My day begins with a visit to Ninfield CoE Primary School. It is the last day of term. I start with a meeting with Chris, the Headteacher, and Ian, the Head of Governors. I have been working closely with the school, local Councillors and other members of the community to persuade East Sussex County Council to fund the redevelopment of some classrooms which have reached the end of shelf life. With the funding being granted, I am pleased to hear that the keys are being handed to the building contractor on the following Monday so work can commence. After discussing other matters, such as the continued need to deliver more funds to the classroom, we all join the pupils for fish and chips and a farewell lunch for those who are moving to secondary school after the summer. This is a superb school, with a real sense of community, and I say farewell and wish everyone a good break.
Next, I head to meet a tourism business in Hooe. I am joined by local District Councillor, Pam Doodes, who has helped put our day together. A TV crew from BBC Breakfast are also joining for the rest of the day. They want to speak to those I am meeting to see how constituents are viewing the current moves by the Government to strike a deal for the UK to leave the EU and the response in Parliament.
The tourism business in Hooe is called the Quilt Retreat. Owners Julie and Michael Barnes have created a beautiful quilting workshop and accommodation experience for creative types to come and stay. In the workshop are a group of visitors from Surrey and London. Along with Michael, they are happy to give their views to me and to the camera.
Next, Pam and I head off to meet the Battle Community Singers who are practising in Hooe Village Hall. We discuss the benefits which singing can bring and also discuss other important local issues (not least the campaign to maintain East Sussex’s excellent music service). This visit confirms why Hooe would benefit from a new Village Hall.
As the rain pours down, Pam and I head back towards Ninfield to meet with local farmer, Tim Pilbeam. Tim has diversified his business. He not only farms crops and meat produce but also energy from his fields. Tim talks to the BBC Breakfast crew and shares his concerns that future trade deals which the UK may strike with other countries could see UK farmers failing to compete in our own domestic market.
Pam and I then head back to the Red Lion in Hooe. The pub has kindly reserved a part of the pub for us so we can host an open surgery for residents to come and meet us and discuss challenges and problems. These can either be very personal or impacting a large number of parishioners. Thanks to Pam, who has leafleted the village to give prior notice, we have a long queue. Pam deals with some issues around planning (which the District Council are responsible for). I deal with an urgent welfare case (the local Job Centre team pay a home visit the next day). Together, we deal with issues which impact the village as a whole (water treatment; local roads; speeding). I also have some national concerns to deal with (Brexit; a change in our laws on buying bladed items which could threaten a local specialist business).
With our surgery going on into the evening, there was not enough time to meet with Hooe Parish Council and Village Hall Committee. We have since met at Pam’s house and discuss a number of issues, including the welcome change of approach by Southern Water to the redevelopment of its treatment plant and the project to deliver a new Village Hall. Our talks about how we can stop Hooe being used as a rat-run off the A259 is very timely because an accident on the main coastal road has caused traffic jams in both villages.
It was great to watch the BBC Breakfast feature the following day. It showed the beauty of Ninfield and Hooe parishes and demonstrated the interest and knowledge which our constituents, and our visitors, hold.
I am grateful to Cllr Pam Doodes, the Parish Council, and the parishioners for such an informative and interesting day.