Hitchin and Harpenden MP on community’s future in wake of COVID-19 crisis

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami says more houses need to be built in Hertfordshire as more peop

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami says more houses need to be built in Hertfordshire as more people are expected to move out of cities in wake of coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Archant

As part of a University of Hertfordshire project, Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami has spoken of the community’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and shared his predictions for the county’s recovery.

As part of the Hertfordshire Year of Culture 2020, the university’s online Festival of Ideas Reimagined last month included art exhibitions and the diverse views of people including comedian Helen Lederer and director Mike Newell.

Julie Newlan, the university’s pro vice-chancellor for business and international development, also interviewed Mr Afolami about the COVID-19 crisis.

He said: “Communities have responded very well. People have donated money and their time to help those who are shielding and can’t get out. There are so many groups set up to make sure people can get through this together a bit more easily, because it’s challenging for everybody, whatever their age or type of life.

“Businesses have done a really good job. I expected lots of people to have been made unemployed by this stage, but the vast majority of businesses have done whatever they can to make sure they don’t make people unemployed.”

Mr Afolami said the pandemic has also highlighted people’s “weaknesses”. He said: “I was getting emails saying a neighbour had been out twice and they’re only allowed out once. I thought this was really terrible – the culture of wanting to snitch. We need to be mutually supportive. No rule can cover every circumstance and we have to be understanding of that, and don’t treat it as a way of punishing people for transgressing.”

About the future, Mr Afolami said: “The biggest trend is going to be people moving out of bigger cities and into communities like Hertfordshire to live.

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“Houses need to be built. People are going to want to set up businesses locally and we need to make sure they have the space to do that, not just build huge dormitory towns assuming everyone is working in London.

“I believe the bounce back is going to be quicker and stronger than is currently being discussed.

“I think people are going to realise there are huge opportunities and there will be a reallocation of where people work and what they do that will be beneficial.

“People will have more say over their lives and the community in which they live.”

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