It was a pleasure to be in Pevensey Bay a fortnight ago for the first of a series of public meetings I am holding in the parishes and towns that make up the 200 square miles of the constituency.
After a morning leafletting the village to advertise the drop-in session, doors at St Wilfrid’s Church Hall opened at lunchtime. During the busy meeting, residents raised important local and national issues with me, including public transport, kinship carers, and Royal Mail deliveries; all cases which I have taken forward.
I was also asked about the local library service. Back in 2016, I was involved in helping volunteers save the library. The Pevensey Community Library is now a successful community-led service and hub which is looking to secure its long-term future in the heart of the village. I will do all I can to help the library as its future plans develop.
I am pleased that so many residents were able to come and talk to me and I would like to thank Pevensey Parish Council for their help in arranging and promoting the meeting.
Pevensey Bay wasn’t my only public meeting that day. In the evening, I held an open meeting in Bexhill with residents to discuss Northeye. During the meeting, I reaffirmed that the Home Office are only considering a detained site, meaning those residing there cannot come and go. I also set out the support I have been offering to residents of the Northeye estate, who are most impacted by the proposal, and took questions from the audience. It is likely to be some time before a final decision will be made whether the proposal will be brought forward.
Between these meetings, I caught up with the Environment Agency (EA) to talk about the next phase of the Pevensey Sea Defences. We discussed progress on the Pevensey Bay to Eastbourne Coastal Management Scheme which will protect 10,000 homes, businesses, and infrastructure for the next 100 years from 2025 when the current sea defence project is due to end. I will maintain a close interest in this project to ensure it delivers the protections required due to climate change.
I will be meeting the EA again at the start of March, with Southern Water, to discuss sewage pollution - one of my key priorities for the constituency.
One of the agenda items for this meeting will be bathing water testing. The Environment Agency’s 2023 Bathing Water Classifications classified Bexhill as being ‘sufficient’. They advised that the water quality is affected by urban diffuse pollution including urban runoff, sewer leakage and misconnections, as well as occasional combined sewage overflow discharges.
I am concerned that the classification may not present an entirely accurate picture of the quality of bathing water across the entire beach. Currently, swimmers can swim from the ‘excellent’ waters of St Leonards to ‘sufficient’ in Bexhill in one stroke. The beach in Bexhill stretches some 3.5 miles, from Galley Hill to Cooden Beach, yet the Environment only officially tests from one site, which is located in front of the Egerton Park stream outflow.
Southern Water last year introduced a ‘shadow testing’ regime taking frequent coastal and inland water samples, from across 14 sites in Bexhill, including the Environment Agency’s official testing point. Initial results appeared positive, with samples taking during the bathing season falling into the ‘excellent’ water quality category.
I would like to see a more rigorous and widespread testing regime in place. As well as discussing this with the EA and Southern Water locally, I have asked to meet with the Minister for Water to see what more we can do to improve the testing and reporting of bathing water.
On the topic of sewage, it was announced at the start of the year that all of England’s storm overflows are now being electronically monitored, meeting the government’s target to achieve 100% coverage by the end of 2023. Just 7% of outflows were monitored in 2010. Increased monitoring provides greater transparency on when discharges are happening, with the data provided being invaluable in helping to identify where improvements can be made.
Finally, registration is now open for this year’s Bexhill Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair, which is being held at the De La Warr Pavilion on 15 March. I'm proud to be actively involved in organising the event where over 50 businesses and organisations will be recruiting into full and part-time jobs, apprenticeships, work experience, placements and skills development opportunities. There will also be Talks & Workshops, Google Digital Garage training sessions and more. To register and find out more please visit: www.dlwp.com/jobsfair.