“Rewild a quarter of UK to fight climate crisis, campaigners urge”

Rewilding would (according to the Environment Secretary) focus on:

Native woodlands
Salt marshes
Peat bogs
Ponds and lakes
Meadows and grasslands

all of which we have in abundance in East Devon.

Perhaps it is now time to revive the idea of a Jurassic Coast National Park (West Dorset would be an already-enthusiastic partner) which was squashed by the previous council because they feared losing their cosy relationship with housing developers …

And, as part of our climate emergency, make rewilding an integral part of all future neighbourhood, district and Greater Exeter development plans.

“More than 2,500 post offices are set to close in one year unless ministers intervene”

“MORE THAN 2,500 post offices will be wiped out within a year unless ministers intervene, a trade body is warning.

Business Secretary Greg Clark was last night told communities across the UK face “catastrophe” without Government action.

In a blistering report, the National Federation of SubPostmasters (NFSP) warns that the Post Office network is “beyond tipping point” and urgent support is required to keep almost one in four branches going.

The Federation says a “digital” first approach by ministers means that revenue from providing Government services such as DVLA forms has collapsed from £576 million in 2005 to just £99 million in 2018.

And it says Royal Mail appears more interested in dealing directly with the public over the web than supporting the network.

Some 98 per cent of Post Offices are run by franchisees or ‘SubPostmasters’, with many vital for smaller towns or villages. There are 9,300 branches employing approximately 40,000 people.

‘BEYOND TIPPING POINT’

Calum Greenhow, NFSP chief said: “The viability of sub post offices and the morale of sub postmasters has been eroded to the extent that the network’s resilience is extremely limited.

“We believe a tipping point has been passed and the consequences of this are now being realised.”

He added: “SubPostmasters are resigning in high numbers because it is increasingly difficult to make a decent living.

“The closure of 2,500 post offices in a year would be a catastrophic loss to communities across the UK.”

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9109911/post-offices-close-one-year-report-warns/

“Bus services should be designed for young people, says watchdog”

“Bus tickets need to be cheaper and easier to buy using contactless and smart phones to attract young people, according to the UK transport watchdog.

Despite being the biggest users of buses 16-18 year-olds are also the least satisfied, Transport Focus found.

The watchdog also recommended companies should install wi-fi and USB charging points on board, to encourage younger people to travel on buses.
Bus companies said they were investing in services young people expect.
Graham Vidler, chief executive of CPT UK, the trade association which represents bus and coach operators, said the industry recognised the importance of meeting the expectations of younger travellers. …

… Transport Focus gave the example of a flat fare of £2.20 for unlimited travel in and around Liverpool, which it said had led to a significant rise in the number of under 18-year-olds using buses. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48303401

“Almost one in 10 cash machines vanishing from East Devon”

“… Figures show one in ten cash machines – or ATMS – have disappeared from East Devon’s high streets in the last two years, amid warnings the UK’s cash system is ‘falling apart’.

At the end of 2017, there were around 230 ATMs – according to data from the cash machine network Link – this has now fallen to 208, as of February this year.

The number of free-to-use cash points has also gone down from 179 in 2017 to 171 two years later.

An independent review published in March found that around eight million adults – 17 per cent of the population – were still reliant on cash and would struggle to cope in an entirely digital economy.

These included people in rural communities, those on a low income who may struggle to budget without cash, and older people or people with disabilities who rely on cash for their independence.

Natalie Ceeney, chair of the Access to Cash Review, said: “There are worrying signs that our cash system is falling apart.

“ATM and bank branch closures are just the tip of the iceberg – underneath there is a huge infrastructure which is becoming increasingly unviable as cash use declines.

“We need to guarantee people’s right to access cash, and ensure that they can still spend it.”

A recent report by consumer watchdog Which? found almost 1,700 previously-free cash machines had begun charging users between January and March of this year. …”

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/east-devon-atms-disappeating-figures-show-1-6047802

“Rural communities being ignored and underrated, say peers”

“Rural communities have been “ignored” and had “inappropriate” policies forced upon them, a report says.

A group of peers said a new agenda for the countryside was needed similar to the government’s industrial strategy.

Priorities included improving mobile and broadband connections, replacing lost bank and bus services and tackling social isolation, the House of Lords Rural Economy Committee said.

The government said it was committed to “rural proofing” policies.
Ministers plan to spend £3.5bn on supporting economic development in the countryside by the end of 2020 through the Rural Development Programme.
The cross-party committee of peers said policies suitable for urban and suburban areas had too often been foisted upon the countryside.

As well as improving communications, it is calling for action to address the supply and cost of housing and a lack of training for people working in rural industries.

“Successive governments have underrated the contribution rural economies can make to the nation’s prosperity and wellbeing,” it said.

“They have applied policies which are often inappropriate for rural England. This must change. With rural England at a point of major transition, a different approach is needed.”

Lord Foster, the Lib Dem peer and former MP who chairs the committee, said the “clear inequalities” between urban and rural areas could not be allowed to continue.

He called for a policy blueprint of equal ambition to the government’s industrial strategy to realise the potential of struggling and under-performing areas. …

… Only 41% of rural premises received a mobile data link of 2Mbps or higher, it found, compared with 83% in urban areas. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48065625

“Half of England is owned by less than 1% of the population”

“Half of England is owned by less than 1% of its population, according to new data shared with the Guardian which seeks to penetrate the secrecy that has traditionally surrounded land ownership.

The findings, described as “astonishingly unequal”, suggest that about 25,000 landowners – typically members of the aristocracy and corporations – have control of half of the country.

The figures show that if the land were distributed evenly across the entire population, each person would have almost an acre – an area roughly the size of Parliament Square in central London.

Major owners include the Duke of Buccleuch, the Queen, several large grouse moor estates, and the entrepreneur James Dyson.

While land has long been concentrated in the hands of a small number of owners, precise information about property ownership has been notoriously hard to access. But a combination of the development of digital maps and data as well as pressure from campaigners has made it possible to assemble the shocking statistics.

Jon Trickett, Labour MP and shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, hailed the significance of the findings and called for a full debate on the issue, adding: “The dramatic concentration of land ownership is an inescapable reminder that ours is a country for the few and not the many.”

“It’s simply not right that aristocrats, whose families have owned the same areas of land for centuries, and large corporations exercise more influence over local neighbourhoods – in both urban and rural areas – than the people who live there.”

“Land is a source of wealth, it impacts on house prices, it is a source of food and it can provide enjoyment for millions of people.”

Guy Shrubsole, author of the book in which the figures are revealed, Who Owns England?, argues that the findings show a picture that has not changed for centuries.

“Most people remain unaware of quite how much land is owned by so few,” he writes, adding: “A few thousand dukes, baronets and country squires own far more land than all of middle England put together.”

“Land ownership in England is astonishingly unequal, heavily concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite.” …”

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/apr/17/who-owns-england-thousand-secret-landowners-author

Stagecoach rail franchise in pensions row

Owl says: Stagecoach has a near monopoly on bus routes in the Exeter commuter and rural hinterland – hoping the bus franchise is healthier.

But just another privatisation cash grab.

“Stagecoach says it is “extremely concerned” after the Department for Transport (DfT) barred it from three UK rail franchise bids.

The DfT says the bids for the East Midlands, South Eastern and West Coast franchises were “non-compliant” because they did not meet pensions rules.
Martin Griffiths, chief executive of Scotland-based Stagecoach, has called for an “urgent meeting” with the DfT.

Stagecoach had “repeatedly ignored established rules”, the DfT said.
Mr Griffiths said in a statement: “We are extremely concerned at both the DfT’s decision and its timing. The department has had full knowledge of these bids for a lengthy period and we are seeking an urgent meeting to discuss our significant concerns.”

Bidders for the franchises have been asked to bear full long-term funding risk on relevant sections of the Railways Pension Scheme, Stagecoach said. The Pensions Regulator has estimated the UK rail industry needs an additional £5-6bn to plug the pensions shortfall, and the company said it was being asked to take on risks it “cannot control and manage”. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47877858