Dame Vera Lynn celebrated our White Cliffs with her famous song for the fighting troops back in 1942. Following her death last week, I have called for Dame Vera herself to be celebrated here in White Cliffs country with a lasting memorial.
The Forces Sweetheart did much for our area. In her later years she played a critical part in our successful campaign to stop our Port from being sold off to the French or whoever. It was her support and visit that helped to boost our local campaign into a national issue. A lasting memorial would be a fitting way to recognise her special contribution and connection to our community.
A “Dame Vera Lynn” building, square, road, statue or other feature would be a welcome addition to the exciting local recovery plans for our area. I spoke about these plans in Parliament last week. We are an area that could see a jobs and business boost from Brexit – from the trade and customs opportunities as well as enhanced border controls. I am keen to see this work progress at pace so that we can make the best of the opportunities on offer.
Much progress has been made in recent years to reverse the decline of Dover’s town centre. Burlington House and the old multi-storey car park were torn down, a new shopping centre rising in their place. Ambitious plans that have been in development for the next stage of our town are now taking firmer shape – plans for a state-of-the-art aerial transport from the Port to the Castle, top class hotel, new marina, revamped Market Square and much more besides.
There is no doubt that the next period will be economically challenging following the pandemic, so getting pounds in our pocket right here and now will be critical. That’s why the Government has already changed planning and licensing rules to accommodate different ways for pubs and other businesses to operate as they are set to re-open within days, as well as given more than £21 million in cash grants directly to our local small businesses in recent weeks.
Millions of people pass through Dover in ordinary times. Our beaches and world class attractions are a big draw. We must work together over this next stage to find new and effective ways for people who want to earn money to do so. From wedding venues to days out to short breaks – we have so much to offer.
It’s why I welcome the decision by the district council to set up a £2.5 million town centre fund as part of the local recovery plan we have been working on recently. It is vital that we continue to support small businesses as much as possible.
This has been an incredibly difficult time. But if we get the recovery right, I believe our area can continue the progress we were making before the pandemic.
Let us emerge stronger than ever before, flying like bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover.