Fortnightly Update #66 - 31.05.2019

Welcome to this update. 

With the newspapers full of Brexit and leadership machinations, this update provides (I hope!) a bit of respite and focuses on those other important issues which directly affect Cheltenham. 

I'm delighted that Cynam and Hub8 have announced a new town centre co-working space dedicated to Cheltenham’s cyber community. This is another exciting milestone on the road to fulfilling the vision of Cheltenham as a major cyber hub.  

7,000ft2 venue will be opening later this summer at the Brewery. Expect to see established companies working alongside brand new ventures. This will be where Cheltenham's start-ups (nurtured by GCHQ experts in Cheltenham's Government-funded Cyber Innovation Centre) can scale up. My passion for this stems from cyber's potential to generate life-changing opportunities for our young people of all backgrounds - and here in Cheltenham too, not in London, Manchester, or Birmingham. 

In Parliament, I quizzed Rory Stewart (shortly before his nationwide walking tour...) about the UK's response to the latest Ebola outbreak. And I organised an event in Parliament to promote measures to boost clean air. Having heard from experts, I'm calling for non-idling zones in Cheltenham, including on the Prom and outside the worst affected schools. These measures are already in place in other parts of the country and could make a real difference here  - READ MORE HERE

Congratulations to all those organising Cheltenham's International Film Festival which has been taking place this week. Another great cultural string to our town's bow. Cheltenham Chilli Fiesta is returning this weekend. You can read more about that HERE. (If you've been wondering why there are pictures of chillis in the window of my office, there's the explanation! The artwork was produced by service-users at the Independence Trust, which provides a community advice, links & mental health support service in Glos). 

It's always great to see Cheltenham getting recognition on the national stage. Well done to the  Coconut Tree in St Paul's for their strong review in the Guardian this week READ MORE HERE.

Finally, I have moved departments. I am now PPS to the Secretary of State for Defence, Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP - the first female Defence secretary. Do let me know if you'd like to raise any particular Defence-related issues.

Thank you for reading this update.

Best wishes,

Alex Chalk MP

P.S Please note that these fortnightly updates are intended to be no more than an overview. If you would like an in-depth update on my various campaigns (from restoring night-time A&E services at Cheltenham General to adolescent mental health and cracking down on the town's 'grot spots') please do get in touch.
P.P.S There is a Cheltenham Jobs Fair taking place at the Town Hall on Wednesday 12 June from 10am to 1pm. You can read more HERE. And you might also be interested in the Belmont Family Fun Day on 15 June (see poster below).

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Since the last update, Alex has:
IN PARLIAMENT (NB - Parliament has been on Whitsun Recess since 23 May)
  • Launched his petition in support of the Government's bid to host the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP26 (Conference of Parties) in 2020. This conference will set out the next stages of the Paris Agreement. We are currently in the final round against Italy, and expect to find out on June 27 who is successful. Do sign the petition HERE
  • As part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme travelled to Wellington barracks, home of the Foot Guards battalions on public duties in London, and also temporary home to King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery. Alex met troops, ranging from Army farriers to musicians serving in the Foot Guards bands, to discuss issues of concern including accommodation
  • Quizzed Rory Stewart, the International Development Secretary, on the UK's response to the fresh outbreak of Ebola in west Africa. Alex called for international cooperation to ensure that resources are deployed "at pace and at scale" to contain the disease READ MORE HERE
  • Held a Q&A in Parliament for pupils from St Mark's Junior School in the parliamentary education centre
  • Was elected deputy chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eating Disorders. This is an issue that Alex is particularly interested in; Cheltenham also has particular expertise in this area through the Brownhill Centre
  • Paid tribute to lawyers who give pro bono (ie free) advice and assistance - and in particular to victims of atrocities, such as the Manchester Arena bombing READ MORE HERE
  • Contributed to a debate on the legal doctrine of "insanity" and "non-insane automatism" which provides a defence to individuals accused of crime. This is a technical area of law and some have raised concerns that increasingly it is being abused to advance spurious defences READ MORE HERE
  • Pressed the Justice Secretary, David Gauke MP, on what is being done to ensure that there is a consistently high standard of leadership among prison governors READ MORE HERE
  • Held talks with a doctor and campaigners about next steps in Alex's campaign to support Cheltenham constituents suffering from ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Met Cheltenham apprentices at an event in Parliament to celebrate the 12,000 apprentices working in the UK’s Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space Sectors. (Degree apprenticeships are a type of programme offered by some universities. Students can achieve a full bachelor's or master's degree as part of their apprenticeship.)
  • Sat on the Wild Animals in Circuses Public Bill Committee. The Committee scrutinised legislation enacted to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses.You can read a transcript of the committee proceedings HERE
  • Quizzed the Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, on her position regarding stop-and-search, following the Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s statement that she was in favour of the measure READ MORE HERE
  • Organised an event in Parliament with the Conservative Environment Network to promote clean air. Alex is calling for non-idling zones in Cheltenham, including on the Prom, with measures that are already being piloted by other councils - READ MORE HERE
  • Attended Defence Oral Parliamentary Questions following his recent appointment as PPS to the new, first ever female, Secretary of State for Defence, Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP
  • Provided PPS support for a Defence 'Urgent Question' on the prosecution of veterans
  • Provided PPS support for a debate on compensation for Royal Fleet Auxiliary personnel following Christmas Island nuclear testing
  • Held talks with Extinction Rebellion representatives. Alex has introduced a Bill calling for net zero carbon emissions by 2050. You can read more about his Bill HERE 
  • Attended a Diabetes UK reception to discuss their latest report on the links between diabetes and mental health
  • Received a briefing at the Department for International Trade (DIT) on how best to support Cheltenham businesses who are seeking Government support to break into export markets. If you think you might be able to benefit, do email Alex who would be delighted to arrange for a DIT advisor to call you
  • Supported Christian Aid at their Parliamentary Reception for Christian Aid Week
  • Held talks with Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire, to raise concerns on behalf of a Cheltenham constituent about council tax discounts on unoccupied homes
  • Hosted two constituents in Parliament for PMQs, and welcomed 39 constituents as part of Alex's Constituency Tour Day.

  • Made a speech to air cadets of 125 (Cheltenham) Squadron for their 80th Anniversary Dinner at the Chase Hotel. Alex is a strong supporter of the cadets, for the values of responsibility, resourcefulness and community spirit they foster
  • Attended a Cyber Security Workshop at the University of Gloucestershire to celebrate a new partnership between US defence firm, Raytheon, and the University of Gloucestershire to deliver "cutting-edge cyber-security workshops" READ MORE HERE
  • Written to the Electoral Registration Office at the Borough Council to seek urgent clarification, following reports that some EU citizens in Cheltenham were denied the right to vote in the EU elections. Alex received the following response:
‘’On polling day we were made aware of 15 European electors who were unable to vote at the polling station, but upon investigation they had not completed and returned the EC6 form sent out to them in April. The EC6 form and covering letter explaining that they needed to complete the form in order to use their vote in the UK instead of their home member state was sent out first class to all registered EU electors on 12 April.  As EU citizens registered throughout April and early May all were sent the EC6 and covering letter – always sent out first class.  We sent out around 4,600 in total.’’
  • Stepped up calls for the the Boots Corner closure to be scrapped, following news that the scheme has already cost taxpayers £1.4 million, £160,000 more than has been raised in fines from motorists READ MORE HERE
  • Written to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to press for an update regarding the prosecution in France of the bus driver following the Bournside School bus crash in 2016
  • Signed up as a Primary Futures Parliamentary Champion. Alex is supporting this major careers education initiative that connects primary schools with volunteers who talk to children in schools about their jobs, opening their eyes to their future career possibilities. Prior to being elected Alex visited schools in his capacity as a barrister to raise aspirations amongst children from disadvantaged backgrounds. You can find out more about how to sign up as a champion yourself HERE
  • Welcomed the County Council's announcement that they will be holding a series of community engagement events regarding Cheltenham's new Secondary School. The events, on 13 and 27 June, will be used to display the proposed plans and supporting details for the school, which will be built on land situated at the junction of Farm Lane and Kidnappers Lane in Cheltenham. READ MORE HERE
  • Contacted West Midlands Trains to object to their decision to cancel the Friday night 11pm service from Birmingham to Gloucester. In light of the response below, Alex has sought further clarification regarding the passenger numbers for this service and the costs associated with continuing the service.
 ''Thank you for your enquiry concerning the Friday night Birmingham – Gloucester service.  This was a legacy from the previous West Midlands franchise. When the current franchise was awarded, the Department for Transport did not require this service from the new operator. Usage of this train has been very low and , as such, it would be hard to justify on cost grounds.

I appreciate this will be disappointing for those who did use the service. However this needs to be seen against  the £1 billion worth of improvements we are making to the West Midlands train services over the next seven years.''

  • Welcomed the launch of a new £62 million fund to breathe new life into historic High Streets across the country. The funding will be used to regenerate places by turning disused or underused buildings into creative spaces, offices, retail outlets and housing. Alex is keen to work closely with the local traders associations and Cheltenham Borough Council to see how Cheltenham might benefit from this fund. READ MORE HERE
  • Contacted Great Western Railway to highlight commuters' concerns about the lack of cycle parking at the railway station while the car park expansion works are ongoing and received the following response:
''There are around 160 cycle spaces in use on or around the station.Currently, 10 spaces are unusable due to the work on the car park.  This will increase to approximately 40 spaces out of use from next week. We will look at re-siting some of the spaces,  but it is unlikely we will be able to find new sites for them all during construction.  We will however maintain space for at least 120 cycles throughout and additional cycle spaces are included in the improvement work''
  • Supported the Annual Open Day at East Glos Tennis and Squash Club
  • Joined key Cheltenham business leaders at 131 to discuss issues affecting firms locally
  • Visited local sustainable energy firm, Logical Utilities in Imperial Square to discuss Alex's campaign to introduce legislation to compel the UK to be carbon neutral by 2050
  • Met Cheltenham's Extinction Rebellion group to discuss the climate change challenge facing the UK
  • Met the University of Gloucestershire's Vice-Chancellor to discuss proposals emerging from the Augar Review on higher education - including the suggestion that tuition fees could be cut to £7,500
  • Visited the Forever Clinic on Clarence Street to discuss regulation of the cosmetic industry. It's critically important that consumers are protected with a regulatory system 
  • Welcomed news that a Street Velodrome competition will be coming to Cheltenham this summer to raise money for the Cheltenham and Gloucester Hospitals Charity's CT Scanner Appeal. You can find more information HERE
  • Received an update from the County Council regarding the new system at the Arle Court Park & Ride, which has allowed significantly more genuine Park and Ride users to benefit from the service and received positive feedback. 25% of the site spaces, up to 150 cars, have been allocated for workers paying to park and walk. In the first two weeks only around 105 cars have parked at Arle Court on a typical weekday leaving capacity available 
  • Met residents at the Lilian Faithful home in Fiddlers Green where he visited their new Royal Garden Hub
  • Held a constituency surgery at his Cheltenham office 
  • Following concerns raised by constituents Alex contacted the Borough Council about the number of weeds sprouting across the town. The Council confirmed that ''weed spraying will be starting this week and begins in the town centre. Later this week they will move into the Leckhampton area and then follow a route around Cheltenham in a clockwise direction.The process for spraying Cheltenham can take 3-4 weeks so weather permitting the works should of finished by the end of June''


  • Written two articles for the Gloucestershire Echo about Boots Corner and Brexit READ MORE HERE
  • Been interviewed by BBC Radio Gloucestershire about the Government's support for children living in poverty
  • Been interviewed by LBC about Brexit and the future of the Prime Minister  

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Written Parliamentary Questions


To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what steps his Department is taking to implement the Government's proposed ban on the installation of gas boilers in new homes in 2025. (256315)

Tabled on: 20 May 2019

Chris Skidmore:

By 2025, the Government will introduce a Future Homes Standard for new build homes to be future-proofed with low carbon heating and world leading levels of energy efficiency, to create healthy homes that are fit for the future, have low energy bills, and are better for the environment. We will explore the details of the planned introduction of the Future Homes Standard within the 2019 consultation on the energy efficiency standards of the Building Regulations.


  • Received the update below from the County Council regarding the proposed Cheltenham-Bishops Cleeve cycle route:

We have been making steady progress with the general alignment / layout and have been working on the following: -

  • Working towards providing each respective land owner with a specific layout drawing to illustrate how the facility will look, and by which we can discuss and agree specific requirements such as fencing/planting etc.
  • We have undertaken drainage survey / condition work along the route and are currently detailing what repair works will be needed, along with any additional drainage due to the proposed design.
  • With respect to the GWSR section, there are proposals being discussed with GWSR for the re- alignment of the cycleway bridge needed to cross the railway. The previous alignment had been agreed with SUSTRANS as part of their report, however the originally proposed location has a number of implications on the GWSR site. Consequently we have had to concentrate on this section currently as a priority as it is key to delivery of the whole project.
  • Proposals are being considered to align the cycleway bridge closer to the existing road bridge which, increasing the overall length. This would then also necessitate the careful relocation of the historic station building. We will be working with a specialist structural contractor who has worked on historic buildings to support this element of the project.
  • We are awaiting confirmation on an initial meeting with GCC Planners to gain an overview / review the implications / requirements of relocating the station building, and the main route and will also need to engage with the respective Planning Authorities. The railway section of the route now becomes our main focus, in order to reach formal agreement with the GWSR to secure the viability of the route.
  • Completed Ground Investigation work. These works were undertaken on GWSR, GCC and third-party land. The results of this work will inform on the construction thickness of the cycleway path itself, the main cycleway bridge design / foundations over the GWSR and possibly the cycleway footbridge over Hyde Brook

  • Reported fly-tipping in the Grosvenor Terrace alleyway to the Council for urgent attention:

  • The former Co-Op store on Gloucester Road is being redeveloped into new flats. READ MORE HERE
  • Received the following update about the much needed public realm planned improvements on the Strand and Cambray Place:
''Following last year’s well-received improvements to the High Street between Cambray Place and Rodney Road, a project is now in place to extend the benefits of new paving, seating and planting to the Strand and the pedestrianised section of Cambray Place. The Strand in particular suffers from an uneven surface and very poor drainage whilst the replacement of slabs by tarmac throughout the area has reduced its attractiveness to shoppers and other visitors.
The project supports the delivery of one of Cheltenham corporate plan priorities – to continue the revitalisation and improvement of our vibrant town centre and public spaces. A contribution of £1 million over 4 years from GCC’s highways maintenance fund and an anticipated £30,000 from the European Regional Development Fund to support bio-diversity elements will underpin CBC’s own capital funding.''

Meeting Cheltenham apprentices at the ADS Apprenticeship Reception in Parliament
Supporting Diabetes UK in Parliament
Wild poppies by Cox's Meadow!
Being interviewed outside Parliament
In the corridor outside Committee Room 14, shortly before a crunch meeting of the 1922 Committee
At Wellington Barracks
Presenting the awards to local students at the Raytheon Cybersecurity Workshop at the University of Gloucestershire
With Cheltenham's future cyber experts
Welcoming the Independence Trust's Chilli-inspired artwork to Alex's office ahead of the Cheltenham Chilli Fiesta
Celebrating the launch of the Cheltenham International Film Festival at the Brewery
Copyright © 2019 Alex Chalk MP, All rights reserved.

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