“The state of rural services” report

Changes to rural transport provision affect access to a range of service facilities and outlets, where these are not available locally and where travel is necessary. Recent reductions to bus services are therefore of direct relevance to various topics covered by this report.

Similarly, rural access to a range of services is altering due to the provision of and take-up of online services. This has considerable scope to address long standing concerns about rural access to services, if geographic distance is no longer such a barrier. However, this is not straightforward. Not all groups are online, some rural areas await decent (broadband) connectivity and one consequence may be less used physical outlets e.g. bank branches.

The demography of rural areas and, in particular, the growing number of older people has implications for the future of services covered in this report. On the one hand it places considerable extra pressures on public services such as GP surgeries and adult social care, especially if funding for them is tight, as it has been for some years and seems likely to continue being. On the other hand older age groups are more likely to be users of locally based commercial services in rural areas, such as convenience stores, thus helping them to survive. Retired people who remain in good health are also likely to make up a good proportion of the volunteers engaged with providing community-run services. …”


“Nearly 40 million people live in UK areas with illegal air pollution”

Owl says: you don’t hear (current) DCC councillor and its roads supremo Stuart Hughes (Conservative, ex- Monster Raving Loony Party) mentioning this in his election speeches … though you DO hear contender Councillor Marianne Rixson (Independent East Devon Alliance)doing so and drawing attention to its implications for the health of local communities.

“…The extent of the air pollution crisis nationally is exposed in the data which shows 59% of the population are living in towns and cities where nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution breaches the lawful level of 40 microgrammes per cubic metre of air. …”


Persimmon non-payment for 3 years may lead to loss of bus service

Owl says: if a developer has not kept its side of a bargain and ows money or in-kind payments, with a planning application, surely it should not be allowed to submit further planning applications till the debt has been fully discharged (with appropriate interest).

“The future of a vital bus route could be placed in jeopardy. Persimmon Homes South West has built 334 new homes at Mile End on the Ashburton Road on the A383 at the edge of Newton Abbot, and as part of the planning agreement for the scheme, they would help to fund the number 88 bus service that runs between Newton Abbot and Totnes, via Buckfastleigh, and travels on the A383 Ashburton Road,

But, the developers have been accused of not paying those contribution for 2015, 2016 and 2017 – a total of £225,000.

Teignbridge Council have commenced legal proceedings against the developer to ensure all the signed contributions are met.

But there are fears that unless the developers pay up, the bus route could be placed in jeopardy as there could be no funds for it.”


What SHOULD super-Mayors (and LEPs) be doing?

This is what a think tank believes Mayors (and by extension Local Enterprise Partnerships) SHOULD be tackling.

Can anyone see any of these issues being given attention in our Devon and Somerset super-mayoral area?

… Mayors are due to be elected in May in Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, Tees Valley, Liverpool City Region, Cambridgeshire/ Peterborough and West of England, the latter an area based around Bristol.

The IPPR said its evidence base showed mayors should deliver inclusive growth by using their transport policy to prioritise poor neighbourhoods, establishing development corporations and championing the living wage and higher employment standards.

They could improve infrastructure by integrating land use planning and working with central government on housing investment and seek to embed health in all public policy.

The IPPR also urged mayors to set up companies to pilot ‘invest-to-save’ models in employment support, and to collaborate with councils to tackle homelessness….”


Exmouth: Dinan Way extension ok’d by Minister

” …The road had previously seemed set to proceed when it was approved by county planners in January. However, the National Trust then protested to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) that the application should be ‘called in’.

Had it done so, a final decision on planning permission would have been made by the Secretary of State; however, DCLG has now decided to take no further action, which means the planning permission stands.

This does not mean construction is imminent, as Devon County Council (DCC) must first carry out further negotiations.

A DCC spokesman said: “Conditional planning consent has been granted for the scheme. The county council will now be looking to acquire the necessary land, and funding, but no delivery period has been identified as yet.”

The National Trust had opposed the scheme, citing the effect on the Grade One listed A la Ronde, in nearby Summer Lane.

In a statement following the DCLG decision, the National Trust said: “We hope that DCC will now redouble its efforts to work with Historic England and the National Trust to help ensure the long-term protection of A la Ronde and to pursue the safeguards they proposed during the planning consultation period.” …


Fix old roads or overspend on new roads?

Decisive action is needed after plans to upgrade England’s roadways went £841m over budget, a National Audit Office study found.

The National Audit Office (NAO) report, out yesterday, claims the speed at which Highways England’s Road Investment Strategy was put together has created risks to deliverability, affordability and value for money.

The £11.4bn programme already has 16 projects which could be scrapped because they do not provide value for taxpayers.

The Progress with the Road Investment Strategy report shows the road improvement scheme, which covers the period between April 2015 and March 2020, exceeded available funding for forecast capital costs by £841m.

The RIS was drawn up in the 17 months before the May General Election in 2015 and included plans which had not been tested for cost effectiveness.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “The Department and Highways England need to agree a more realistic and affordable plan if they are to provide optimal value from the Road Investment Strategy.

“Highways England has been working to address the risks to deliverability, affordability and value for money that were present in 2015, but we are now nearly two years into the 5-year road investment period.

“Decisive action needs to be taken before the updated delivery plan is published in the summer if shortcomings in the current strategy are not to be carried over into future road investment periods.”

So far Highways England has completed six projects on or ahead of schedule and has started construction on a further 19, with 16 planned to be on or ahead of schedule.

According to Highways England these projects will be delivered 5% over budget.

Bridget Fox, sustainable transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, said: “This report shows that the current emphasis on big road projects could waste a lot of public money and that some projects might not happen at all.

“Instead, we’d like to see the government focus on fixing the roads we have before spending billions on considering big new projects.”

She added: “The government should also look at the major road network as part of an overall transport policy rather than go after big road schemes in isolation.”

This report follows another out earlier this week from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which claimed the government’s road investment strategy will provide little benefit to local communities.”