As the New Year begins it's time to ask: what's next for Dover and Deal?
Everyone knows the story of how far we have come since 2010. A new hospital built in Dover. Deal hospital saved. The port sell-off stopped. £400 million invested in our area. Unemployment near halved. The Calais Jungle dismantled. The fast train sweeping into our stations, all day every day.
Everyone should be proud of what we have achieved together in the past seven years. Yet we must keep moving forward.
So what are the next steps?
A new cinema, shops and restaurants are being built in the heart of Dover. The St James development will bring in yet more jobs and money to our area. When we watch a movie at Cineworld or go shopping in Next, we must never forget that barely two years ago this area was blighted by the awful multi-storey car park and Burlington House. It has taken so much hard work to get this far.
St James is going to massively improve things in Dover – yet we need our high street to flourish too. Everyone wants the entire Dover town centre to succeed. Making sure the St James development draws more visitors to our high street is our top priority.
We need plans in place to link St James and our stunning seafront. We must find a way of getting visitors to see and enjoy all our town has to offer. That means guiding them from St James to our brilliant independent cafes, shops and micropubs in town – and the amazing Roman Painted House. I would love to see a footbridge over the A20, linking Bench Street and our Banksy to the seafront. I'm really interested to hear people's views on how we can make this work.
Deal has gone from strength to strength in recent years, following the arrival of the fast train. Yet there is still more to do. Firstly, we must seize the opportunity to rejuvenate Deal Pier and ensure this iconic landmark is brought into better use.
Dover is getting a new cinema. Deal's Regent Cinema was supposed to be re-opened years ago. The owners need to shape up and get film reels rolling at the Regent once more – or sell to someone who will.
And we need better road access for Deal. The A258 from Dover is too often gridlocked – leaving no other way to get to town. And traffic heading to Thanet ends up blocking Middle Deal Road. That's why we need to look at building a dualled spur from the A256 to connect to Middle Deal and the North End.
There is so much potential in our beautiful corner of Kent. The Citadel is a site ripe for development. We could use the leisure centre site for more parking and shops. I will be pushing for more services at our hospitals, more funding for our outstanding schools and better broadband across the villages. And we must continue to do everything we can to support our brilliant small businesses.
On top of all of this we have Brexit. I have been working hard to ensure we have the right plan in place so that traffic continues to flow freely between Dover and Calais. I've been working with the French to make sure they are ready too. We are leaving the European Union in little over a year – and we must be ready on day one for every eventuality.
It's clear there will be many challenges in the 12 months ahead. Yet after we've achieved so much over the past seven years – it's now time to push on and truly build a brighter future for Dover and Deal.
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