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Virendra Sharma MP: A big year ahead with many big issues

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The future of Ealing Hospital and Heathrow Airport will be two key issues this year, writes Labour MP for Ealing Southall Virendra Sharma in his latest column:


2014 is already two weeks old and some of that New Year optimism has already been tarnished. I was due to meet the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt MP this week along with fellow West London MPs and Ealing Council Leader Julian Bell to talk about the decision to close our A&Es but he pulled out at the last minute.

This is completely unacceptable given the continuing A&E crisis and the huge impact this decision will have on my constituents. We have written to him again demanding a meeting in the increasingly vain hope that he will listen to our grave concerns and that we can save the A&Es at Ealing and Charing Cross and that he will not rush through the closures at Central Middlesex and Hammersmith.

Difficult as it has now become the fight to save our Hospitals however goes on!

Another big issue for 2014 is the future of Heathrow airport and it's possible expansion. The Davies Commission is looking at options for expanding Aviation capacity in the South East and last summer The Mayor of London proposed closing Heathrow and losing all the jobs and economic benefits the Airport brings to west London. A study carried out by Hounslow, Ealing and Slough Councils showed that 70,000 jobs would be put at risk with many of them being lost in the most deprived areas in Southall. I have long been opposed to Heathrow expansion due to the noise and environmental impacts on my constituents but I am also opposed to its closure.

Just before Christmas the Davies Commission gave its interim findings and wisely did not short list the Mayor's proposals for a Thames Estuary hub airport but included two options to expand Heathrow and one to build another runway at Gatwick. The so called Heathwick solution seems the best to me. Heathrow does not expand and remains a two runway airport but retains all the hub traffic with all the jobs and economic benefits associated with this, whilst an extra runway at Gatwick provides the extra capacity needed for point to point flights. The two Heathrow expansion proposals would create more noise and misery to my constituents and I will be opposing them strongly.

2014 will also see work continue around the Southall Charter that was launched over a year ago and it will have my full support. Throughout last year I worked closely with Ealing Council, residents, businesses, faith groups and other public bodies like the Police and local Colleges to implement the Charter. Large and small scale projects have been progressed to improve Southall. The new Council car park next to Southall Market opened last August and works on improving traffic flows and the pedestrian experience in Southall Broadway began in November and will progress over the coming year. In the summer we also opened the new sports pavilion at Spikesbridge Park and there have been some great community projects led by our schools to clean up the local environment. There will be more of the same in 2014.

Last November the Mayor of London came to launch the Southall Gasworks development that will bring 3,700 homes, new retail shops, a primary school, health centre, cinema, hotel and new public spaces including along the canal side. Myself, local Councillors and residents have serious concerns about the impact of this development on Southall and I told the Mayor we would be watching him closely and demanded that the accompanying road infrastructure improvements are brought forward and completed earlier than previously planned. This includes the western access road to the Hayes by-pass and the widening of the bridge at Southall station. We also demanded that decontamination of the gasworks takes place on site. Let's hope we see a start of these mitigation works in 2014.

Crossrail due for completion at the end of 2018 continues to progress but I am unhappy with the Station designs particularly at Southall but also at Hanwell and West Ealing. I will be holding meetings throughout the year to lobby for this once in a generation opportunity not to be lost. A couple of significant victories have already been achieved at Hanwell station where the Council have got funding to open the southern entrance and a commitment from TFL to provide a lift for disabled access. We need to continue to campaign for more and bigger trains at all our stations before Crossrail arrives.

A busy year lies ahead with some big issues to be decided upon not least of which is who runs the Council and represents London in the European Parliament when the elections are held on 22 May. You will not be surprised to hear me urge you to vote Labour in these elections but I will save my detailed reasons for doing so for when we get nearer the time. Happy New Year!

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