What have you learned from 2020 that you're bringing into 2021?
Clearly, it has been an unprecedented year. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to dominate all aspects of local and national life but I am pleased by the recent news on vaccines and am confident that developments in mass rapid testing, therapeutics and vaccines will lead to a much improved situation next year.
I was absolutely delighted to have been appointed as the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport earlier in the year and I am proud to have the opportunity to play my part in the Government. It is an interesting and important brief and has lots of relevance in Hertsmere. Undoubtedly, a challenging aspect has been dealing with the pandemic and managing my hugely increased workload alongside spending time with my family.
As with everything this crisis will pass. I hope, though, that when this ends all of us will retain some of the community spirit that has shown Hertsmere and the nation at its best.
What are you most excited for this year?
I feel positive about 2021. In Hertsmere, the development of Sky Studios Elstree will help cement Elstree and Borehamwood’s reputation as the ‘British Hollywood’ and I continue to work with local authorities, agencies and relevant officials on its delivery. Alongside this, Hertsmere Borough Council working with the Government have pledged £6 million in funding to support the expansion of the Elstree Studios site by building two brand new sound-stages.
I will continue my work protecting Hertsmere’s green spaces, including working with all parties to help secure the future of Aldenham Reservoir. I have consistently fought to protect this local jewel and was pleased that after ongoing discussion and campaigning the path around the reservoir re-opened, restoring public access. I have written to the Secretary of State to register my support for the footpath to be recorded as a public right of way and continue to raise constituents concerns to all involved to secure the Reservoir’s future.
In Borehamwood, I am working with the Woodcock Hill Village Green Association to help preserve this real community treasure and I continue to do all I can to resist the construction of the Radlett Rail Freight Terminal. You can read further detail about my work on these campaigns at my website: oliverdowden.com.
I am also pleased that Watford General Hospital is being redeveloped and will receive much needed Government funding. Watford will be one of the first six new hospitals delivered with a rebuild, including women’s and children’s services. I know how important this hospital is to our community, it is used by many local residents, including me – my son was born there. The commitment to redevelop Watford General will support residents from Bushey, Radlett and beyond and provide much needed services in one place locally. It is important as our towns and villages grow that we have the right infrastructure to match. I will be continuing on work campaigning for improved local medical facilities, such as a new health hub in Borehamwood.
Also, I look forward to continuing my visits to schools, synagogues, community groups, charities, pubs, businesses and more, and meeting so many of you out and about in Hertsmere. My hope is that we are able to enjoy events such as The Bushey Acoustic Festival , the Radlett Festival and the Shenley Fete together again.
Like all of us, I am of course looking forward to being able to spend more time with my loved ones.
What do you anticipate will be your biggest challenge?
It is vital that we protect our green open spaces which surround Hertsmere’s towns and villages creating distinct communities and preventing ugly, unsustainable urban sprawl. As our towns and villages continue to grow, particularly with the new Local Plan, we must get the infrastructure to go with it. I am clear that where there is new development, it must be matched by the right infrastructure, including schools, roads, GP’s and emergency services.
Nationally, the recent news on vaccines represents a real turning point in our fight against coronavirus. I’ll be working hard locally and nationally to get businesses, jobs and investment back up and going as we emerge from the crisis in the spring. It is essential that we protect livelihoods alongside lives.
Come the end of this year, what will you hope to have achieved?
I was delighted to agree a £1.57 billion investment to protect Britain’s world-class cultural, arts and heritage institutions. This is the largest ever single government investment in culture in the UK and is designed to help the arts weather the storm of COVID-19. I was delighted that both the Radlett Centre and Wyllyotts Theatre in Potters Bar were both saved by this lifeline government funding. The Reel Cinema in Borehamwood also benefited from the Cultural Recovery Fund, as part of funding supporting independent cinemas.
I am pleased that seven charities in Hertsmere benefited from the £750 million support package for charities and our local clubs such as Borehamwood FC have benefited from support agreed for the National League.
Hertsmere is such a special place to live, and this support will have saved special places such as the Radlett Centre – who truly are at the heart of our community.
As always, I am here for my constituents so do get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.