Hinterland - 2 November 2020

In Hinterland this week - Evidence of the RSN in campaigning mode, Brexit worries for land based industries, city flight, a lack of mental health for young people and finally a reminder that our canine friends are capable of sharing everything with us including our anxieties.

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Rural homelessness in England rises by 115% in past two years

This article reminds us of the toxic impact of us having no effective housing policy for the provision of appropriate house building in rural areas. Its great to see the RSN leading the charge on this issue. It tells us:

Homelessness in rural areas in England has more than doubled in the last two years, according to analysis published as campaigners warn of planning reforms likely to worsen the situation.

The number of households categorised as homeless in rural local authorities in England rose to 19,975 – an increase of 115% from 2017-18 – according to the countryside charity CPRE, and the Rural Services Network, which represents many parish councils and other countryside organisations.

The rise in numbers of households owed homelessness relief by councils, according to government figures, has been greatest in the north-east and north-west of England but an increase has happened in all areas.

One woman in Essex told the Guardian she was forced to live in a horse box for a month when she lost her home. A nursing assistant in Surrey said she was told she and her three children may have to wait up to five years for an affordable property.

Increase in homelessness in rural areas is greater than that occurring in towns and cities, and rural councils fear the housing shortage in the countryside could soon worsen.

Local authorities have predicted a potential reduction in affordable house construction by up to 50% if the requirement to build them switches to applying to sites with more than 40 or 50 homes rather than just 10 homes. The change could arise under the government’s proposed alterations to the planning system

Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said key workers were being priced out of rural areas by high rent in the private sector. “Tragically, rural homelessness continues to soar. Continuing to deregulate the planning system will only make this situation worse.

“Instead, investing in rural social housing now would deliver a boost to the economy at a time when this is so desperately needed. The evidence is crystal clear that this is the best way to provide affordable homes for rural communities – especially the key workers whom communities rely on now more than ever – while at the same time jump-starting the economy.”


Plant inspectors and rising prices: UK garden industry set for Brexit shock

Lest you think this seems trivial, I can tell you from personal experience that the horticultural industry is the bedrock of many rural communities. It does not follow that choking off supplies from Holland will shock it into being more competitive in its own right. The whole logistical premise of the endeavour is sadly more complicated than that and this story represent bad news!

The UK’s love of horticulture has grown during the coronavirus pandemic, but avid gardeners are being warned of a Brexit shock, with rising prices, potential plant shortages and even the need for plant inspectors at nurseries.

Every year 55,000 trucks loaded with plants arrive in the UK from the Netherlands alone. Each individual pot or hessian root wrap bears an EU “plant passport”, which allows frictionless cross border trade.

But from 1 January, these passports will no longer be valid in Britain. Importers will need to complete their own checks to comply with new UK regulations to certify that each plant is disease- and pest-free, adding costs and delays to suppliers who will now have two layers of red tape to contend with – one for EU customers and one for British nurseries.

Andy Moreham, the sales and marketing manager at Joseph Rochford Gardens wholesale plant nursery in Hertfordshire, said the new regime would choke off some supplies from industrial suppliers in the Netherlands.


Coronavirus: Rural markets boom as Brits flock to countryside

This story reinforces what we already knew instinctively. It is not likely to lead to a more sustainable rural agenda….

Rural markets are booming as COVID-19 drives UK homebuyers to the countryside, with many happy to pay premium prices.

Rural locations have hit a new level of popularity among home buyers, according to Zoopla.

The rural district of Ryedale in North Yorkshire saw the highest boost in sales agreed – up 63% in the past six months, compared to the same period in 2019, data from property portal shows.

Herefordshire, one of England’s most rural areas and well known for fruit and cider production, came in second, with an uplift of 46%.

Meanwhile, Sevenoaks, which extends across Kent, otherwise known as the “Garden of England”, came in third, with sales agreed up 44%. 

“The growth in flexible working, combined with a search for more space, has led to some city-dwellers looking for a change in scenery,” said Zoopla.

“It’s not just Londoners who are exiting the city limits – the uptick in demand for rural property extends to other regions in England.”


High court condemns lack of provisions in UK for suicidal teenager

A really tragic story and one which I feature because it highlights how very difficult it is to find suitable local accommodation for people with these challenges in rural settings. I know personally of a Nottinghamshire family who have a child based at a Kent facility in this context. This all reminds us that whilst Covid-19 continues to consume all our thinking there are many other pressing challenges a number of which are being exacerbated by the lack of scope to focus on them at the current time.

Not a single secure bed was available anywhere in the UK last week for a suicidal teenager, according to a high court ruling that highlights the chronic shortage of accommodation to support the country’s most vulnerable children.

Mr Justice MacDonald said the lack of places – partly caused by Covid-19 restrictions – left him facing a “stark choice” either to send the 16-year-old girl to an unregulated placement – meaning she would not inspected – or into the community “where she will almost certainly cause herself possibly fatal harm”.

MacDonald said he had no option but to choose the former in his damning judgment, which began with the Nelson Mandela quote: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

The lack of secure placements emerged when Lancashire county council sought a place for the girl after she had spent a period on an adult mental health ward where she had threatened to abscond, kill herself and kill staff. A search for a place in an NHS child and adolescent mental health psychiatric intensive care unit was also unsuccessful.

In his written ruling, handed down on Friday in the family division of the high court, the judge said the teenager was “in urgent need of a secure placement” but that “as of this morning, no such placement is available anywhere in the United Kingdom” – putting “anywhere” in italics to highlight his apparent incredulity.


Tractors drive through Melton Mowbray in farming rules protest

Melton Mowbray has one of the most dynamic livestock markets in England. It is a true food town. I feature this story because it is one of many small rural settlements which are likely to face sever disruption post Brexit. So whilst we all focus on restricted access to Christmas shopping opportunities over the next month this story serves to remind us that Brexit is creeping up on us. I suspect much will hang on the outcome of the US election in terms of determining our Brexit policy. Watch this space…..

Dozens of tractors circled Melton Mowbray to raise concerns over post-Brexit farming and food standards.

Farmers said they are worried ahead of the EU transition period ending.

An Agriculture Bill will return to the House of Commons next week after a House of Lords session this month.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it "will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards".

"We are a world leader in these areas and that will not change," a spokesman said.

Steve Elnor, who runs a family farm near Grantham in Lincolnshire, said his business faces "a massive threat from the government's apparent determination to tear apart the USP of British food in order to strike trade deals in desperation", adding farmers "have the overwhelming support of the public".

"We are facing a revolution and I worry it is something that we, and many other family farms up and down the country, won't be able to adapt to," he said.

"We face uncertainty from 1 January, 2021, not knowing what the market and prices will be."

Lord Tyler, a Liberal Democrat peer on the House of Lords Agricultural Committee in Lords, said he backed efforts to "support British farmers and protect our food supplies from adulterated and expensive imports".


And Finally

Dogs feel stress of pandemic too, says animal mental health expert – Health News UK

There is a serious tinge to this story. Dogs I suspect are the thin canine line between many isolated people and mental health challenges at the moment. I celebrate the great support we get from our three friends every day and what’s more I know it will continue until their dying day. Its no surprise to me that they, according to this article, share our anxiety therefore. It tells us:

DOGS could be struggling with the mental impact of coronavirus just as much as their owners, according to an animal mental health expert.

Dr Robert Falconer-Taylor is warning that our four legged friends could by suffering anxiety passed on by their humans who are increasingly stressed out due to the pandemic.

To combat this, Dr Falconer-Taylor says we should be creating ‘Comfort Caves’ so that worried pets can feel safe and secure in their homes.

Dr. Falconer-Taylor says: “A refuge can give your pet a sense of control over the source of their stress and enables them to feel safe.

“Pets without somewhere to retreat to can struggle, so building a den – or preferably, several dens – in the rooms where your pet likes to relax will help to support them.”


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


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