The frosty weather that has gripped our county and nation over recent days is not the only disruption this month.
The proposed closure of the A1 by Highways England at Adderstone without proper consultation has had many residents and businesses very concerned about their livelihoods and safety in crisis.
We all understand the need for infrastructure improvements, and value that investment, but it needs to be done in a way that is sensitive to the needs of the community.
After a great deal of public concern, and meetings that I held in Westminster with ministers, and with our council leader Peter Jackson in Northumberland, Highways England agreed to attend a public meeting last Saturday. The meeting was packed with people wanting to have their voices heard.
By the end, Highways England had decided they would postpone the works. This is a victory for common sense and for the community, and proves my long held belief that we can make a big difference and get things done if we work together. This delay will allow Highways England to go back to the drawing board and come up with a way to complete essential works, whilst working with residents and businesses to minimise the impact on them.
From our vital road infrastructure to our wonderful marine wildlife, I have been working on supporting our communities in the House of Commons over recent weeks.
Last week I called for a debate on the consultation and communication strategy of Highways England to ensure communities like ours do not have to experience the same anxiety when major works are announced out of the blue. Alongside that work, I held a debate on the need to provide extra protection for the conservation of our wonderful eider duck in Marine Conversation Zones.
The creation by this Government of 50 Marine Conservation Zones, delineated zones along our coastline providing protection for wildlife and our marine environment, would no doubt receive the approval of St Cuthbert, the first protector of our wonderful eider duck well over 1,000 years ago. These zones have been created to protect important marine wildlife and their habitats and form part of what is now popularly known as the ‘Blue Belt’.
However, the eider duck is not protected under current regulations, something I am determined to change. I called on the Government to protect this species in the Coquet Island to St Mary’s Marine Conservation Zone, and to also commit to its protection in the Farne Islands. The Government has promised to look at this carefully.
The protection of our wonderful marine environment inspired me to join the #PassOnPlastic campaign, which led me to start up a campaign with a group of fellow MPs to commit to giving up plastic for Lent. It is surprisingly difficult. It is almost impossible to buy a loaf of bread in any supermarket, or enjoy any of the comfort foods that make those difficult days a little bit easier, but it is only by changing our habits that we can protect our environment.
It is worrying that there are five trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans, with eight million tonnes more ending up there every year.
If everyone plays their part in tackling this bad habit we have developed of accepting goods wrapped up unnecessarily, then we can dramatically reduce the plastic we throw away.
I would encourage everyone to join me in raising awareness about this issue and making a small change by getting rid of plastic from a part of their routine or daily life. Together we can make a difference which can bring major positive changes to our oceans and our amazing planet, of which Northumberland is one of the most blessed parts. Thank you for joining the challenge! Twitter: @giveupplastic.