In recent years we have seen the Dover District make real progress. For decades little happened. Yet in the past five years things have been changing at pace. There are many reasons to be cheerful in sharp contrast to official statistics claiming that everyone here is unhappy.
We've come a long way together. Five years ago, Dover's hospital had been decimated for a decade. Plans for a new hospital were long talked about, yet going nowhere. Burlington House seemed light years from demolition. Our port was about to be sold off to the French or whoever. Meanwhile unemployment had rocketed by a shameful 50% in the Great Recession. Things looked bleak.
Roll forward five years and the new hospital is built and open for patients. Unemployment has more than halved, meaning more economic security for families in our community. The port sell off was stopped and a people's port is rising at the docks. Burlington House is now being demolished. If you had said this is where we would be five years ago, few would have believed it a likely prospect. Yet it has happened because we worked hard together, fought for our community and believed in a more positive future.
The same is true in Deal. The hospital had been left teetering on the edge of closure. It didn't look like the fast train would ever come to Deal. Yet the hospital has been safeguarded after we all fought to secure its future and the fast train now sweeps into Deal every hour of every day. Meanwhile the town has an award-winning high street and is being written up in the national press as a destination in its own right.
There are many reasons to be cheerful and optimistic about our future. Yet that does not mean we should rest on our laurels. Much has been done yet there is much more to do to make our area once again a jewel in the crown of the nation. We have to see through the revival of the port. To end the menace of Operation Stack with lorry parks on the M20. We must see through the revival of Dover town centre and join it up with the waterfront too. There is great potential to develop Connaught Barracks and the Western Heights - I am doing all I can to see those developments happen. The exciting development at Betteshanger must be taken forward and we need to see five star healthcare in our community. We must do all we can to ensure Dover and Deal remain towns on the rise.
There is great cause to be optimistic about the future. We have come a long way together over the past five years. We have done a lot, yet there is so much more to do. We must continue to work together to realise the full potential of Dover & Deal.
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