Julian Smith column: Preserving our rural way of life

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In recent weeks, it has been good to have more time away from Westminster to engage with a wide range of constituency issues, particularly relating to our rural way of life.

In the summer months, in spite of the patchy weather, it has been fantastic to visit some of the most beautiful parts of our area. I visited Gouthwaite Reservoir, near Pateley Bridge, to see the important safety improvements that Yorkshire Water is carrying out at a cost of £7 million.

Gouthwaite reservoir was built in 1901 and requires careful and regular maintenance. It took eight years to build and is unusual as it is managed by the Gouthwaite Management Board, which was set up by an Act of Parliament. Engineering specialists are building a new overflow collection channel on the Gouthwaite reservoir dam and the work is due to end by the summer of 2018. The overflow structure is used to let water into the River Nidd in a controlled way after a storm thus reducing the risk of catastrophic flooding.

I was pleased to see this work being done and to understand the improved impact it will have on the safety for local communities. This dam is vital for the safety of residents in our area, from Pateley Bridge all the way to Knaresborough, and it was fascinating to hear how the water flows are managed.

In recently weeks I also had the chance to meet with several local landowners and many of the women and men who support these businesses and manage the land. We discussed the valuable economic contribution of local estates to the local economy and I was shown a range of initiatives underway to improve the deep peat soils which help filter drinking water, mitigate flooding as well as combating climate change. It is always fantastic to discover new parts of the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and to be reminded of how extraordinary this part of the county is.

On a sunny Summer Friday, I met with teachers and representatives from Holy Trinity CE Infant and Junior Schools and also Greystone Community Primary School in Ripon to discuss a range of issues including school funding.

I am keen to have the opportunity to hear directly from the teachers and inform them of the work I am doing with my colleagues in Government to ensure a fairer funding formula, particularly for small, rural schools. I have campaigned over recent months for extra money for our schools and was delighted with the Government’s announcement of a £1.3 billion boost for core school funding, meaning school funding will be £2.6 billion higher in 2019-20 than this year. This funding settlement will secure funding for schools in our area for the years ahead.

We are fortunate to have such excellent schools in our area and I will continue to do everything I can to support them. As ever, the core of my work is to be a strong voice for my constituents and I am committed to ensuring we get the best possible deal for our local area.

To this end I have held busy surgeries on both sides of the constituency this month and I will, of course, be continuing to hold regular surgeries in Ripon and the surrounding areas over the coming months. If you would like to book an appointment at one of these, please visit my website at www.juliansmith.org.uk or contact my office on 01756 795898.