About the Parish Council
Hugh Robertson - Our Man in Westminster
I regularly use this column to encourage people to get involved in their local community. One of the disappointing aspects of an MP’s life is that you see far too many people who want to have a moan (normally characterised by ‘it’s my right) and far too few who are actually prepared to take responsibility themselves for making things better.
An honourable exception to this is Anna Peshek, a 14 year old, who lives in Platts Heath. About a month ago she came to see me with a petition she had collected as part of her GCSE coursework. The petition, signed by just about everyone who lives in Platts Heath, was about speeding vehicles travelling through the village.
I was delighted to support her. Having lived in Kent all my life, I know how much the volume and speed of traffic has increased over the years and how much worse it will become if the government’s plans for house building to ahead.
After some negotiation with the Table Office
and the Clerks, I managed to present Anna’s petition in Parliament
last week. It was terrific to see her hard work and initiative rewarded
in this way. I do not know whether it will result in any rethink at government
level but, at least, we have tried!
March 2004 - Hare Coursing
Last November a group of Lenham farmers came to see me about illegal hare coursing on the North Downs above the village. It is a particularly unpleasant criminal activity.
Groups of up to twenty people assemble at a pre-arranged point, often advertised on the Internet, and place bets on the dogs. The dogs then chase, and kill, any hares which have little or no chance of escape due to the number of dogs involved. Criminal money is laundered, the countryside is vandalized, petty crime rises in its wake and anyone asking the trespassers to move on is threatened.
Since that initial meeting, a meeting with the Police and two public meetings have followed. At the last one of these, the Police briefed everyone on a number of new rural crime initiatives. I cannot speak too highly of the attitude, professionalism and responsiveness of our Police force.
A specific Police operation to target these criminals is now ongoing which, we hope, will also net other criminals. If you see any suspicious activity of this sort, please report it to the Police at once.
I have just been to visit Swadelands School to congratulate them on their achievements in 2003 and to have an initial look at their new buildings. Once they are finished, they will transform the look and facilities of the school.
As many of you will be aware, Swadelands achieved Specialist School and Sports College status last year and I have just written again in support of a further tranche of funding for 2004.
However, it was the people that really made an impression. The staff are friendly and motivated and both groups of children I met were open, confident and lively. My time there passed all too quickly!
Given that the Primary School has also done so well in their league tables, Lenham should be justifiably proud. Links between Education and the community are vital, so I would encourage you all to do everything possible to support both the village’s excellent schools.
Our countryside is currently under threat like never before. House building plans, traffic volumes, declining rural services and the crisis in agriculture threatens to turn much of Kent into one large dormitory suburb. However, we have also played our part by failing to cherish the rural way of life.
The countryside is a living, working entity that holds
in balance the needs of agriculture, the landscape and wildlife. Urban
legislators interfere with it at their peril! I genuinely fear that unless
we take action soon to protect and preserve The Garden of England, we
risk loosing it forever.
Hugh Robertson MP
Since I last wrote, I have had to perform the sad duty of reading the lesson at the funeral of a former Mayor of Maidstone. Sarah Haskett was an outstanding public servant in this area for over 25 years. She will be well known to many of you.
You are lucky in Lenham to have an active village and a proactive parish council. This is a rarity as I can testify, representing a constituency containing 39 different parish councils in addition to Faversham and much of eastern Maidstone.
Many villages are having severe difficulties finding people willing to give up their time for public service and to put something back into the community. Part of the problem is the newly introduced Code of Conduct, which I would like to see radically, watered down or, better still, abolished.
A sense of community is desperately important in all
our lives. It encourages people to think of others and not just themselves.
As we enter the autumn, please think of contributing in some way, as so
many of you do in Lenham, or encouraging others to do something for the
community. It is desperately needed and greatly appreciated.
I try to ensure that my monthly contribution to Lenham Focus concerns something I have been doing over the past month on behalf of the village.
This month I hope you will not mind if I stray further afield. I have just returned from an attachment to HMS Ark Royal, one of the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers. As many of you will know, I was a soldier myself for over ten years so, for obvious reasons, I am very attached to our Armed Services.
However, I cannot tell you how impressed I was. Ark Royal lost two helicopter crews during the Iraq war. For a ship, it is just as if a member of the family had died.
They took great pride, and rightly so, in what they had achieved and went about their work with professionalism and competence.
As with so many other things
in life we regularly talk about the cost of defence. What my trip
on the Ark Royal brought home to me is that we should talk less about
the cost and more about the value of defence. On the basis of the last
few days, it is very great indeed.