Skipton and Ripon is a rural area and I support investment in healthy, sustainable British food production, that is better for both the environment and animal welfare. Food and farming is a bedrock of our economy and leaving the European Union has meant leaving the Common Agricultural Policy – and moving to a system where farmers are paid public money for public goods.
Improving transport infrastructure and digital connectivity is key to levelling up the local economy. For many years, I have campaigned for the realignment of the landslip-prone A59 at Kex Gill. Since 2000 there have been six road closures, lasting a total of 22 weeks with the most recent closure taking place in 2018.
Proposals were submitted to the Department for Transport for a permanent solution, which involved realigning the route to the other side of the valley. On Saturday 30th January 2021, the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps announced that the Department for Transport would provide up to £56 million of the £60 million funding needed to build the 3.94km new road. The remainder of the funding will be provided by North Yorkshire County Council. This is excellent news as the route is particularly important as it links Harrogate with Skipton. The works on the realignment on this stretch of the A59 are expected to begin by the end of 2022.
Since I was first elected, I have supported the reopening of the Skipton to Colne railway line. This is a proposal to reopen the railway line between Skipton and Colne, a 12 mile stretch of railway that would connect the Airedale line in West Yorkshire to East Lancashire’s Colne to Preston line, creating a direct route from Preston to Leeds. The plan is currently at the development stage.
I continue to engage with SELRAP (the Skipton-East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership), which has been campaigning for the reopening of this stretch of railway, and the MPs for constituencies that are also affected. I was pleased with the announcement that, following a year-long feasibility study by the Department for Transport, the then Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling MP gave his support for re-opening of the Skipton to Colne rail link, moving the project one step closer to proceeding.
The rail link, which has been closed since the 1970s, could provide a huge boost to businesses in Craven, and be a real demonstration of how this Government is backing local businesses by improving vital infrastructure across the North of England.
Everyone in Skipton and Ripon should have access to high speed internet. Over the years I have engaged locally and made representations to ensure homes and businesses have the access they need. Superfast North Yorkshire is bringing super-fast broadband to North Yorkshire. The project is now in its fourth phase and it is predicted that there will be 97% Superfast coverage by the end of this phase in 2024. With more people working from home and the increased need to communicate digitally I will continue to monitor this issue.