Making plans for the busy festive season

Preparations are being made for winter services.
Preparations are being made for winter services.

With winter getting closer and Christmas just around the corner, there is plenty to do and prepare for a busy end to the year, and the past month has been full of visits, meetings and events around the constituency.

The country recently came together to mark Remembrance Day and I was honoured to lay a wreath in Ponteland to pay my respects to servicemen and women who have shown incredible bravery and sacrifice in armed conflicts, past and present.

I know that Northumberland has played a huge role in armed conflicts and I was pleased to meet veterans and be able to pay tribute to those who have risked or given their lives to protect our country and our way of life.

I was delighted to announce the winner of my Christmas card design competition. There were hundreds of entries from primary and first schools all around the constituency and I really enjoyed looking through them.

It wasn’t an easy decision, but the winner was Brooke Foster, of Prudhoe Castle First School, who designed a brilliant Christmas snowglobe. The runners-up were Lily Macaulay, from Ovingham First School, and Freya Villiers-Stuart, of Whitfield Church of England First School.

The winning design will be featured on the front of my Christmas card, which will be sent all around the constituency, as well as to the Prime Minister.

Brooke, Lily and Freya have been invited to Kielder Forest where they will see the Kielder Christmas tree being felled, and Brooke will be invited to Westminster to see the tree decorated in College Green. Well done to the winners and to everyone who took part.

I am extremely grateful to everyone who has donated toys to my Christmas Toy Appeal. This is the seventh year we have collected toys for the Salvation Army to distribute to children in the area who otherwise would not receive any gifts, and it is fantastic to see the generosity of the people of Tynedale and Ponteland in donating to this cause.

Gifts can be dropped off until December 1 at my two constituency offices at 1 Meal Market, Hexham, or at Office 2, Horton Park, Ponteland.

It is important to ensure that plans are in place for the winter months, and meetings have recently been held to discuss winter preparations with the Highways and Neighbourhood Services teams in the Central and Western areas.

Salt stocks are in place and bins have been filled. Please contact the county council if your local salt bin has not been replenished.

I have made clear my opposition to the proposed reintroduction of lynx into Kielder Forest so I was glad to receive assurances from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that Secretary of State Michael Gove will make the final decision on the application made by the Lynx Trust.

The department assured me that it fully understands the concerns.

I was also concerned by reports that the lynx that escaped from a zoo in Wales killed seven sheep. These reports give weight to the arguments of farmers and the National Sheep Association, who fear the agricultural and economic damage that could be done by lynx in Kielder.

I will continue to work hard to ensure that the people of Kielder are listened to.

My Hexham Constituency Community Champion Awards recognise people making a difference, and I recently met winner Alan Bland and his wife Elizabeth.

Alan has raised £700 in aid of the Great North Air Ambulance — a very worthy winner, and just one of many people who are doing great things.

Visits, meetings and surgeries have continued throughout the month. As ever, if I can help in any way with problems, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.