The Tunbridge Wells Liberal Democrats held their annual dinner at the Royal Wells on Friday, March 18, 2016. Baroness Falkner of Margravine was on hand to give a talk about the upcoming European Union, the refugee crisis and the state of the party. There was also an auction with a variety of prizes which members bid for in a silent auction.
Local Tunbridge Wells Chair, Gillian Douglass, introduced Baroness Falkner by reading a list of her accomplishments and accolades which Baroness Falkner denounced as being too extensive but noted that the party has told her that "these things must be done." Lady Falkner currently sits on the House of Lords European Union (E.U.) Sub-Committee on Financial Affairs and is a Member of both the House of Lords E.U. Select Committee, and the Joint House of Commons – House of Lords Select Committee on the National Security Strategy.
During her address, the Baroness remarked that, while she rarely agrees with the Prime Minister, she agrees with him regarding the European Union and stated that she believes that he has done a remarkable job in negotiating an agreement which she believes will be of benefit to the United Kingdom. She stated that no other country has been able to opt out of so many areas of the E. U. which they find disagreeable, notably the euro and the Shengan Agreement. This allows the U.K. the benefits of being able to control her finances and borders more effectively.
In regard to the refugee crisis, Baroness Falkner stated that the U.K. has donated £1.9 billion to relieve the plight of refugees. She supports the idea of accepting refugees from the refugee camps rather than from within Europe and also supports the Liberal Democrat policy of accepting 3,000 children in crisis.
Baroness Falkner spoke briefly about the state of the Liberal Democrat party saying that the Liberal Democrats have been in worse plight before and have fought back. She stated that she supported the idea of a coalition government which was the right thing for the country at the time but was somewhat critical of Nick Clegg for putting party politics above policy matters on one occasion.
The Liberal Democrats are fighting local elections on May 5th in the Borough of Tunbridge Wells as well as a number of parishes. They are also campaigning strongly to remain in the European Union. If you want to become involved with the local party or for further information, contact Gillian Douglass on 01892 670526 or Marguerita Morton, Secretary and Fundraising Chair on 01892 522756 or Membership Secretary, Sheesh Bloomfield on 07968331217.
When you elected Cllr Hugh Patterson in 2012 he promised to fight to protect the Green Belt surrounding Five Oak Green.
Over the last two years he has campaigned against the two solar parks proposed in the parish. He said “Although I am in favour of solar energy, as a valuable contribution to a greener energy supply, I think there are better places to build solar farms. The Green Belt is there to preserve the openness of the countryside and to prevent our village being swallowed up by Paddock Wood and Tonbridge. Build these solar arrays - but not on Green Belt land.”
Cllr Patterson pointed out major problems with the flood impact assessment for one of the schemes, which was later changed in order to take account of the flooding risk in Five Oak Green. In the end planners agreed narrowly to approve both sites, though one was amended to make it smaller and ensure a more limited impact on the village.
As chair of the Parish flood committee Cllr Patterson has worked with local residents, the Parish Council and other authorities since the flood of December 2013 to reduce the risk of further flooding in the village.
Public meetings twice yearly have allowed residents, particularly those in the centre of Five Oak Green, to make their concerns clear to the authorities.
Since 2013 the drains in the centre of the village have been CCTV’d and blockages cleared.
The Environment Agency relined the culvert in the late summer of 2014 at a cost of half a million pounds.
The next stage is for the flood diversion scheme to be built. This would protect homes in Five Oak Green from river flooding. At the time of writing half of the money needed still needs to found. There is money available to the Parish from the developers of the solar parks. Cllr Patterson believes it is important that “a proportion of this money should be given to the scheme in order to encourage other larger bodies like the County Council and Network Rail to make a contribution. Around 100 HOMES in Five Oak Green are at risk from river flooding. This would protect them from flood risks of greater than 1 in 100 years”.