AS ever, I get out and about as much as possible meeting people and sharing views and inevitably get roped into a wide range of activities.

This is how I found myself at the wheel of local farmer Richard Payne’s huge combine recently during a catch up on the harvest. It really brought home to me how high tech our agricultural industry is and how important innovation and technology are to our farmers in order to provide the food we depend upon.

This is a time of change for the sector with leaving the Common Agricultural Policy being a corner stone of our Brexit plan.

I was pleased that this week the Prime Minster herself, speaking at an agricultural show confirmed her commitment to a post-Brexit farming policy which works for farmers and food producers, while improving the environment.

And still on an environmental note, I was delighted to have succeeded in securing greater protection for our precious ancient and veteran trees following a concerted campaign run in conjunction with the Woodland Trust and the All Party Ancient Woodland Group, which I chair.

Ancient and veteran trees are a treasured habitat but with only 3 per cent left it is our equivalent of the rain forest and is under constant threat from development.

The new policy, outlined in the National Planning Policy Framework, makes it clear that from now on, loss or damage to these trees, should only be considered in ‘wholly exceptional’ circumstances, (in terms of an impending development) and puts them on a par with our best-built heritage.

There are many tracts of ancient woodland across Somerset including the Neroche Forest, Thurlbear Wood and Aller Wood together with many individual specimen veteran trees and I am so pleased to have helped secure a safer future for them.

I’m also championing our independent retailers by launching my Best of the High Street Awards.

While internet shopping is a reality there is still a place for the personal touch offered by our independent traders so here is a chance to highlight the best of them.

Nominate your favourites at and you will be playing your part in keeping our town centres vibrant.