Message from Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck
2015 will go down as one of those years many people will remember for all the wrong reasons. Sadly our television screens were all too often filled with images of violence with the two attacks on Paris, the downing of the Russian airliner and the slaughter of innocent British tourists enjoying their holiday on a beach in Tunisia dominating the news headlines.
Locally 2016 looks like being a busy year, with much happening particularly in and around Morpeth over the coming months.
The common denominator of these incidents was terrorism associated with the so-called Islamic State, and then there were the disturbing images of hundreds of thousands of people of all ages prepared to risk all by fleeing fighting in their homelands, notably Syria.
Then who can forget the heart-rending pictures of the tiny body of a young boy washed up on a beach after he drowned with his brother and mother as they tried to make a perilous sea journey to safety.
So as we end 2015 an overriding thought is that the world must come together to halt such atrocities and to find a solution to the problems driving so many people from their homes in the Middle East.
At home it was, of course, also a disappointing year for our Labour Party, but the job of re-building support across the country has begun under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. On a personal note I was honoured to accept a post in his Shadow Cabinet Office, taking responsibility for trade unions and communities, which I will combine with my continuing work in my Wansbeck constituency.
There will be much work to be done both in the Commons and back here in the constituency over the next 12 months, with plenty of challenges to confront. Locally 2016 looks like being a busy year, with much happening particularly in and around Morpeth over the coming months.
Right around the town building work has begun on hundreds of new homes. Whether or not people agree with the new developments, the fact is they are happening and what we must do is work towards ensuring they are successfully integrated into the structure of the town so that the services provided for local residents continue to operate efficiently and effectively for all concerned.
A decision should soon be made on the much-talked about suggestion to perhaps move County Hall to Ashington and replace it with new schools and leisure facilities. Work is also well under way on the new road bypassing the north of Morpeth and the first traffic should travel along it during the coming year.
Plenty of potential changes then for Morpeth and, of course, it is vitally important that local people are kept fully informed and appraised of what is or might be happening in their town.
One of the most important pieces of work in that respect over the past few years has been the development of a Neighbourhood Plan for Morpeth.
As the Plan has been developed residents and businesses have been consulted regularly and it has now reached the stage where the final document is about to be put to a referendum to gauge public support for its content.
Before the Plan can be formally adopted it has to have the majority backing of local people and I would take this opportunity of adding my voice to those urging everyone to vote in the referendum. A positive turn out will add weight to the Plan if it gets majority support, which should help guide the future of Morpeth and its surrounding parishes for a good many years.
Another ‘referendum’ was carried out recently in Morpeth, this time giving rail travellers the chance to express their opinions on ambitious plans to refurbish the town’s railway station and also make it a hub for enterprise by creating office space for a number of small businesses. I am told there was a good response to the survey, which showed favourable support for the plans being put forward by the Greater Morpeth Development Trust.
At the same time news was being announced about planned improved main line, cross country and local rail services in and out of Morpeth station, which will be very welcome in the future, particularly with new houses being built. The more people we can encourage to use rail services from Morpeth, the better.
All in all an exciting, and I am sure at times, challenging year ahead, but one we should look forward to optimistically. May I take this opportunity of wishing everyone in our Wansbeck Constituency a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.