Hinterland - 20 January 2020

Hinterland this week - the new agriculture bill, please for better broadband connectivity, Cornwall banging the rural drum, East Anglian trains, coastal erosion in East Riding and people making a meal of McDonalds.

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Agriculture Bill: Soil at heart of UK farm grant revolution

A first substantive glimpse behind the curtain of post brexit thinking. There are some interesting issues to consider here. As always however there is no hint of any joining up with social policy and people issues. The focus is just on farming.

CAP has a requirement linking farming and social interventions as part of its policy approach, even if in the UK we wilfully dumbed down the social side of things in the last programme by turning LEADER for example into a defacto small grant fund for farmers.

I think its time for policy makers to wise up and realise that agriculture is about more than soil, science and farming. That’s just a personal and not an official RSN view by the way!!!

This story tells us:

Ministers have accepted that farmers need incentives to farm in a way that leaves a healthy soil for future generations.

Soil protection has become a core issue of the Agriculture Bill that is returning to Parliament.

In its bill the government will promise to reward British farmers who protect the soil.

It is part of a radical shift in the grant system - previously announced – to move subsidies away from EU Common Agricultural Policy which basically pays farmers for owning land.

Instead in post-Brexit Britain they will be rewarded for providing services for society like clean air, clean and plentiful water, flood protection and thriving wildlife.

The grant changes will be phased in over seven years. 

Already there is disquiet from farmers and environmentalists alike that the government has not set in law its promise that UK food standards will not be lowered in any post-Brexit deal with the US.

Minette Batters from the NFU said: “This bill is one of the most significant pieces of legislation for farmers in England for over 70 years.

“However, farmers across the country will still want to see legislation underpinning government assurances that they won't allow imports of food produced to standards that would be illegal here. 

CPRE, the countryside charity, welcomed what it called a generational opportunity to change the way England farms for the better.

It said: “This bill represents a radical rethink of farming practice and, most importantly, finally starts to recognise the need to regenerate soil - the fundamental building block of our entire agricultural system."

Although the bill has been applauded, the policies are still in embryonic stage, and as details emerge conflicts are sure to arise.


NFU calls on UK govt to make rural connectivity a priority for 2020

It seems as though those interested in a viable countryside have been saying this for ever, however its good to hear that the pressure is still being kept up.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has called on the UK government to make broadband and mobile connectivity in rural areas a priority for 2020, to help farming businesses reach their full potential.

The latest annual survey of NFU member shows that more than 4 in 10 farmers still do not have adequate broadband connectivity vital for conducting business in the digital age. 

The survey also found that 15 percent of respondents had no indoor mobile signal, and 30 percent had broadband download speeds of 2 Mbps or less. One quarter (26%) of respondents said slow broadband speeds/poor broadband was a barrier to further use of digital technology. 


Cornwall leads calls for more money for rural areas

Interesting initiative by a long established RSN member…

A major new report has called on the Government to provide more support to rural areas which are being missed by Government policy.

Land of Opportunity - England's Rural Periphery has been published by the New Local Government Network (NLGN).

It was written in collaboration with a group of 12 local councils, led by Cornwall Council, brought together as Britain's Leading Edge which is aiming to highlight how the Government focus is on urban areas with rural areas being left out.

The report puts forward three key "asks" of the Government which could help improve the opportunities of rural areas, their businesses and residents.

The first is "a stronger, rebalanced national economy" which includes an industrial strategy that works for both rural and urban areas; a UK Shared Prosperity Fund that minimises regional inequalities and more devolution to rural and peripheral areas.

"Improved social cohesion and mobility" is the second area with calls for a new Rural Social Mobility Fund; employment and skills devolution to rural areas and improvements to transport infrastructure.

Lastly it calls for "21st century living and working" wiht a need for excellent digital connectivity in rural and peripheral areas; more innovative approaches to improving mobility in rural areas and linking them with the rest of the UK; and the establishment of a high profile 21st century rural commission.


Greater Anglia: Nearly half of operator's rural trains late

Anyone in rural settings who relies on regional railways will recognise the issues set out here. This story tells us:

Nearly half of Greater Anglia's rural trains failed to arrive on time during the Christmas period.

In the four weeks to 4 January, 54.9% of those services did not arrive at the station within 59 seconds of schedule, according to the operator's statistics.

Cabinet minister Therese Coffey MP previously criticised the "catastrophic performance" of Greater Anglia's newly-introduced trains in December.

Greater Anglia said it was "very sorry" for the problems in December.

Figures showed that the number of rural services arriving within 59 seconds of schedule dropped by 14 percentage points in December, compared to 69% arriving on time across the previous 12 months.

More than 10% of those services also experienced cancelations or arrived at their final destination more than 30 minutes behind schedule.


'It's a monster': the Skipsea homes falling into the North Sea

Jessica and I have worked with these communities on the East Riding coast. It’s a very challenging and almost insuperable problem for the places concerned. This article gives you a flavour of the challenges they face.

For decades the picturesque seaside from Bridlington to Withernsea has been a haven for holidaymakers from across the country. But it is quickly becoming known for another reason: it is the fastest-eroding coastline in northern Europe.

Figures published this week showed that parts of the coast were disappearing far faster than first thought. A combination of stormy weather and rising sea levels caused more than 10 metres of cliff to disappear from a 2-mile stretch of coast in just nine months last year, compared with the annual average of 4 metres. In just six months, three strips of coastline lost nearly double what they expected to lose in a year.

On Green Lane, residents are on the frontline of this unwinnable war with nature. “You can get up one morning and open your curtains and you’ve lost your fence, or your garden’s gone,” said Carly Davis, 30, whose rented chalet is one of more than 20 home at imminent risk of being swallowed by the sea in the next year.

Davis, not her real name, points to the half-missing fence at the foot of her garden and the wet clay cliff, freshly-exposed by the waves. All along her street, huge chunks are missing from gardens and the cliff is just 9 metres from some people’s back doors. The main road that once led to their street now ends precipitously at the cliff edge. A bright red sign warns: “Danger. Cliffs subject to coastal erosion. DO NOT PROCEED.”


And Finally

Rutland can’t resist the march of McDonald’s

Looks like the last McDonalds free outpost has been breached! This story tells us:

Rutland has lost its status as the only county in Britain without a McDonald’s restaurant.

At a council meeting last night, the planning and licensing committee voted to approve an application for a 24-hour drive-through restaurant on the outskirts of Oakham.

McDonald’s had said its plans had attracted a “great reception” and would create jobs.

However, not everyone was “lovin’ it”, to use the burger chain’s motto. The rural East Midlands county, England’s smallest, received 55 objections before the decision was granted.

These included a letter from a boy of ten who pointed out how much sugar there was in a milkshake and claimed that “the town will be destroyed”.


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


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