It has been an uncertain year. All of us will know of someone, perhaps a family member infected by Covid. When I wrote this newsletter at this time last year, 1.4m people throughout the world had died from the virus. Now the figure is 5.6m. It is a shocking figure. At the end of 2020, I never thought that we might be on the verge of another lockdown with home working and schooling. But as I write this, it seems a real possibility.
Home working and schooling are difficult without good broadband. For six years we have lobbied MPs, met with Ministers, briefed the Press and questioned providers. The result has been mixed. Some parts of the parish have improved service, but speeds of 25/5 mbps which are regarded as quite good now, will be inadequate in the future. There is hope. Airband has been appointed as the fibre contractor for the parish. We have contact with them and already persuaded them to extend their plans, so that by the end of 2023 all of the parish could have access to fibre to the property. We have been here before when this was originally promised for 2019 with Gigaclear, but it looks promising this time. Discussions with Airband have been constructive and positive. The loss of broadband recently for five days following a storm, proved again how vital it is.
(Photo's of recent flooding in the parish)
The occurrences of extremes of weather are increasing. Global warming means hot, cold, wet and dry spells will all cause problems around the world. For us this year it was flooding. Rivers and drains are unable to cope with the quantities of water. We need to make our infrastructure more resilient. Kerswell and Broadhembury were both flooded in November and in both cases the ideal solution is the same. If water can be slowed down higher in its course (water engineers call this ‘water attenuation’) then the rush is reduced, escape routes can cope and property lower down is less at risk. We are in discussion with landowners and the Environment agency to tackle this. There are grants for tree-planting and the creation of cascading dams and many landowners are willing to help. We intend to dig channels and divert water where we can. We are confident that with help from landowners we can improve the situation.
Flooding would be less of an issue for us if the world tackled climate change a bit more effectively. UN conferences for the last 27 years have produced little result. Some nations may cease to exist completely because they are so low-lying. Population migration from hot arid lands will increase, natural habitats will be destroyed as climate changes and some parts of the world will become uninhabitable. Food production in sufficient quantity to feed the world could become challenging. Despite this, nations seem unable to reach agreement to limit the use of fossil fuel, transport emissions or to protect natural habitats.
We cannot influence the behaviour of world governments, but we can do something locally. In association with the Blackdown Hills AONB, we have secured funding to improve the nature of the River Tale. We have planted trees where we can and we have a single electric vehicle charge point. It’s small scale but it is a start. We have also taken part in a programme to measure climate emissions in our parish, so that we have a start point. The largest threats to our planet come from the burning of fossil fuel for heat and energy, transport, inefficient buildings and industrial processes and our parish reflects this. The inconvenient truth is that the human population of the world is too large to be sustained by the planet’s resources indefinitely.
Our projects are small scale but we will continue to tackle projects if we can get funding and the resources to do it. Doing something is better than waiting for others to act. If any parishioners wish to propose a project we will do our best to help and secure funding.
Please let us know.
Water often makes potholes worse, destroys road verges and causes damage to vehicles. Water damaged roads are dangerous for cyclists and horse riders as well as walkers.
(Report a Pothole: https://www.devon.gov.uk/roadsandtransport/report-a-problem/map/map_src/poth/)
For the past few years we have been able to fix a lot of problems as the result of a good relationship with Devon Highways, but this all changed when the contact was promoted. Now we struggle to get any response and the road into Broadhembury from Colliton Cross is an example of our failure to get action. However we have a plan. With co-operation from adjacent landowners we will form a ditch to divert water into the culvert lower down the road. It will help, and we still need to persuade highways to repair the road.
The War Memorial
A few years ago the war memorial was made a listed building and we are the owners. We have secured a grant, which we will supplement from our own resources to repair the platform and the adjoining wall. Fortunately, the memorial itself, and the plinth are in a good state of repair and a moving tribute to the eighteen men listed. The work will start in the New Year.
For the men who returned from both World Wars to the parish, fast food, and cans of drink were unknown. Now they litter our roadside and we struggle to keep on top of it. The year 2021 was the first time that we organised a community litter pick. Prior to that many individuals, on their own initiative had collected litter. Drinks cans, food cartons and now face masks litter our roadsides, block drains and encourage rodents. They are a terrible witness to our waste and lack of consideration for others, and on small scale explain why the world has a problem with climate change. We can clear it but we cannot address the cause. If fast food cartons were made degradable, and cans of drink required a large deposit it would help. In the long term discarding rubbish, rather than responsibly recycling it needs to become as socially unacceptable as smoking in front of children or failing to wear seat belts. It will come, but not perhaps in my lifetime. In the meantime, thank you to everyone who turned out to ‘litter pick’.
Community Land Trust
Earlier this year we set up a community land trust. It is totally separate from the parish Council with its own Trustees. We set it up because we believed that there were people in the parish who need affordable housing. There are and the CLT is working to find land to address the need.
Visit their website for more information: www.bnclt.co
Keeping in touch
It has proved challenging to keep in touch with all 600 parishioners during the pandemic. We moved to virtual meetings after January 2020, and have only just returned to face to face meetings with the PC meeting in July 2021. We managed without any of the amusing disasters other parishes seemed to encounter, but it’s much harder. Please encourage neighbours to subscribe to this newsletter and help us keep in touch.
Our web site was first designed ten years ago and amended six years ago. Many of the organisations for whom we provided a platform then now have their own web sites and we need to update ours. We shall launch a new web site over the Christmas/New Year period.
All the things we do are done by volunteers. Parish Councillors, unlike County or District Councillors receive no payment or allowances. England has 90,000 Parish Councillors to whom higher levels of local government delegate jobs, projects and tasks, but rarely give them the funding to do it. I guess if you sit at the bottom of the pile you are going to get all the jobs people higher up don’t want to do. Sometimes this process is disguised as ‘consultation’ but it often ends with the same outcome. To give you some idea of the workload, we receive over 500 E-mails a year, many with large attachments, which require some response.
We have petitioned EDDC to allow us to recruit more Parish Councillors. In fact in the Summer, EDDC wrote to all 300 households asking if you supported this request. Only 19 of you responded. This was disappointing. We shall see what EDDC decide in March 2021.
The Year 2021
As I write this, viral infection is spreading rapidly, hospitals are under pressure and many nations have banned travel without onerous procedures and costly testing. On the other hand, some maintain that we shall simply have to get used to living with Coronavirus without lockdowns and travel bans, because it is going to be around for a while and we can’t shut the economy every Winter. The arguments are finely balanced, but to prevent massive melt- down of the health service, some tough decisions will have to be made in the New Year. These are not decisions for a Parish Council. We are fortunate that we live in small communities with many activities and neighbours to support us through difficult times.
I and my colleagues wish you a happy Christmas and a healthy New Year. We will continue to represent your views and work to get the best for the parish. Please come along to our meetings and tell us what you think we should do, or tell us about the things we have done with which you don’t agree.
The first meeting of 2022 will be on 18th JANUARY at 1930 in the MEMORIAL HALL, and if you can we look forward to seeing you then. The agenda will be published on notice boards and our web site, and if you don’t see an item which is important to you, then just tell us.
With best wishes,
Bob Nelson, Chairman BPC