Leaving a cleaner, greener, environment for our young people and their children and grandchildren has always been a focus for me. I think we particularly reflect on this more over the summer months, out and about in our stunning Northamptonshire countryside, where we are so lucky to have so many wonderful landmarks, sites of special interest and stunning rolling fields and woodlands. As I take in their beauty, the peace and quiet, and the tranquility, I’m always left feeling that sense of responsibility that we really do all have a duty to ensure they remain that way for generations to come.
A consistent theme of my work locally in the last few weeks has very much revolved around our environment. Indeed, I was pleased to engage with several representatives from Corby & East Northamptonshire at the Citizen’s Climate Lobby in Westminster recently to discuss the work we are doing to reduce climate change, working locally, nationally, and indeed internationally, and with the welcome net-zero target having been adopted only a few weeks before. It was interesting to hear the views of local people about how they believe we should go about achieving these targets and pleasing to see so many people engaged on this important issue. There is always more to do, but I am pleased at the progress we are making and the international leadership we are showing as a country, but also heartened to see those individuals living up to their words and convictions by organising projects locally to help do their bit, such as the fantastic Repair Cafe I went along to in Oundle, where people were bringing along broken items to get them repaired for re-use, rather than sending them to landfill.
That theme of “we can all do our bit, and indeed, have a responsibility to do so” is one that comes up week in, week out, when I visit our local schools, as the environment is an issue that our young people, of all ages, never fail to raise in their excellent questions to me. Like them, I get so frustrated about littering - the impact that it has on our local environment could be so easily avoided if everyone shouldered the responsibility of disposing of their own waste in the correct way, and put it in their pocket and take it home as I was brought up to do. We should also not forget that, starkly, the latest figures I have seen show that we waste approximately a billion pounds a year in this country clearing up litter - money which could be far better spent on our schools, hospitals, councils, and investing in frontline policing and other key local priorities. Frustrating. And all so avoidable.
But there are also many other ways we can all do our bit, and I was pleased to recently go along to a reception held by Water UK to celebrate National Refill Day. It is so important that we reduce our use of unrecyclable plastics, including plastic bottles, and this campaign encourages people to carry a reusable water bottle to refill on the go. With refill taps springing up everywhere and becoming more commonplace, this would also reduce the number of plastic bottles dropped in our streets, and by the side of our roads, and which all too often end up in our watercourses and then inevitably in the ocean. That is why I am also proud to be strongly supporting the ‘Generation Sea’ pledge to protect our oceans from plastic pollution, climate change and sewage contamination, whilst allowing sea life to flourish. I am pleased to see campaigns such as this one, organised by Surfers Against Sewage, complimenting the work the Government is doing to tackle this important issue. If we can all do our bit to reduce unnecessary plastic use and litter pollution, then our local, national and global environment will thrive.
Local projects such as the Tresham Garden Village, as well as the Green Patch just over the border in Kettering, are further prime examples of what we can achieve when government, both local and national, and communities come together to improve the local environment. The Green Patch is a 2.5 acre community garden, which supports local people by providing school clubs, volunteering opportunities and much more, with a real focus on ensuring better health and wellbeing. Established by Groundwork over 10 years ago, Green Patch is now exploring a number of possibilities to expand into Corby & East Northamptonshire, so I shall be actively supporting them in bringing the project to our area.
The Tresham Garden Village, on the other hand, is planned to be built on an old brownfield site, with a rich history as a World War II airbase. The Deene Estate has been preparing for this new flagship village by planting trees to provide wooded amenity space and engaging with local interest groups to ensure that the new village works well within the existing community - respecting its local environment, tranquil surroundings, and also being self-sufficient as far as is possible. The masterplan for the village has been highly commended and, if the planning application is granted, they hope to start building by 2021. Having been keeping a close eye on the plans throughout the evolution of this project, which is backed by the Government, I am hugely excited to see it taking shape and it was fascinating to hear more about what it will be like on a recent site visit - Tresham truly has the potential to set the standard nationally, and internationally, when it comes to sustainable developments of the future.
So as we enjoy the remainder of the summer months and we are strolling around our stunning Northamptonshire countryside, it is worth sparing a thought about what more we can all do to ensure that future generations - in ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred, and five-hundred years time - have that same opportunity to enjoy those same spots in the way we have. We really can all do our bit, and all those young people in our schools leave me in no doubt about their expectation that we must - for me, and for them, it’s a no brainer.