TAUNTON Deane continues to receive big name visits as the General Election campaign reaches its final stages.

In recent weeks Taunton Deane Conservative candidate Rebecca Pow has welcomed the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock and on Thursday she was joined by the Secretary of State for Housing and Local Government Robert Jenrick.

During his visit Mr Jenrick was joined by Ms Pow and the leader of Somerset County Council David Fothergill as they took in Taunton's high street and new developments.

Speaking to the County Gazette, Mr Jenrick said: "Well I’ve come to support Rebecca, who I have got to know over the last few years in parliament.

"I’ve always been hugely impressed by Rebecca, she’s always been one of the most-hardworking and tenacious MPs, who has certainly made a huge impact in her time in the House of Commons.

"I’m also here about the pitch that she and the County Council has been making very strongly for infrastructure investment.

"Taunton is a fast growing and popular town, but we want to ensure that the infrastructure flows with the housing so that the roads, schools, GP surgeries etc, are coming at the same time as the new housing arrives.

"There is a bid in progress of more than £90m for government support to ensure that further infrastructure comes in time to support the new housing.

"Rebecca has lobbied Sajid Javid, James Brokenshire and myself – the previous Secretaries of State to ensure that does come to Taunton.

"If we are re-elected as a Conservative majority government on December 12, I hope that we can announce that the funding will come to the town and will start to flow early in 2020."

Asked if Taunton Deane was a good example of development and growth under the Conservatives to meet the area's housing need, Mr Jenrick said it was, but the government were aware far more houses need to be built.

He said: "Absolutely. We know that we have a housing crisis in this country, we need to build more homes, we need to ensure that those on lower incomes can get on the housing ladder, whether that is by owning their own home or having a secure, safe, rented accommodation that they can call their own.

"That does mean we need to build far more homes, but we need to ensure the infrastructure is in place to support those homes.

"We need to ensure they are in the right places so that local people can benefit from them, and one the policies in our manifesto is to ensure that a proportion of all new homes built in this country will carry a one-third discount for local first-time buyers, and I think that will prove to be a very popular policy in Taunton and much of the Westcountry where there is a serious affordability issue for young people and key workers."

Ms Pow added: "This is something I’ve mentioned at a number of hustings and on the doorstep and it does seem to be very popular, as does the five per cent deposit scheme that we put in our manifesto."

Mr Jenrick was also asked how voters could trust the housing pledges in this manifesto, given none of the 250,000 starter homes promised in 2015, including those allocated in Bridgwater, had been built.

Mr Jenrick responded: "Well the previous administration chose not proceed with the starter homes policy.

"That was a very limited policy where government money would be used to provide starter homes on specific sites.

"The new policy that Boris Johnson and I are bringing forward will ensure that homes are being sold at a significant discount in every significant development, in every part of the country.

"While starter homes might have delivered homes in a small number of limited sites, we’re hoping our new policy will apply to almost every development across the country.

"The second important difference is that unlike starter homes, these new homes will be covenanted for local first-time buyers forever.

"So this government money will ensure that local people from Taunton can get on the ladder now and for generations to come, and I think that will prove popular with local people and help to build consent for the housing developments that undoubtedly we need in an area like Taunton."

Ms Pow added: "So if that house is sold again, the next buyer, the new first-time buyer into that house gets the 30 per cent discount so it does not just enrich one generation.

"People in this area is are very accepting of new homes and new houses as long as we’ve got the right infrastructure in and the right schools.

"We’re proving that as a government, with a sound economy, we can provide all those things."

Mr Jenrick also took in Taunton high street during his visit as it will be receiving up to £20m as part of the government's £3.6bn Towns Fund.

Mr Jenrick said: "As the minister responsible for that I wanted to come and spend time on the high street and speak with Rebecca and understand the emerging proposals as to how that money can be spent.

"I hope that we can agree the ideas behind the bid in the coming months and potentially millions of pounds can start to flow into Taunton as early as the first half of next year.

"That money is designed to improve the public realm, to improve transport, it is also to get more homes and work spaces into town centres so we can increase footfall and make them more vibrant places and also to support culture.

"Taunton is the county town, it has a very proud history, but like any high street across the country because of consumer habits changing it is under pressure and we want to make sure it can adapt and evolve, and have a brighter future."