsbridge Carers', where new and experienced carers of all types, not just dementia, could discuss the problems and solutions.

While the support group is designed especially for local carers, the group is open to everyone to join in discussions and help others.

If you are a carer in or nearby Kingsbridge, please do give the Facebook group a look. Every carer has a wealth of experience that can be ploughed back into the community for the benefit of all. Getting involved could mean giving someone the support they need.


Holne Community Shop and Tearoom

Nestling on the southern slopes of Dartmoor National Park in Devon is the delightful Holne Shop and Tearoom. In 2011 the community formed an Industrial Provident Society to raise the required funds to purchase the premises. Opening the shop and tearoom in August 2011, the committee then worked tirelessly until they were able to purchase in 2014. This not for profit organisation ploughs all profits back into the business (and in the future, the community).

The result is a friendly multi-purpose shop and tearoom of which they are justifiably proud. They have a wonderful band of volunteers who gain much from the social aspect of the venture. Local youngsters are employed to work in the tearoom, giving great work experience.

Volunteers have transformed the outside area into a lovely garden with amazing views over the moors, new furniture graces the lawns and the hedge down the side of the leat, laid by Tree Warden, Ross, won him first prize for hedge laying.

The shop stocks everyday groceries, locally-sourced specialist foods, maps and guide books for tourists, gifts for all and much, much more. They are an official Dartmoor National Park information centre. Walkers doing The Two Moors Way, can get their books officially stamped. They also have a stamp for those doing 'Letter Boxing' on the moor.

The airy tearoom is open 7 days a week, providing home cooked cream teas, cakes, light lunches, all day breakfast and more. Visitors, locals, cyclists, walkers with muddy boots, canoeists, all are welcome. Food intolerances eg gluten free, are catered for. It is used as a meeting place, coffee mornings with guest speakers and events eg annual McMillan coffee mornings.

They are now advertising for another paid Tearoom Manager, Simon having moved on to pastures new.


New Constituency Boundaries

The independent Boundary Commission published its proposals for new constituency boundaries. The changes equalise constituent numbers across the country, ensuring that a vote in one constituency carries as much weight as one in another.
I welcome the new proposals, which create a much more realistic constituency than the previous draft boundaries. The new constituency will include the wards of Ambrook and Ipplepen in the north east of the region.
Constituents may examine the proposals in more detail, and submit their comments, on the Commission's website here. The Commission will also take local opinion on whether a new name should be proposed for the constituency, and I would be interested to hear whether local people feel 'Totnes' accurately represents the whole area, or whether a new name such as South Devon should be proposed.



The Rural Oscars 2016 – Nominations Open

Get involved and support rural businesses in your constituency.

The Countryside Alliance Rural Oscars has come around again this year, and nominations are now open for local businesses and enterprises to win an award.

These awards celebrate the best of our local businesses which makes a contribution to our local economy, promotes our rural heritage, celebrates our great local produce, and supports our rural communities.

You can put forward your candidate in four different categories:

  • - A Local Food Award,
  • - A Village Shop/Post Office Award,
  • - A Farm Enterprise Award,
  • - A Rural Tourism Enterprise Award

Each of the four categories celebrates a different integral part of our community. So if you know of a star business that goes that extra mile, please consider submitting their name for a Rural Oscar and give them the chance to get the national recognition they deserve.

Nominations close on the 4th of November. The final judging takes place in Parliament in Westminster in spring 2017.


Re-shaping community-based health services Consultation

A consultation has now been given approval by NHSEngland and will run for 12 weeks starting from today (01.09.16 - 23.11.16) on the future of our Community Services and Community Hospitals

Whilst no one would argue with the need to strengthen community services that help people to remain independent in their own homes and avoid unnecessary admissions or delayed discharge from hospital, we need assurances about how the service would be improved. Building local services and teams will be welcome but the problem has long been the ability to recruit and retain this skilled workforce. There is no guarantee that we will be able to recruit and retain the staff for the community teams to replace existing services and the proposals need to include more detail about how we could put local training and development in place.

We need to use every opportunity to develop the workforce across several health and social care disciplines. Simply closing our hospitals will risk leaving communities with nothing in their place if we cannot recruit to community teams. Setting up training hubs would help to retain existing expert staff working alongside those keen to develop their skills and those starting out in their training. With new apprenticeship routes opening up into nursing and many new healthcare roles such as physician associates on the horizon, our area could and should play a key role in training.

It is important for as many people as possible to contribute directly to the consultation as decisions made at the end of this consultation will impact on NHS services for years to come, so it is important that all parts of the community get involved and you can do so through the following website

If you are unable to complete an online submission a paper copy is available on request by writing to South Devon and Torbay CCG, Pomona House, Torquay, TQ2 7FF, or calling 01803 652511.


Improving the A30

Devon County Council would welcome your views on proposals to improve the A30 trunk road between Honiton and Devonshire Inn.

This is an important but currently unimproved single carriageway stretch of the A303/A30/A358 corridor between the South West Peninsula, London and the South East.

The County Council hopes to provide the Department for Transport with a preferred route with the aim of securing Government funding firstly for this element and then for the remaining unfunded single carriageway elements of the A303/A30 between Honiton and Southfields junction.

You can express a general view about the need for improvement and/or indicate a route preference.

Do use the following link to take part in the consultation on their proposed options. The consultation closes on 20th September


Prescribing Advice

Citizens Advice Launch GP Surgery Project

An exciting new project where social advice and information can be found at GP surgeries, has recently been launched. Citizens Advice South Hams are delighted to announce the new one year pilot project in South Hams which will be offering social support to patients.

This project aims to help tackle underlying factors affecting patient well-being. By intervening at this early stage, this service will help to reduce patients from reaching a more critical stage of crisis, therefore reducing the demand on GP and NHS services.

South Hams District Council have funded the project, which means that participating surgeries, Chillington Health Centre and Woolwell Medical Centre, can now offer patients an appointment with an advice specialist in the surgery.

  • Advice and information is available from www.citizensadvice.org.uk
  • Advice and information is also available by calling the Citizens Advice helpline on 03444 111 444 between 9.00am and 4pm, Monday - Friday
  • Citizens Advice South Hams is based at Follaton House, Plymouth Road, Totnes TQ9 7UY. They are open from 10am-1pm and 2-4pm Monday – Thursday and offer a drop in service in Kingsbridge and Dartmouth (Tuesdays 9.30-12.30pm)
  • Information about Citizens Advice is available on www.citizensadvicesouthhhams.org.uk


Local Plan

It is so important for communities to have a say about developments in their towns and villages and nothing stirs controversy like planning applications.

South Hams District Council has now joined with West Devon Borough Council and Plymouth City Council to create a draft Joint Local Plan. Please take a moment to respond the consultation they are currently running on this because when finalised, the local plan will have huge consequences in shaping future development.

For the part that affects this area you need to contribute to the Thriving Towns and Villages consultation which is open until August 12th

The Local Plan will determine which land should be developed over the coming years, the role of neighbourhood planning and the future of communities, infrastructure and the natural environment, among other issues. Don't miss your chance to have your say before the deadline.

Once representations on the publication version of the plan have been received, the local planning authority should submit the Local Plan and any proposed changes it considers appropriate along with supporting documents to the Planning Inspectorate for examination on behalf of the Secretary of State.

A Statement of Representations Procedure should be published alongside the submission version of the Local Plan.

You may be interested to read the Guidance on Local Plans


More Independence for Openreach

Representing a rural constituency I receive a lot of queries from exasperated constituents about broadband in the area and many people highlight difficulties with Openreach, BT's infrastructure division. Indeed, BT have admitted themselves that their customer service is not yet good enough. It remains the case that too many people, and businesses, in counties like Devon continue to be hampered by slow speeds and poor connections and I am clear that connectivity in the countryside must be on a par with urban areas.

I believe we need to see services improve as ensuring high speed digital connectivity is a defining factor in our long term success, allowing us to create new opportunities and growth. However, unless we are better able to hold Openreach to account this is an uphill battle.

Therefore, I am delighted that BT is due to increase Openreach's independence after Ofcom raised concerns about the accountability and transparency of their operation. For a long time now Openreach have been accused of underinvesting in upgrading the network and installing high speed fibre, and Ofcom's insistence that it become a separate company within the BT group will help to provide more customer focus.

Their proposal includes Openreach having its own board with an independent chair and a majority of independent members. Ofcom are running a consultation on this and you can respond with your views via the following link up until the 4th of October.

I know BT have stated that, in line with government policy, they wish to provide every property in the UK with better broadband by 2020 and I do hope this will be the case.

You can read Ofcom's statement on this matter here

You can read BT's plan for these governance and operational changes here


Corporal Theodore Veale VC

On 20th July 1916, during the First World War, Corporal Theodore Veale was involved in the Battle of the Somme. For his bravery and heroic actions on that day, he was awarded the Victoria Cross. To commemorate Corporal Veale's gallantry, the Departments of Communities and Local Government created and provided a Victoria Cross paving stone, which was unveiled at a special ceremony in Dartmouth, Corporal Veale's home town, a hundred years to the day of those historic events. Corporal Veale's son in law and his grand-daughter, along with military guests and other local dignitaries attended a moving ceremony.



NHS Funding

Sarah speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on the 19th July 2016




Guide to the New Cabinet

The last week has seen a large political shake up so I thought it might be helpful to provide a guide to the faces on our frontbenches.

I am very pleased that Theresa May is our new PM, having seen her work over the past six years I have no doubt about her abilities. She has statesmanship, a track record for negotiating skills and an eye for detail. You can read more about Theresa here.


of the Exchequer

Philip Hammond


Home Secretary
Amber Rudd

Foreign Secretary
Boris Johnson

Lord Chancellor
Secretary of State
for Justice

Liz Truss

Secretary of State
for Defence

Michael Fallon

Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
(New Ministry)
David Davis
Secretary of State
International Trade
(New Ministry)
Liam Fox

Secretary of State
Work and Pensions
Damian Green

Secretary of State
for Health

Jeremy Hunt
Leader of the
House of Commons,

Lord President of the Council
David Lidington
Secretary of State
for International Development

Priti Patel
Secretary of State
for Education & Minister for Women & Equalities
Justine Greening

Secretary of State for Transport
Chris Grayling
Secretary of State
for Business, Energy
& Industrial Strategy
(New Ministry)
Greg Clark

Secretary of State
for Northern Ireland

James Brokenshire
Secretary of State
for Environment,

Food & Rural Affairs
Andrea Leadsom
Secretary of State
for Communities & Local Government

Sajid Javid
Secretary of State
for Wales

Alun Cairns
Secretary of State
for Culture, Media & Sport Karen Bradley



The Big Lottery Fund

The Big Lottery Fund are offering grants of between £300 and £10,000 for groups to hold one off events or activities which celebrate their local community.

It could be celebrating something from the community's history or a local hero. Or maybe it could a chance to bring people together to get to know their neighbours better!

There is total of £3.875m available for projects in England. Applications are assessed on a first come, first served basis until all funds are awarded

Applications for funding opened on 6 July 2016 and further information can be found on their website


EU Referendum

Read my blog on the outcome of the vote here.


Environment Agency repairs at Torcross

The Environment Agency have provided me with the following update (29.09.16) on Torcross:-

We're pleased to confirm that sheet piles will start to arrive in Torcross from 17 October 2016 ready for the wall repair. We can start work as soon as we have both:

  • planning approval from South Hams District Council 
  • a marine licence from the Marine Management Organisation

Our applications for both consents are currently being considered. We estimate the earliest construction start date will be early November 2016. We will update you when we have an exact start date. The repair will take about 3 months to complete.

The sheet piles will be stored in the Torcross Tank car park. The car park will be partially closed from 10 October, with full closure during sheet pile delivery periods and from the construction start date, until the repair is complete. We will keep the tank memorial and public toilets open to the public, with access available to the South West Coast Path and Slapton Ley hide. We'll ask our contractors, BMM JV, to maintain as much public access to the car park as possible without compromising safety. We'll also consider what changes we need to make to accommodate the 11 November Armistice Day events in Torcross.

We've produced a poster to help visitors to Torcross understand what's going on and find alternative car parking along the road. We will display this on the Torcross Tank car park site. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your patience.

In addition to this repair, the Environment Agency has contributed £15,000 to the Torcross and Slapton Beach Management Plan, in partnership with South Hams District Council, Slapton Line Partnership and Devon County Council.

Any enquiries about the Torcross project should be sent to dcisenquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk.



Fly Tipping

From the 9th May the penalties for fly-tipping were increased. It is now a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £50,000 or 12 months imprisonment if convicted in a Magistrates' Court. The offence can attract an unlimited fine and up to 5 years imprisonment if convicted in a Crown Court.

There are also a range of other possible penalties including fixed penalty notices and local authorities can now issue fixed penalty notices between £150 to £400 for small-scale fly-tipping.

As well as spoiling the countryside, fly-tipping is illegal, bad for the environment and often a health hazard to people and animals. Household waste, including DIY material and electrical goods such as fridges, accounts for half of all fly tipped rubbish. Councils encourage householders to dispose of waste responsibly through reducing, reusing, recycling and composting waste, where possible.

You can dispose of your waste in a number of ways:

  • 'Normal' household refuse and recycling should be placed out for collection the evening before, or by 7 a.m. on the morning of, your collection.
  • 'Bulky' items and larger items of household waste can be disposed of in several ways:- Take these items to your closest household waste recycling centre.
    In the South Hams these are run by Devon County Council. For further information contact DCC on 0345 1551010; or look at the website
    Information about Torbay recycling centre can be found here 
  • Arrange for a bulky household waste collection. This service is operated by the Councils and a small charge is made. Please visit  the appropriate Council's website for further details. SHDC  or Torbay
  • Take glass bottles and jars to your closest recycling bank. You can find recycling banks through the following links South Hams District Council  or Torbay Council

Some residents call on contractors for removal of larger waste items. If you choose this option, please follow these simple checks to make sure your waste is disposed of correctly and not fly tipped out of sight.

  1. Check that the contractor has a waste carrier's licence. You can do this on the Environment Agency website
  2. Ask where they are going to take your waste.
  3. Pay on presentation of an invoice which shows the waste carrier's licence number and details where your waste was disposed.
  4. Ask for a receipt and keep it safe.

Unfortunately, if a fly tip includes items tracked back to yourself, you may be liable for legal action being taken against you and you could be fined. Make sure that doesn't happen with these simple checks.

Help us to protect the environment and to keep our beautiful district perfect.


Slow and Wide














I met with a constituent who came to see me about Debbie Smith's petition and campaign that was started in September 2015 about the dangers horse riders face on the roads.

Riders have as much right to be on a pubic highway as anyone else, but they get verbal abuse, beeping of horns and revving of engines, cars speeding past so close their stirrups get hit.

The petition is seeking to change the law to make it a legal requirement to have to slow, and pass a horse wide, and abide rider's hand signals to stop and slow to reinforce this. Riders feel there is a need to be riding with head cameras to gather the evidence to give to the police. As it stands, action can only be taken if riders can prove careless driving but by that time it is generally too late and the accident between the car, horse and rider has already happened; riders need to be able to ask a car to stop to prevent an accident happening, if caught on camera they will get fined and charged. The statistics of accidents and deaths has risen highly in the last 10 years, this needs to decline.

If you would like to join the pass wide and slow campaign you can sign the petition via the following link


Totnes Community Development Society

Totnes Community Development Society (TCDS), has been awarded as runner-up in the Cabinet Office National Social Investment Awards run in partnership with Nat West. TCDS were jointly shortlisted with UK social investor CAF Venturesome that has invested finance in the pre-development process taking place at the community-led development facilitated by TCDS, Atmos Totnes.

Together TCDS and CAF Venturesome were shortlisted for the Institutional Social Investment Award, which show-cases institutional investment deals or products that have created demonstrable social impact at scale.

Marcelino Castrillo, Managing Director of Business Banking at NatWest, joined the Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson in congratulating all shortlisted organisations at a ceremony at RBS head office in London last week.

Atmos Totnes is currently one of the first developments in the UK progressing through a Community Right to Build Order. The scheme seeks to develop and bring into community ownership the former Dairy Crest milk processing plant next to Totnes train station. Sixty-two affordable residences are currently planned on the Atmos Totnes site as well as substantial amounts of community and enterprise space.


The House

I was interviewed by John Ashmore for The House Magazine and you may be interested to read the article

                                                                              Photo by Jack Lawson

Flooding in Totnes

The Environment Agency have announced a new initiative to reduce the risk of flooding in Totnes. Since the original flood defences were built in the 1980s there have been at least two separate occasions where some properties in Totnes have come close to flooding.

For more information you can contact the Environment Agency by email or write to them at The Environment Agency, Manley House, Kestrel Way, Exeter, Devon, EX2 7LQ. Or you can visit their website using the following link

In addition to the Environment Agency's new initiative, the government has recently launched FLOODre. This is a new national scheme designed to help provide better access to affordable home insurance. More about FLOODre can be found at www.floodre.co.uk or you can watch their informative video.


Petitions to Torbay Council

Torbay Council is encouraging people who wish to submit petitions to follow the correct procedure as this will ensure their voice is heard about subjects that matter to them.

Petitions are often used to allow communities to raise awareness and participate in local affairs. If a petition has 25 or more valid signatures it will be seen at Council and the petitioner will have the opportunity to speak on the matter. The petition will then be referred to the decision-maker for a decision.

Petitions with 1,000 or more valid signatures can be presented to Council for full debate and decision. However, for a petition to be approved it must follow Torbay Council's Petition Scheme or it will unfortunately be refused.

Recently a number of petitions have been refused for the following reasons:
• The petition did not have accompanying signatures with full addresses (including post codes).
• The petition did not clearly stating the action it wishes the council to take.
• The petition did not have clear headings on each page to inform the signatories what they are signing.

Addresses must be clear and include the correct post code to ensure they have been signed by people who live, work or study in Torbay.

If you are thinking of submitting a petition please contact the Governance Support Team on (01803) 207087 or email governance.support@torbay.gov.uk before you start so that they can assist you and ensure your petition meets the requirements of the scheme.

To help you decide what to include please find details of petitions received by the council and the outcomes on the website

The petition scheme and a template is available here


Together, We can tackle Child Abuse

The Department for Education is funding an important communications campaign to encourage members of the public to report child abuse and neglect. We all want to ensure children who are at risk of abuse or neglect are identified quickly to stop situations escalating.

In 2014/15 there were 632,400 referrals into children's social care, with 9.7% of these coming from members of the public. This figure can be improved upon and that is why this campaign aims to get as many people as possible to be more alert to the protection of children in their communities.

Campaigns have already been launched across the country with the government funding out-of-home advertising on billboards and bus stops along with digital and radio advertisements to get the message across.

We all have a role to play in protecting children and young people from child abuse and neglect and I am pleased that the campaign has received welcome support from local authorities, the police and health officials.

For more information on the campaign, and advice on how to protect children from abuse or neglect please visit the following links:


WW1 Commemoration Funding

2016 marks the centenary of some of the most bloody and significant battles of the First World War, including Verdun, Jutland, the Dublin Easter Rising and of course, the Somme. A number of sources of funding are available to help explore and commemorate the events of WW1. These are:

  • The Heritage Lottery Fund, which is providing grants of £3,000-£10,000 to mark the centenary of WW1. Details of this can be accessed here.
  • The War Memorial Trust, which provides grants of up to £30,000 to help conserve and restore local war memorials. Details can be found here.   
  • Historic England has launched a programme, financed by the Government, to add 2,500 war memorials to the National Heritage List. Details of this project, including how to register a war memorial, can be found here.


A first for community-led development in South Hams

South Hams District Council has received its first Community Right to Build Order for the proposed Atmos Totnes development on the former Diary Crest site. This is one of the first in the country to use this new route to planning which increases the amount of consultation and involvement by the local community within a planning process.

Totnes Community Development Society (TCDS) have been working with the community for the last 18 months to prepare plans for a mixed development on the site. Before Christmas TCDS held Pre-submission Consultation (Regulation 14 of Neighbourhood Planning Regulations 2012), which is a formal part of the Community Right to Build Order process.

Following the most recent consultation with both the community and statutory organisations, there have been some changes to the Order and associated plans. Please do have a look at the revised Order available through South Hams District Council, which includes all associated plans, designs, and supporting technical information for Atmos Totnes. This period of Consultation (Regulation 16 of the Neighbourhood Planning Regulations 2012) will end on the 8th April.

You can submit comments and objections to the submission for Atmos Totnes via the South Hams District Council website, email or the office address: http://www.southhams.gov.uk/atmos


Torcross Update from the Environment Agency (22.04.16)

Our project board met this week to review the repair options for Torcross. We are confident that our consultants have provided robust solutions for the stability of the defence at Torcross. As promised we're sharing with you an overview of the options being considered.

What repair options are technically feasible?

1. Full rock revetment in front of the whole length of defence – this option is likely to result in full loss of the beach (similar to Beesands). We are concerned about the impact of this option on the community in Torcross.

2. Concrete Armour in front of the whole length of defence - this option is likely to result in loss of the beach, although less than with option 1. We are concerned about the impact of this option on the community in Torcross.

3. New steel sheet piled wall – this option would involve driving a new piled wall approximately 1 metre in front of existing defence to a greater depth than the existing piling, to provide greater protection to the structure from reduced beach levels. This wall could be either along the full length of defence or just in front of the damaged areas, with or without rock in front.

4. Beach management – this option would involve recharging the beach in front of the existing defence. Any recharge will need to take into account 2015 experiences and the potential for ongoing management.

5. Combination of Option 3 and 4 – this option would involve a combination of new steel sheet piled wall and recharging the beach. This option would help increase the lifespan of the new sheet piled wall.

What repair options are economically feasible?

When investing tax payer's money, government requires us to follow appraisal and funding guidance to ensure we are providing a cost effective solution over the life of the defence and ensure value for money. The preferred option will be the one that has the highest benefit to cost ratio (i.e. the one which gives the best value comparing the cost with the damage avoided) provided the solution is technically feasible.

Tell us what you think

As well as choosing a technically and economically feasible option, we also want to endeavour to choose a solution that enables residents to continue to enjoy Torcross. This means we need to know more about what you think of the options presented above.

Please send any feedback on the options above through to your community representative, Bill Fletcher-Neal by the 6th May 2016 to williamfn@btinternet.com or calling 01548 581 036. Bill has kindly agreed to collate these comments for us. We will also hold a drop in to answer any questions individual residents and businesses have about the options if you think this would be useful.

All your comments will be taken to the project board in May to make a decision about which option is preferred

All enquiries about this project should be sent to devoncornwallenquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk. If you need to report an emergency incident at Torcross please call our 24 hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

For all updates please look at the Slapton Line Partnership website

Picture by kind permission of Pat Nettleton


Torcross is open for business.

The recent weather has damaged the A379, temporarily closing the southern end of the Slapton line but thanks to a rapid response, it is hoped that this will reopen to light traffic by the weekend or early next week.

Devon County Council are also funding a temporary shuttle bus service between Kingsbridge bus station and Torcross to replace the suspended Stagecoach bus route.

The car park at the War Memorial is open so please take the opportunity to enjoy one of our best sea views and nature reserves with a stunning walk along the coast path. The wonderful Start Bay Inn is also very much open for business.



Thank you to local residents, Mike Williams and his Environment Agency team, Peter Brunt from DCC Highways, South Hams District Council, local councillors and the Slapton Line Partnership for coming to today's emergency meeting at Torcross. This was an opportunity to inspect the sea defences and raise questions about the scale of the damage both to the sea wall protecting Torcross as well as to the A379. This vital road link has been closed at the Torcross end of the Slapton Line as a result of damage to the sea wall.

Despite all three main agencies, SHDC, EA and DCC working together to rapidly agree remedial work to the sea wall protecting the road, further bad weather over the weekend has caused further damage and forced a complete closure. It was explained that work to drive metal sheeting to protect the road could not start last week because of the essential requirement to first carry out checks for unexploded ordnance. The EA confirmed that the main sea wall at Torcross is their responsibility as a flood defence barrier and that the section to the north, protecting the road, is the responsibility of SHDC. The road itself is however, the responsibility of DCC whilst the land on which the road runs along the Slapton line is owned by the Whitney Trust. The urgency of the task ahead to protect both the community and vital road link was clear to everyone. It was reassuring to see work in progress to create extra protection for the road as well as the equipment arriving on site to construct a temporary diversion through the car park to allow the passage of light traffic and hopefully also to local buses.

The EA have now awarded the contract for an urgent survey to assess the condition of defences beneath the main sea wall protecting Torcross and, in the meantime, plan to start emergency work bringing in rock armour to place in front of the wall.

For local residents worried about the structural safety of their homes, the advice was to call 01626 215793 to discuss this with Building Control if not already covered by home insurance.

The need for a future single communication hub for all agencies to update the community was agreed and thank you to the Slapton Line Partnership for agreeing to host updates on their website.

I will continue to work with the community and all the agencies to try to get the work completed as soon as possible and to safeguard the future of Torcross and the A379. These plans must also consider the defences and communities of Beesands and North Hallsands.


Drink Wise, Age Well in Devon

Drink Wise Age Well

I have received a number of emails about the amendment tabled by John Mann to the Serious Crime Act.

First and foremost, it is of the utmost importance that the government protects children from abuse and addresses concerns that public bodies and other institutions may have failed to act to protect children in the past or deliberately covered up abuse. These must be fully investigated without any fear that anyone could be deterred from giving evidence as a result of the Official Secrets Act

The government has made it clear that John Mann's amendment was not necessary as the Official Secrets Act does not prevent disclosures about abuse being made, this point being clarified by the Home Secretary in the Commons & by the following statement by the Home Office:

The Official Secrets Act is intended to protect certain classes of particularly sensitive information such as security and intelligence matters, and it provides for a number of offences that prevent current or former Crown servants or Government contractors from disclosing certain information without lawful authority. It does not prevent protected information from being disclosed to an officer of an official investigation or inquiry into historical child abuse. In particular, information may be disclosed where the disclosure is made in accordance with that person's official duty or is otherwise authorised. Departments and Ministers can permit current and former civil servants and Government contractors to share knowledge and documentation with an inquiry.

For example, in the case of the Kincora investigation - the Hart Inquiry in Northern Ireland - it has been made absolutely clear by the Attorney-General that prosecutions under the Official Secrets Act will not take place where people are giving evidence of child abuse to the inquiry. The Home Secretary has made it clear that official authorisation would be given for the Goddard Inquiry if a request were made, in a manner similar to that for the Hart Inquiry, and has written to Justice Goddard to suggest that she make such a request to the Attorney General.

Click here to see me being interviewed by Women2Win


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14 OCT 2016

Turn the Page

I visited Turn the Page a children's festival today in Totnes to talk to the event organisers and some of the local authors and illustrators.

14 OCT 2016


This afternoon I had a wonderful time at KEVICC talking to students about being an MP and the European Referendum. It was good to meet so many politically engaged students at the college.

14 OCT 2016

Totnes Women's Institute

I was delighted to visit Totnes Women's Institute's climate change event today at St Mary's Church Totnes. It was great to meet all the hard working volunteers that made their Week of Action possible.

19 OCT 2016

Agriculture and Fishing

Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health Committee Time is short, so I will congratulate my hon. Friend Scott Mann on bringing forward this debate, and endorse the many comments he and others have made about the importance of our farming industry. I would like to touch on: issues for our fishing industry,...

18 OCT 2016

Health Select Committee

The Health Committee questioned the Secretary of State for Health and NHS Chief Executives as part of the inquiry on the current state of NHS finances.

13 OCT 2016

South West Royal College of General Practitioners

I met with Richard Pratt of the South West Royal College of General Practitioners to discuss the GP Forward View. You can find out more about the GP Forward View

13 OCT 2016


It was fantastic to meet  with Debbie and Alison from Barnardo's to talk about their new project, 'Believe In Me' which aims to show off the incredible things that children who may not have had the best start in life can do.

13 OCT 2016

Hospital Consultants

I met with members of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association to talk about the pressures facing the NHS and how to deal with the challenges the NHS faces. It was a pleasure to meet with Claudia, John, Ross, and Eddie from the...

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Sarah's Personal Blog

Click here for Sarah's blogs and to leave comments

Public Health is in Crisis (01.09.16)

In her first speech as prime minister, Theresa May promised to tackle the nine-year gap in life expectancy between rich and poor, placing this at the top of her list of burning injustices. This yawning inequality has defeated successive governments, and the gap is even wider between rich and poor for years lived in good health. Closing it will require action across areas such as poverty, housing and education, as well as those more conventionally thought of as affecting health. May will need to start early and look far beyond the short-term political cycle for results.

Public health seldom makes headlines. We tend not to recognise, let alone thank it for preventing disease or life-changing accidents, despite public health measures transforming our life expectancy. We are more likely to focus on and appreciate the specialists who treat a condition than to complain about the absence of the expertise or policy that could have helped to prevent it.

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Childhood Obesity; A Plan for Inaction (21.08.16)

The childhood obesity strategy has been downgraded. The final paragraph sums up the tone that it will be 'respecting consumer choice, economic realities and, ultimately, our need to eat'. This crass statement entirely misses the point; of course children need to eat, but the childhood obesity strategy needed to make sure that they benefitted from a better diet.

Trying to capitalise on the feel good factor of the Olympics, the messaging has distorted the underlying evidence. Of course we need children to be more active but exercise matters whatever a child's age or weight. The key message on childhood obesity should have been front and centre about the importance of reducing junk calories with evidence-based action to match.

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What next following the Chilcot Report? (08.07.16)

The independent Chilcot Report was expected to report rapidly but such was the volume and detail of the evidence examined and the sensitivity of its conclusions that in the end it took seven years. It runs to 12 volumes and 2.6m words and the final summary should be compulsory reading for all who will in future be tasked with the heaviest decision for any government, to commit our forces to war. 179 British servicemen and women lost their lives alongside 24 British civilians and over 150,000 Iraqis. The consequences for their loved ones of our failures in Iraq have been appalling and the terrorism and violence continue to this day across the region and worldwide.

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EU Referendum (26.06.16)

Britain has spoken and now it is for Government and Parliament to respect the result of the referendum and carry forward the instruction to take us out of the European Union. It has been a long campaign which has divided families, communities and the nation. Almost three quarters of those under 24 voted to remain whilst their grandparents' generation voted decisively to leave. In Torbay the clear majority embraced Brexit whilst in the neighbouring South Hams most people did not. Scotland and Northern Ireland wanted in whilst England and Wales voted out. In the end, months of complex arguments seemed to boil down to a tug between immigration and sovereignty on the one hand versus the economy, stability and our links with Europe on the other. Now it is time to put the divisions behind us and move on.

Click here to read the full blog and to leave comments on this article.


I will be respecting the outcome of the referendum, but my personal vote will now be to remain in the EU.(09.06.16)

My postal vote sits unopened in the kitchen. Far from tearing it open to do my bit for Brexit, I have been imagining how it would feel to wake up to that result on June 24th. It would not be elation or freedom but a profound sense that something had been lost and guilt too if my vote had contributed to the turmoil ahead.

It's far easier as a politician to stick immovably to a declared position but more honest to set out why I will now be voting for Britain to remain a member of the EU.

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Both sides should stop treating the public as fools in this ugly referendum campaign (23.05.16)

With a month to go until the EU referendum, the public deserve better from this campaign. I came into politics urging for better use of data and, like so many who are grappling with the questions at the heart of the debate, I'm dismayed by the disingenuous and at times downright misleading claims from both official campaigns.

We have seen a spiral in recent days, with both sides making ever more outlandish claims. Most recently Vote Leave has blamed EU migration for NHS pressures, brazenly hijacked their branding and continued to make the absurd claim that Brexit could divert £350million extra per week to the NHS.

There are many reasons for the pressures on the NHS, but largely because we are living longer and with multiple and complex conditions. As many have commented; if you meet a migrant in the NHS they are more likely to be caring for you than ahead of you in the queue. The NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, set out the stark dependence of the service, on overseas staff during his interview on the Marr Show and, whilst many health and care workers come from outside the EU, a vote to leave would have consequences if those from the EU were made to feel unwelcome. He also highlighted the dependence of the NHS on a strong economy and the knock on consequences for any uplift in funding of financial turbulence. In my view, it is an increase in the percentage of our national income that we spend on health and care that will save the NHS, not Brexit. After the rebate and funds already committed to support farmers, exporters, regional development projects and science, the leave campaign clearly does not have an extra £350m per week to promise the NHS and they should stop treating the public as fools.

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Community Hospitals; a precious community resource (17.04.16)

Our community hospitals are immensely valued and so any changes, especially those that could lead to bed closures are a serious concern. Community hospitals are about far more than their bricks and mortar, they are at the heart of delivering a service to local communities that allows people to be cared for closer to home, sometimes to be able to be cared for near loved ones at the end of their lives or to avoid having to be admitted to a larger hospital too far away for friends and family to be able to visit. Community hospitals provide personal, high quality and supportive care and are extraordinarily important to all the communities and individuals they serve.

To be clear, I do not want Paignton or Dartmouth hospitals to close. But our ageing population and the rising demand for services especially as a result of the growing number of people living with long term conditions mean that those planning services have to look at how we can care for as many people as possible close to home within the resources available. That means looking at the whole system of primary care, community nursing, social care, mental health services and voluntary services alongside community hospitals and Torbay hospital. We cannot look at them in isolation.

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In this junior doctors row, both sides have lost sight of the patient (04.04.16)

I have great respect for junior doctors; it has always been a demanding role. Alongside my clinical practice, I spent over a decade teaching them before changing my initials from GP to MP. I should also declare a personal interest as my daughter is one of them, albeit currently working in Australia.

There is a long tradition of juniors spending a year or two abroad early in their careers before settling down to specialist training back in the UK, but now there is a genuine concern about the balance between leavers and returners. Many of my daughter's colleagues are not planning to join her on the journey home next year and there has been a marked increase in the numbers applying for certificates to work overseas.

The toxic dispute between the government and our core medical workforce risks driving an exodus of skills that we cannot afford to lose.

The contract sits like a festering boil with neither side ready to agree a way forward, and the dispute looks set to erupt into a dangerous full walkout by junior doctors. The British Medical Association (BMA) claims that the contract will harm patients by stretching doctors too thinly across seven days while reducing their take-home pay. The government insists that patients are being put at risk by understaffing at the weekends and that the contract reduces doctors' maximum hours and consecutive shifts while increasing basic pay by 13.5%.

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Childhood Obesity

Almost one in five children are obese before they leave primary school. 85% will go on to become obese as adults with increased risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Do you feel that we should do more to help them?

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