In My View - 16th August 2016

The economy received a welcome boost from higher consumer spending last month. After the exertions of the last year I expect people are relieved to have a bit of warm weather in which to relax and make merry. A climate appropriate for the party season has meant new summer clothes and more food and drink for us on average it seems, and it really is a great time of year to get out in the garden or countryside if we can.

A summer like this reminds how great and beautiful Britain is. My grandfather visited us here from Australia a few times when I was growing up, and being a farmer he always had an eye on the weather. He marvelled at our lush green English summers, so different from the parched brown landscape that accompanies hot summer weather "Down Under".

It is good for the soul to get out in nature and commune with the bees and flowers. People were a bit rough on Prince Charles for admiring trees I think. Respect and appreciation for our environment is important, and is actually a deep part of our humanity and origins.

I was one of a number of Conservative MPs to write this week to our new Prime Minister to impress on her how important the environment is to us. We asked that whatever the upcoming process around exiting the European Union, we should as a nation seek to uphold very high environmental standards and protections, and encourage others to do so.

I believe the change brings new opportunities now for us to steward our environment, encourage biodiversity, and tackle flooding and global warming. The smiles on our children's faces as they roam outside this summer should certainly inspire us.

On that front, this summer I have been involved in planning for the rain and storms we too often see in the winter. I am this week meeting with the Flooding on the Levels Action Group to look at ways Somerset's MPs can support County wide action to reduce the effects of flooding.

In addition to dredging the rivers and lobbying for Somerset's new Strategic Rivers Authority to be able to set budgets and precept separately, I am keen to encourage water to be kept higher up in our rivers' catchments, to help with flash floods and rising river levels.

An important part of this is getting the Environment Agency to take its role as regulator seriously and give proper and accurate input into the planning process. Too often lip service appears to be paid to the potential effect of flooding within planning and development decisions, and I will be taking this up with them in a meeting I have arranged in September. I recommend that communities look at establishing neighbourhood plans that can give valuable local input on environmental matters including flooding, supplementing the top down work.

At a micro level I am pleased to report £262,000 for action against flooding in South Somerset from Somerset County Council, including for new drains and gullies in Burton Lane East Coker, and similar for the A358 at Chard, which should stop the rain breaking up the roads causing danger and flooding local houses.