Skipton MP Julian Smith reflects on the past year and looks forward to the next 12 months, which will include the arrival of the Tour de France in the area next July.

2013 has been another busy 2013 has been another busy year both at Westminster and across the constituency.

One of the main topics I have been working on, and the one which will probably dominate for many next year, is the Tour de France coming to Yorkshire. It is 12 months since we heard that the county had won the bid to host the Grand Depart and we are now just a few months away from it arriving in Craven.

I have had dozens of meetings on this issue at Westminster in the past year – from working with the organisers to ensure all the plans were in place to leading the effort to secure £10 million of funding from the Government to ensure we capitalise on the economic benefits for our area.

I also went on the road with a doorstep tour along some of the route of the race – to Skipton, Kettlewell, Threshfield and Buckden, to encourage everyone to embrace the opportunity to promote our area to the world.

We are lucky to have so much of the race coming through our area on both days of the Grand Depart.

The sight of the cyclists, and the huge supporting entourage, travelling up Skipton High Street and then through the Dales on Day One and with Bolton Abbey as a backdrop on Day Two, will be stunning.

The weekend of Saturday, July 5 and Sunday, July 6, promises to bring tens of thousands of people to Craven and I am sure it will bring many more in the weeks and months following that weekend as well. It promises to be one of the spectacles of 2014.

One of the other areas I have been focusing on in 2013 is to ensure as many of you have access to high speed broadband as soon as possible. I have been working on this since my election in 2010 and progress is being made, but I know that it can be frustrating if your house or business is one of those who haven’t yet seen any improvements in speed.

I have, and will continue to, raise concerns about particular issues from people who contact me and I am pleased those who are rolling out superfast broadband say their work is on schedule and that, by the end of 2014, 90 per cent of North Yorkshire will have speeds of at least 25Mbs.

During the past 12 months I have lobbied Ministers to release more money for our area’s broadband connections and am delighted they said yes to additional funding which will connect 95 per cent of the county to those high speed connections over the next two years.

I continue to urge the Superfast North Yorkshire team to engage with areas where there are challenges to improving internet connections to ensure solutions are available to improve broadband for everyone who wants it, be that through fibre, satellite, wireless or 4G mobile connectivity.

The other major issue continues to be over the planning process.

In such a beautiful area as Craven, it is perhaps inevitable that there will be conflict between those who want to build and those who want to preserve the landscape.

Getting the balance right is always important. We need business in this area to provide jobs and services but we also need to protect the stunning views and amazing countryside that makes this area so special.

I have campaigned for more say for communities in this process – they know above anyone else which developments are positive and which are negative for their area.

I welcome that communities now have more say over what is built and where but continue to be frustrated when planning decisions taken locally in Craven are overturned by the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol.

When I ask the Government about this they are clear – we need Craven District Council to get on with the job of completing its local plan, taking into account the wishes of residents and the importance of being able to grow our economy.

Finally, let me wish every reader a very happy and peaceful New Year and I wish you and your family all the best for 2014.