Live Bi-Valve Molluscs
Nothing concentrates the mind quite as much as meeting with a one-hundred-and-fifty of the largest shellfish producers from across the UK. As the founder of Westminster’s latest All-Party Parliamentary Group for Shellfish Aquaculture, I am rapidly becoming all the more aware of the red tape that is tying the sector’s hands behind its back, slowing growth, crippling opportunity and making its future look very bleak.
For close to forty years, the UK’s aquaculture sector (think mussels, scallops, oysters etc) has languished behind that of our European friends and neighbours, in part because it has been viewed as too small and too slow to develop. To think this way is to confine yourself to doom and gloom. Reality tells a very different story. Across the UK’s coastline, aquaculture businesses are helping to clean our coastal waters, enhance biodiversity, sequester carbon and create one of the most sustainable forms of protein and food known to man.
My work on this subject has only just begun, but I can see the significant opportunities that can be created by removing red tape and working with the sector, Government departments and agencies to see this industry flourish over the coming years. South Devon is the natural capital of the aquaculture sector and we can all do more to support its growth and development.
Two and a half years of campaigning on second homes have not been wasted. The loophole on second homes avoiding council tax through business rates has been significantly strengthened and last week the Queen’s speech revealed yet more progress.
With 75,000 homes across the country lying empty, it is clear that something must be done. From April next year, Local Authorities will be able to increase council tax on these properties by 100%. While this may not sound significant, these two steps are helping to encourage primary ownership and put more money back into our local services.
But what is next? First, the Planning Bill must include a requirement for Airbnb properties to register for permission to operate as a holiday homes. Second, the tax structure around buy-to-lets must be weighted toward encouraging a longer-term rental market, as opposed to short lets.
Training for the Future
Two weeks ago, I unveiled my first ever plaque at South Devon College’s newest Quantum training suite. The Kao-Hockham rooms have been put together in collaboration with local businesses that operate in the photonics sector, with the specific aim of training local students in this high-tech field.
Photonics, an area of which I was previously unaware, is quite literally included in every piece of technology that we use on a day-to-day basis. In the UK alone it is a £14.5bn industry employing over 76,700 people.
South Devon is home to a large contingent of photonics businesses and we can rightly call ourselves a national leader in this specialism. But it cannot last unless we have the skills and training available. Once again, South Devon College and its team are helping not just to plug the gap, but to provide the skills and opportunities required to ensure that we are at the forefront of the 21st Century’s technological revolution.
Whether it be on aquaculture, housing or photonics, progress is being made.
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