I have been campaigning for extra police in Chelmsford since day one as your MP and even before. Therefore, it was very good to be out on patrol with the new Chelmsford City Centre Police team and our Police Commissioner, Roger Hirst. Our team has four dedicated Constables and one Sergeant working closely with teams covering Maldon and South Woodham Ferrers as well as the City Council safer community officers. This is in addition to the local response police teams across the area.
Many members of the public stopped to talk to us about the increase in the number of people begging and rough sleeping over the past couple of months. I am very concerned that more people may be coming to Chelmsford from other parts of the country. In many cases begging is linked to drug taking. This is very worrying as we also know that County Lines drugs gangs can be extremely violent. Please do think twice before giving money to people on the streets and consider giving instead to one of the many charities helping the homeless locally.
I have also used the break in Westminster to catch up with the excellent staff at Broomfield Hospital, especially the team at the A&E emergency village. Readers many remember that I fought to keep our A&E services and it is very good to see the extra resources and financing that are going into the front line. Many new nurse recruits are joining the hospital staff and there is great excitement that the plans to increase specialist services across Broomfield, Basildon and Southend hospitals are now moving ahead.
I am extremely concerned that the Army and Navy flyover has had to be shut indefinitely. This will add to congestion in Chelmsford. It is imperative that we urgently find a long term solution to the junction. This work must be accelerated.
We established The Army and Navy Task force last October. It is a cross party group. Before any new scheme can be built a robust process of design, environmental and other assessments and a public consultation is needed. The Task Force has ensured that the first stages of this process are already completed. Meetings with local businesses, organisations and other stakeholders have already been held. Eight potential options have been shortlisted and engineers are already undertaking detailed work. Safety must come first. Engineers monitored the flyover every day during the recent extreme hot period and were on site when the incident affecting one of the supports occurred. The flyover was immediately closed. I met engineers who explained that extreme hot weather meant that the metal expanded, which pressed the flyover outwards because it is built on a curve. They will now examine the footings and make recommendations as to whether the flyover can be repaired again. This inspection will take at least a fortnight.
Following the most recent incident, I contacted the new Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps MP. He has directed officials from his Department to work urgently on this. A funding bid may now be prepared in parallel with drawing up plans for engineering works. This is extremely good news as it means that a long term solution will be prepared in the fastest possible time scale. In the meantime, Essex County Council are also looking at a wide range of measures to reduce congestion.
As ever, please do not hesitate to get in contact with me at Vicky.Ford.MP@Parliament.UK