James Heappey, the Conservative prospective MP for the Wells constituency, brought the Environment Secretary to Somerset to secure her backing for the local tourism industry and the role it plays in driving a large part of our rural economy.
Mr Heappey accompanied Liz Truss MP to Burnham-on-Sea to talk to her about local concerns over the introduction of the new ‘EU Bathing Water Directive’ – and the danger that the town’s beach may not meet the required standard in the first year.
The Environment Agency and Wessex Water are already at work on reducing pollution inland, but it may be that improvements are not made quickly enough to avoid temporary signs being displayed next year.
Mr Heappey has been campaigning for this issue to have the priority it deserves, so that there is no risk of the signs becoming a permanent fixture – with all the damage that would do to the town’s economy.
Mrs Truss said she would hold talks with the Environment Agency and investigate what measures are being taken to improve the quality of the resort’s sea water.
She also visited Wookey Hole Caves and met John Turner, the CEO of Visit Somerset, to discuss how greater investment in the tourism industry could boost Somerset’s economy. Mrs Truss spoke with Mr Turner about the schemes the Government and the EU have for supporting tourism – and the areas in which her work at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs overlaps with the aims of Visit Somerset.
Mrs Truss was particularly interested in helping Somerset promote its world class food and drinks industry as a route to attracting more visitors to the area.
James Heappey said:
“Alongside farming and food manufacturing, tourism is the key industry here in Somerset. Last year, the tourism industry was worth £1.3 billion and supported around 34,000 jobs in the county.
“I believe that there is so much more potential in local tourism, and I can see a role for the Government and local authorities in working with Visit Somerset to make sure that potential is unlocked.
Whether it be beating water issues, threats to the local countryside or helping with marketing our county to the outside world … I will seek to engage central government to make sure that our local tourism industry drives further growth in the economy over the next few years.”