Monthly Archives: December 2010

the small charity our big society is failing

The small Charity our Big Society is failing


Libby Purves has written an excellent article on how the emergence of large charities throughout the country are putting smaller ones out of business. Iceni, a small charity, working on a shoe string to help addicts in Ipswich has been swamped by the rules and bureaucracy enforced by the previous government.

Libby writes, “The point is that big charity battalions come to resemble and mimic statutory organisations. And in the roar of water, small, useful groups will drown. This is not to say that the big battalions that take over under this ruling are bad people, or would try not to do a good job. but Iceni was – is – doing a good job already. It is known by word of mouth: in the paranoia and mental confusion of addiction that matters terribly. In the fragile ecosystem of a neighbourhood, such a  body is a sheltering bank against the storm. Flatten it out in the name of rationalisation, centralise and homogenise under elephantine rules made by a defunct government and you crush some fragile flowers.”


To read the full article, please click here  (If you are not a subscriber to Times online you will have to pay £1 to read it).


parish councils are granted more powers



broadband campaign




Rory Stewart MP has now recruited 150 ‘champions’ from more than a hundred Cumbrian parishes and launched a ground-breaking community website in the next stage of his campaign to get Cumbria ‘the fastest broadband in Europe’. The website,, launched on 30th November. The broadband champions, who come from Brough to Bewcastle and beyond, came to a meeting organised by Rory in a packed village hall in Great Asby earlier this month. They are each creating their own community pages on the new site. This is only the latest development among dozens of broadband meetings and initiatives launched by the Penrith and the Border MP since his international broadband conference held at Rheged, this September.

Rory’s strategy has combined the energies of Cumbrian communities with those of civil servants and private companies. In the last few weeks, in addition to his Cumbrian meetings, the MP has also met with every major commercial broadband provider from BT to Virgin to Geo. He has worked with providers, such as Cisco, to look at using superfast broadband networks to improve public services, from healthcare and education to adult social care. Members of the Obama administration and the Federal Communications Commission (who attended the Rheged conference) continue to advise Rory on his Eden broadband campaign. Rory has also been promoting rural broadband around the country, with speeches last week in Derbyshire and Yorkshire and through chairing the recent Westminster E-Forum on rural broadband. As Broadband Minister Ed Vaizey has said ‘no-one has beaten the drum harder for rural broadband and for Cumbria in particular than Rory Stewart.’

On a lighter note, Rory has a loyal band of followers on Twitter who name themselves Rory’s Reivers, and regularly exchange views and updates on the Twitter strand #rbc10. On the back of Rory’s campaign, an entire new radio drama called Rory’s Reivers has emerged, with Rory himself starring in the programme’s first episode last month.

The Penrith and the Border MP’s latest initiative in his fight to connect Cumbria to superfast broadband is the launch this week of community website The website, linked to micro-sites for every parish in Penrith and the Border, will be the engine of Rory’s ongoing campaign. It will act as a forum for all communities wishing to get involved in the BDUK pilot roll-out of NGA broadband throughout Cumbria  – the pilot that was secured last month as a result of Rory’s campaigning and lobbying of Ministers and Government. He is now working closely with the Leader and Chief Executive, Cabinet members and officials of Cumbria County Council, and civil servants from BIS’ specialist broadband unit, the Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to implement the roll-out.

Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, said: “I was delighted to announce the support for Cumbria. I was particularly impressed by Rory Stewart’s approach and advocacy of broadband for Cumbria. He and the Cumbrian communities should be very proud of what they have achieved.“

Rory commented: “Our broadband conference in Rheged in September allowed us to demonstrate the community approach to Ed Vaizey, the broadband minister, to senior members of Obama’s broadband team (who we flew from the States to Penrith) and to broadband companies. To my surprise, many companies, which would traditionally never have considered an area like Eden, responded to the community offer with their own solution. Government is now also responding. We have secured one of four national broadband pilots and we have received financial support from the Treasury.  We now have a chance of establishing the fastest broadband network in Europe in the most sparsely populated constituency in England, allowing us to develop the first hyper-connected rural community in Britain.  But, we are only an inkspot. Our dream is, if we can prove the model in Eden, to expand this first to the whole of Cumbria and then to all the rural areas of Britain.“

Broadband champions young and old are being encouraged to get involved by joining the online community and setting up their own parish’s dedicated broadband site, with help from Rory’s team. Sites for Lyvennet Valley and Matterdale have already been established and the site’s membership is growing hourly. Members will be encouraged to befriend and network with other members, set up groups, start discussions in the forum, and discover broadband related news, information, and events. It is Rory’s hope that the site will become a thriving online community that will not only share information, but will continue to put pressure on central and local government and suppliers, and inspire all to bring superfast broadband to all of our Cumbrian communities.

Rory encourages anyone with an interest in connecting their village to superfast broadband to join at



Discovering Eden

Sir John Mandeville, the great medieval traveller, claimed to have visited almost every place in the world except the Garden of Eden: he describes China; he describes a country of “eternal darkness” which appears to be Afghanistan. “But of Paradise,” he writes, “I cannot speak, for I was not there … which I much regret.” He was looking in the Middle East, but Eden is in Cumbria. And I walked this autumn through it from the source of the Eden river to the sea.

I last walked along a river when I walked the Hari Rud in Afghanistan in January 2002, shortly after the fall of the Taliban. I am not good at explaining why I chose to walk, but I have never found a better way of learning to love a place. The short distances allow me to stop in villages I would never otherwise have visited. (I stayed in 500 different family houses on the walk). I remember the Hari Rud as a slit in a stony desert, with faint traces of mud settlements and castles. It took me seven days upstream to reach the narrow deserted gorges, which concealed the lost city of the Turquoise Mountain, destroyed by the armies of Genghis Khan. In the mountains around, the ethnic groups and dialects and religions changed every few miles.

Now I was walking downstream in Cumbria. It was a holiday: I hoped to let my thoughts settle, but I also hoped to learn more by walking the ground because the Eden is the vital artery of the constituency of which I am MP. Eden, too, was once a place of conflict. For 400 years it was a north-west frontier province of proxy wars against Scotland. And these were not the first fights. Beginning at the source, among the dark rivulets of the Mallerstang Valley, I soon passed the castle of the slayer of Thomas Becket. Ten miles later, I passed Crosby Garret, where a Roman frontier cavalryman had discarded a glittering mask and helmet. (It was dug up in May this year). By the time I reached the narrow deserted gorges at the very centre of the river, I was in green, fertile land. But the valley was always shadowed by the limestone hills and their histories.

Eden attracts far fewer visitors than its beauty deserves, perhaps because it is not what a visitor to Cumbria expects. When a tourist climbs Wild Boar Fell from Garsdale in Yorkshire, or walks from Martindale in the Lakes or Alston, in the Pennines, they cross moss and becks, beneath mists and eagles. And if they glimpse, 1,500ft below, a great, cultivated river basin, stretching towards a fertile plain and the sea, they must be tempted to ignore it. After all, it doesn’t make sense. How could it be there – this great flat slab of sandstone, 90 miles long and 20 miles wide? How could it wedge itself between the limestone mountains of the dales, the fells and the borders?

The bare line of the Pennines which runs north from the castle at Brough to Hadrian’s Wall is formed from sea shells 300m years old. But the Eden Valley is the remains of a dark red desert. It is 70m years younger, and it does not seem to know its place. The desert has become an oasis. Its rich grass can feed dairy cows, not simply sheep. Its trees are not the stunted hawthorns and mountain ash of the high hills, but broad sessile oaks and chestnuts. There are fat salmon in the river. If Wordsworth, who lived most of his life in Cumbria, rarely acknowledged Eden, it is perhaps because it did not fit the melodrama of his Lakes. Only WH Auden has found poetry in such impertinent geology. During the second world war, he wrote, in “New Year Letter”:

Whenever I begin to think, an English area comes to mind.

I see the nature of my kind as a locality I love.

Those limestone moors that stretch from Brough

To Hexham and the Roman Wall

These are the symbols of us all.

There where the Eden leisures through its sandstone valley

Is my view of a green and civil life that dwells

Below a cliff of savage fells

From which original address

Man faulted into consciousness

I stayed my first night in the Tufton Arms in the county capital of Appleby. The hotel is at the base of the great avenue of sandstone buildings – lavender and russet and scarlet – that runs from the moot hall up the hill to the castle. This urban civilisation was laid out in the 17th century by Ann Clifford, one of the first female magnates of England. But its civil life persisted in the shadow of other ways of life. For hundreds of years, clans of gypsies and travellers have come from the south and across the sea from the west, pitching their caravans and carts on the foothills above the town for the horse fair. I watched hundreds of girls in sequins and bare-chested boys, under the eyes of a hundred police, ride their horses into the Eden river and emerge soaked, to canter bareback through the streets. Billy Welch, the gypsy leader, had camped with his people in a circle of caravans above the town. He gestured to the volcanic cone of Dufton pike and said to me: “This earth is sacred to us – this is our Mecca – in this I recognise no policeman: none can take this from us.”

On the second day’s walk I drew parallel with the first signs of human consciousness – the standing stones. In each, it seems, the neolithic builders responded to the fells above. Long Meg and her daughters, a circle of 69 standing stones, echoes the saddleback ridge of Blencathra 20 miles west; Mayburgh Henge at Eamont Bridge echoes the line of the Pennine moors.

But Eden is also very much part of modern England. In Afghanistan, deep paths lead from each village to the river, where water is collected. In the open country, the Eden runs deep and free but at some villages it can feel abandoned, hidden behind cottages like a disused canal. The ethnic and linguistic and religious differences have faded. The old dialects once heard around the Methodist communities of the East Fellside and in the churches of the Lakes are heard no more. Only the place-names show there was once ethnic variety: Saxon (like Dufton, meaning the place of the doves), Celtic (like Penrith, meaning the red hill) or Norwegian (like Crosby Ravensworth, named after Odin’s symbol).

In Afghanistan, I would not have been able to have the deep warm bath at the Tufton Arms; nor enjoy the roast pork at the Duke’s Head in Armathwaite; nor find a companion quite like Robert Warburton, a dairy farmer. His and his wife’s family – the Addisons – have farmed beside the river for centuries. But his understanding of the river was scientific, not traditional. He taught me how the river can change completely every hundred yards with a new riverbed or a bridge. He pointed out the rare white-clawed crayfish that can only live over limestone because they need calcium for their shells. I learnt how phosphate-fed algae choked the crayfish and suffocated the lamprey. He showed the riffles, which suit the new-hatched fry, the pools for the parr and the runs for the adult salmon. He made the river seem more alive and changeable than it had ever seemed in Afghanistan.

But this science of the Eden was always shadowed by myth and geology. It is a place of Arthurian legend. Cumbria was one of the last Celtic kingdoms, on the old Roman frontier. After the Romans withdrew, it was defended by its warlords against Anglo-Saxon attacks. Pendragon castle near the river’s source is named for Arthur’s father. The henge by Eamont bridge is called Arthur’s Round Table. But if there is a Camelot here, it is not a monument but the volcanic cones of Knock and Dufton (whose name suggests a royal residence), on the joint between Eden and the Pennines. It is a symbol of creative energy at the geographical centre of Britain. As Auden continues:

Along the line of lapse, the fire of life’s impersonal desire

Burst through the sedentary rock

And as at Dufton and at Knock

Thrust up between the mind and heart

Enormous cones of myth and art

But it was not that distant history, nor the poetic myths, nor even Auden’s geological states and strata, which made this journey for me. It was the living English context. Robert was only one of 30 people who joined me for sections of the walk. John could differentiate a sessile oak at 50 yards. Simon walked 70 miles with me and taught me river management. A doctor opposite Great Corby showed me the meditation caves, which early Christian monks had carved like the Buddhists of Bamiyan into the cliff. And they were not simply studying the landscape but preserving it. I saw volunteers from the Eden Rivers Trust counting trout and crayfish, and weeding Himalayan balsam from the banks.

The last day took me through the ever richer land of the plain, past Hadrian’s Wall and through Carlisle, once capital of Scotland. I approached the great mouth of the Solway Firth and the west coast from which the Vikings came, and where fishermen still use Viking nets. The landscape by then had widened. I stumbled among mud flats, working my way back over hidden channels. The dark red of the Penrith sandstone and the narrow rapids of Lazonby were far behind. I was wandering, slowly, towards a flat horizon over smoke-smudged sands. And finally I realised that I was out of Eden. This great broad tidal channel, stretching languorously along the coast was no longer a river but the sea.

rural communities deserve fast broadband

Article first published in Farmers Weekly on 15th October 2010

Modern communities that are key to the prosperity of our countryside

I am often asked about my focus in Parliament and when I say ‘broadband’, people’s faces fall. The reactions I get imply that they had expected a conversation about high politics but are getting electrics and plumbing. However, the world is relying more and more on broadband and yet, broadband is concentrated in cities. It is becoming increasingly difficult to run a business without broadband. DEFRA is putting more and more of its forms online. New dairies face problems if they lose broadband access. B and Bs need to advertise on the internet. In my constituency of Penrith and the Border there are more self-employed people and micro-businesses than any other part of Britain. If we don’t get broadband our economy will be at risk.

Throughout rural communities, post offices and clinics are closing. We need to travel ever further, and bus services and roads are poor. Fast broadband would help these things. Patients could, for example, see a skin specialist in Kent down a broadband video link without ever leaving home. District nurses and GPs could stay in more regular touch with outlying villages. Children unable to stay for after-school activities could learn online. Broadband allows young families to live and work in villages, thus halting rural depopulation and keeping communities alive. It has become almost a fourth utility, like water or electricity: it is increasingly difficult to sell a home without broadband; schoolchildren are expected to do homework online: grandmothers rely on the resource to skype their grandchildren in New Zealand. These things depend on broadband, and are almost impossible for most rural communities.

This is why, in my constituency, I am determined that we get broadband for everyone, and fast broadband for the majority of constituents, by the end of 2012. Until very recently this would have been technically and financially unimaginable. Two months ago, we were being quoted 43 million pounds and told it would take five years. But today – although it’s never going to be easy – it looks like we will be working our way to a solution. Last week I was discussing a village in a remote valley in Yorkshire which has been connected by a wi-fi hub and then a microwave beam to fibre in a school, twelve miles away. The day before, BT offered to install infrastructure at a fraction of what we predicted. We have also been given the support of a very energetic group of civil servants. Things are, it seems, coming together.

But the most fulfilling part is working with communities. It is communities who will make it possible. Government and an MP can help by bringing in fibre cables, opening them up for public access, and encouraging investment. But in the end, particularly in the most remote areas, it will be down to communities to connect to their homes. Every day, I am engaging with discussion about light-waves, business models, and new uses of the internet. Every day is bringing me into contact with another Cumbrian community showing astonishing energy and determination. That is why when asked what I am focused on, I reply with a big grin: “Broadband’.

alston snow plough

Alston residents create community snowplough

Residents of England’s highest market town have come up with a solution to combat its winter isolation. Alston in Cumbria is frequently cut off by blizzards and snow drifts, with the past winter one of the most severe for a generation. The town has a number of co-operative enterprises, and the latest is the construction of a community snowplough. The snowplough is being put together by retired engineer Tony Pennell It combines a farmer’s tractor, parts of an old snowplough, a gritter and a snow blower.

Tony Pennell, a retired engineer, said:
“You look around Alston and everywhere you find little businesses that are co-operatives or group enterprises.”

The retired engineer, who worked for Vickers in Newcastle and Barrow is putting the machine together in his workshop.
Mr Pennell said:

“Up here the wind blows the snow all over the place and you get drifting of 3ft, or 4ft, maybe more in places, and that means the roads are completely blocked. So we thought, ‘let’s have our own village snowplough’. It’s a commercial plough and a commercial tractor, all we have to do is put the pieces together and we are up and running. It is very satisfying ploughing snow. It really is fun. We’ve had a lot of people volunteering to drive it, and will probably have to train three or four drivers so we have sufficient coverage.”

He added: “It is very satisfying ploughing snow. It really is fun”


wigton christmas lights


Wigton Christmas Lights

Rory Stewart MP for Penrith and the Border switched on Wigton’s
Christmas lights on Saturday 27th November in front of hundreds of
Wigton residents. After spending the afternoon watching a musical
concert at Wigton’s Methodist Church and walking and chatting to
stallholders in the town’s festive street-market, Rory led a walkabout
parade around the town centre alongside Wigton’s mayor Brian Warren
and local County Councillor Joe Cowell, accompanied by Nelson
Thomlinson School’s Sambandits drum band. A traditional carol service
followed the parade, with Rory joined by Joseph star Craig Chalmers on
stage for the countdown to the lights switch-on.











The MP for Penrith and the Border said he was delighted to be back at
Wigton, and commented: “Wigton is a very special place for me, and I
am proud to represent it. It was great to see the community coming
together to celebrate their town at this time of year. Despite the
fierce cold, there was a real feeling of public spirit, warmth and
pride in Wigton, which is especially apt as I have recently lent my
support to the Pride in Wigton campaign. Today really showcased all
that Wigton has going for it: its history and traditions, its young
people – a real credit to Nelson Thomlinson School – its community
spirit and, above all, its enormous potential. It has been a fantastic
day and I am honoured to be here. The music from the steel bands and
the rock group was a great example of how to include young people and
make a traditional festival fun, without losing its essence and

Councillor Joe Cowell said: “We are very grateful to Rory for coming
to support the people of Wigton and hope this is the first of many
times Rory will help to switch on our Christmas lights. It means a
great deal to the townspeople that our local MP continues this long
tradition. Since his election, Rory has been in Wigton on a number of
occasions confirming his support for the town’s future developments.
His recent visits included a tour of Innovia Films where he met
production workers along with the Chairman and the Managing Director.
He took time to meet youngsters from Thomlinson Junior School who were
helping to plant thousands of purple crocus bulbs through the Wigton
Rotary Club, as part of the ‘Pride in Wigton’ campaign, and also
attended Nelson Thomlinson School where he held two sessions with Year
Twelve pupils discussing his times in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as
his time as an MP. He has also met with members of the Town Council
and the Wigton Development Partnership to discuss a number of projects
and has promised to assist and lend support where he can. It is hoped
that Rory will be a regular visitor to Wigton where he is sure to
receive a very warm welcome from the townspeople.”

community hospitals


Community hospitals Joint League of Friends

Rory committed to fight for the north Cumbria’s community
hospitals in a meeting with representatives of the Joint Leagues of
Friends (JLOF) on Saturday November 27th at Penrith Hospital. Rory
emphasised the vital role of community hospitals and “the crucial
importance of supporting them”. Representatives from Wigton, Penrith,
Brampton and Keswick hospitals used the meeting to debate proposed
changes to the NHS structure and the effect on community services.
They criticised the lack of out-of-hours care in community hospitals,
and raised the needs of unpaid family carers.

Rory said: “Our community hospitals’ Joint Leagues of Friends really
is a fresh, energetic body of concerned and committed people. Its
existence as a pressure group is so important, particularly as we
strive to improve healthcare services across the board. They act as a
sounding board, a voice of support, an independent body to help
develop services, and lobbyists to reinforce the message that our
community hospitals perform such an important function. Cumbria faces
real health challenges, in particular a huge problem of distance,
demographics and rising costs. Our population is both growing and
ageing; our care homes are closing; never have community hospitals
been more needed. We must continue to voice our support for them and
strengthen their position as local centres of real excellence in
healthcare. We also have a unique opportunity right now to pioneer
groundbreaking telemedicine and other healthcare-related services via
the internet now that we have secured Government funds to vastly
improve broadband access in the constituency. Alston’s League of
Friends, for example, is championing their hospital as the ideal
test-pilot for superfast broadband connection and its associated
healthcare benefits. Clearly, our community hospitals would be the
ideal places to trial such initiatives.”

Dr Kay Harper, Chairman of the Joint League of Friends, said: “The
Joint Leagues of Friends of the community hospitals of North Cumbria
were very pleased to have the opportunity to meet with Rory Stewart
recently at Penrith Hospital. We had a very helpful discussion on the
coalition government’s plans for the restructuring of the NHS and how
this would impact on Cumbria and its community hospitals. We expressed
our concerns about hospital bed reductions in Cumbria and the possible
effects of social services funding cuts on care at home. We discussed
the problems associated with the closure of some local elderly care
homes and outlined the strengths of the community hospitals and the
services they provide. Mr Stewart expressed his support for the
community hospitals and the work of the Leagues of Friends. He said he
realised that community hospitals were highly valued by local
communities and played an important part in providing health care
close to people’s homes.”

Rory has agreed with the JLOF to continue to closely
monitor community hospitals in Penrith and the Border and has proposed
chairing an independent report on the hospitals’ positive impact on
patients, their families and communities in his constituency.

big society

Big Society vanguard put Whitehall on the spot to remove bureaucratic barriers


The community coalition in the Eden Valley Big Society ‘vanguard’ want to break down barriers and remove stifling regulation to change their local area – and have put civil servants on the spot in the process.

At an event in Eden Valley on Friday (5 November) organised and chaired by Rory, nearly 150 people from community groups took control and put their case for progress directly to civil servants from government departments, who in turn want to down the barriers in the way of progress.


The Eden Valley have relished in their vanguard status and have some ambitious plans proposed for the area, including:

the installation of rural broadband, which could benefit over 60,000 residents;

ensuring neighbourhood plans deliver more affordable housing;

installing a hydro-electric generator on the Eden River;

developing better public transport provision in rural areas;

letting the community decide how council budgets are spent.


The Big Society is a revolution in terms of how the civil service are operating. Instead of only being focused upwards on providing advice to Ministers, Whitehall is now putting those resources at the service of communities nationwide.

Representatives from government departments (including DCLG, Defra and BIS) spoke  about each project, and gave people and community groups direct advice on how to navigate the various terms, conditions, rules and regulations. This direct support will also see departments completely removing barriers where they can, or making special concessions to see that community groups can do it for themselves.


Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark said:

“It’s local people who have the energy and the best ideas that can transform communities, not us here in Whitehall. But for too long the stranglehold of bureaucracy has stopped citizens and communities from getting on and taking control.

“We need to stand national government on its head. We are going to work with communities not by telling them what to do from London but by listening and supporting where we need to.

“It’s great to see these exciting ideas emerging in the vanguard areas that will help us to understand and resolve the bureaucratic hurdles that get in the way of locally driven social action, essential to building the Big Society.

“As the vanguards are showing, there is no shortage of talented and passionate people out there who every day think ‘I could do that better – and probably cheaper to. I believe they are right and it’s these local innovators who need a government that actively supports them in their endeavours.”


Rory said: “Cumbrian communities epitomise the Big Society. These communities prove repeatedly that they know more, care more and can do more. They were constructive and creative about everything from affordable housing to broadband. But I was also really impressed that a dozen senior officials came (many giving up their weekend to come from London) to spend hours, available to communities, thinking through how to bust barriers and help communities realise their dreams. I loved the buzz in the room and the flexibility on rural transport, broadband and local budgeting. We have had such positive feedback to the event. It is exactly why I became an MP and I hope to do many more. ”

Libby Bateman, project officer of the vanguard’s Upper Eden Community Plan said: “What an amazing day. We have been working on the Big Society concept for 6 months now and are only just beginning to realise the capacity that this has to make positive and lasting changes for our communities.”

David Graham of the Lyvennet Community Trust said: “The Lyvennet group came away positive, although we gave some people a hard time! The Eden Big Society Great Asby event brought together community representatives with a range of key players from government departments, agencies, councils and third sector groups. Itrovided an ideal opportunity for us to share ideas, explore processes and support opportunities all with one aim: to deliver community aspirations.

The Lyvennet Community Planning Group representatives came away, inspired, further enthused and confident that its projects are deliverable with the support of Rory Stewart as our champion, and the multitude of agencies offering support. We have never expected additional funding, simply assistance and simplification of bureaucratic processes. The Great Asby event confirmed our hopes that this will be achieved. The buzz in the hall with over 200 attendees networking, sharing ideas, problems and solutions was inspirational.”

Over the past few months, four vanguard areas across the country have been given dedicated support from civil servants to nurture their Big Society project – turning them from ideas to reality.

Their job is to remove the bureaucracy and red tape that impedes community action. Many similar barriers have been identified, including:

accessing the right information;

navigating around the various Whitehall contacts and agencies;

cultural barriers and perception problems in Whitehall.

The three village communities in the Eden Valley want to deliver better value for money solutions to problems ranging from the need for cycle and footpaths to affordable housing to high speed broadband access for every home in the Eden Valley. They have been frustrated by the various tiers of government and its agencies ‘at every turn’.

Progress to date includes:

Cumbria is now named as a pilot area for superfast broadband and BIS / CLG are working alongside Broadband UK and other officials to support the community in participating in the next steps;

CLG / HCA officials have made significant progress in working closely with Eden Valley communities and enable them to identify the local housing they need be built;

CLG is brokering discussions with the community and the council over how we can give more power to the community over local budgets; and

Support is being provided to help with the take over of community assets (e.g. pub), development of local renewable generation and community transport schemes ideas.

Investment in Offshore wind farms and opposition to onshore wind power in Cumbria

Rory has applauded today’s announcement by the Chancellor George Osborne of an investment of £200 million for the development of offshore wind.

Mr. Osborne has also pledged funds towards manufacturing infrastructure at port sites, in a clear sign that the Coalition Government is moving away from investment in on-shore wind turbines, which was subject to a debate in Westminster Hall last week and was supported by Mr Stewart.

Rory said: “I continue to vocally support all constituents who are deeply concerned – as I myself am – at the increase of these wind turbines in our countryside. This, I believe, is an issue of national importance, and certainly in Penrith and the Border – since election – I have supported dozens of constituents on wind farm proposals that affect then, from Beck Burn in Longtown (with whom I will have a meeting on November 6th) to Sleagill and Reagill (I am in close touch with CARST and hope to attend a site visit and meeting in the near future). I have been fully briefed by Ministers on the Berrier Hill case, which sets an important precedent, and have met with and learned from many who were involved in the Berrier Hill appeal.”

Prior to last week’s Westminster Hall debate on the efficiency of on-shore wind power, Mr Stewart wrote to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the Rt. Hon. Chris Huhne MP to state his position clearly.

He said: “In an email to Chris Huhne I laid down a clear marker on behalf of Penrith and the Border that our constituents are overwhelmingly opposed to onshore wind farms in our constituency, and I strongly support the community’s view on this. Wind-farm developments are not just visually inappropriate in our landscape but also – with an economy over-dependent on tourism derived from our natural landscape –  economically damaging. The investment on off-shore wind is a very welcome development for Penrith and the Border.”