An ongoing saga for Eastbourne has been our decades long experience of the shocker, which we all know as the A27 between Polegate and Lewes.
I, along with many others, have been campaigning for over a decade to dual this road. It seemed the best we were ever likely to get from the Government was the money to make some minor adjustments. So I shared the overwhelming sense of disappointment many felt when the announcement was first made, in the run-up to the 2015 general election (now there’s a surprise!) for just that. And despite the Government’s trumpeting of the proposed tweaks we all knew it wouldn’t solve the core problems. It is a narrow single lane road, it’s too dangerous, and cannot cope with the ever increasing volume of traffic. Is there any good news for me to report? Yes. This week a meeting of the A27 Reference Group in Westminster received a briefing from Highways. Essentially, looking at the business and strategic case for a new A27 spur from Lewes to Polegate and the results are extremely promising: a new dual-carriageway with no junctions other than emergency exits, with a journey time of around 10 minutes. That’s right. Ten minutes compared to, at best 35 minutes and all too often, over an hour! This would be a game-changer for Eastbourne and the surrounding area.
Naturally there are many more hoops to jump through, however, unlike the fiasco of the Chichester by-pass, where the different groups couldn’t agree with each other and as a consequence the Transport Department finally pulled the project, we on the A27 Reference Group are all of the same mind. All the MPs, the different councils, business groups and the overwhelming majority of local residents - on this we are joined at the hip. We all know, for the sake of Eastbourne and beyond, that we must secure a new dual carriageway between us and Lewes. I will be joining the groups chair, MP Maria Caulfield and the other local MPs, in meeting the Secretary of State for Transport in the summer to press our case. It now has a powerful report from Highways to back it up strategically and economically. As you know I’ve always put the needs of Eastbourne and Willingdon above party politics, and this is a classic example where the political parties simply ‘must’ work together to sort the A27 .
It was a privilege to join Eastbourne’s popular mayor, Cllr Pat Hearn, at the Town Hall recently to celebrate the largest group of local Legion D’Honneur recipients to gather at any one time in Eastbourne. All 12 were awarded for their gallantry in serving our nation, and for the liberation of France in World War II. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking to these brave men. Local heroes, the like of which we will never see again. Thank you, gentlemen.
I spoke on two debates in Parliament this week about cancer. At the first I quizzed the Health Minister over our long-standing campaign to start screening for bowel cancer at 50, as they do in Scotland, rather than at 60 in England. This was on the back of delivering an astonishing 446,000 signatures last week, collected by Eastbourne lass Lauren Backler. The Minister was well aware of Lauren’s campaign. I’m convinced it’s coming, but I am also convinced we can never take it for granted until it’s there in black and white. And I won’t stop until it is Lauren, I promise.
The second was an altogether more sombre affair. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, came to the House to explain that an IT algorithm mistake set up in 2009 and running up to up 2018, has resulted in almost 450,000 women, between the ages of 68 – 71, who should have been invited to a third and final breast screening not receiving the notification. He emphasised that explanatory letters to all of them would be going out over the next few weeks and an NHS helpline - 0800 169 2692 - has been set up. My question to Hunt was whether or not he’d also taken the necessary steps to identify women from that age group who aren’t registered with a GP? Overall this has been an appalling mistake, with awful consequences for the women who may have gone on to develop cancer because they weren’t identified. If any locally, think they are affected, please do contact my office so I can help. My email is email@example.com and our telephone number: 01323 733030.
It was good to join the remarkable Jane Lowe last week as she ran her monthly Dementia Cafe surgery. On the last Friday of every month she holds her surgeries at Cafe Nero in Terminus Road meeting and chatting to passing shoppers who may be a bit anxious, either from their own perspective or a relative. Jane and her team run an outstanding dementia care day centre, Ivy House, in Hartfield Road, and is passionate about both de-mystifying dementia. A lady in the early stages of dementia nervously approached Jane, saying she’d never spoken to anyone about it, felt totally alone and didn’t know where to turn. Forty minutes later she was a different woman. It was an honour for me to be part of the conversation. Thank you Jane. We save the world one life at a time...
That it folks. Have a great weekend and I hope to see you around town.