1 September 2021
Long-term prospects for Ross-on-Wye

After a bumper Bank Holiday weekend of events in Ross-on-Wye, and with the Walking Festival soon to come, the value of Ross as a lively and fun tourist destination is clearer than ever. 

But what about local residents and the long-term future for the town? We have discussed this question ever since I became a political candidate for the first time in 2006. Many great people across the area, both in and outside the council and the public realm, have offered ideas and suggestions for improvement.

Now, however, I think external conditions are starting to improve in ways that could make a huge difference to the long-term development of Ross.

There are three key factors.

The first relates to our current emergence from the pandemic. One of the effects of Covid has been to break the link between home and workplace for many people. Far from being unusual, it is now completely normal for people to work in London or Manchester or Birmingham, without leaving their houses in Herefordshire. 

That is a potentially huge benefit. Just think of the savings in travel time, and the improvement in quality of life. But it also means that ambitious younger people need not fear dropping out of an urban fast stream by coming to Herefordshire, because they can conduct their business virtually from here.

Secondly, the very widespread concern over climate change and sustainability means that people are more and more motivated to avoid unnecessary travel and to shop and invest locally for the betterment of them and their communities. There is a longer-term perspective.

Thirdly, through initiatives such as the National Infrastructure Strategy, the UK Infrastructure Bank, the Stronger Towns Fund and most recently the Levelling Up Fund, the Government has made plain its urgent desire to invest in infrastructure, especially in more out of the way and hard to reach areas such as ours.

It's not all good news, however. The build-up of pollution in the Wye remains a critical local and national issue, for which we need a clear plan, joined-up agencies and proper funding.

That has been a priority for me. But I have also been making the wider case for greater public investment, not just in Hereford but directly in Ross and the other market towns, which are key to the long term success of the county. We have the plans; now we need to make them happen.

Jesse Norman writes for the Ross Gazette