Hinterland - 5 August 2019

In Hinterland this week some common themes:  people who want to pickle the countryside in aspic, community action on broadband, unaffordable care costs for local authorities, climate change, Brexit and with a huge sigh of relief at the end in celebration of summer – butterflies!

Read on...

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Relaxing green belt restrictions would be highly unpopular, campaigners warn PM

Every time action is proposed to increase the supply of housing, apart from in inner city and post industrial landscapes we hear comments like those reported below. Often using language like “urban sprawl” Less than a quarter of England has any development on it. We have a desperately expensive and unfair land structure at the moment. Its time everyone wised up a bit on this issue. This article tells us:

Relaxing green belt  restrictions would be highly unpopular with voters, campaigners have warned, after Boris Johnson promoted several advocated of major planning reform to his Cabinet.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England is expected to publish a new poll showing that 63 per cent of the population oppose changes making it easier for homes to be built on green belt land - the protected zones across the country designed to prevent urban sprawl.



Orkney 5G trials could soon be reality

This is a fascinating testament to the power of local people who often go where big utility companies fear (or I fear cant be bothered) to tread. This article tells us:

5G networks are starting to pop up in UK cities - but for many rural areas even getting a basic mobile signal remains a challenge.

This was certainly the case in the Orkney Islands, an archipelago of 70 islands off the north coast of Scotland.

Its population of 22,000 is spread across 20 of these islands and has consistently ranked as one of the most under-connected in the country.

But this could be about to change.

 The 5G Rural First project, a consortium of more than 30 organisations, has been running trials with local businesses, using bespoke 5G networks, for the past 18 months.

Now, a landmark decision from Ofcom, the UK's communications regulator, means these trials could become reality sooner that anticipated.

The regulator says it is opening up unused parts of the airwaves, also known as spectrum, to rural communities.

The unused spectrum is mostly owned by mobile phone companies but will now be sold to anyone who identifies a legitimate use for it.

It will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis, with bids being accepted towards the end of the year.

If accepted, the bidder will have to cover costs only, which Ofcom says could be as low as £85 for a business wanting to create its own local network.




 Care system struggling to cope, says children's commissioner

I think everyone has had their spotlight on the spiralling costs of adult care whilst perhaps neglecting to realise the phenomenon described below…

The care system in England is struggling to cope with rising demand from teenagers, the children’s commissioner has said.

New research produced by the commissioner’s office found the number of children in care aged 13 or over rose by 21% between 2013 and 2018, while the number aged five or under fell by 15%.

The study showed there were 25% more over-16s entering care during 2017/18 than 2013/14, a bigger increase than for any other age group. As a result, nearly a quarter of children in care (23%) are now over 16. A further two-fifths (39%) are aged 10 to 15.

Anne Longfield, who was appointed children’s commissioner for England in 2015, warned that services were struggling to cope with the growth of teenagers in the care system because they were more likely to have vulnerabilities that required specialist support.

Compared with under-13s, teenagers in care are significantly more likely to be vulnerable to sexual exploitation, running away from home, gangs, trafficking and drug misuse.

 “There are an increasing number of teenage children in the care system and too many of them are ‘pinballing’ around the system, changing home and family, school and social worker,” she said.

“Often they have the most complex and expensive needs. In one local authority, 20% of the entire children’s services budget is being spent on just 10 children. This is completely unsustainable.”



More people evacuated amid fears of Whaley Bridge dam collapse

These are worrying times and we seem to be sandwiched between Brexit and Climate Change as the two challenges assailing the UK. This story feels like something from a credible play about a more dramatic parallel universe. It tells us:

More people are being evacuated from their homes in Derbyshire amid fears a damaged dam could collapse as further bad weather is forecast.

Fifty-five homes in the Horwich End area of Whaley Bridge were being cleared on Saturday evening, two days after some 1,500 residents were evacuated.

Water levels at the Toddbrook Reservoir in Whaley Bridge have been reduced by 1.3 metres since Thursday, but the condition of the structure remains “critical”.

Police said the additional evacuations were undertaken because of “a potential increase in risk of adverse weather in coming days and the ongoing risk of the Toddbrook Reservoir breaching”.

Derbyshire police allowed one person from each of the 400 Whaley Bridge properties evacuated on Thursday to return for a 15-minute visit on Saturday to pick up pets and other essentials.

At the Horwich End traffic lights on the Buxton side of the town, cars queued to get through the police blockade. Officers have stopped people entering the steep-sided village since Thursday afternoon when a month-and-a-half’s rain fell on the Derbyshire hills in just 48 hours, causing massive damage to the 180-year-old dam at Toddbrook reservoir.



All English councils told to appoint 'Brexit lead'

 There is a pattern in central/local Government relations. Central Government makes a mess. Local Government is then asked to clear it up whilst taking the blame. This truism came to mind as I read this article which tells us:

English councils have been told to designate a “Brexit lead” to work with central government to prepare for the possibility that the UK will leave the European Union with no deal at the end of October.

But a £20m funding pledge to help authorities step up preparations was immediately described as an “insult”, as the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) was forced to concede that the full amount had already been pledged in previous announcements.

 In the new policy announced on Saturday, Robert Jenrick, the recently appointed communities secretary, instructed authorities to appoint staff in every community to plan intensively for Brexit with local stakeholders.

The funding was being made available for communications as well as for recruiting and training new staff, Jenrick said.

Officials were considering how best to allocate the cash to ensure that those areas facing more acute potential stresses, such as ports of entry, get the funding they need. Shared equally, it would amount to about £57,000 for each of England’s 353 councils and combined authorities, according to the Guardian’s calculation.

The Labour MP Jess Phillips said: “The idea that £20m across the 353 main councils of England is enough to prepare is an insult to our intelligence and to the hard work of public servants struggling with the consequences of the government’s decision to force a vicious Brexit on us.”

Criticism intensified after a MHCLG spokeswoman admitted half the pledged funding comes from the chancellor Sajid Javid’s £2.1bn announcement on Thursday. The other half comes from funding announced by the department in January, she added.



And Finally...
 Millions of painted lady butterflies seen across UK in once-in-a-decade phenomenon

 Things are on a knife edge in the ashes, the roads are very busy at the weekend, the butterflies are back in numbers – it must be summer!

 Millions of painted lady butterflies are bringing colour to the UK in what has been described as a once-in-a-decade migration.

 Hundreds of sightings of the insect – which generally live in North Africa and the Mediterranean – are being recorded across the country every day.

 Although thousands fly here every summer, the current warm weather, plentiful food supplies and good wind conditions as they fly north have all meant a bumper arrival this time round.



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



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