Anthony Mangnall MP for Totnes and South Hams
Parliamentary recess allows all MPs to return to their constituencies and spend considerably more time within their local community.
No longer are we bound by division bell but able to tour freely crisscrossing around our respective areas, listening and learning about the strengths and weaknesses of our communities.
While this year the ability to tour across our ‘patches’ has been severely curtailed, I was fortunate to get out and about to see businesses, charities, local groups, and organisations.
I had hoped to cover a great deal more ground but what I have seen has only reinvigorated my determination to ensure that the South West gets its fair share of the levelling up agenda and that residents are given the support that they need.
One such community that is in desperate need of help is that of the residents of park home sites.
Across the country, park home sites are tight-knit communities who greatly support one another; however, they are often at the mercy of those who own the overall site.
The ground rent and council tax payments often put them in a catch-22 position where one side passes the buck to the other. Leaving residents all too often with poorly maintained sites, inflated bills, and little to no support from councils, who are responsible for issuing park home site licences.
These last few months I have met many residents of park home sites who feel voiceless, as though they have fallen through the gap.
Sadly, it appears from contacting many of my colleagues that South Devon is not the exception. Across the country, park home site residents are routinely denied the support that housing tenants have come to expect, despite the little difference between the two.
It is unacceptable that such a significant part of our community can be let down in such a way and I believe the time has come to update the Mobile Homes Act 2013.
Improving the representation of residents and empowering them will be the first step in terms of changing the law, but in the meantime, I hope to be holding a debate on the issue and raising general awareness that not only is this not an isolated case but one that has been overlooked all too often.
My visits to park home sites have only widened my knowledge and understanding of this area and I hope together with colleagues I will be able to provide the support they so desperately need.
It is perhaps age revealing if I say that I can just about remember the Nortel days when 5,000 people were employed by the Canadian tech company.
The closure of its Paignton site in the early 2000s was a huge blow to our local economy and the region at large. However, this closure says nothing about the migration of high-tech skills and talent away from the area.
The Paignton EPIC centre, which houses hi-tech industries based around photonics is a fine example of the innovation and ingenuity that still calls South Devon home.
Photonics is essentially the science of light, more importantly, it enables $2 trillion worth of global markets for a vast range of products.
We have a growing photonics sector that needs investment and cultivation.
As a new member of the all-party parliamentary group on photonics, I look forward to work to help raise awareness and understanding of this industry as well as drive investment and support.
Parliament has now returned however; throughout the week and each weekend I am taking the opportunity to speak with local groups.
Over the coming months, I hope to be able to deliver for these two groups, and also to learn about other sectors who I might be able to support.