Francis Maude: new ‘village’ in a most peaceful place

One of my first meetings on Friday was a regular catch-up with Divisional Commander for West Sussex, Chief Superintendent Walker and Horsham District Commander, Chief Inspector Hodges.

Just a couple of weeks ago this paper reported that Horsham is officially the fourteenth most peaceful place to live in England and Wales – that was a good place to start our discussions but we also covered the role of the new Police and Crime Commissioner; issues surrounding travellers and hunting and the new approach to working with families identified as struggling with day to day life. Giving these families almost one-to-one support is the best way of preventing them slipping into or, indeed, further into, criminality.

I then moved on to Muntham House School – a jewel in Horsham’s education crown – for their 60th anniversary ‘Professionals Day’ – a much-deserved opportunity for the school to showcase the outstanding work it does with their students who have varying degrees of emotional and behavioural difficulties.

We heard from a past student who has just graduated with a first class honours degree, parents who’ve benefited from the support of the whole school team and education professionals who recognise the great work that the school does. I was thrilled to be part of the day!

After lunch I met with the chief executive of Gatwick Airport. Another regular catch-up where we discussed the growth of the airport, updates to its infrastructure and, of course, their plans for a second runway – something that I remain opposed to.

I learn many things at every meeting but on this occasion I got to grips with the – significant – challenge of how to resurface the runway of the world’s busiest single-runway airport – an overnight operation, with months of planning, that’s not for the faint-hearted.

Later I had the pleasure of officially opening Durrants Village in Faygate. It’s a new retirement village – residents purchase one of the lovely cottages or houses and benefit from nurses being on-sight, not to mention a medical centre, library, bar, restaurant and fitness suite. Houses are cleaned and gardens are spruced for residents and there were lots of people looking to buy off-plan.

Obviously not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to consider retiring to somewhere like that but it’s a new option for those who can – an ideal way to extend safe and independent living for as long as possible.

My day concluded with the usual advice surgery – this time in Crawley Down but I also met with constituents throughout the day who weren’t necessarily able to attend a surgery. It’s those meetings that are the most important to me as a constituency MP.