Last week saw the Parliamentary term come to a close. It has undoubtedly been one of the strangest times in our democratic history. Parliament, like all parts of our life, had to find a different way of operating in the wake of the pandemic. An organisation not known for its modernising instinct, brought in, at impressive speed, a host of changes including remote speeches via computer and remote voting from a mobile phone. But it has not been business as usual, far from it. And as it is in our democracy, so it is for our whole way of life – the pandemic changed Parliament and it has changed our land as a whole.
These are strange times as we work to rebuild our economy and also our way of life. The easy greeting of a relative, friend or neighbour has been replaced with distance and awkwardness. The everyday enjoyment of a casual visit to the shops or the Post Office has become a mask-encased chore. Job certainty has become job uncertainty for many. Some things may never be the same.
For the next period, we will have to continue to make changes and adapt. Some of those changes will be better for our way of life. For the last two decades, there has been the technology to have a better balance between home life and the office through the internet and remote working, but it was, in practice, frowned upon. Now home working has become the new normal. That means people can be closer to their families and their home communities, instead of being up early on a train or in the car, and out at work until late. If that change holds, then it will have a significant impact – on the economy, on housing and on our transport needs as a country. How we work directly affects how and where we live and travel.
Our shops and high streets have long been experiencing change. The pandemic has accelerated this change, meaning that there will need to be a re-think of the shape and make up of our central areas. In times past, our shops and offices were more integrated with our homes. The Government will introduce new planning laws to make it easier to change shops back into houses, making for a more rounded and balanced physical community. This is a move away from the ‘zoning’ approach to planning which physically separates our shopping, leisure, homes, office and industrial areas.
And our countrymen and women will begin to recognise that a hot sun is not the only aspect to a great holiday. We are so well placed in our corner of England to build back our jobs and economy with our beautiful natural features – from countryside to coast.
No-one knows quite what the future holds. But our community and country are well-placed to make the best of whatever lies ahead.