In his regular column for the Hereford Times, North Herefordshire MP Bill Wiggin reflects on measures to combat coronavirus, and the block on building new homes in parts of his constituency

WE cannot underestimate the blight of the coronavirus, and because a vaccine is still not available we are seeing real suffering.

Not only to individuals, lonely or struggling but also to businesses and entrepreneurs.

When ministers decided to close pubs an hour early to reduce the risk of infection it seemed draconian and ineffective.

This curtailing of freedoms is against all my instincts as a Conservative, but the measures were designed to save lives and they have had a huge impact.

It is now apparent that the Government’s scientific advisers had pressed for a full lock down once again.

So, while the restrictions are unwanted, it is clear that the Government is trying to keep businesses open while attempting to minimise the spread of this virus.

Businesses across North Herefordshire have benefited from more than £83.5 million worth of loans since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

This includes 1,990 Bounce Back Loans – 100 per cent government-backed loans which are interest-free for the first 12 months – worth £58.9 million.

The scheme helps ensure that small firms who need vital cash injections to keep operating can get finance in a matter of days, with no repayments due during the first 12 months.

In addition, 86 loans have been offered in North Herefordshire at a value of £24.6 million through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme.

This scheme has helped small and medium-sized businesses to access loans and other kinds of finance up to £5 million.

There are still people who have not had help and who need it as the situation changes, and I will try to assist them along with the council, who have been able to help too.

I recently spoke to the Housing Secretary to discuss planning reforms. I believe that changes in the planning process will have a positive effect on Herefordshire’s current planning rules, which are not responding well to residents' demands.

The ban on building in the Wye catchment means we have lots of permission which are not being built, so I am seeking another meeting with the Environment Agency.

so that we can get the houses we need without granting permission with traffic problems such as the one in Upton Bishop and the development in Ledbury.

In applications at Ledbury and Upton Bishop residents are not objecting to the housing. In Ledbury the issue is the lack of a second access road, and in Upton Bishop it is the impact building will have on safety on the blind corner.

Building back better must not mean compromising safety, quality or the environment.

It is my hope the new system will be better in protecting our green spaces and benefiting communities like ours in North Herefordshire.