BIM  AFOLAMI MP

Supporting the Harpenden community

2020

 
 

EXCLUSIVE TO HARPENDIA


Q1. Climate Change and a carbon free Environment.

What actions can Harpenden residents make permanent to improve matters?

How can school children of all ages be encouraged to set their own agendas and take action to set a new sustainable future.

What support can you via Government funding offer?


We can all do our bit to help combat climate change. Everything from reducing the amount of waste we create and recycling everything we can; to reducing unnecessary car journeys; to planting trees in our back gardens will have an impact on ensuring that our town is a little bit more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.


I know that there are a number of hugely passionate individuals in Harpenden who have contacted me about environmental issues and the great work they are doing on sustainability projects will be hugely beneficial.


On a personal level, this year I am making a donation to Heartwood Forest to offset all the letters sent by my office and I am working closely with the Woodland Trust, Parish Councils and schools on a tree planting scheme across the constituency to offset my carbon footprint. I hope that my Net Zero Conference will return to Harpenden next year, looking at policy measures to help deliver the Government’s net zero by 2050 target. In Westminster, I am the Chair of PRASEG, where I work with Parliamentary colleagues as the Parliamentary Liaison for COP26.


The Government and local councils have a number of funding pots available to support environmental projects and I am happy to help constituents with any specific funding requests that they would like to bring forward.


Q2. A New Work Environment OR back to Normal

Office working, currently from home seems to have stimulated a debate on the merits of returning to central city office work. In the short term it has enabled many business to carry on working thanks to technology. At the expense of loosing social contact, creative inspiration and team working AND not having a work free home to return to each day. BUT avoiding the difficult journeys to and from home via public transport.

PLUS the drastic closure of most city centre support businesses in retail and hospitality.

OR IF RETURN TO NORMAL

How can the travel issues well known to all be improved?

What are your views on these options and what can Government do the support either option?


During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been forced to work from home. Once the public health situation allows for it, I believe it is important that as many people as possible return to the office. As you rightly point out, people working from the office has a huge economic impact on town and city centres, but it also allows people to have vital social contacts, which is hugely important for mental health and wellbeing. Some of this will happen naturally, but the job for the Government is to ensure that people feel safe to return to the office through our response to COVID-19.


Some people may choose to move permanently to working from home (either full time or on a few days a week), and we should also do what we can to facilitate that, through the government’s commitment to providing huge upgrades to broadband speeds across the country.


The point on safe travel is an important one. I will continue to press Thameslink to ensure that they deliver on the additional services they have promised, so that Harpenden’s commuters have convenient, socially distanced train services.


Q3. Re inventing Harpenden as a place to live and work.

With the likely demise of retail premises, should the town centre be re thought to bring in more residential property and more office accommodation?

Should more mini business parks be developed?

Should more genuinely affordable homes be made available instead of the big detached homes? With the new Sports Centre and new Theatre due for completion soon there will be 2 key attractions for locals to enjoy.


I’m optimistic about the future of retail and think the British high street is resilient enough to bounce back after COVID-19, and I will be continuing to work in Westminster to deliver as much support for our local high streets to do that as possible.

I do however think you raise some interesting points about the potential shift of focus for the high street in the medium to long term. It is important that we encourage footfall to high streets and ensure they remain as centres of community. Over the longer term it does seem likely that a high street mix which includes more residential and office space will be a more sustainable option.


I know many local people are concerned about the lack of affordable housing in our local area, which has forced them and their families to look at moving elsewhere. It is important that we balance affordable and non-affordable housing when new developments are put forward and I fully support efforts to do that.


Q4. Local Travel

How to balance the needs of the changing situation with fewer cars but more bikes andscooters. Cancel demands for more commuter trains and more car parks. Increase buses. Encourage more walking. Buy smaller electric cars. Cancel the airport expansion. Develop more car parks if the town centre expands.


One of my key focusses over the course of this Parliament will be looking at how we can continue to promote sustainable transport options in Hitchin & Harpenden. This includes working with the County Council on viable strategies to promote walking and cycling in the town; looking at ways we can improve the infrastructure for electric vehicles in Harpenden, including the expansion of the number of electric vehicle charging points; and opposing Luton Airport expansion, which will bring increased air and noise pollution and clog our local roads with traffic.


I will also continue to push hard to ensure that Harpenden gets the train service that Thameslink have promised us. COVID-19 has made it more, not less, important for commuters to have sufficient train services to allow convenient, socially distanced travel into London.


Q5. Local Health and Social Care

Expand on line connections for patient care via GP’s. Increase use of Pharmacy services for non emergency consultation. Provide more people for social care services. Expand local Hospital services


Our local health service and health care professionals have done great work during the pandemic and I would like to thank them for all their hard work during this incredibly difficult period. It is important that we continue to innovate in the way we deliver health care and your suggestions are all worthy of further scoping.


I was pleased to see that our area will benefit from government investment in new hospitals with a major redevelopment project at Watford General. This will be hugely beneficial for our local area. It is the Government’s mission to make the NHS the safest, highest quality healthcare system in the world and we can look forward to benefitting from this locally.


Q6. A Thriving High Street

With declining shop sales and ongoing rent and rate increases how can shop owners be encouraged to stay in business. And how can residents be encouraged to reduce their on line purchases to buy more in the town.


During and after the COVID-19 public health crisis, it is important for all of us to continue supporting local businesses by shopping locally. Once we have gotten beyond the pandemic, one important way to do this is to encourage people to visit our high streets. I will work with our local councils to see what events and other activities can be put on to make our town centres destinations for people to visit and really drive footfall into our local shops.


The Government has put in a number of important measures to protect and support local businesses during the pandemic – including business rates relief for smaller businesses. It is vital that we continue to find ways to support businesses.


I have proposed a number of initiatives to government, including 10 recommendations in my Unlock Britain paper published earlier this year, and I will continue working very hard in Westminster to ensure that businesses have all the support they need going forwards.

END





 

Following my personal  interview in Nov 2019 (above)  I felt it was time to contact Bim again and seek his answers to many of the difficult and life changing issues facing Harpenden residents in these difficult times. Here are Bim’s responses to my questions.

Ron Taylor. Editor Harpendia.com

OCT. Bim Afolami voices his concerns over plans for Southdown Industrial Estate development which includes substantial warehousing and a service yard.

““I have no objection to the principle of this site being re-developed in a way that is compatible with the community and function of the local area. Any such development should not come at the expense of neighbouring residents or the wider Harpenden community who have expressed their strong opposition to this unsuitable proposal.

“Redevelopment sympathetic to Southdown with low-impact activities for the site would be more appropriate.”



















Harpenden Cllr Mary Maynard, the Conservative group leader on St Albans district council, is also objecting to the plans in their current form: “Given the close proximity of the Southdown Industrial Estate to residential housing, any businesses located there have to be particularly sensitive to the environmental impact they have on the local community.

“One of the buildings proposed is very large and the intention is to have deliveries from articulated vehicles day and night. This will be very disruptive to people living close to the site and along the narrow residential roads which form the routes into it. They will suffer from increased noise and air pollution.

“Articulated vehicles, child cyclists, walkers and narrow roads are not a good mix, so parents in Southdown are likely to stop their children walking or cycling and instead drive them to school. Locally, we need to be taking steps to promote sustainable transport, and to reduce car use, air pollution and our contribution to global warming. Local planners and decision makers need to take these factors very seriously when deciding this planning application.”


BACKGROUND

The Coal Board Pension fund is the landlord for this part of the site having removed all the commercial occupants in the stretch from Harpenden Windows to The Big Space. Their Planning Application as described above is one of many commercial investments used to fund pensions.


Whilst this site is listed in the Neighbourhood Plan for commercial development there is a limit to what can and can not be developed within the existing infrastructure.





EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH BIM AFOLAMI FOR HARPENDIA

Opposition to Proposal to increase Air Passenger Numbers at Luton Airport by Bim Afolami

“London Luton Airport Limited’s plan to work around previous planning conditions to increase passenger numbers from 18million to 19million is poorly timed and ill-judged. I remain firmly opposed.


Luton Airport and Luton Borough Council are currently facing immense financial hardship. The idea that doubling down on airport expansion will alleviate these pressures and help them to balance their books is misguided. Existing conditions minimise the impact from increased traffic and pollution on neighbouring towns and villages in our constituency. We should not have to pay the price for Luton Borough Council’s poor financial planning.


I welcome all local residents and constituents to fill in this consultation to highlight their opposition.”

www.luton19mppa.info

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