Author Archives: Richard Graham

Press Release: Gloucester MP and councils work together with GCH for Estate Regeneration in Matson and Podsmead

The attached photo shows Richard Graham (MP for Gloucester), Tim Dare (Chair of Gloucester City Homes), Cllr Paul James (Leader of Gloucester City Council) and Cllr Mark Hawthorne (Leader of Gloucestershire County Council) signing the Vision Statement alongside the City Council Cabinet Member for Housing Cllr Colin Organ.

Gloucester’s MP Richard Graham has today signed with the leaders of both County and City Councils and the Chair of Gloucester City Homes the Matson and Podsmead Community Regeneration Vision Statement.

Richard said “The statement commits us all to work as partners and contribute in different ways to a major Estate Regeneration in both these important wards – creating a master plan with residents that will ultimately provide better homes, shops, employment opportunities and lives.”

The Vision Statement builds on a successful £1.25 million government bid, recognising that some of the housing in both wards is not as good as it could be, and that a better mix of social, affordable, shared equity and owner occupied housing is a future ambition.

Gloucester City Homes Chair Tim Dare said that “estate regeneration in Matson and Podsmead is a major task and we need the full support, funding and assets that each of our organisations can bring to the table: and then work closely with residents to develop a master plan. With building costs and values as they are we need to stretch every pound to succeed, and I’m delighted that Richard, Mark, Paul and Jennie share our belief about the importance of this huge project.”

Gloucester City Homes gained ownership of several sites in Matson and Podsmead after they became an independent housing association in 2015. The City Council transferred their housing stock to GCH when the government agreed to wipe out £50 million of historic housing debt.

“This is the next stage,” said Tim Dare “of our goal to work with our tenants and all stakeholders, to create modern, new homes which are more energy efficient and greener in communities where everyone can be proud. This has been a long running plan for GCH to be at the forefront of change, making homes and developments that really matter to residents. This collaboration is key to making the most of the land owned by different organisations, while accessing all funding available to maximise this opportunity in Matson and Podsmead.”

City Council leader Paul James added that “we’ve been working with GCH on this from the beginning, and as land owner, planning authority and as the only organisation focused entirely on the well-being of the city, I want to see us help respond to Podsmead and Matson’s needs and get this right. The impact should be considerable.”

Richard Graham stressed the backdrop was positive: “there are more investors than ever before in Gloucester, working on regeneration sites all across the city. In Podsmead we have the bid by the Crypt School for the first ever primary school in Podsmead, alongside the revived Athletics Track and an ambitious sports hub plan. In Matson there are already new homes being put up by GCH as part of the transfer of housing stock and debt write off agreement in 2015, and a (separate) big housing investment plan off Winnycroft Lane. If GCH can partner effectively with the right developer(s) I am convinced there will be a lot of positive change for the communities. Better shops, better health and skills access are all part of the mix. I’m delighted we all feel the same way.”

County Council leader Mark Hawthorne said, “it’s important that all organisations work together on this ambitious plan to support these communities. I’m glad we’ve published this strategy today that outlines what we plan to do and I look forward to seeing the results.”

NOTE TO EDITOR

The Statement aims to focus on stronger and safer communities, with a thriving local economy, a sustainable environment and better health and wellbeing all enabled around better homes.

What Richard has been up to so far this summer

NCS Team 29

This year I’ve seen even more young people than ever join the (free) National Citizen Service (NCS) scheme. It’s become a rite of passage for many 16 and 17 year olds in their summer hols. What’s it all about?

The scheme was set up by David Cameron 7 years ago to provide young people of all backgrounds the chance to spend a month together, doing a great range of activities. They have a week’s adventure training – kayacking, jumping from rocks, often getting over phobias and fears in countryside they never knew existed. They have a week of meeting different organisations – community and faith groups: organisations dealing with social problems, helping the elderly or disabled, charities and social enterprises – a week of preparing a social action project of their own; and a week of doing it. Some organise Fun Fairs, dances, drama, cleaning up public spaces: you name it – mostly raising funds for a good cause.

They learn a huge amount, they see life for what it is – often difficult and messy: and become more likely to care for their area and community. And when they ‘graduate’ many have made friendships that can last for years and experiences they never forget. One parent said to me ‘this is the best thing that xx has ever done: and she said that not me. She is like a new person.’

So if you have children coming up to 16 find out more on www.ncsyes.co.uk Meanwhile there are many outdoor activities at Robinswood Hill organised by the Glos Wildlife Trust, like the night time safari. Find out more on the Robinswood Hill Facebook page.

In Quedgeley many of you, especially if near Severnvale Drive, will know all about the proposed new Clearwater Academy. I’ve asked Councillors to look carefully at what was initially proposed and what’s now proposed. Are the interests of children’s education and green space for residents adequately balanced? We need more school places, and there aren’t many sites available, but hitting that balance is important and I know your Councillors are looking at this closely.

Nationally there’s a lot more good news than either the media or the weather would suggest. Unemployment is at the lowest level since 1975, retail sales up nearly 3% since last year and manufacturing orders are at their highest since 1988. That includes some booming Gloucester businesses.

Meanwhile locally I’ve never been more positive about the pace of regeneration – from Blackfriars to Black Dog Way, St Aldates to Paul St, the new surgery in Kingsway to the new Business School at Oxstalls, another new cyber centre in the Business Park and new nursing degrees starting at the Uni of Glos. The opportunities for our children are growing fast – including in culture which has been given awards by several bodies.

This parliamentary recess I’ve been around building sites, including our new bus station and the Elmbridge Court roundabout (both on time and within budget), given several young residents work experience, played walking rugby and planted wildflower seeds. Despite the rain there’s always much to enjoy in our city, and the free fireworks were the best yet. I’m only sorry our old dog Twiglet won’t be accompanying me to deliver newspapers to your homes any more. She was though well treated by a Gloucester vet at the end.

I hope you all have a good summer.

 

Press Release: Gloucester MP celebrates superfast broadband with newly connected residents

Gloucester MP Richard Graham visited Tolsey Gardens in Gloucester to celebrate their upgraded superfast broadband cabinet.

Residents wrote to Richard several years ago when they moved into the newly built Tolsey Garden properties and discovered there were copper broadband speeds of around 1mbps or less. After several meetings with Broadband Ministers and BT Openreach as well as a debate in Parliament the cabinet has now been upgraded.

Richard said, “people move in to a house thinking it’ll have water, electricity, a landline phone and reliable broadband. People need broadband now to pay bills or work from home, which more and more people are doing. It’s an important aspect of a modern home and I’m glad that Tolsey Gardens has now been connected.”

Richard has since written to the Broadband Minister to urge measures to ensure all new builds are equipped with superfast broadband. He believes this is vital to meet the Government’s aim to connect all homes by 2020.

“If you have poor broadband speeds then you can check if you’re being upgraded via fastershire.com. If your home isn’t recognised by the system then you can register it. It’s likely one of the new builds that I want something done about,” said Richard.

NOTE TO EDITORS

Richard was joined by Councillors Steve Morgan and Nigel Hanman on Saturday to raise a cup and celebrate with residents.

Press Release: Gloucester MP calls for better Broadband customer service

Over 10,000 broadband connections in Gloucester are not getting the proposed minimum broadband download speed, according to MP Richard Graham.

Richard has joined over 57 colleagues from across political parties to co-sign the British Infrastructure Group of MPs’ (BIG) latest report, ‘Broadbad 2.0’.

10,269 broadband connections in Gloucester without fast broadband make up at total of as many as 6.7 million broadband connections across the UK that do not receive speeds above the proposed minimum standard.

Richard said, “the problem is we don’t know whether poor broadband speeds are due to homeowners being unable to order a faster service or the nationally mandated faster Internet simply not being available to their property. It’s time we knew, and so this report recommends changes to improve the quality of broadband customer services.”

The recommendations are:

UK Government:

Progress secondary legislation setting out the terms of a broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO): The Digital Economy Act 2017 sets out provisions for a USO that defines a minimum broadband download speed of 10 Mb/s. In order to set the terms and scope of this USO, secondary legislation to the Digital Economy Act must be progressed by the government.

Provide statutory footing to the Voluntary Codes of Practice for broadband speeds: Some of the largest UK broadband providers operate according to Voluntary Codes of Practice regulated by Ofcom. The codes of practice entail an agreement on the part of providers to share clear information about their broadband speeds, and provide redress for customers when speeds are poor. However, the voluntary nature of these codes is insufficient in a rapidly developing telecoms sector. BIG therefore calls on the government to provide Ofcom with the mandate to legalise these codes of practice, in order to make broadband providers accountable to the law.

Ofcom:

Lead on the improvement of data collection: Broadband download speed data recorded by Ofcom fails to differentiate between superfast connections that do not reach speeds above the proposed minimum standard of 10 Mb/s, and those connections where customers have actively chosen not to purchase superfast broadband. It is therefore almost impossible to determine the exact number of UK broadband customers that do not receive the speeds that they pay for. BIG calls on Ofcom to lead on the improvement of collecting broadband speed data that distinguishes between the take-up and availability of superfast broadband speeds.

Consider fixed broadband speeds in a new automatic compensation scheme: It is unacceptable that Ofcom has not considered whether broadband customers should be automatically compensated for consistently failing to receive the speeds that they pay for. Broadband speeds are a key indicator for whether customers are receiving a satisfactory service.

Broadband providers:

Take responsibility for making customers aware of their complaints and compensation procedures: BIG calls on broadband providers to take responsibility for communicating future changes to their customer services in a clear and concise manner, in order to improve accountability and transparency in the sector.

NOTE TO EDITORS

For further information about BIG, and to read the report in full, visit www.britishinfrastructuregroup.uk and follow BIG on Twitter at @BIG_MPs

2017 Summer Events in Gloucester

This weekend had pretty mixed weather but great music at the Rhythm and Blues Festival and the 2017 Carnival as Willie Wilson’s Fun Fair kicked off in Gloucester Park for a fortnight.

There’s masses coming up – here are some of the best:

Gloucester Quays Food Festival / Friday, 28th July – Sunday, 30th July
The now annual food festival in the Quays will have celebrity chef demonstrations and entertainment throughout the day. Entry is free and open to all, with a vast variety of foods available.

Stunts Shows 2017 / Saturday, 29th July, 2pm
A free event at Gloucester Park, the Stannage International Stunt team and Xtreme Stunt Team are performing dare-devil stunts.

Dinosaurs’ Exhibition / Saturday, 15th July – Saturday, 28th October
A free event at the Museum of Gloucester, genuine dinosaur fossils and world-leading Palaeontologists from Bristol University are coming to the Museum of Gloucester for this amazing exhibition. A family outing must.

Fireworks Spectacular 2017 / Saturday, 5th August, 7pm
A free event at Gloucester Park, come along and join the amazing fireworks display brought to you by the very same people behind the London 2012 Olympic fireworks. Music, entertainment, food and drink available before the fireworks which start at 9:40pm.

Gloucester City Football vs Truro City / Monday, 7th August
Watch National League South side Gloucester City play at Evesham. Fixtures are happening all summer, find out more at http://www.gloucestercityafc.com/201718-fixtures/

SoMAC Stage 2017 / Saturday, 12th August – Friday, 25th August
The stage in King’s Square will be free and provide an exciting performance. There will be highlights including Bash Street Theatre, Bootworks Theatre and Hip Hop from AJ Tracey and Kojo Funds. More via www.somac.org.uk/event/somac-stage/

Gloucester Goes Retro 2017 / Saturday, 26th August
Westgate, Northgate, Eastgate and Southgate streets will be transformed into different time periods from 1900 – present day. There will be numerous cars, costumes and entertainment on during the day. Register your car via www.gloucester.gov.uk/retro-festival

Gloucester Rugby vs Exeter Chiefs / Friday, 1st September
The first game for Gloucester Rugby kicks off at Kingsholm at 19:45. Complete fixture list on www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk/rugby/matchcentre/index.php

Gloucester History Festival / Gloucester Day, Saturday, 2nd September – Sunday, 17th September
Heritage comes alive in our city. A huge programme of Civic Voices events: the nation’s second rated Heritage Open Weekend and a stunning series of Blackfriars talks. Book early to avoid disappointment via www.gloucesterhistoryfestival.co.uk

Heritage Open Days / Thursday, 7th September – Sunday, 10th September
Explore the vast heritage of Gloucester where many of the oldest and finest buildings will open their doors for free and allow walks, tours and concerts.

Gloucester Beer Festival / Friday, 22nd September – Saturday, 23rd September
At The Farmers Club, Sandhurst Lane, there will be over 50 different beers both locally and from all over the UK. Tickets cost £6 in advance via http://gloucesterbeerfestival.co.uk/ or £7.50 on the day.

Have I missed anything? Do feel free to send me an e-mail at Richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk with details of other events in our city.

Best regards

The 10th Anniversary of the Gloucester Floods 2007

Ten years ago to this day, twelve hours of intense rainfall in Gloucester and nearby followed the wettest June and July since records began. This caused what The Citizen has rightly called “the worst natural disaster in the county’s living memory.” It’s worth recapping what happened, what has happened since and the wider lessons, still relevant today.

What happened that day is very clear in my memory, as it will be for us all. By the evening it was chaos. Cars under the railway bridges completely under water: and virtually all roads impassable. In big picture terms 10,000 motorists were stuck between junctions 10 and 12 of the M5 and 500 people stranded at Gloucester Railway Station. When the Mythe water treatment centre lost power 350,000 people were without running water for 18 days. The Castlemead electricity substation was overwhelmed, cutting power to almost 50,000 of my constituents. Some 4,000 houses, 500 businesses and 20 schools were flooded, and three people died. I’ll never forget the mess left by the water at homes in Manor Road, Elmbridge.

There was a precedent. In 1607, a great flood swept up the Bristol Channel ‘with huge and mighty hills of water’ some 25-feet high. It spread over 200 square miles of land and killed 2,000 people. The great Gloucestershire flood 400 years later was different and resulted in much less loss of life, but its impact was huge, and almost led to a national crisis.

I’ve written for The Citizen about the water volunteers that I organised once water was cut off in the city, and that we weren’t allowed to deliver water to those too ill or old to move – because not all the volunteers had CRBs. I asked at what point in critical civil disaster situations organisations have to cut corners and accept risk in order to save lives. Leadership at all levels in natural or other disasters is critical, as we have been reminded since the dreadful inferno at Grenfell Tower.

Meanwhile, down at the Tri-Service Centre at Waterwells, then Chief Constable Tim Brain, as Gold Commander, had powers to co-ordinate national and local bodies, Armed Forces and charities. These Gold Command structures are crucial, and work well if residents trust the lead individual and organisation. As we now know, if the trust is not there, for whatever reason, then the Government has to step in and bring in other individuals and organisations.

Afterwards the Pitt Review made recommendations on how to mitigate future flood risks. Much progress has since been implemented – brooks and streams cleared: willows cut back and responsibilities better known: Flood Re established to handle insurance issues; and Victorian sewers and drains replaced, notably in Westgate and Kingsholm, at a cost of £13 million by Severn Trent. Those are huge improvements and there has been no flooding in Worcester Street or Kingsholm Road since, despite lesser floods on two occasions since in Gloucester.

The major Government and county council-financed bit of infrastructure is the new diversion lake close to Elmbridge Court, to which surplus water from the Horsbere brook is automatically transferred. That’s already successfully prevented flooding in Longlevens and Elmbridge twice since 2007. And lastly, the Environment Agency has greatly improved its mapping, modelling and communications, thanks to better technology. Anyone living near the Severn can now get regular email and text ‘flood alerts’, and I encourage all my constituents to sign up here: https://emea01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fflood-warning-information.service.gov.uk%2F&data=02%7C01%7Crichard.graham.mp%40parliament.uk%7Cc84cdd9bdb40411d607c08d4cf9a4acd%7C1ce6dd9eb3374088be5e8dbbec04b34a%7C0%7C0%7C636361708964021050&sdata=meayss7YQ6bKewx4Jz9XAFzKGIbHpiD5eIIV4ONCW%2Fs%3D&reserved=0

There are things still to be resolved, such as the height of the wall protecting homes by the river at Pool Meadow. We must ensure that watercourses are kept clear, man-made defences maintained, crisis planning kept up to date, structures reviewed, substations protected and contingency plans in place. We also need to be cautious about planning permission for homes on floodplains as we may not have to wait 400 years for the next natural disaster.

There are many organisations to thank for their response that day, including the Fire & Rescue Service demonstrating the vital rescue part of their role: and local media for brilliant information updates. Today’s commemorative articles will rightly highlight the value of resilience, the power of communities and the importance of pulling together in a crisis.

That is relevant to every challenge in life. The Brexit negotiations are very different from the Gloucestershire floods or the Grenfell Tower inferno, but for all of them we need resilience, leadership and a shared purpose, to get through the crisis. The word “crisis” translates as “danger opportunity” in Chinese. We have to deal with the danger and realise the opportunity – which is to be better prepared for the next challenge life throws our way.

Today, across our city and county, my sense is that we’ll remember what happened, reflect on the lessons and pray that other communities pull through with hard work, luck and good spirit – as we did ten years ago.

Do let me know what other lessons you felt came of the Gloucestershire floods of 2007 on richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk.

Best regards

Press Release: Gloucester’s MP welcomes more money for schools

Richard Graham MP has welcomed a commitment for £1.3 billion additional spending on schools. Richard had met with Secretary of State Justine Greening MP to highlight the importance of additional funding for Gloucester and Gloucestershire schools.

“Even our best funded schools aren’t nearly as well supported as e.g. Metropolitan areas like London. She’s listened and this is very good news for our city and county,” said Richard.

The announcement includes a guarantee that secondary school pupils will be given at least £4,800 per pupil during 2018-2020. This provides a 3% gain per pupil for underfunded schools and a guarantee that all schools will see a 0.5% cash increase per pupil.

Richard said, “Every school in Gloucester will see funding rise, and by moving to a fair funding formula the government will change the process which had benefited big cities and disadvantaged small cities like Gloucester for decades. That’s now changing, my constituents should welcome it and the detailed breakdown per school will be announced in September.”

NOTE TO EDITOR

Find out more: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/13bn-for-core-schools-budget-delivers-rise-in-per-pupil-funding

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