Rory Stewart MP pledged his support to Matterdale Parish Council’s Neighbourhood Plan at a wide-ranging ‘Q&A’ session at Watermillock Village Hall on Friday, where he participated in a panel discussion with planning consultant Tom Woof and Stephen Ratcliffe of the Lake District National Park Authority.

Speaking to the packed hall local residents learnt directly from Rory about his thoughts on rural issues in addition to the Neighbourhood Plan, including rural broadband, World Heritage Status, and the rural economy. However the main focus was on planning issues within the National Park, an issue in which the community is clearly very invested.

Speaking on the proposed Matterdale Parish Neighbourhood Plan Rory paid tribute to his fellow panellist, Tom Woof, who led the first national Neighbourhood Plan Referendum in the Upper Eden area, which garnered praise from government and industry alike. He said: “The pendulum has swung to the local. Government recognises that we need to give communities more democratic control. There will always be national checks and balances, but the Secretary of State Greg Clark is a big believer in local control on planning issues, and strongly supports. It is very exciting that Matterdale are considering this, and in Eden as a whole we are pushing these plans through at a rapid rate and are a real national leader. Local people know more about what they want to happen in their area, but it is important to understand that a Neighbourhood Plan is a statutory document. Many things will frustrate you, but hopefully they will make life a little better.”

Rory also pledged to support any ‘build-and-benefit’ broadband model, reinforcing that many technological solutions could be looked at to reach the hardest to reach properties in the Parish. He empathised with the frustrations of many at not yet being able to access superfast broadband, but painted a positive picture about the potential for rolling out community projects with BT such as the Fell End model in Ravenstonedale, a similarly remote and challenging landscape. He said: “We have invested a lot of money into broadband, and the Prime Minister is now pushing for a Universal Service Obligation, which he wants to try and impose on BT. BT would be compelled to provide broadband to houses where the cost was estimated to be less than £3,500 per house. In a challenging landscapes like this, the costs are going to be massive. Therefore build-and-benefit models, like Fell End, have to be the answer. I would certainly love to work with Matterdale Parish Council on this.”

Matterdale Parish Council Clerk David Brown said: “The opportunity to hear the panel on the issues raised was much appreciated and I hope others will follow the Neighbourhood Plan route Matterdale Parish Council took​.​”

Print Friendly and PDF