Hinterland - 11 February 2019

In Hinterland this week - This week: public transport, planning, fracking, stalling growth and canal dwellers – All is True... Read on...

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Half of bus routes could be scrapped because of underfunded free pass scheme

Now here’s the return of a familiar controversy…..

Nearly half of bus routes in England could be scrapped due to a lack of funding, councils have claimed.

Analysis for the Local Government Association (LGA) found that the free bus pass scheme was underfunded by an estimated £652 million in 2017/18.

Councils say they are being forced to fill the gap between this government funding and what the scheme costs.

Free bus passes for off-peak travel are a legal entitlement for people aged over 65, or those with a disability.

But budgetary constraints mean councils are spending less on discretionary items such as free peak travel, post-school transport and supported rural services.

Nearly half of all bus routes in England receive partial or complete subsidies from councils.

The LGA warned that these services are at risk as local authorities will struggle to maintain current levels of support unless they are given more funding.

It wants the Government to reinstate the full funding of the costs of the national concessionary travel scheme.


The battle for the future of Stonehenge

Who’d have an iconic structure in their planning back yard……

The current proposal, to widen and sink the road into a tunnel running for almost two miles, mostly about 600 metres south of the stones, was announced in 2014, although the basic idea goes right back to the 1990s. The main difficulty is the cost: the government has allocated £1.7bn, which is not enough for a passage sufficiently long to avoid the world heritage site. That means tunnel portals would be bored, and dual carriageways built, through an ancient landscape unique in the world. This protected area is home to traces of a mesolithic settlement long predating Stonehenge, the ancient “Avenue” linking the monument and the river Avon, and hundreds of bronze-age burial mounds, or barrows.

But the long planning process is entering its endgame. Later this year, a panel of inspectors will meet in Wiltshire and, over a period of six months, examine the evidence for and against the scheme. They will have three months to make their recommendation to the transport secretary, Chris Grayling. He will have a further three months to decide whether or not to accept it. Construction could start in 2021.


Fracking company requests permission to cause larger earthquakes in UK

This seems like something you could scarcely believe, or am I missing the point??

Fracking company Cuadrilla has requested an urgent review of existing earthquake safety levels, in the hope permission to generate larger tremors will allow it to extract greater quantities of shale gas from Lancashire.
Currently the company must suspend drilling when quakes measuring over 0.5 magnitude are detected.

Though numerous legal challenges and protests were not enough to prevent the company from beginning explorative drilling at its Preston New Road site late last year, it is now the government’s “traffic light system” for seismic activity which the industry appears to consider the greatest threat to its survival.
Despite it emerging that senior figures in the company had believed they would not cause tremors serious enough to halt operations, the company has had to stop drilling on several occasions after surpassing government limits.

In results published today, Cuadrilla said since they began drilling in October last year, they had confirmed there is a “rich reservoir of recoverable high quality natural gas present”, but that the seismic operating limit remains a barrier to the industry.


UK economic growth expected to halve in final quarter of 2018

Does this mean the downturn is coming and might rural areas be in the vanguard of those places starting to shiver??

UK growth slowed sharply in the final three months of 2018 as Brexit anxiety weighed on consumers and firms, official figures published on Monday are expected to show.

City economists estimate that economic growth halved to just 0.3% in the fourth quarter of last year, compared with 0.6% growth in the third quarter.

If confirmed by the Office for National Statistics, it would be the slowest growth since the first quarter of 2018 when GDP increased by just 0.1%.

Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec, said growth in December alone was likely to have flatlined.

“Putting the pieces together, we are forecasting GDP to have remained unchanged in December, although it is possible that we see a very small gain,” he said. “This results in a 0.3% rise [for the fourth quarter].

“We will look closely at business investment – the area which we consider to be the most affected by Brexit worries – and specifically to see if it recorded its fourth consecutive quarterly decline in the fourth quarter.”


Policeman and baby among families forced to move off Surrey canal as locals say noisy holidaymakers are to blame

This is a fascinating unique spin on the unaffordable nature of housing in many southern English rural settings. It tells us:

On the Thames riverbank in West Molesey, Surrey, around 10 boats are moored on a stretch of unregistered land, meaning the group which includes a serving policeman and a months-old baby, have not been obliged to pay mooring fees or council tax.

Some of the residents have lived there with little disruption from the authorities for nearly 13 years.

But local mother-of-three Lara Seal, 36, whose house is metres from the riverbank, claims that a small group of antisocial temporary boaters prompted complaints from other locals in July.

She told The Telegraph: “Two or three boats last Summer gave the good ones a bad name. They were drinking, shouting, they have a lot of dogs.

“The permanent group are my neighbours, we have a community and all look after each other.

“They have all been tarred with the same brush.”

Following complaints over the "eyesore" stretch of river, the Environment Agency began removing 20 abandoned boats in the area in October and November last year, using its powers as the navigation authority of the non-tidal River Thames.

It owns the riverbed and has applied to the Land Registry for the rights to the land at the side, which could see the permanent community disbanded and moved on.

The residents, who claim to have all the valid relevant registration certificates, are now fearing “eviction” and are locked in a battle with the Environment Agency as they fight to have the land registered to them.


And Finally

On the basis that it is set in the Warwickshire Countryside I feel I can give a plug to this film. I am also taking this opportunity to flag up the charms of the place where Mrs A and I saw it the Kinema in the Woods – if you’re ever in Lincolnshire you should look it up for a one off experience:

All is True review: A boldly fanciful but nuanced portrait of Shakespeare’s final years

There is a knowing irony in calling a film as fanciful as this latter life Shakespeare biopic All is True. Written by Ben Elton and directed by its star Kenneth Branagh, the film plays so fast and loose with the playwright’s final years that they needn’t have bothered fitting Branagh with a prosthetic nose – accuracy is clearly not the priority here.

There is a succinct emotional truth, though, to All is True, whose name comes from the alternative title to Shakespeare’s final play, Henry VIII. It was during a performance of that play that a rogue cannon burnt the Globe Theatre to the ground in 1613 – and it is in the aftermath of that disaster that the film begins. Shakespeare, vowing that he is “done with stories”, returns home to his family in Stratford to live out the rest of his days. But he has been absent for so long that his arrival disrupts their life more than completes it.


About the author:
Hinterland is written for the Rural Services Network by Ivan Annibal, of rural economic practitioners Rose Regeneration.


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