My Priorities

Living in this South Downs constituency with my family, its always been easy for me to understand what matters to local people as we use the same roads, high streets and public services.

1) My top priority will always be to work to protect our countryside and green fields:

My own opposition to major development on rural green land has been unwavering since I first entered Parliament and spoke about this issue in my maiden speech. West Sussex is on the frontline of inappropriate development, and I have campaigned energetically for planning reform ever since being elected 4 years ago.

Thankfully, we’ve had some major victories.

The ‘algorithm’ which influenced housing targets has been reduced to being only advisory and neighbourhood plans given more legal weight than ever before even if local councils miss the number of homes they say they will build. 

The Government has also told big-city councils to prioritise brownfield land and get on and build, utilising former commercial property and developing upwards not outwards. London and Brighton were both on the list which would take a lot of pressure off the precious South Downs naturescape where we live.

But unfortunately, despite having the tools to stop inappropriate development, our local councils continue to slip outrageous developments into the small print of their local plans. We’ve seen this a number of times, and residents are furious. I will continue to back residents standing up for their neighbourhood plans fighting council decisions and call for our elected leaders to build houses where we need them most – on brownfields in our towns and urban areas.

2) Tackling rural crime and anti-social behaviour in our towns:

Nationally, the Government has recruited more than 20,000 new Police Officers – delivering on a commitment made in 2019.

That means that Sussex Police has recruited an additional 679 Police Officers since 2018 and the force now has more officers on our streets than 10 years ago.

This positive news has meant that we’ve seen neighbourhood crime fall by 33% since 2019 – a bigger reduction than the national average – and an expansion of our local Rural Crime Team who are expert specialists in tackling the crime that impacts our more isolated countryside communities.

I am also a proud and prominent supporter of Sussex Police’s ‘Operation Downsway’ to target those who use our West Sussex rural roads in an anti-social and dangerous manner. 

3) Improving our local healthcare services:

I have conducted one of the biggest ever local NHS Surveys in the area and regularly share the results with local NHS leadership and Ministers to try to shape priorities and fix issues where they arise. I've also worked closely with communities to support GP surgeries and save the local pharmacies which are often a fragile part of our High Streets but vital to residents.

I’m especially pleased that the Government’s new Primary Healthcare Plan will end the 8am rush for GP appointments with a new system to book appointments immediately or signpost appropriate care elsewhere and extending funding for pharmacists to allow for a wider range of prescriptions – freeing up millions of GP appointments.

4) Protecting our environment:

From the top level of Government down to the most local consultations, I am an advocate against unsustainable development in our community which harms the countryside. My support for local rewilding was something I raised in my first ever speech in parliament.

Some people in our constituency have understandable concerns about the impact of the recent decision to lift the moratorium on shale extraction. I do not support fracking locally, as our as our transport infrastructure would be unsuitable for the extra traffic volumes, but I am glad that local communities will now be able to pursue these opportunities if they so wish.

I also understand how important tackling sewage discharge is for many people. Indeed, this is the first Government to take steps to address storm overflows.

 In August 2022, the Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan was launched, setting out stringent targets to protect people and the environment, backed up by up to £60 billion capital investment, which is the largest infrastructure programme in water company history. Legally binding through the Environment Act 2021, the plan prioritises storm overflows that could cause the most harm while balancing the impact on consumer bills.

5) Better broadband:

For those working from home, living in our most isolated areas, or indeed for our rural businesses, slow broadband can be a complete obstruction.

That’s why victory over the ‘battle for bandwidth’ is one of my top priorities.

After working closely with Ministers, we’ve secured brilliant news for the most rural areas in West Sussex.

In addition to the many local Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme projects successfully delivering ultrafast broadband to South Downs community, work will start this year on £100 million worth of investment for broadband in the most ‘hard-to-reach’ areas.

This project, funded by the Government, means that for over 68,000 homes and businesses in the South Downs will see speeds shoot right up to 1,000mbps (depending on their broadband contracts).

The most recent figures from Building Digital UK, the Government organisation task with improving broadband speeds, show that 41.7% of residents in Arundel & South Downs now have access to ‘gigabit’ broadband (1000+ mbps download speeds) – representing a 618% increase in coverage since 2019. A total of 94.5% of residents now have access to superfast broadband (30-300 mbps download speeds), up from 91.2% in 2019.

For updates on my priorities, sign up to my newsletter by clicking here.