Rural Cumbria Connects Launches Community Purchase Scheme For Renewable Heating

Rural Cumbria Connects logo

For Original Press Release Click Here

Forty rural homes off the gas grid are to benefit from support grants from Energy Savings Trust (EST) for renewable biomass and solar water heating technologies  in a new community purchase scheme unique to Cumbria, run by Rural Cumbria Connects. 

Environmental education at Low Luckens Organic Resource Centre www.lowluckensfarm.co.uk

Environmental education at Low Luckens Organic Resource Centre www.lowluckensfarm.co.uk

Established for community benefit, Rural Cumbria Connects is managed by Simon Sjenitzer and Hazel Broatch of Low Lucans Organic Research Centre (LLORC). Low Luckens Organic Resource Centre was founded in 2000 as an Industrial & Provident Society based on 220 acres of organic farmland, ancient woodland and river not far from Carlisle.  LLORC works to promote sustainable farming, local healthy food and the countryside to visitors of all ages and abilities. Renewable heating is an important element of sustainable living in rural and urban areas alike, but it’s adoption in rural homes that are off the gas grid is seen as particularly important, not just in the reduction of carbon emissions from fossil fuels, but also in lowering heating costs, improving heating efficiency and quality of life.

The technologies supported in this initiative are Biomass boilers and Solar Thermal water heating systems and Rural Cumbria Connects has successfully arranged support funding from Energy Savings Trust that is significantly better than the Premium Payments previously available for householders. Under the community purchase terms the forty owner occupiers can get grants of £3000 towards biomass boiler installations , and £700 towards solar thermal panels, installed alone or in combination.  According to its website,

“the Energy Savings Trust serves communities and households by giving impartial, independent and accurate advice on carbon emissions reduction, saving water, reducing energy bills and developing sustainable sources of energy.”

Simon Sjenitzer, Chairman of LLORC said “The scheme is unique and has shown what can be achieved by community organisations across Cumbria working together. We have been successful in securing over £100,000 in grants (through The Energy Savings Trust) for homeowners across Cumbria who are dependent on oil, LPG, and coal for heating their homes.” He went on to explain that the homeowners will receive their grants direct from the Government after they have installed one of the identified technologies. “Community purchasing of these technologies is expected to benefit customers and suppliers, create jobs and further encourage the developing fuel-wood supply-chain locally. There is an anticipated depth of benefit that transcends efficient home heating, free of fossil fuels.”

The UK has committed to improving energy efficiency in domestic properties and has identified rural properties in areas that are not on the gas grid as good candidates for renewable heat technologies.

Carl Bendelow, Projects Co-ordinator for Heart of Eden Development Trust has been instrumental in advancing  several environmental energy projects with the Heart of Eden, including a successful Solar Photovoltaic installation and in-depth research into the feasibility of a micro-hydro electric project in the Eden. Carl said “The Heart of Eden Development Trust has an ongoing interest in promoting sustainable energy and so we’re very pleased to help rural homes switch to renewable heating. The uptake has been enthusiastic and the response shows that there’s a clear need and that our work has been worthwhile.”

Biomass boiler , Windhager LogWin, and insulated water tank installed by Logic . Photo Copyright LOGIC Renewables.

Biomass boiler , Windhager LogWin, and insulated water tank installed by Logic .
Photo Copyright LOGIC Renewables.

Many people that Heart of Eden contacted about the RCC scheme have expressed interest in biomass boilers and solar thermal panels. In the face of rising fossil fuel prices and fuel poverty, switching to Biomass has attractive benefits going forward:

  • Pellets are about half the price of oil per kWh, can be bulk purchased and fed automatically from storage hoppers.

  • The government rewards users under the Renewable Heat Premium Payment scheme (those who receive grants under this scheme will still be able to take part in the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive when it is introduced).

  • The fuel can be produced in Cumbria and surrounds, supporting local producers and reducing our dependence upon imported fuel so reducing the carbon emissions involved in “fuel miles”, and assisting local employment.

  •  The fuel itself emits carbon from this current phase of the carbon cycle, not from past atmospheres, and is clean burning leaving a fine ash suitable for enriching gardens and sweetening acid soil. If not burnt, vegetable matter will emit carbon dioxide in the natural course of its decomposition.

For more information about Biomass heating please see LOGIC’s biomass web page and Case studies pages

Solar Thermal systems specifically assist water heating. Serving best in summer months, they require little maintenance and can contribute up to 60% of domestic annual hot water supply. More information on Solar Thermal from LOGIC’s site

LOGIC Renewables has been selected as the the preferred installer for the projects and will be installing systems over the next three months. LOGIC was selected by Rural Cumbria Connects for their experience in renewable technology installations (see Case studies) for being a local employer and investor in skills development and for their professional practice of using only industry registered and certified, CRB checked engineers with uniforms, marked vans, equipped with PDAs for independent communication with their Headquarters on Appleby’s Cross Croft Industrial Estate. LOGIC’s capability of servicing the installations and 24 hr emergency call-out also make the firm a good choice .

Kevin Hall of LOGIC Renewables said “We are very proud to be installers for Rural Cumbria Connects. Community group purchasing for renewable heating should make it accessible to more people and will also help local employment.” He went on to say “LOGIC has put renewables into community buildings, farms, hotels and residential properties. Biomass and Solar Thermal are good reliable technologies. ”

The community groups and LLORC are maintaining a reserve list for later submissions. So home owners who complete and submit the Expression of Interest (EOI) form (To download,  click here to access the page) will have their interest registered and may yet be included in the event of any households dropping out, or if further funds become available. For more information on Rural Cumbria Connects please contact Hazel Broatch on 016977 48860 or Simon Sjenitzer 07796 763 816

LOGIC Renewables van outside the offices and showroom, no.6 Cross Croft Industrial estate, Appleby-in-Westmorland

LOGIC Renewables van outside the offices and showroom, no.6 Cross Croft Industrial estate, Appleby-in-Westmorland

For more information about LOGIC renewables contact:
Dave McGuiggan Renewables Manager   01228 59 8000
and view Logic’s website    http://www.logic-group.co.uk

Heart of Eden
HoE has been keenly engaged in important social infrastructure and environment and development work in the Appleby area of Westmorland.

They worked on a feasibility study for a hydro electricity generation plant at Bongate weir, Appleby, Solar Photo Voltaic systems on village halls with Big Society funding, a survey of energy use in the HoE communities (the SEE study) and a DECC LEAF study for the creation of an energy node at Kirkby Thore. For more information please view the HoE website.

http://www.heartofeden.co.uk

Or contact

Carl Bendelow
Project Development Officer
Heart of Eden Development Trust www.ApplebyBusinessCentre.co.uk Appleby Cumbria CA16 6QH

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Cumbria’s Police Crime Commissioner – Who will you be voting for?

Don’t know yet? Join the club. Better still, join the people who’ll be finding out more about the candidates by hearing what they have to say on such crucial matters as:

  • Regular engagement with the public to elicit views on policing
  • Setting policing priorities in a Police and Crime Plan
  • Deciding how the budget will be spent
  • Appointing and dismissing Chief Constables when required

This will be your chance to listen to what they say and to ask questions of them.

The four candidates for the post of Police and Crime Commissioner for Cumbria are: Pru Jupe, Patrick Leonard, Richard Rhodes and Mary Robinson. They will be coming to the Forum, Duke Street, Barrow, LA14 1HH  on Tuesday the 6th of November .

Tea and coffee will be served on the gallery from 6.30pm and the event itself begins at 7.00pm in the studio.

Furthermore, nearer the election you can get information from a dedicated website www.choosemypcc.org.uk

and Postal Vote forms (must be submitted before the end of October) and other election related information is available at www.aboutmyvote.co.uk

 

Cybermoor to Fibremoor – Communications Workshop Illuminates

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On February 9th, I was kindly transported to and from a very nicely organised, well attended and highly illuminating event at Alston Moor’s Town Hall.

Fortified by coffee and biscuits from the local bakery we were treated to comprehensive coverage of the the Cybermoor Community Communications project.
Please see their site for more details and video links when they are ready.

I think that Daniel Heery and his Cybermoor team came across as very professional and polished, but it was clear from their presentations that they’ve done a lot of learning the hard way as pathfinders! 10 yrs ago was clearly a tough time to try and set up a Community Communications network. They may well be poised to reap rewards for their perseverance and years of accumulated experience, I think. They can manage and deliver community communications networks and maintain them with a convenient-looking electronic management system.
Thanks to the focus that Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and the Border has brought to bear upon the subject through his Rheged Broadband conference and the continued efforts now reinforced by the Big Society paradigm shift – 2011 is a more favourable time for communities to upgrade to future-proof internet – I expect that Fibremoor will expand it’s customer base rapidly soon!

Alston Moor’s website strikes me as a very good example of a Community microsite, and they’ve got their act together with community transport too.

They shared detailed knowledge with us and encouraged us not to be discouraged!

This event has definitely confirmed in my mind that though wireless has its place, Fibre To The Premises is the way to go if we can.

LLBG Community Broadband Gains Public Support In Morland Meeting

Lance Greenhalgh explaining our options. Catherine Anderson Photo

Lance Greenhalgh explaining our options. Catherine Anderson Photo

About 100 people attended an event at Morland Village Hall on Wednesday evening that was both educational and interactive. Through some informative speeches and a clear, concise slide presentation there emerged a clearer understanding of the issues and of residents’ options on the matter, and also a clear mandate for the group to investigate the establishment of a Community owned broadband project.

Freddy Markham, Chair of the LLBG introduced the meeting with some essential general background information about the need to connect the final third (our rural communities) through a community driven project because the large providers are preoccupied with the cities and the rural areas would be too expensive to connect without spirited cooperation of the community and the granting of free wayleaves by landowners. He introduced Louis Mosely, aide to Rory Stewart MP for Penrith and The Border.

Louis introduced the idea of the Eden Declaration as an important statement of desired service and talked about the possibility of long-term low interest loans from the Big Society Bank.

Tom Lowther, our Cumbria County Councilor then explained Cumbria County Council’s desire to get the best value for money for Cumbria as a whole and said CCC was working with Mike Kiely of Broadband Development UK to seek the best way of serving a great number of people and organisations, he admitted that though the FTTC approach with BT didn’t match the specifications demanded by Champions through the Eden declaration, it could happen with the assistance of public funding from Broadband Development UK and by going through thorough public procurement procedures.

Lance Greenhalgh then delivered a concise and comprehensive slide presentation offering an overview of technological options for digital services – he emphasised that there was more to this subject than broadband itself .

He didn’t rule out satellite, wireless and fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) as each service may suit certain circumstances, but reinforced the position that Fibre to the home/premises (FTTH/P) was the best value future-proof solution available to us at this time. (NB because it’s future proof we can proceed with confident belief that it isn’t: likely to become obsolete / likely to be superseded anytime soon).

The Great Asby Group advised the retention of at least one normal phone line with plain ordinary telephone per village for emergency use in power outages. Lance mentioned the Femtocell solution for getting mobile signals into our homes via broadband and the usefulness of wireless service for Caravan parks and for remote outliers. He briefly covered who might deliver our services and finished off with a speedy overview of the considerable anticipated benefits of fast broadband.

Questions from the floor followed: how would video on demand TV work over FTTH? Extra equipment would be necessary : A YouView set-top box could be connected via ethernet cable and thence to a TV.

There was a question about whether way-leaves had been agreed yet. Mr. Markham answered that he had contacted, and was awaiting responses from, various parties.

There was a question about the sort of structure necessary to provide the Community service, Community Interest Company or Industrial Provident Society, but this was agreed to be a subject that would be better explored after establishing the extent of demand.

Our collective response to various questions, using Cumbria County Council’s electronic voting system brought the event to a conclusion. The voting system allows public opinion to be expressed collectively with anonymity.

For more on the subject please see the results and associated commentary at  www.broadbandcumbria.com and www.Leith-Lyvennet.broadbandcumbria.com

Carlisle Conference Heralds Paradigm Shift Toward Localism!

By Charles Paxton (Broadband Champion for Lyvennet Valley Community)

Better communications are increasingly being seen as essential for appropriate societal response to some important challenges of our times. Inclusive information exchange is critically important for:

More effective local government, Rural business development, Community health care outreach, Neighbourhood, Farm and business security, Regional renewable energy target obligations.

On Saturday, January 17th, 2011,  interested members of the public participated in a conference at Carlisle Racecourse, hosted by Carlisle Parish Councils Association and sponsored by British Telecom plc. that as Ronnie Auld Chair of CPCA pointed out effectively heralds a paradigm shift away from traditional top-down, Big Government – Small Society,  toward bottom-up, Big Society local empowerment. Better communications are being seen as an essential element in the transition toward greater inclusion and participation. Make no mistake, we’re not just talking about modernising technology here, a crucial element of localism is the Big Society ideal of greater public engagement in our society in multiple ways, including frank and open public dialogue and debate about the way we would like things to be. The effective exchange of ideas, perspectives and factual information is naturally expected to communicate, refine and improve ideas that can then inform practice to help steer progressive development.

As resources aren’t infinite, an important motivational factor for us is efficiency, making the most of our available resources! This is true in all matters, but especially relevant when it comes to our communications infrastructure.

BT will be making the single largest private investment of all time into upgrading British Communications infrastructure in the UK! Two and a half billion pounds.

However, unless we act in a cleverly coordinated fashion to gain maximum leverage from our existing resources, then our remote rural areas, often referred to as “the final third”, are likely to be the last areas to be connected to future proof Next Generation Access speed broadband. That’s generally considered to be symmetrical broadband at over 50 Mbps download and upload (fast enough for telemedicine applications).  Ironically, it is just these remote areas that most need connectivity to overcome the challenges represented by geophysical rural isolation, according to recent reports:

http://leith-lyvennet.broadbandcumbria.com/2010/12/09/reports-show-importance-of-rural-broadband/

There is open debate on BroadbandCumbria.com about how best to go about achieving an Eden-wide network and I recommend that you join the site, read up about it and have your say. It’s particularly important that you read The Eden Declaration (a credo statement for a desired level of service throughout Eden), and sign it too, if you agree with its contents.

The scale of the task is epic, the complexities are “eye-wateringly complex” (quoting Rory Stewart, our  MP for Penrith and The Border) but the impact is likely to resonate far into the future, promising a broad range of benefits.

The Localism Bill, likely soon to become an Act, promises to give the most local of our authorities, our Parish Councils, far greater say in many of the matters that concern us most – our local ones. This is both a momentous development and a very necessary one to help our communities cope appropriately with the current and future challenges of modern life, and just as crucially, to make the most of the opportunities.

Click here to view a digest of new powers that will help increase the influence of local authorities Localism digest

Ronnie Auld, Chair of Carlisle Parish Councils Association opened the conference with an introductory speech explaining the format of the conference, the first half examining the current problems associated with broadband in Carlisle District and its surroundings and the second half examining the likely impacts of the Decentralising and Localism bill currently before parliament. He pointed out that both the broadband problems and the localism agenda warranted an issues-based approach on the part of Parish Councils. He said Parish councils will be playing a very important role in the improvement of broadband in keeping with the Localism agenda. He drew attention to a Carlisle area survey document in our conference pack and said that alongside quantitive data about the speeds that people reported getting, there were comments that reflected that their broadband services left a lot to be desired, and compared very badly in some cases to conditions in other countries. He cited several examples of disastisfaction, one experienced problematic disconnections and just 0.39 Mbps of speed. He talked of the importance of including broadband in Community Planning.

See his speech below (kindly made available by John Popham)

http://www.youtube.com/p/0FB6CCA183CA70A6?hl=en_US&fs=1

He introduced the next speaker, Rt. Hon. Rory Stewart MP for Penrith and The Border, as our Broadband Champions’ Champion!

Rory Stewart, Broadband Champions' Champion emphasises that people inlocal communities know more, care more and can do more than remote officials.

Rory sits on the Localism Bill Committee and is one of the prime forces in the movement to bring more powers to the most local levels of government. He explained in no uncertain terms that community involvement would be essential in the effective roll-out of broadband throughout Eden and that unless there is seen to be a very good reason to stop them, the assumption should be to let each Parish or group of Parishes drive their project forward. He urged us to move away from the old state of affairs where Parish Councils  could only suggest things or be consulted to one where it is assumed that they know what they are doing.

He says “Let’s create a situation where people want to sit on Parish Councils because they know that they’ll have the power, the responsibility and sometimes the financial authority to bring about change.”

The necessity for popular local participation is partly due to financial considerations. In order to connect the 27,000 homes in Eden by conventional methods (@about £5000 per household) we’d be looking at a total of around £135 million.

He then explained that  funds have been allocated for a pilot study to help kick start the process, but that these funds were going to be spread thinly – “a proportion of £10 million” will come to Eden. This is where community support comes into it’s own. If we are prepared to gather, to define the demand and to aggregate it, to say that 70-80% of the community are prepared to use fast broadband then the economics become favourable for provision, if land owners are prepared to fore-go wayleaves, if communities are prepared to engage imaginatively and to use local assets, then the cost per premises could be reduced dramatically! Perhaps reduced to about £1000!

( Re asset sharing, please see this encouraging document (http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/business-sectors/docs/b/10-1308-broadband-deployment-sharing-infrastructure-summary-of-responses.pdf) that was drawn to my attention on broadbandcumbria.com shortly  after the conference!)

Barry Forde has since proposed a hypothetical plan that would employ great leverage, please click here to view

This is fascinating, we are now starting to get an idea of the potential tangible value in pounds of effective local democracy at Parish and Neighbourhood level and the potential value of intelligent mutualism within a competitive business framework! This is aside from, but would be compounded by the massive benefits to be derived from the better communications technology itself!

Localism clearly has major implications for our economic and social development.

Rory Stewart explaining how local community support can make fast internet accessible to Eden residents

Rory Stewart explaining how local community support can make fast internet accessible to Eden residents

Rory then said that if the Government were prepared to make patient finance available (perhaps via Parish Councils) that could be paid back at say £60 per year, then fast broadband service would seem far more attainable.

He then talked of the need to overcome a series of obstacles in technology, existing technical infrastructure and regulation. In order to make sure that the taxpayers £10 is used as well as possible then there’ll need to be an enormous amount of work done by government and civil servants. We’ll probably have a mixed solution. He cited the enormous amount of enthusiasm that was emerging in Parishes such as Crosby Ravensworth for super fast fibre to the home and said that while this unparalleled speed suited some people, he realises that other people may find a slower service acceptable.

He then introduced Bill Murphy of BT as the second guest speaker. His speech will be the subject of my next article.

£10 Million for Cumbrian Fast Broadband! Champions Meet MP and Experts At Great Asby

Broadband Champions

Broadband Champions at Rory Stewart's Gt. Asby Meeting. John Popham Photo

This is the first draft of my account. It’s written from my point of view as Broadband Champion for the Lyvennet Valley villages of Crosby Ravensworth Parish and will be fleshed out with more interesting detail in due course between bouts of Website design and maintenance. Any errors are likely to be my own, are unintentional and will be subject to later correction and your patience is much appreciated with this work in progress. Here will follow a blow-by-blow account in the days to come.

Hard on the heels of his very dynamic and crammed-to-capacity Big Society Meeting at Gt. Asby on November 5th, our Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart followed up his successful Rheged Broadband Conference with a meeting of local community Broadband Champions and Community leaders at Great Asby Village Hall on Saturday, 6th of November.

It was a well organized event that enabled important ideas to disseminate and coalesce.

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These ladies and gentlemen, drawn from Parishes all across the constituency gathered to achieve three purposes:

1) to hear, from Rory, the latest developments in the campaign to connect our rural populations with super fast communications that are becoming increasingly essential for our future prosperity and improving the quality of life. He has managed to secure more than double the amount of funding that we’d hoped for in order to help connect rural Cumbria to the fast lanes of the information superhighway!

2) to be brought “up t0 speed” about community fast broadband by leading experts including Dr. Barry Forde (founder of the CLEO  fast broadband network for Schools),  representatives of the Great Asby Broadband Group, Mike Kiely & Robert Ling of Broadband Delivery UK, Mr. Simon Jones from the UK Division of the Cisco Systems communications giant and Ms. Nicky Getgood of Talk About Local .

and

3) for a focussed discussion of key questions in smaller, local working groups of Community Broadband Champions. Our summarised findings were then delivered to the whole gathering so that we could share information.

A fine account complete with associated video and nice photographs can be found at Citizen reporter, John Popham’s weblog.

Broadband Champions engaged in brainstorming!

Here in the days to come, will follow a blow-by-blow account.

Big Society Exemplified In Grand Visions For Fast Internet In Rural Cumbria – Part I

Mapping Our Access To The Information Superhighway -Penrith And The Borders Broadband Conference Shows That We Really Can Connect Cumbria’s ‘Final Third’ To The High Speed Lanes – if community engagement is sufficiently enthusiastic.

For Rory Stewart’s Broadband Website with an increasing array of conference related resources Please Click Here
Many, many thanks to our citizen reporter John Popham for filming and mounting his video on Youtube

PART I The Introduction and overview

(first in a series written between bouts of Apple Juicing)

Living near Penrith as I do, I’m used to seeing grand visions in the Rheged Visitor Centre’s excellent Imax auditoria – super high definition (and 3D) films of Ancient Egypt, The Kingdom of Rheged, Rainforest life, The Himalayas and Dinosaurs being notable examples, but I scarcely hoped to see the complexity of connecting our remote rural communities to high speed broadband covered so comprehensively and with such clarity as I did yesterday. It’s an interesting observation that the very conditions that make high-speed connectivity rather tricky around here are the ones that make it so important – anything that facilitates business, education, social networking, security and telemedecine development in remote rural areas has got to be a very good thing. I, for one, am counting on Rory’s initiative to work – because I sell and maintain websites, I like them to be visually attractive and to load quickly for my customers and their customers. That’s me – always wanting the moon, but I was gratified to learn at Rheged yesterday that it wasn’t just me who wants this moon – the reason that the Cumbrian networks are slowing down is that we Cumbrians are heavy users. We are prosumers (producer/consumers) exchanging large files on a regular basis, slapping up our Youtube and lapping up our iplayer video, TV, movies and on-line gaming. The great advances that Cumbria made in first generation access (99% availability by 2008 according to Richard Walters, CEO of Commendium) are starting to feel ready to be expanded upon. It’s not just our younger end that are sucking up the bandwidth now – the silver-haired web surfers are increasing in number, and why not? There’s just as much for us all on the net – and traders are fully cognisant of where the greater spending power resides.

A glance at some of the name badges in the foyer confirmed that this was an event of consequence – Rory Stewart’s Broadband Conference had gathered key figures in Government, the private sector, Education and Cumbrian communities and even some American experts, including some of the worlds ‘black-belt’ gurus of high speed connectivity under one roof in an event that was as well-planned as it was smoothly executed. Rheged made a fine venue for the conference.

Now follows a very brief and consolidated digest of what ensued in the first part of the conference, written to the best of my understanding which is admittedly incomplete ( a great deal was said and most of it was new to me and weighty) – I’ll attempt to complete it in later articles and I’d welcome any additional information that will beef-up or correct my account where necessary.

Our MP kicked off the conference with a punchy welcoming address to prepare us for the day ahead – he reminded us of the growing necessity to provide all our communities with access to realistically affordable future-proof broadband for lasting prosperous regional, national and international interactivity. He stressed the crucial element of community involvement, and the ‘do-ability’ of the task despite the complexity of the issues. He  promised to fight hard to facilitate community access to existing bandwidth through a shared enhancement of the CLEO fibre-optic network (established by CLEO from The University of Lancaster) via a Parish pump analogy. If government provides the green cabinets in the communities, it’s up to us to complete the last mile, i.e. get the fibre to our residences or to a transmitter that can send and receive wireless internet signals from devices in or on our homes and public buildings. He identified successful local models in the form of the Great Asby Broadband group and the Alston Cybermoor group and emphasised the likelihood of the need to employ multiple solutions within most communities. He also anticipated that things may become a bit heated at the conference as there are competing interests in terms of provision, but his hope that this wouldn’t become acrimonious was realised as speakers made their points positively and presented their own cases constructively. No mud was slung and at 5 o’clock I was impressed by the fact that it wasn’t all going to be about wires, fibres and fibre served wireless and that satellite will doubtlessly serve some remote homes, and if you are in one such now and you want your broadband very soon – then you may be prepared to pay the £25-£50 a month to secure a satellite service. For Next Generation Access by 2015 (speeds in the region of 50 to 100 Mbps that can handle anticipated future demands for very heavy data transfer) however, it is extremely likely that an optical fibre network will be doing the work.


Rory Stewart (Member of Parliament for Penrith and the Border) Introductory Speech

and

Ministerial Address by Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries

Our Minister of Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey MP, was the first guest speaker and he set the scene for us presenting a clear correlation between fast internet access and improved business and cultural activity. Referring to work that he had completed in a July 2010 consultation paper he stated that it was very necessary to open up existing public infrastructure in order to reach the government’s 2015 targets of universal service provision of Next Generation Access. He alluded to considerable spectra of unused bandwidth that could be efficiently used and the savings that could be achieved by communities laying their own fibre optic cables, costs of £120 per meter could be reduced to £20 per meter – and you’ve got local employment as a serendipitous spin-off.  Shall we dig out our spades? Some of us can, others may prefer to hire a friendly neighbouring Farmer’s Mole plough. More on that in a later article!

Furthermore, he announced that some of the £200,000,000 ‘underspend’ that had been earmarked for the national digital TV switchover could be employed to Cumbria’s benefit in public-private partnerships if people in communities demonstrated sufficient enthusiasm and engagement. Eden’s relatively small population might reasonably expect help to the tune of about £4 or 5 million – which might be sufficient if we’re fully engaged, make the wisest decisions and do our bit.

We next heard from a series of expert panels who guided us through the fascinating areas of: existing coverage (patchy and unlikely to meet govt. targets without a major effort), rural needs (increasingly heavy) and the potential that the technology offers (quality-of-life altering). Broadband was introduced as a fourth utility – increasingly essential in modern life, soon to be seen as equally essential as piped water. In many areas, the number one concern after affordable housing, in others out-ranking affordable housing. Adrian Wooster (Director of JON Exchange) told us about ‘Not Spots’ (places with no broadband access) and ‘Grot spots’ (places with slow broadband access). A series of maps showed the low number of providers (Penrith had 2) and where fast internet could not be found in the constituency. Most of Eden was pictured in red with a series of green circles showing communities that had some broadband access. The needs for fast broadband hinged upon potential impacts on shopping for goods and services, lifelong learning, social networking, telemedicine, business communication and connection to services – 89% of government services are available on the internet currently. These needs and potentials were further expanded upon by successive speakers and will be covered in greater detail in Part Two. It was later apparent that some of the maps could already be updated (this showing the mercurial realities of the issue).


Adrian Wooster (Director of JON Exchange)


Dr. Stuart Burgess (Chairman of The Commission for Rural Communities)


William Davies (Vice President of Technology Policy Research In Motion)

BT’s Bill Murphy, the managing director of Next Generation Access BT described what BT has achieved so far (running 5500 exchanges nationwide, all but 26)  serving millions of customers directly and millions more through 1400 communications providers) and what they hope to achieve yet through a £2.5 billion investment (the largest single private sector investment in broadband anywhere, ever), aiming for 70-80% coverage at 2Mbps or more by the end of 2012, and alluding to R&D in progress aiming for speeds of up to 40 Mbps over existing copper wire and hinting at hitherto untapped potentials in the use of Ethernet. Undoubtedly BT will be playing a part in speeding up connectivity for a lot of our communities, but what of the remaining 20-30% of people? And are they likely to be … you?


Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of Next Generation Access BT

The problem of getting backhaul (the power to upload data back onto the internet) was examined next, and in detail. Many people feel that the big providers , BT and Virgin are understandably likely to be very preoccupied with speeding up services for our urban populace and our small remote communities are likely to remain in the slowest lanes of the superhighway. That’s been the pattern so far and the next speaker, Barry Forde (NGA advisor to the government and key brain behind the CLEO network for schools) explained why it was necessary to break with that pattern and how it could be done. He pointed out that though Eden is 97.5% rural with half our population living in small villages and hamlets (so we’re not all likely to be part of BT’s 70-80%), we are blessed with three potential sources of public access to the core internet via fibre-optic cables, the Network Rail optical fibre network that runs alongside the Carlisle Settle railway track, and the CLEO network – a very forward-thinking program to connect our schools (Primary at 10 Mbps and Secondary and higher at 100 Mbps) and finally our NHS medical centres at 100 Mbps. While it could cost upwards of £40,000 to get 100Mbps backhaul independently, it would cost very much less to connect to the existing infrastructure provided that it was opened up. He advocated liberating that potential in unused bandwidth and sharing the costs in return for the access – boosting up the Primary schools’ backhaul to 100Mbps and sharing that cost with the local community users, tapping in to the Network rail and NHS networks too where that was feasible and likewise defraying costs. He was very persuasive and witty.


Barry Forde (NGA advisor to the government and key brain behind the CLEO network for schools)

Rory Stewart pointed out the usefulness of overlaying the maps that had been shown so far, so that we could all see how this was all fitting together.

I shall continue this account and tell you some of what the following speakers said in part 2 on another day.

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Feasibility Study For Solway Tidal Barrage Renewable Energy Project

This is good news! Tidal power is a very promising form of clean energy.
SOLWAY ENERGY GATEWAY STUDY WELCOMED

ECONOMIC development agency Cumbria Vision has welcomed the publication of a feasibility study on the potential for renewable energy generation across the Solway Firth.

The Solway Firth Energy Feasibility Study has identified options for four tidal barrages, two lagoons and three tidal reefs, which could generate between 100MW to 6GW of energy. Any development would result in significant investment and job creation in West Cumbria, while providing enough green energy to power hundreds of thousands of homes. It could also create an important transport link between north east Cumbria and southern Scotland, bringing wider economic benefits to both sides of the Solway Firth.

The Solway Estuary is the second most powerful estuary in Britain after the Severn Estuary. Its massive potential was outlined in the recently published report, The Scope for renewable Energy in Cumbria**, written by former Government energy adviser and environmental scientist Sir Martin Holdgate on behalf of Cumbria Vision’s Renewable Energy Panel.

Sir Martin identified the proposed Solway Energy Gateway and Bridge Across the Bay (Morecambe Bay) – located to the north and south of Britain’s Energy Coast™ – as having great potential to help Britain meet tough renewable and carbon reduction targets. However, he stressed the importance of striking a balance between energy generation and the need to protect Cumbria’s stunning natural environment.

Simon Sjenitzer, Strategy Director at Cumbria Vision – one of the partners behind the Britain’s Energy Coast™ initiative – said: “We now have a number of options on the table for this exciting project – the real challenge now lies in agreeing on the best way forward. The huge potential of a Solway Energy Gateway is obvious, but given the many environmental protections in place and the large scale costs of tidal development, it is essential we look to identify an option which is acceptable, achievable and can generate a substantial amount of green energy.”

“Tidal power has an important role to play in the Britain’s Energy Coast™ initiative and the wider push across Cumbria to become a significant generator in low carbon and renewable energy. It is important we replicate the national wish for an energy mix, and schemes such as the Solway Energy Gateway will help make a valuable contribution to the Government’s renewable energy and carbon reduction targets.

The Solway Firth Energy Feasibility Study examined options for energy generation against technical, financial, environmental and socio-economic impacts. It can be downloaded at http://www.solwayenergygateway.co.uk.

The next step is to raise awareness of the potential for development within the market by presenting a report at the BWEA Wave and Tidal Conference on March 3-4. Developers and utility companies interested in the scheme can contact Nigel Catterson of nb21c on 07952 568062.

A Sojourn in Cumbria’s Quality Hotels For Just A Tenner A Night?

Yes, your eyes did not deceive you. According to the article linked to below in Cumbria News …

Cumbrian hotels do £10 room deal to boost trade

By Victoria Brenan

Last updated at 12:55, Thursday, 21 January 2010

Cumbrian hotels are offering rooms for less than £10 a night as part of a move to boost business following November’s floods.

http://www.cumberlandnews.co.uk/cumbrian_hotels_do_10_room_deal_to_boost_trade_1_662745?referrerPath=home