Ian Lavery, wansbeck mp
The coming 12 months should add up to another year of exiting opportunities for Morpeth and the people who live and work in and around the town.
Since being elected as the Member of Parliament representing the Wansbeck Constituency just over three-and-a-half years ago now, I have had the opportunity – and may I say pleasure – of getting to know the town better, and it is with great pride that I tell colleagues at Westminster that Morpeth lies within my constituency boundaries.
Because I believe Morpeth has so much going for it, and indeed can lay claim to being perhaps the premier modern market town in the whole of the North East of England, where history and heritage sit neatly alongside a vibrant image as a great place to shop and visit.
This year, everything possible must be done to capitalise on Morpeth’s recent success in the Britain in Bloom competition to draw even more visitors into the town and the impending withdrawal of car parking charges should also be a welcome boost to the retail sector, which is so important to the local economy.
One thing that impresses me in this respect is the way core partners are working together for the good of Morpeth and I am confident they will continue to promote and market Morpeth not only as a leading visitor attraction, but to encourage more local people to shop and do business in the town.
Successful town centres need the support of the day-to-day business generated by local residents who have such an important part to ensure their continued viability. Morpeth is fortunate to have a unique blend of independent, niche business and big high street names that I believe bodes well for its future viability.
Local people also have a key part to play in the excellent work being done to develop a Neighbourhood Plan for Morpeth and its surrounding parishes, to create a locally agreed framework for their development over the next 20 years. What I find encouraging is that so many local people have already engaged with that process either as being a pro-active volunteer working on the preparation of the plan itself, or by responding to surveys seeking their views on the proposals and conclusions being drawn out of the work that has already been done.
That it so important if this is to be a plan steered and driven by local people and organisations who know what is needed for the future of their communities and I am certain that pattern of public consultation and responses will continue over the coming year.
2014 will also be an important year in the progress of the on-going work being done to give Morpeth the protection the town needs from flooding and I am sure people living along the banks of the River Wansbeck will be eagerly awaiting the completion of that work. As I said at the start of this message, I have got to know Morpeth and its people much better over the past three-and-a-half years, and in 2014 I plan to do even more in this regard by bringing the idea of ‘street surgeries’ to the town.
We have already successfully tried out this format of meeting and talking with more of my constituents by getting out and about into different neighbourhoods and giving people the chance directly to raise concerns or issues they may have face-to-face with me. In 2014, we plan to roll out the ‘street surgeries’ idea into Morpeth and its parishes.
In the meantime, may I wish readers of the Morpeth Herald, their families and friends a happy, healthy, successful New Year.