Jesse’s Hereford Times column: rural investments

The launch of Hereford Museum and Art Gallery’s Lego Brick History Exhibition last week is a wonderful Easter opportunity for families. It takes famous moments in history and recreates them in Lego bricks. There are lots of activities on offer too, right through April to May 18th--you can even bring your own Lego models!

Like the great Weeping Poppies exhibition at the Cathedral last year, this is a visionary idea, and one to be celebrated.

But the Lego exhibition also reminds us just how much real change is being planned or under way. As a keen sourdough baker I was thrilled to find Nizi Bakery setting up in St Owen Street, and Poppy's has been going great guns on Broad Street in Ross. We have so many great food businesses in the county, and so much potential.

In Hereford a huge amount of new investment is going into Higher Education. This includes the new college campus on Aylestone Hill, the new student accommodation by the station, where construction should begin shortly, and the investment which our new university project NMITE is making at Blackfriars. And that's before you get to the new buildings at the Enterprise Zone.

In Ross, the Model Farm Enterprise Park is now at last moving forward, with funding of £7 million recently approved by Herefordshire Council. Built on a 37 acre site, it is expected to provide up to 300,000 feet of commercial space and 1,000 new jobs, which would be a stunning achievement.

I have also been working hard in Westminster to make sure the Government does more for rural towns and cities. It has just announced its new Future High Streets Fund, which will provide co-funding towards capital projects designed to regenerate town centres. This has huge applicability to Herefordshire.

And earlier this month the Government also launched a £1.6 billion Stronger Towns Fund, which has allocated funding of £212 million to the West Midlands. Again, there is huge scope for our market towns to benefit from this funding stream, if we can just get hold of it. 

In all this, what is needed are new ideas, energy and community leadership. We see those things everywhere in the county at the moment. Let's use the imagination and flair of the Lego Brick History exhibit as an inspiration, and invest yet more for the future.