Calling for co-ordinated strategy to maximise the potential of our market towns

Click HERE to read my latest column in the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald

Whilst Westminster and the national media obsesses with leadership battles, my focus this week, as always, remains on improving our pocket of Wiltshire for local people.

I made a number of pledges to constituents before the 2015 General Election and developing a long-term plan to rejuvenate our towns was a key feature of that. Last week I had the opportunity to discuss this important topic in a debate that I secured on the regeneration of market towns.

Market towns are stuck in a difficult position; between large urban areas which have been eligible for Big City Deals and the most rural areas which can get rural development funds. There is a real danger that market towns, without careful consideration through the planning system and strong local leadership, can become dormitory towns for people travelling away to find work.

Within my speech, which can be seen on my website, I emphasised some of the great examples of our community events, street pastures, independent shops and so on. I also said that we must look at ways of improving Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) to make sure they work better to support businesses, look at even more ways to support independent shops by reducing taxes, helping marketing, encourage ‘shop local’ schemes and ensure that there is a joined up approach to house building.

Houses should not simply ‘lumped’ on as extensions to towns without adequate consideration for infrastructure, roads, transport, jobs, socialising and green space. Housing, I said, needs to be used as a catalyst of town centre regeneration.

Whilst continuing to deliver on my commitments to local residents, I also had the opportunity to (for the sixth time) raise Corsham Station in Parliament, this time to talk up the potential benefits to the economy from tourism. As the Minister for Railways said in Parliament, the Corsham Town Team have a meeting with the Department of Transport soon to move the campaign of one more step.

Last week I also asked the Prime Minster a question following a racist attack on a former member of my staff. We need now more than ever to ensure that there is no acceptance whatsoever of this behaviour in Britain. You can watch my question to the Prime Minister on my Facebook page FB.com/michelledonelanchippenham.

Finally, turning briefly to leadership battles, the decision on who will lead the Conservative Party from September is far more important than simply who will lead my political party; it is about who will become our Prime Minister and about the future of our country. I would like your views on who you think is best placed to lead us into the future so have put a short survey on my website at michelledonelan.com/leadership. Do let me know your thoughts.