BIRTHDAY’S are a wonderful thing.

For most people they mean a day of celebration, gifts and goodwill which can set you in a positive frame of mind for the next year ahead.

I have to admit though that in the count down to my birthday last Wednesday I struggled a bit with the realisation that the clock was ticking down to the big 4-0.

Age is only a number though, or so they say, and it was good to enjoy a few drinks with friends on the big night.

The rest of my final day of my thirties was spent swotting back up on the Decentralisation and Localism Bill which had its third reading in Parliament.

One of my key election pledges was to help protect Fylde’s green spaces from inappropriate development.

So it is good that, while I cannot control where planning applications are made, I can contribute by supporting the Bill and championing some of its principles – like empowering local people and making it tougher to flout planning laws.

I’m a passionate supporter of localism and I firmly believe that empowering local people is key to an improved planning system.

One person to send their very kind wishes to me on the big day was bookshop owner, ice cream maker extraordinaire, councillor, trade leader and new Mayor of Kirkham, Elaine Silverwood, who visited me in Parliament the day before.

Those who know Elaine will be aware that she cares deeply about her town, the people of Fylde and her business and always strives to do the best for the community and I was extremely grateful for her kind words and those of everyone who sent their wishes.

People often ask me about the tours of Parliament which are run by the House of Commons authorities and I cannot recommend them highly enough

The tour guides are always extremely well informed both about the history of the building and the history of politics and they guarantee and interesting and informative trip.

Elsewhere this week I continued with my aim of trying to get to every Fylde school to meet staff and pupils.

I visited both Pear Tree in Kirkham which, of course, is a specialist physical and sensory school which does tremendous work with young people with learning difficulties and disabilities and Clifton Primary School.

Both schools gave me an excellent welcome and, I must say, the grilling I received from Year 6 pupils at Clifton Primary reminded me of Prime Minister’s Question Time!

Wednesday, of course, will see President Barack Obama visit the UK and give a special address and I will be in attendance.

This really will be a momentous occasion and I will report back on what he had to say next week.

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