MP’s column: Connectivity key to levelling up

Time and time again I have pointed out that it would be folly for central government and Whitehall mandarins to make the decisions that local people are best placed to make. But when people in our communities identify priorities and come up with plans, we won’t turn down a helping hand from central government. It’s fine for Whitehall to help out with the petrol, so long as West Lindsey is in the driver’s seat.

MP Sir Edward Leigh. EMN-211110-184757001

For many, many months now I have been accelerating my campaign for our part of Lincolnshire to get a bigger share of the funding pie that we contribute to with our taxes. The transformation of the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government into the new Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities shows that the Conservative government is more serious than ever about spreading investment across the country.

Last month I had the honour of writing to my old friend Michael Gove to congratulate him on his appointment as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities.

I pointed out that West Lindsey District Council runs a highly capable administration, as proved by our successful bids for Housing Zone Status, the Single Local Growth Fund, and the National Lottery Townscape Heritage Initiative.

I had already written to and personally met with his predecessor to put the case for Gainsborough to have access to a Town Deal and Levelling Up funding.

The town itself still includes one of the most deprived wards in the country, and there can be no better opportunity for levelling up than here.

The plans West Lindsey have worked hard and astutely crafted focus on a thriving market place as the centrepiece for Gainsborough, improved by the reuse and repurposing of historic buildings and heritage structures.

Greater connectivity must also be key to levelling up, which is why we need to improve the transport links between Caistor, Market Rasen, Gainsborough, both to each other and to places beyond.

I have a meeting scheduled with LNER to update me and my neighbouring MPs for Cleethorpes and Grimsby on the progress of the direct service between Cleethorpes and London.

I’m glad concrete proposals are now on the table for this service but we have strongly protested that the initial plan leaves Market Rasen off the stopping points.

Market Rasen has a huge catchment area that would greatly benefit from a direct daily return service to London.

I will continue to make the case to ministers that West Lindsey has all the ingredients necessary to unlock potential and achieve some very serious levelling up.