Monthly Archives: November 2011

warm homes project

Rory has applauded the work of the Cumbria Affordable Warmth Partnership, who today announced the launch of their Warm Homes Project. The project aims to promote warmer homes by ensuring that all Cumbrians can access a free survey of their property, enabling them to understand how best to insulate and heat through the provision of a home energy report.

Rory said: “Heating our homes in Cumbria is a real issue, particularly as many are pre-20th century stone structures that are extremely costly to heat. There are often fairly simple solutions to issues of insulation and heat retention that constituents can pursue, and this free energy report will be an enormous help – and saving – to many. Particularly at a time when it is becoming so difficult for people to afford to heat their homes in increasingly cold winters, I encourage anyone concerned about heating their home to take advantage of this offer.”

More information about the scheme can be accessed at

home swap direct

Rory has welcome the government’s launch of its HomeSwap Direct scheme, providing tenants of social housing with new opportunities to move anywhere in the UK.

HomeSwap Direct will mean that for the first time there will be a system in place across the whole of the UK, meaning that tenants looking to move, whether for a job, to be near family, or to a property better suited to their needs, will be able to see all the available homes across the whole of the UK, not just those on the website subscribed to by their current landlord.

Some councils, such as Kettering, already run localised schemes but Homeswap Direct will link them all together across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Rory said: “This is a great step forward, allowing people more choice in their moves. I have personal experience of constituents wishing to move to other parts of the country, to be nearer their loved ones, or perhaps to access family care that they would not necessarily receive here. Often a home that better suits their needs can be further away, and they would previously have been unable to access such properties. Government is doing all it can to make the move within social housing schemes as straightforward and stress-free as possible, and this is a very good start.”


thacka beck


Rory visited the Environment Agency’s £6.2million flood alleviation scheme at Thacka Beck last Friday, inspecting the major work that has been undertaken to reduce the risk of flooding in Penrith. The scheme, which has reduced the risk of flooding to 263 homes and 119 businesses in Penrith from 20% to1% in any one year, has involved the fixing and replacing of over 657 metres of culverts underneath the streets of Penrith; the building of a 76,000m3 storage reservoir that has been built upstream to hold back flood water; and conservation work around the flood storage basin to provide a wetland wildlife haven which the local community can also enjoy.

Rory was joined by Jez Westgarth, the Agency’s Area Environment Manager for Cumbria, who showed the local MP around the project. Rory said: “Homes and businesses in Penrith have experienced flooding four times in the last 16 years, most significantly in 2005 when 35 properties flooded, causing considerable damage to both residential and commercial properties. This is a great scheme that has given many, many residents peace of mind. The creation of a conservation area shows how, when we are flexible and thoughtful, we can bring added community benefits to infrastructure projects at relatively little cost. I’m very glad to be able to see at first-hand how successful this project has been.”

Picture below: Rory and Jez Westgarth at Thacka Beck





Rory has nominated local Dacre-based business Thermafleece for a place on the Made By Britain map, a project run by the Associate Parliamentary Manufacturing Group whereby Britain’s MPs nominate one product that is designed and produced in their constituency for inclusion in the Made By Britain map of manufacturing. The project, which was launched by Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vince Cable MP, aims to raise awareness of the challenges facing Britain’s productive industries, and realign the outdated concept of ‘manufacturing’ in the minds of the public.
Rory said: “Made By Britain is a great initiative, and one that has real resonance in Penrith and the Border, which boasts several small-scale manufacturers who are part of the networks of small, profitable businesses that keep our local economy afloat. I was proud to be able to nominate Thermafleece, not only because it is such an innovative product that is both natural and kind to the environment, but because it also supports traditional uplands farming methods. I encourage everyone to look at the website and get a sense of the extraordinary range of manufacturers that exist in Britain. We must do all we can to promote them.”
Thermafleece’s page can be found here:



culture secretary visits penrith

Rory, was delighted that Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt  accepted his invitation to meet with local Cumbrian broadband champions and ‘virtually’ open the UK’s first Cyberbarn, situated at Bleatarn in Warcop. The Secretary of State celebrated the Cyberbarn’s opening by fusing together a fibre-optic cable, rather than cutting a ribbon, to herald a prime example of the next generation of broadband for rural areas and the benefits that this will bring for businesses, communities and citizens.

The Ministerial visit to Penrith and the Border was the latest in a series that Rory has organised. One of Parliament’s most vocal and effective advocate of rural broadband, and responsible for putting Cumbria firmly on the map as one of the four pilots for the Broadband Delivery UK rural broadband pot (resulting in a total investment of £23.8million to date), Rory said: “I am delighted that the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, was able to be here in Penrith and the Border. We were able to introduce him to some of the key players of the East Cumbria Community Broadband Forum, and it was a real honour to have him virtually open the Warcop Cyberbarn by actually fusing a piece of fibre-optic cable. It’s been great that the Secretary of State has seen just how effective our community broadband activists are here in Eden, and to see how Cumbria is driving forward the government’s superfast broadband agenda. I’d also like to congratulate Lindsey on the opening of the Cyberbarn, which will be an amazing resource for the people of Warcop and the surrounding area.”

The Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt praised Rory in his speech to a packed conference at Rheged to celebrate the tourism opportunities of the Olympic year ahead, saying: “Rory Stewart is a brilliant MP, who has done more than any other Parliamentarian to champion the case for rural broadband.”

Lindsey Annison, parish councillor and rural broadband campaigner, asked the Minister to fuse fibre optic (his first time) and gave a short presentation to the Minister about Cyberbarn, which has come into existence in three short months. Funding from UK Online, support from the Upper Eden Community Partnership, goodwill from many local people, and a gift of one mile of high specification fibre optic cable from AFL to connect the Cyberbarn to the village, have meant progress has been swift.

She said: “We are delighted that Cumbria’s broadband work is being recognised in Westminster, and that Cyberbarn has been able to splice the first piece of our fibre optic broadband with the Minister’s help,” said Lindsey Annison. “This is the first step in enabling Upper Eden and Cumbria with hyperfast broadband and we would like to thank everyone who has helped make this possible.”

The Cyberbarn is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday between 1 and 7pm and is situated between Warcop and Bleatarn. Rural broadband options such as satellite, fibre and 3G mobile are currently being demonstrated, as well as courses in UK Online Basics for the digitally nervous e.g. email, e-government services and safety online; DEFRA and CTS; smartphones and mobile usage; internet and social media marketing for small businesses; how to use Twitter, Facebook and Google+, and more technical courses on creating apps, programming, and fibre and wireless skills. Advice ranging from saving money on your utility bills and managing your finances, to community regeneration and environmental schemes is also available.

Hot desk facilities are available at a small fee for local businesses and teleworkers who need access to better broadband, and the venue is available to be booked for meetings, discussion groups, and gatherings. Everyone is welcome to drop in for a coffee and chat, young or old to discuss how this facility can help you.

Libby Bateman, Project Officer of UECP, is pleased that Cyberbarn has received this level of national government support and recognition so soon. “Upper Eden is a vanguard and pioneer in so many aspects of rural community life. Our progress with local planning and leading the way in next generation broadband is an exemplar for the rest of the country, so we should all be extremely proud of what this community is capable of.”

Photo: Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt ‘virtually’ opens the Cyberbarn as Rory, Miles Mandelson and Lindsey Annison look on:



secretary of state launches olympic programme in penrith

Rory today welcomed Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt MP, to the Rheged centre in Penrith for an inaugural event promoting the business and cultural opportunities of Britain’s Olympic year, and what this means for Cumbria’s tourism industry. The event brought together an unprecedented number of senior Cumbrians, industry figures and businesspeople, from Lakes Alive to the Lakes Hospitality Association and Hadrian’s Wall Heritage. The Secretary of State, alongside Eric Robson of Cumbria Tourism, James Berresford of Visit England, and Ruth Mackenzie of London 2012, hosted the two-hour morning event, called 2012: A GREAT Opportunity for Cumbria and the Northwest, before hearing directly from Cumbrian businesses in a lively question and answer session.

Rory said: “Enormous thanks are due to Cumbria Tourism for organising this excellent event. I, and many others, have lobbied hard to ensure that the Olympics benefit Cumbria as well as London, and am therefore delighted that the Secretary of State has chosen to launch his Olympics programme here in Penrith. I am even more pleased to hear that there will be a large marketing campaign next year to encourage people to holiday in and visit Cumbria. There was always a risk of focusing on London, and I am very keen that Cumbria makes full use of the torch relay, and am pushing for a bi-annual illumination of Hadrian’s Wall by different contemporary artists. With both Jeremy Hunt and John Penrose here today, this is another example of heavy-hitting Ministers visiting Penrith and prioritising Cumbria. I want to make sure that we become a central stopping point for every member of Cabinet choosing where to launch their national programmes.”


the olympics in cumbria

Rory is, today, welcoming Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt MP, to Penrith, in an event to highlight the business and cultural opportunities of Britain’s Olympic year. The Secretary of State will host a presentation at Rheged called 2012: A GREAT Opportunity for Cumbria and the Northwest, pledging his support to Cumbria to help the region make the most of events in 2012. His visit to Rory’s constituency follows yesterday’s announcement of the Olympic torch route, and the news that several lucky communities in Penrith and the Border will be able to witness the torch being carried by torchbearers as part of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay. The torch will leave Land’s End, Cornwall, on the morning of Saturday 19th May 2012, taking 70 days to reach its final destination.

On Day 33 (Wednesday 20th June), it will pass through Brough, Appleby-in-Westmorland and Penrith before arriving in Carlisle for an evening celebration. The following day it will leave Carlisle and pass through Wigton on its way to the West Coast.

Thousands are expected to celebrate the Olympic Torch’s journey through Cumbria, and it is hoped that the journey will increase tourism revenue and visitors to Cumbria.

Rory said: “The Olympic year heralds real opportunities for Britain, and I am delighted that the Secretary of State is visiting Penrith to showcase the potential that the entire north-west region has to offer. Our livelihoods depend on our landscape, our people and our culture: add to this our famous Cumbrian hospitality, and we have all the ingredients to be the perfect hosts for many of the visitors who will visit Britain in 2012. The opportunities for Cumbria’s economy are immense, and I am very much looking forward to being part of it.”


penrith mountain rescue

Rory, who is Chairman of the APPG on Mountain Rescue, visited Penrith Mountain Rescue’s Tynefield Drive base on Friday to meet with staff, discuss the team’s operations, and talk about their needs to move to a larger base in the area.

Penrith Mountain Rescue comprises a large team of 40 with three vehicles, covering a patch of 2,500km sq – the largest area of any LDSMRA mountain rescue team. Operating from a small 1980s purpose-built building, the large team are no longer able to operate from such a small site. The local MP met with core team members to discuss current operational challenges and to gain a clearer understanding of the group’s needs.

Rory said: “Anyone living and working in the area knows of the excellent work that Penrith Mountain Rescue undertakes throughout the year, whatever the weather or conditions. They perform an incredibly valuable role, and have adapted over their history to continue working from this base. However, like any operation, they have grown and evolved and now need to move to accommodate their very specific needs. They now cover all of the Eden to the Solway in terms of their Swift Water Rescue operations, and need to be able to respond to major incidents. I have pledged to do whatever I can to help.”

Chair John Whittle said: “With such operational frustrations, we have started to address relocating and establishing a new base. We wish to remain in Penrith, but need better access to main roads and roundabouts and bridges. As we want to get it right we won’t be rushing the project, but are delighted to have the support of our local MP.”

Picture attached. Caption, left to right: Rob Holden, Rory Stewart MP, Jane Wise, Nick Verrall, Steve Ullyart and Ian Clemmett (Leader)



fair trade at rheged

Rory has pledged to do all he can to help Cumbria focus on fair trade, both locally and abroad, at a conference held on Friday at Rheged. The event – Cumbria Local and Fair – was organised by Keswick Fairtrade enthusiasts Joe Human and Jo Alberti and chaired by Julia Aglionby of Armathwaite, and drew participants from all over Cumbria and the UK. The day included presentations on Cumbrian farming and the Fairtrade organisation. Cumbria already has a Fairtrade foundation on which to build, with more than 20 towns and 3 schools in the county already with Fairtrade status.

Rory chaired a session involving local dairy farmer Robert Craig and St Lucian banana farmer Stephen Best discussing how to build value into the food-chain before leading a stimulating discussion on the similarities between small-scale Cumbrian farmers and their Caribbean counterparts. He then pledged to sponsor an event in Parliament for the Fairtrade foundation on the Grocery Code Adjudicator Bill, highlighting the case for local farmers and producers.

Rory said: “Remarkably, many similarities exist between Cumbria and the Windward Islands. We are both characterised by smaller farming operations, and farmers who are becoming increasingly marginalised as they are squeezed harder by an inflexible supply chain that is effectively ruled by vast retailers. Corporate business is putting our dairy, poultry and livestock farmers under increasing pressure to be competitive in a market that is unforgiving. As in St Lucia – where the Fairtrade model has essentially rescued an entire industry – we need to adapt in order to recognise the immense value that our farmers bring to the food chain. Our uplands farms are the feeder farms for the lowlands; our dairy farmers operate in the largest milk-field in Britain. We have enormous potential to feed our country, whilst at the same time investing in our farms and thus our rural communities, making them sustainable for generations to come. Today’s conference has been a brilliant way of showing how fair business models can work both at home and abroad, and this is an excellent first step in making Cumbria synonymous with a fairer way of producing and consuming.”

Following presentations and lunch delegates split into workshop groups to discuss key aims and actions. Setting up a dedicated supply chain for Cumbrian-produced milk and establishing procurement support groups so farmers can more easily supply large organisations were among the suggestions. Educating people about the importance of buying Fairtrade and establishing a Cumbrian trademark were also identified aims. The NFU and Cumbria Farmer Network have both committed to supporting the creation of local marketing groups.

Organiser Joe Human said: “Is there something we can learn from the international movement and grow something similar in Cumbria? Rather than just committed families and individuals supporting local and Fairtrade produce, we could have a dedicated supply chain so there is a link between retailers and producer groups.”

98% coverage for mobile broadband

In a report published yesterday, the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee threw its weight behind Rory Stewart’s campaign to force mobile phone companies to provide coverage to 98% of the population.

Rory first raised issue of mobile phone coverage in May when he put a motion before the House of Commons calling upon the regulator, Ofcom, to increase its coverage target. Over 120 MPs joined his campaign, which drew support from people up and down the country, and the motion was passed unanimously.

In their report, the committee slams Ofcom’s current coverage target of 95% as ‘unambitious’ and backs Rory’s call for a 98%  coverage obligation. Last month, in response to the campaign, the Chancellor George Osborne also promised £150m of government money to increase mobile coverage. The money will be used to pay for new masts, with a procurement expected to begin next year.

Thousands of small and medium sized businesses in rural areas are hamstrung by inadequate mobile phone and internet coverage. The problem is particularly acute in rural Cumbria. 98 per cent coverage should allow hundreds of thousands of homes, schools, farms and businesses wto get access to decent mobile and internet coverage for the first time.

Rory said: ‘I’m really delighted the committee has endorsed the unanimous vote in parliament in support of my motion. It’s absolutely vital that we get decent mobile coverage to everyone in rural Britain. It will help families to stay in touch and businesses to prosper. I have fought hard to get the government to recognise the importance of this issue, so it’s really heartening to see the committee give the campaign its full support.”