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The top 7 priorities facing our next MP from 2015

THE campaigning for the General Election only started this week, but some people in Canterbury are already looking ahead. TIM BATES looks at the biggest issues that will face Canterbury and Whitstable’s new MP…

1. Housing
While Canterbury’s Local Plan has been put together by the city council, rather than an MP, its unpopular plan to build thousands of new homes in South Canterbury is based on targets from central government. A lot of people in the city do not believe that we have the infrastructure to deal with these homes, and such a large scale housing project could bring the city to a standstill. It is one of the scarier prospects facing Canterbury in the future, and any incoming MP would be expected to fight for the city to make sure it is not ruined by unreasonable targets from Westminster.

2. Students
The student population is a huge, vibrant part of Canterbury making up almost half the city’s population, for part of the year. As such, the national problem of apathy in young voters hits Canterbury harder than most cities (in 2010, only 44 per cent of eligible 18- to 24-year-olds bothered to vote). In Whitstable there are fewer students, but young people are still disenfranchised, and many feel starved of opportunity. Whoever gets elected will have to show they are willing to listen to students, and represent those who bother to vote.

3. Flooding
No-one has forgotten the terrible flooding last winter, which blighted many parts of Canterbury especially the southern villages. Since then, the Environment Agency has managed to complete some work, but is limited by its budget, and regulations from central government. With farmers warning that the flooding could happen in Canterbury again, Canterbury’s MP will need to make sure the necessary funding for repair and maintenance work comes to the district, and the city is not forgotten in the future.

4. Richborough Connection
Between home builders, Southern Water’s plans for a reservoir, and the National Grid’s controversial plans for energy pylons connecting Rich borough to Canterbury there are a lot of big plans for Canterbury’s countryside. Whoever the city’s MP is on May 8, they will have to balance the needs of the nation with the living standards of Canterbury’s villages and wildlife.

5. Healthcare
Last year, the Care Quality Commission reported that the care offered at the East Kent Hospital Trust, and the Kent and Canterbury Hospital was “unsatisfactory”. With an aging population needing more healthcare than ever before, and the safety of the NHS being one of the key battlegrounds of the coming election, any area MP will have to make sure that the district’s healthcare can maintain a high standard on their watch across the district.

6. Shopping
Dissatisfied traders have become more and more common in Canterbury in recent years. While most of the issues raised by groups like the Canterbury Independent Trader’s Alliance fall within the purview of the city politicians rather than the MPs, official complaints about the city’s Local Plan made to the Communities and Local Government department at Westminster, and issues around the city’s new Business Improvement District mean the new MP could find himself with a city centre divided.

7. Parking
An issue across Canterbury and Whitstable, this is a local government issue that any prospective MP might want to weigh in on to persuade voters.
While Whitstable businesses feel the strain of the Gorrell Tank Car Park closure, Canterbury remains divided between shop owners who want to see more parking in the city and environmental campaigners who want to see less. It’s an issue for the city council, but any MP will have significant clout, if they want to help decide the issue for the sake of the district.

Herne Bay Times, April 1st 2015

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