Hinterland - 11 October 2021

In Hinterland this week - the lure of the coast and its manifest challenges in terms of sustainable living. Labour dreams of rural proofing and the Health Secretaries need to use it and a crass act of broadband vandalism. Read on...

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Prof Chris Whitty: Deprived coastal towns need redesign

This is slightly old article for a contemporary review of the rural news but very important. So I have no excuse for quoting it extensively here. It tells us:

Seaside towns need to be redesigned for the modern age to tackle deprivation and health inequalities, England's chief medical officer has said.

Prof Chris Whitty said many coastal towns were built around industries like fishing and tourism that have collapsed over the past century.

Around the nation towns like Blackpool, Skegness and Hastings have "really significant deprivation", he said.

Attention must focus on "how we can re-invent them for the new era", he said.

"One of things we need to do with all of them is take a long-term view of how we recreate a sense of excitement that you had along the coast when these towns were first produced," he said.

In June, Prof Whitty published a report that highlighted the "overlooked" issues in coastal towns, which have higher rates of poor health and lower life expectancies.

Coastal towns have more in common with each other than their in-land neighbours, Prof Whitty said.

"These are really wonderful places, but alongside the beautiful areas on the coastline and some of the resort areas, very close to them you can often have areas of really significant deprivation."

Shared issues included poor housing and transport connections, he said.

It could also be difficult to attract healthcare staff to coastal towns, while there were limited educational and employment opportunities, he said.

Prof Whitty said that one solution would be to focus medical training colleges in deprived towns.

Students should also be encouraged to pursue careers in medicine, nursing and the care sector, he added.

The message to young people should be: "You can do it. Why not be a doctor. Why not be a nurse."


House prices: Young and low paid 'priced out' of tourist areas

Reflecting on the previous story there is an interesting conundrum here! Coastal places have many challenges but their desirability from a residential perspective speaks directly to the point about their latent potential made by Chris Witty. The article tells us:

Young and low paid workers in tourist hotspots are increasingly being priced out of homes, new analysis has shown.

House prices rose up to three times faster in some rural and coastal areas compared to the national average in July, Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures have revealed.

North Devon has seen a rise of 22.5%, while the UK average rose by 8%.

A lack of affordable homes could be contributing to hospitality struggling to fill vacancies, the ONS said.

The average cost of rent in the south-west of England rose by 2.6% in the year leading to August, more than double the 1.2% increase for the UK as a whole.

The ONS said the growth in demand for rental properties "appears to be exceeding supply".

It added the fall in supply of letting was most widespread in the South West, East and West Midlands.

The ONS said: "Rising house prices and private rents mean that some workers are at risk of being priced out of living in rural and coastal areas, contributing to skill shortages in the tourism and hospitality industries that their local economies rely on."

One couple from Barnstaple say they have been looking for a new home for five months with no success.

Sarah-Jane and Lauren Tolley have three weeks to find somewhere to live after being asked to leave by their current landlady through a no-fault eviction.

Section 21 notices allow landlords to evict renters without a reason after their fixed-term tenancy period ends.


Every government department would have a 'rural minister' under Labour plans to woo countryside

Looks like labour is latching onto something important with this announcement!

Labour will pledge to create a minister for rural affairs in every government department on Monday, as the party pitches itself to Conservative voters in the countryside. Sir Keir Starmer is concerned his party has lost support in the Red Wall and Scotland  and will need to win back constituencies in the south of England not held by Labour since the 2001 election if it is to win a majority at Westminster. The party believes it can win back areas in the countryside by nominating a minister in every department to oversee the impact of the Government’s work in rural communities.


‘These salt marshes saved my life’: how nature is helping mental health

This article is a really interesting insight into the therapeutic qualities of the countryside. In a theme which runs through Hinterland this week it speaks to us about the relationship between coastal places, the sea and its tributaries and people’s sense of well-being. It tells us:

There is already good evidence of nature’s efficacy, such as a 2019 study showing that a two-hour “dose” of nature a week significantly improved health and wellbeing. The missing link has been connecting health services and nature activities.

“These activities have being going for years, it’s just that they often have not had that connection into the health systems to enable them to receive the people who need the benefits the most, and to deliver precisely what they need,” says Dave Solly, at the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP), which was launched in 2019 with funding from the Department of Health.

But things are changing. Seven NHS care groups from the Humber to Surrey received a combined £5m in government funding in December for projects harnessing nature to improve mental health, including tree planting and growing food. There are also now more than 1,000 social prescribing link workers working in GP surgeries and health clinics, helping doctors link patients to nature activities, as well as arts, heritage and exercise groups. A million people could be referred to social prescribing in the next few years.

Among the projects championed by NASP are Wild Being in Reading, an open-water swimming group in Portsmouth, Dorset Nature Buddies, the Green Happy cafe in Northampton, and a Moving in Nature project in Chingford, Essex.


Tories order biggest shake-up of NHS leadership in England for 40 years

Well all I can say is that this reivew needs to look through a rural as well as a political lens!

The Conservatives have ordered a shake-up of NHS leadership in England on the eve of their party conference, with Sajid Javid saying that with more funding must come “change for the better”.

The health secretary said he wanted to see the most far-reaching review of NHS bosses in England for 40 years, appointing a former vice-chief of the defence staff, Gen Sir Gordon Messenger, to lead the work.

However, some NHS bosses were furious about what they described as a political move to shift blame on to trust, hospital and social care leaders as the health service struggles with a big backlog.

Under the terms of the review, Messenger will be asked to look at the best hospitals, GPs’ services and social care delivery to work out how this can be replicated across the country.

Tory sources said it was not about a reorganisation of leadership structure or apportioning blame for failure but “identifying the best leadership, finding out why it’s so good and looking at how we roll it out more widely”. They said it was a key plank of “levelling up”.

No structural shake-up is expected in social care, it is understood, but the government could be open to more national leadership in the sector.

NHS bosses criticised the review as a “slap in the face” after the pandemic. Some said they saw it as a deliberate attempt to shift the blame for the health service’s fragility. In recent days Nottingham’s main acute NHS trust has had to cancel planned chemotherapy sessions due to a lack of nurses and East Surrey hospital declared a “critical internal incident”.


And Finally

Devon broadband mast cables attacked four times

In all the moaning and tub thumping I have done over the years about the lack of rural broadband this astonishing story stopped me dead in my tracks with just one question. Why!!!???It tells us

A broadband mast has been vandalised four times in four weeks, affecting thousands of people, according to an internet provider.

The latest attack on the mast near Barnstaple in north Devon happened last Saturday, said Airband.

Spokesman James Hyland said: "We share the frustration of the public and we are sorry for the disruption."

The company, which is bringing broadband to rural areas of north Devon, said it had informed the police.

Fibre optic cable delivering "essential ultrafast broadband connectivity to the rural communities of north Devon" had been cut through, Mr Hyland said.

Local residents have been "severed" from the wider broadband network, which he said was a "real shame as many businesses and residents are more reliant on this service than ever with the current climate".

"This is now part of an ongoing criminal investigation," Mr Hyland said. "Be assured that we're working with all local agencies to get this sorted once and for all."

He said it was not clear why the mast, which has no 5G links, had been targeted.

Police said they believed the latest attack happened between 14:30 BST on 16 September and 08:40 on 18 September on Mill Road in Barnstaple.

They said a report of criminal damage had been made after an "unknown implement" was used to damage broadband cabling.

Attacks on 5G masts in the UK have been fuelled by conspiracy theories wrongly linking 5G and coronavirus.


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


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