As you read this, my last column of 2021, we reflect on what has been a challenging year.
At the beginning of the year I was immensely proud to see local residents play their part in the recovery from the Covid pandemic by coming forward and having the vaccine. We should all be proud of the amazing rollout and the work undertaken by an army of local volunteers, the NHS, and medical researchers to vaccinate and protect us.
Whilst the first few months of 2021 were spent with restrictions in place as we battled a third wave of covid, the success of the vaccine programme enabled a return to normality over the course of the year, seeing our local businesses, which had been supported by the government furlough scheme, reopening and shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants welcoming people back to the high street.
To help kickstart our economic recovery I was pleased to secure £13.9 million from the Government for Cheadle as part of the Towns Fund Initiative. Thanks to the brilliant work of the local Towns Board, which is made up of council and community representatives, projects are under way to open a rail station in Cheadle and boost green employment opportunities with an Eco Business Park development.
Initiatives like these will be hugely important as we strive to meet our climate change commitments following COP26. This conference, hosted by the UK in Glasgow, was a landmark event highlighting the importance of tackling Climate Change and the need for the legislation and commitments that the Government has made. Global initiatives and commitments to reach a target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees can seem distant to us in Stockport but we are part of a joint effort to improve our areas as well as safeguarding the planet.
The pandemic has made us all reassess what is important to us. A key priority for many has been green spaces - we all regularly used and valued our local green spaces even more than usual this year and I will continue to fight against plans to build over them. Brownfield land, which has previously been built on, must be reused first. In August the Government’s National Planning Policy introduced a ‘Building Beautiful Places’ plan making it easier for residents and planners to embrace beautiful, practical design while rejecting ugly, unsustainable or poor-quality proposals. This is the quality standard we should now expect across Stockport.
As the year ends the vaccine booster rollout continues to be our best weapon in the fight against the latest Coronavirus variant ‘Omicron’ so let’s get boosted and have a safe start to 2021!
Finally, to all the readers of the Stockport Express, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.