Spring has well and truly sprung, and the unusually warm weather this year has meant in many gardens and local farms, including my own, plants and crops are a couple of weeks ahead of their normal growth. Lambs are still in the fields, and I was pleasantly surprised when a local constituent sent me a photo of their lambing pens with my 2015 General Election posters being used to shelter new-born lambs – creative recycling proving the enduring usefulness of my campaign posters!
Spring is always a season when South Shropshire looks at its best. So I anticipate this longer Easter Bank Holiday weekend will see Shropshire play host to good number of tourists and visitors, who come to see our beautiful natural environment.
We have both moral and prudent reasons to do what we can to protect the beautiful scenery and diverse flora and fauna that make our county one of the most special in England. By drawing in thousands of visitors each year, and supporting our vital agriculture sector, it provides a real boost to the local economy.
I was pleased to welcome Defra Secretary of State, Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom, to Shropshire last month, to discuss some of the ways we will be looking at continuing our support for the natural environment, as we leave the EU.
I know this is an issue of concern to local people, as I have had several approaches about our future environmental policies. Of course, until we leave the European Union, the existing arrangements remain in place. But I am pleased the Government has committed to safeguarding our vibrant natural environment once outside the EU. I particularly welcome that the Treasury has confirmed any structural fund projects, including agri-environment schemes, signed before our departure from the EU will be honoured for their lifetime, even if they run beyond this point.
Leaving the EU does mean however that we can tailor our future environmental policies to the needs of our precious habitats and wildlife, instead of following a one size fits all approach for 28 different countries. Ministers are committed to seizing this opportunity as they work on an ambitious 25 Year Plan for the environment.
Over half the Ludlow Constituency falls within our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so I hope all those enjoying the Easter break in Shropshire will take the opportunity to get out and explore more of our wonderful countryside.