Constituency matters… a weekly column by the Member of Parliament for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins 31 March 2021.
On Monday this week we took the next positive step in our roadmap to lift the COVID-19 social contact restrictions.
It is great to see that grassroots sport is back and that people can once again meet in public spaces and outdoors in their gardens in groups of six, or as two household units.
On 12th April, we are due to see the re-opening of non-essential retail, hairdressers, gyms and indoor leisure centres, and hospitality venues will be able to serve people outdoors. It is also very encouraging to see that since the schools returned on 8th March, the average number of positive covid tests in Folkestone and Hythe has remained at or below four per day; its lowest level since early October.
This is another example I believe of the impact of the vaccine in protecting people from COVID-19 and reducing cases and infection rates. Locally, the Dover Health Centre and Folkestone Civic Centre vaccination sites alone have given 36,129 first doses, that is separate from those who have been vaccinated at other sites, including the mass vaccination centre at Folca in Sandgate Road in Folkestone. This is an amazing achievement. Nationally half of all adults have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Last Friday I was delighted to join the Chair of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd, and Kent County Councillors, Susan Carey and Tony Hills, for the virtual opening of the new Hythe Ranges flood defence scheme. There is of course nothing virtual about the coastal defences themselves, which are a £25million investment to protect homes, land and businesses in Hythe and Romney Marsh.
Nearly ten years ago, I joined the then Environment Agency chair, Chris Smith, to open the £60million sea wall at Dymchurch. Five years later I was with Emma Howard Boyd again for the opening of the £30million sea wall at Broomhill Sands.
Taken together, over the last decade we have seen the results of a £115million investment in coastal defences around the Romney Marsh, keeping the area at a one in one-hundred-year risk of flooding, even allowing for the potential impact of climate change on sea levels. Alongside this has been the constant work of the beach replenishment schemes and shingle defences along the coast. The next major works will be new sea defences at the Ministry of Defence firing range at Lydd.
As part of the new sea defences at Hythe, work has also been completed to protect the foundations of the Dymchurch Redoubt, a 200-year old military fort and scheduled monument, which was constructed to keep out would be invaders rather than the sea. I have also been assured by the Environment Agency that public access along the coast, on days when the Hythe Ranges are not firing, will be restored once all of the works have been completed. New benches have also been installed close to the Redoubt as part of the refurbishment scheme. I would like to send my thanks to everyone who has worked to deliver this important new infrastructure.