No answers on noxious haze one year on

Stephen Lloyd MP for Eastbourne
Stephen Lloyd MP for Eastbourne

It was a year ago that a mysterious noxious haze struck Birling Gap and swept across Eastbourne. Since then I’ve made strenuous efforts to identify what it was and where it came from.

Readers of the Herald will have learnt, as I did, that the statutory authorities were unable to pinpoint the cause with any certainty. Perhaps even more worrying, it became clear that none of them had the necessary equipment to even collect samples of the gas, let alone identify it.

At a recent meeting with the minister at DEFRA I was informed that all the relevant bodies would be running an exercise this summer to stress-test the systems, so were it to happen again they would be better prepared. She also concurred with my view that it’s important the right equipment be made available to store and test such a gas.

I wrote to the Minister last week to ask for an update as to whether the exercise had taken place, and when the results will be made public. It was a very worrying incident - 185 people presented themselves to Eastbourne DGH A&E department - so I am determined that the relevant statutory authorities are better prepared should there be a next time.

Frankly we were lucky. Can you imagine if someone had, God forbid, died as a result of the haze whilst the authorities were none the wiser of its constituent make-up?

This is an issue that I will not allow to be swept under the carpet.

Marine Conservation Zones: the coastal waters between Beachy Head, Eastbourne and Hastings are well known for their wealth of wildlife and rich seabed habitats. From fragile chalk and sandstone reefs to vulnerable blue mussel beds, the area holds impressive ecological value. It is our heritage and the area is being damaged by non-local fishing boats who are harming the seabed habitats with heavy, bottom-towed gear.

The local waters are also important for our communities, including sustainable local fishermen, anglers, divers, marine archaeologists, swimmers, sports enthusiasts, walkers and beach users.

But it needs protection! The government have set up a network of managed protected areas in UK seas called Marine Conservation Zones, 50 thus far. Such a designation would, crucially, protect the interests of the local, low-impact sustainable commercial fishermen of Eastbourne and Hastings who have fished the area for generations. Consequently I am backing the campaign by the Marine Conservation Society to designate Beachy Head East a Marine Conservation Zone. If you would like to join me please go online to sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/support-the-beachy-head-east-marine-conservation-zone

Enjoying a first class experience with our posties: I recently joined a local postwoman on her delivery-round (thank you Gayle) and received an insight into just a few of the challenges they sometimes face when delivering the mail. One of these is the risk of being bitten by dogs which are not properly controlled by their owners. This is something I can relate to myself having delivered gazillions of my own newsletters over the years across town, and believe me it can be pretty frightening being confronted on the doorstep by a fierce dog.

So on behalf of our valiant postmen and women who are out there come rain or shine its not fair if they have to also fend off a dog intent on removing their fingers, so please be aware if you are a pet owner. Without their efforts, frankly, everything would soon grind to a halt. Thank you Eastbourne posties, for all that you do. Appreciated.

Quiet Hour whilst shopping: I learnt the other day that one of the big five local supermarkets, Morrison’s, had introduced to all their stores a quiet hour every Saturday for children with autism. I think this is a good idea. Many parents whose children are on the spectrum have contacted me over the years to say how difficult and upsetting it can be when they go shopping with their children, as bright lights, noise etc, can be very difficult for an autistic child to cope with. So when I heard that Morrison’s in Hampden Park had introduced the special quiet hour once a week every Saturday from 9am to 10am, I wanted to learn more. Their community engagement officer, Kim Davies, brought me up to speed and said the response from parents has already been very encouraging. I’ll watch this initiative with great interest to see if any of the other big players copy Morrison’s, as it’s an idea which I think could really fly. It recognises some of the difficulties experienced by parents and constructively tries to come up with a solution. I like it.

That’s it. Have a great weekend folks, and I hope to see you around town.