Eric Ollerenshaw column: Flood defences are key

Eric Ollerenshaw, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood
Eric Ollerenshaw, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood

Like so many schools and businesses it was back to work in Parliament for me on Monday with my New Year’s list for Lancaster.

High on that list, even if the weather hasn’t been enough of a reminder, is working with the council, the Environment Agency and county to ensure our flood defences are up to scratch – although now we can perhaps understand the forethought that went into raising the quayside wall along the riverside only last year.

At the same time we need to get an agreement from the Environment Agency regarding the long-term future of Thurnham flood defence so the residents and businesses of Thurnham and Glassom can finally get the long-term security they deserve.

Next on the list is to ensure with the Government and county’s support, that the Heysham link road construction is pushed on to the earliest completion date possible.

Then there is Canal Corrider North development plans, so that Lancaster can expand its retail offer to draw in more shoppers and jobs. Again this will mean continuing the good working relationship with the council, Government and Chamber of Commerce in getting this important regeneration scheme for Lancaster started.

Again there will be the need to continue working with the hospital trust, health commissioners and Government to ensure we retain the right balance of health provision across both GP-led and hospital-led services that we need across such a big geographical area. At the same time see we need to see what extra support we can get to ensure the right financial back-up for St John’s Hospice.

The Duchy with its new Chief Executive should be bringing some more plans forward regarding the use of the castle, critical to Lancaster’s developing a tourist offer and again this will need a close working relationship across council, county etc.

Then there is the hope the county will see sense and not cut night and Sunday buses both across our rural areas and the Marsh and Ridge estates. There will also be the need to continue to work with the NFU to ensure our farmers get the right deal from the Government and the EEC and at the same time monitor the effectiveness of the new Grocery Adjudicator regime.

The 50th anniversary of the founding of Lancaster University means not only great celebrations of its undoubted success but it should also provide the drive to get a practical start on its planned Innovation Park, that means more talent produced here can stay and work here. This can only add to the expansion of the economic base of our whole area with extra jobs and businesses created.

Then of course there are just the national issues to add to all this! But as you can read, I am becoming optimistic that we are pulling through these difficult times. Yes there is some way to go yet, but given the great environment we have in Lancaster, its excellent schools,its beautiful and productive rural surroundings, then provided we can in the main pull together across our different authorities and responsibilities, then I believe we are in a good position to take advantage of growth in the national economy.