Nominations are open for the Campaign to protect Rural England’s Hertfordshire Rural Living Awards

February 13, 2015

I was pleased to hear that nominations have opened for the Campaign to protect Rural England’s Hertfordshire Rural Living Awards. These are intended to recognise the efforts made by groups or individuals who have improved life and bettered the environment in Hertfordshire’s villages and countryside. The two categories for these are as below:

• Rural Community Living
• Rural Environment

There are also two Rural Living Champion Awards and these are:

• The Dorothy Abel Smith Award for a young person aged up to 18 who has made an outstanding contribution to rural living
• The Peterkin Award for an adult who has made an outstanding contribution to rural living

Details about how to nominate people and the necessary forms to do so can be found here. I am a strong supporter of the rural community in my constituency. There are many that make a valuable contribution to it and I hope that people will consider nominating them so that their hard work is suitably recognised.

The new Community Bus Fund

November 25, 2014

I was pleased to hear of the new £25 million Community Bus Fund announced by the Transport Secretary earlier this month.

The fund will provide new minibuses for hundreds of community transport providers in the UK. These providers lie at the heart of the local communities they serve – getting children to school, people to hospital, and supporting groups like the Guides and Scouts. They are particularly important in rural and isolated areas, helping people to get around and participate in local life.

The Government wants to do all it can to support these operators who already do so much for their communities, with 50% entirely run by volunteers. That is why they are committing this significant amount of money so operators can bid for a new minibus to replace or expand their existing fleet. Priority will be given to smaller operators and those providing services in rural areas. Bidding will be open to any community transport operator running not-for-profit services of benefit to their local community with one or more permits under Section 19 of the Transport Act 1985.

Further details on the bidding process and criteria for community transport operators will be made available on the Department for Transport’s website shortly.

Conservative Shadow Environment Minister visits the River Beane

April 14, 2010

Ardeley’s Agrarian Renaissance

September 11, 2009

At Ardeley Fete earlier this year, Tim Waygood invited me to visit Church Farm to see how his “Agrarian Renaissance” is transforming the 175 acre farm into a new model for farming. I was intrigued by what he told me, so I took him up on his offer and not only that, I went armed with Conservative Shadow Agriculture Minister Jim Paice.

The farm is genuinely mixed with Berkshire and other pigs, cattle, sheep, many varieties of poultry picking away in new orchards, vegetables, grain – in fact, food of many sorts. The farm provides educational facilities and is a hub for other services from a vehicle mechanic to a vet. The recent opening of the shop means that Ardeley is one of few villages to have a new shop – the first shop there since the 1970s – and all meat home-grown on the farm. The coffee was excellent in the busy café too.

A caring side to the enterprise is shown by the “Rural Care” base, enabling disadvantaged people to work on the farm, learning skills and making friends.

Tim showed us round and we were both impressed. He hopes to build on his model and spread it round Britain. He has already lectured about it at an Oxford conference. I certainly wish him well. The photo shows us with the cattle: L to R – Tim, me, Jim.

Tim Waygood's Agrarian Renaissance

Tim Waygood's Agrarian Renaissance

Onshore wind turbines: Have I got news for you

July 16, 2009

As part of the media campaign behind the launch of the Government’s latest plan to reduce carbon emissions and lead greener lives, Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change announced to the country that “the biggest threat to the countryside is not wind turbines but climate change”. This is simplistic nonsense – propaganda.

Hidden within a raft of well-intentioned proposals to increase our reliance upon renewable energy sources, was a commitment to more onshore wind turbines and support for the “political persuasion” that was required to convince everyone of what a good idea these are. I think he’s clearly trying to soften us up for something, but is it really the lazy option of covering our precious countryside with wind farms or is there more to this than meets the eye?

I support an expansion of our renewable energy sector, in fact last year I berated the Government for being so slow to increase it, however I do not support all forms of renewable energy in all circumstances. Microgeneration, solar, CCS, nuclear power and feed-in tariffs are all options I support to reduce our carbon emissions and fight climate change. I even support wind turbines built way out at sea where they can best take advantage of the wind’s natural power, but I draw the line at onshore wind turbines unless they are sited very sensitively.

So I’ve got news for Mr Miliband. The precious countryside we still have left in Hertfordshire is constantly threatened by development proposals on all sides and we fight hard to protect our local environment. We are the most densely populated county. We have already done our bit. If we pave over our fields and clutter up the horizon with monstrous industrial turbines there won’t be a countryside worth saving.

Big onshore wind turbines only work roughly 35% of the time, are expensive and they damage local bird and bat populations (a 2002 study estimated 11,200 birds of prey (many of them endangered), 350,000 bats and 3,000,000 small birds are killed every year by turbines in Spain). They can be painfully noisy for local residents and it has been compared to the throbbing bass of a night club. On-shore wind farms are controversial and inefficient. Why is the Government pushing so hard for them, rather than solar power or the other options.

I think they are softening us up for a lot more nuclear power – on the basis that if we won’t have on-shore wind, there is no alternative….

Taking part in the Save Our Bees Campaign

June 24, 2009
As the pollinators of approximately a third of the plants and trees of the countryside, including the agricultural sector, bees play a vital role in our wellbeing. Unfortunately bees are now under threat across the world, mainly it would appear from a mysterious phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder, a strange disorder whereby the majority of a hive will die almost over-night, seemingly without explanation. Last winter almost two-thirds of the bee colonies in London, about 4,000 hives, are estimated to have died. Bees are also under attack from the vicious Varroa mite.

In fact their decline is so worrying that their case has been discussed in both Houses of Parliament and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs even has a “Bee Health Plan”. So to help do my bit I planted a packet of bee-friendly plant seeds the Save Our Bees Campaign sent me in my garden and my researcher Martin did the same in his flat, and I am very happy to report they have grown into plants and are now in full bloom! According to the campaign these flowers will help make bees healthier, help them survive infection, changing weather patterns and more! Lucky bees.

For more information, why not have a look at

Martin’s plants

At the end of the first week…

At the end of the first week…

At the end of the first week…

After the next few weeks…

After the next few weeks…

After the next few weeks…

Getting bigger the week after…


Getting bigger the week after…

Getting bigger the week after…

One small yellow bud appears a few weeks later…

One small yellow bud appears a few weeks later…

One small yellow bud appears a few weeks later…

This week in full bloom!

This week in full bloom!

This week in full bloom!

Land Creation Scheme: Total Area of English Farmland increases by 5 million hectares

April 1, 2009

As Farmers’ Weekly recently reported, Rural Affairs Minister Huw Irranca-Davies has estimated that the total agricultural holdings in England have now reached 14 million hectares. We should applaud the Minister on his success in increasing the agricultural land mass in England from its previous known size of 9.3million hectares in such a short period.

Huw Irranca-Davies was appointed Minister for Rural Affairs in October 2008. This means that on his current estimate the English farming land mass has increased by almost a million hectares per month! How long will it be before it doubles? Well, it looks as though we can confidently expect a result by Christmas.

Meanwhile in North East Herts, previous indications have been that the constituency contains 46,938 hectares. We’ll have to check to see if it has now increased in line with Huw’s estimates to a mighty 70,407! Anyone noticing significant land growth in their garden or allotment might like to comment.

The rise in rural crime

March 16, 2009

I recently blogged about the fear caused by rural crime and the need for vigilance against it. I called for a strong and visible police presence in our rural areas. I pointed out that ‘neighbourhood policing’ is the current buzz, but it doesn’t sound very rural – what about village crime too?

Figures out today show that the down-turn has seen a rise in violent crime and rural areas are bearing the brunt of this. Rather than saying ‘I told you so’, my reaction is to welcome the fact that this evidence is coming out into the open and to hope that it informs policing. An article on the front page of the Daily Telegraph goes into more detail, reporting that violent crime such as assaults and burglary is up a shocking 20 per cent in the countryside. Neighbouring Cambridgeshire is badly affected. I am going to write again to our Police Authority asking for the Hertfordshire figures and stressing the importance of this issue.

Taking sensible precautions can help reduce the likelihood of being a victim of crime, whether that be rural or urban crime. Getting into good habits such as keeping valuables out of sight as much as possible and keeping a watchful eye out for who is looking at your and your neighbour’s property can all help keep crime at bay. Rural crime has the added dimension that properties are often located out-of-the-way with few people around to witness the perpetrators of violent theft. The prospect that help could be a long way away leads to fear of crime.

I would urge constituents to report crimes, as the incidence of crime reports affects police priorities – the more crime reported, the higher up the scale it goes. I have also been pressing the minister not to cut back on police numbers in rural areas.

Rural Crime

March 3, 2009

In deepest rural Hertfordshire – one of the safest parts of the country statistically – fear of crime is rife. As fewer people live in rural areas it is easy for their concerns to be overlooked in setting police priorities.

Police plans talk of “neighbourhoods”, anti-social behaviour, even terrorism – all important – but the rural dimension of crime is largely ignored and not simply the epidemic of fly-tipping. A constituent recently told me about four hooded men coming at night to the yard of his gardening business, brandishing weapons and demanding to steal the new trailer and mower needed for work. The owner and his father felt forced to back down and he lost equipment worth thousands of pounds. This was a terrifying ordeal, after which his father found difficulty sleeping for some days.

Gangs come on to farmland with four-wheel drive vehicles, guns and dogs to do illegal hare coursing and threaten anyone who tries to stop them. There is also dog stealing and illegal shooting.

A survey of local residents in rural East Hertfordshire produced comments such as: “…garage broken into and motorbike, riding leathers, crash helmet… stolen…” “…picking up one of our dogs and taking it back to their vehicle…” “…a victim myself on numerous occasions…” “…very little police presence round here so villains can do pretty much what they like…” “There is not nearly enough police presence.”

Now, this is not just about Hertfordshire Police with their miserly budget from Government, but also about understanding that it is very frightening to be subject to crime many miles from a Police Station in a small rural community, particularly when a number of criminals are involved.

That is why local Police who know the area and are visible are vital. We need more of them. I know from my time spent with police that there are cars out patrolling, but police drivers have a difficult challenge in Hertfordshire with such a network of small lanes between villages and towns. When a police car is called to a rural spot, the police driver needs to know the roads as well as the criminal.

One initiative by a community police officer has been to send mobile phone messages to local people if criminal activity is taking place and coming their way. This allows local residents to secure their valuables and has led to crime being prevented and detected. Now it seems a central decision may see the mobile phone taken from the officer as a cutback. This must not happen.

So, I will continue to press for a strong police presence in the rural parts of the Hertfordshire as well as the urban and proper attention to rural crime. Police training needs to ensure that Hertfordshire Police know the rural area well.

It is vital that crime is reported and I always worry when told that a resident didn’t bother. Police effort is partly directed by an analysis of where crime is happening, so it is vital to report crime. It is also important that Police treat the report seriously and as more than an opportunity to hand out a crime number.

Rural crime matters and sentences for those convicted should reflect the fear these crimes engender in victims.