Hinterland - 15 June 2020

In Hinterland this week food, health and housing are our themes. Its been a strange week as the lockdown begins to gradually lift with much to both look forward to and be cautious about.

*         *          *

Supertrawlers ‘making a mockery’ of UK’s protected seas

This scale of fishing is another strand in the very complex debate, which covers fishing and has a major impact on a number of our coastal communities. There are real benefits arising from locally run small scale fisheries as we discovered recently in our review of the Cornwall Good Sea Food Guide. This article tells us:

Supertrawlers spent almost 3,000 hours fishing in UK marine protected areas in 2019, making “a mockery of the word ‘protected’,” according to campaigners.

Supertrawlers are those over 100 metres in length and can catch hundreds of tonnes of fish every day, using nets up to a mile long. A Greenpeace investigation revealed that the 25 supertrawlers included the four biggest in the world and fished in 39 different marine protected areas (MPAs).

The Southern North Sea MPA was one of those fished and was created to safeguard porpoises, which are especially threatened by supertrawlers. More than 1,000 porpoises died in fishing nets around the UK in 2019. The most heavily fished MPA was the Wyville Thomson Ridge, off Shetland, which was intended to protect reefs. All the supertrawler fishing was legal.

Forty per cent of England’s seas are designated as MPAs, but these only ban some of the most damaging activities in some locations. On Monday, an independent review commissioned by the government urged the establishment of highly protected marine areas (HPMAs), where all harmful activities including fishing, dredging and construction are banned. The government’s own assessment in 2019 showed the marine environment is not in a healthy state.

“Our government allowing destructive supertrawlers to fish for thousands of hours every year in MPAs makes a mockery of the word ‘protected’,” said Chris Thorne of Greenpeace UK. “For our government to be taken seriously as a leader in marine protection, it must ban this practice.”


UK commercial farming can deliver on sustainability pledges if given the chance

Too few people have a rounded view of the importance of farming and in our experience particularly of its contributions to rural communities. This article profiles a very important contribution to the debate. It tells us

A new report examining the role of commercial agriculture in the UK says it has the potential to solve sustainability challenges, generate employment and boost the post-pandemic economy.

Yet, the report warns that commercial farmers are being systematically "written out" of emerging policy in the rush to push environmental enhancement above all else.

"Commercial Farming: Delivering the UK’s new Agriculture Policies" has been released today (10 June) by the Commercial Farmers Group to coincide with the second reading of the Agriculture Bill in the House of Lords. As well as laying out the areas farming can impact positively, it argues that UK farmers should be ready and willing to compete with food imports – provided there is clear labelling identifying differences in production standards.

James Black from the group, who runs the family farming business producing pigs and arable crops in Suffolk, explains that commercial farming is important as fewer than 10 percent of farming businesses currently produce over half the UK’s agricultural output.

“These businesses are also ideally-placed to stimulate local economies, support wider industries and address pressing problems such as use of finite resources, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and biodiversity decline. However, they can only do this if allowed the chance,” he says.

“Unfortunately, UK history is littered with the results of so many great aspirational concepts which have been poorly delivered – because policy makers have not fully engaged with the people most involved in the implementation. We must avoid food and farming becoming a casualty of this too.”


Coronavirus: Home insulation 'could create cheap jobs'

This seems like a “no brainer” and particularly pertinent to those rural communities with a high stock of low energy efficient properties. It tells us:

Making people's homes cosy is the cheapest way to create jobs as the UK prepares to fight recession, a report says. 

Its authors say a job insulating homes would be much cheaper than creating a road maintenance job, for example.

Jobs in building roads are more costly to create, as the work is heavily mechanised.

The figures will be sent to the Treasury, which is reviewing a package of job stimulus measures for July.

The report's authors say a job in home insulation can be created for £59,000 - that's far less than a road maintenance job, which is estimated by the government to be more than £250,000.

Those figures include retrofitting 10 homes with insulation, and the road surface laid by a worker.

The report comes from a coalition of charities, businesses and pressure groups known as the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group (EEIG). 

Their aim is to upgrade the UK's aged housing stock.

They say home insulation would create jobs in all areas of the UK as well as supporting the government's aim of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.


NHS hospital waiting lists could hit 10 million in England this year

I fear that hotspots of frailty in rural areas, particularly coastal areas, will be particularly impacted by the impact of these waiting lists. This story tells us:

The waiting list for hospital treatment could soar to almost 10 million people by Christmas amid a huge backlog caused by coronavirus disrupting services, NHS leaders are warning.

Hospital bosses say that such a massive increase in England is a realistic prospect, given so many people have been unable to have surgery and crucial diagnostic tests in recent months while the NHS’s main priority has been minimising the damage from Covid-19.

The total number of people waiting to undergo a procedure in a hospital in England such as a hernia repair, cataract removal or hip or knee replacement stood at 4.4 million before the pandemic. It then fell to 4.2 million because in March GPs referred fewer patients for care to help hospitals tackle the pandemic and also because some patients were reluctant to risk getting infected by going into hospital.

However, the NHS Confederation estimates that it is likely to reach 9.8 million by the end of the year as a result of staff shortages and hospitals having to cap the number of patients they can treat at any one time because of strict physical distancing rules that reduce the number of beds available.

In a “pessimistic” scenario – which would result if a second wave of the virus emerges – the waiting list, comprising people who are meant to be treated within 18 weeks, could hit 10.8 million. And even under the confederation’s best-case “optimistic” scenario about 8.1 million people would be waiting.


Wardens hired to police crowds as high streets in England reopen

Small towns have been at the forefront of the negative economic impacts of the coronavirus – lets hope we get a return to normal as quickly as possible and don’t just find ourselves bemused by a busy “stewarded” two weeks of retail madness followed by a massive long term dip. This could be really serious for our smaller towns. This story tells us.

Local councils and retail giants will deploy a small army of “social distancing wardens” on Monday to police crowds as non-essential shops open their doors after almost three months of lockdown.

Councils across the country have hired or redeployed staff to ensure shoppers and retailers comply with social distancing rules. And big chain stores, including Primark, Ikea and John Lewis, have brought in extra security staff. 

The councils and retailers hope the wardens will prevent unruly queues as people rush back to clothes, homewares and electrical shops that have been closed since March. More than 1,000 people were reported to have queued outside Ikea warehouse stores, some turning up at 5.30am, when the Swedish chain was allowed to open two weeks ago. 


Carbon-neutral coffee comes to UK – via sail boat from Colombia to Cornwall

If you’re prepared to wait for your coffee, this looks like a positive return to a glamorous and by-gone means of travel, which seems to have a really good fit with rural food policy.

The French schooner De Gallant docked in Falmouth harbour at the end of May, three months after leaving the port of Santa Marta in Colombia laden with tonnes of sustainably sourced coffee beans.

This wind-powered sail cargo of carbon-neutral coffee was worth the wait, according to Yallah Coffee, a single-origin coffee roastery only a few miles away in the Cornish port town.

Yallah’s special Colombian coffee grounds and beans are finding their way into coffee shops and restaurants across the country. Using a sailboat to import the beans into the UK made the first leg of their voyage almost entirely carbon neutral.

For Richard Blake, the owner of Yallah Coffee, the delivery was the culmination of almost five years developing the idea for a sustainably sourced coffee without the huge carbon footprint of most imported beans. 


And Finally

What to do on the north Norfolk coast

This article gave me an “ache” to get back to our favourite holiday location. It comes from the international perspective of National Geographic and it describes one of the most attractive parts of England in the following terms:

Strung with vast and often-deserted beaches, the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is one of the county’s primary draws. It’s not just the beaches that lure visitors, however — backed by dunes and fringed with pine forests, this dramatic, 175sq-mile stretch of rural England also features mudflats and saltmarshes that teem with a rich variety of wildlife. Base yourself in the heart of the AONB and you’ll find plenty to while away a weekend: charming flint houses and medieval churches in sleepy villages like Wells-next-the-Sea and Burnham Market, bracing walks in the sea breeze, and a fantastic food scene, with fresh, locally caught fish taking a starring role on menus all along the coast. visitnorfolk.co.uk


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


Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.