Housing and development are a key part of our plan to “Level Up” the North East and bring investment to Hartlepool – it is therefore worrying that we are seeing a near-total ban on the construction of homes and places of work following guidance issued by Natural England relating to nutrient neutrality in the River Tees.
While I can appreciate the potential harmful impact of nitrates on our river, analysis by the Local Authority Association shows only two per cent of this pollution has come from the urban environment, with much more coming from agriculture and water companies.
This issue was brought to my attention some weeks ago and is impacting many people across town – for example, those who have had planning decisions on domestic properties halted as well as people working in the building and house design industries.
I have been liaising with the local authority on this matter and have this week urged Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, to rethink this policy and protect people’s livelihoods, as well as Hartlepool’s wider economic growth.
On a more positive note, it is great news that Hartlepool is seeing the benefit of our £380m Youth Investment Fund – Belle Vue Community Sport and Youth Centre will receive £32,394 as a result, and St Luke’s Scout Group has been awarded £9,000 for camping and adventure activities.
Often the updates I give you about Government funding for Hartlepool relate to the “big projects” such as rail transport and upgrading our station, or other larger scale projects such as the Town Fund or our Education Investment Fund.
However, it is things such as community groups and young people’s engagement in clubs, sport and extra-curricular activities which constituents often raise with me and have in the past been overlooked as priorities.
This Youth Investment Fund will help to ensure that our young people have places to go on a weekend or after school and can participate in enrichment activities – this enrichment really shapes children and youngsters, helping them discover hobbies and passions and often giving them a purpose beyond their academic studies or interests.
I look forward to visiting some more of Hartlepool’s community and sports groups and seeing the impact that our Youth Investment Fund will have.