Welcome to my South West Surrey update No.236.
Back now from my US West Coast trip where I was banging the drum for our technology and entertainment industries - and after a conversation with Boots MD Seb James at the weekend fantastic news that Boots Farncombe will stay open.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN WESTMINSTER
HOTEL CALIFORNIA Last week I wrote about why I was going to the US – now I am back I can tell you how I go on which I also wrote about in this week’s Herald. I often say that we are Europe’s Silicon Valley– but I am not the only one who thinks this as you can see in this video summary of the trip. I started in San Francisco where I spoke to lots of tech business leaders, including Andreessen Horowitz who will be opening their first international office in London. In Los Angeles, I met some of Hollywood’s leading film and TV investors. Finally, I went to Seattle and I met the CEOs of Microsoft and Amazon, as well as the President of Google. They are all at the heart of the Artificial Intelligence revolution - and they see the UK as the dominant player outside the US and China with twice as many AI companies as anywhere else in Europe.
ECONOMIC CHEER As part of my US trip I visited Warner Bros. who have studios in Leavesden, Hertfordshire. They announced a £240 million investment in those studios which is where Barbie and Harry Potter were filmed and kindly gave me two Barbie t-shirts for my daughters. The studios will add 10 new sound stages, boosting production capacity by 50% and creating 4,000 new jobs - helping to fuel a near doubling of our studio space in recent years which makes us Europe’s largest TV and film production centre. In the same week we had Finnish tissue paper manufacturer Metsä Tissue announcing an investment of hundreds of millions of pounds in a new mill in East Yorkshire – directly creating hundreds of new jobs with many more in the supply chain.
ENERGY SECURITY Since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, we have seen energy prices rise and all of us have become experts on energy policy. The Prime Minister last week announced that we will be reforming energy infrastructure to remove grid bottlenecks and ensure that we have the infrastructure to support the transition to clean energy and electric cars. We have already lifted the de-facto ban on onshore wind but there will still be some use of oil and gas whilst we make the change – so untapped North Sea resources such as Rosebank which was approved yesterday will continue to be important to reduce our dependence on Russian oil.
CONFERENCE Next week I will be at the Conservative Party Conference– if you are interested, do tune into my speech on Monday afternoon at 1405.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN SOUTH WEST SURREY
ROYAL SURREY CANCER CAMPAIGN Quizzers get ready as the Cancer Campaign Fundraising Team are making their final plans for the next event in their fundraising calendar. Taking place at 7pm on Friday 20th October in Albury, this relaxed evening will see teams of like-minded quizzers, friends, and campaign supporters get together in the beautiful village hall. Tickets are just £20 which includes a delicious ploughman's supper as well as your ticket for the quiz, and there's also a cash bar. There are loads of amazing prizes – generously donated by local businesses and individuals. Our thanks too must go to Shere Village cinema, Tillingbourne Fish & Smokery, and White Barnes Carpets & Flooring for their support. For tickets call 07932 411108 or email email@example.com.
GREEN SPACES Reducing single-use plastics is one of the main priorities of my Green Spaces campaign. As I wrote two weeks ago there are other excellent efforts going on with the Farnham Rotary Club, and in Wonersh, Cranleigh, and Godalming, who are campaigning to achieve plastic-free status from Surfers Against Sewage – which includes a pledge for organisations and an award businesses can work towards. However, as I also wrote in last week’s Herald, I believe we can go further across all of Surrey. So do remember to sign up to my local Plastic Free Pledge, in which both individuals and businesses can commit to using less disposable plastic. There is so much that is being done and I really want to understand more about what is going on in the constituency, as well as visit local businesses and schools to hear about how they are getting on. You can take part here: https://www.jeremyhunt.org/plastic-free-pledge-2023.
FARNCOMBE BOOTS In the past few weeks I spoke twice to the CEO of Boots, Sebastian James to pass on the strong objections from many to the proposed closure of Boots in Farncombe. It is therefore great news to know it will now be staying open, which will be so important for the local community. Well done to local campaigner Daniel Husseini and others who worked so hard on it. A real win for Farncombe and Godalming!
BRAMLEY FUEL I am still receiving reports about the fuel smell and evidence of fuel in the Bramley stream. Councillor Jane Austin and I have received an interim update from the Environment Agency and Waverley Borough Council following their recent meetings with EPS - the petrol station’s environmental consultants. They confirm gross historic contamination of the soils and groundwater under the petrol station. In the coming weeks further investigations will continue, including the drilling of boreholes around the site to determine the extent of where fuel may have migrated. EPS will be trialling options to treat the contamination and clean up. I have requested a meeting with the Environment Agency and, as with all Bramley residents, I am keen to understand the findings of the investigation when it concludes. I will keep you updated on this important issue.
GODALMING PUBLIC LOOS I'm delighted that Godalming’s Crown Court public toilets have been saved with the successful award of a Community Ownership Fund grant. The government’s Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities has awarded nearly £200k for the project which will be used to renovate the ageing toilets which have been a real challenge to maintain and keep operational over the years. Great news for town centre visitors!
TOM HORWOOD Tom Horwood, who is the CEO of Guildford Council and of Waverley Borough Council has announced he is stepping down from the role. I have worked with Tom constructively over many years and wish him well and the best of luck for the future.
GODALMING BAND CONCERTS Godalming Band will be playing at Milford Village Hall on Sunday 29th October, featuring a brass band repertoire. Their Christmas Concert will be held on Saturday 9th December at Godalming United Church with lots of festive music. Tickets are on sale here.
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AND FINALLY… Speaking of innovation– delivery robots have been used around Cambridge to reduce car journeys in the city but it looks like even they may sometimes need help from firefighters!