I am delighted to have been asked by the Prime Minister to continue to serve as the Minister for the Environment focusing on delivering the Government’s commitment to make this country the cleanest and greenest on earth and tasked with bringing the transformative Environment Bill through Parliament. It’s the largest piece of legislation in 20 years.
I will continue to prioritise local issues in Westminster, and I was particularly pleased to learn recently from the Health Secretary that seed funding for Musgrove Park Hospital’s full upgrade due 2025-2030 has been released to Taunton and NHS Foundation Trust. I’ve been working on this project with stakeholders for several years and it is great to see it progressing.
I am pleased too that the process to re-establish a Business Improvement District (BID) in Taunton has been reopened. If successful it could see £1.4 million spent on revitalising the town centre over the next five years, with this funding secured through businesses in the designated BID area paying a levy of 1.5% of their rateable value.
Businesses will vote on whether to introduce a scheme on March 19 and work could start within six months if the project is given the backing required. I urge all relevant stakeholders to feed in their views at www.tauntonbid.co.uk
I’ve been making a strong case for more support for people trying to get on the housing ladder, so the recent announcement by the Housing Secretary of the new First Homes scheme is welcome. It will give people the opportunity to buy a home in their local area – saving eligible first-time buyers on average around £100,000 – and will be prioritised for armed forces veterans and key workers such as nurses, police officers and firefighters.
And finally, my work with stakeholders to progress plans to bring a railway station to Wellington continues building on the Government’s ambition to open many new stations with a £500m fund devoted to this. I’ve recently met with Transport Secretary of State Grant Shapps to discuss our case and will be meeting the Rail Minister following this week’s Devon and Somerset Metro Group meeting.