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Countryside Matters
Burning Issues

Rural Proofing; Railways

Rural Cash Machines

Tourism needs 'Brown' Road signs


Burning Issues 2002 also 2001 : 2003 : 2004 and 2005

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May 2002

Rural Proofing?

or should that be ‘London Proofing’?

The idea that all policies should be scrutinised to make sure that they can be applied equally to town or countryside is essential to the well-being of rural areas throughout the U.K. Access to public transport is one such policy that needs constant vigilance, otherwise the few rural services available may be removed and permanently lost.

A comment in the Times on the latest report on the national rail network from The Institute of Directors,(published on Monday 13th. May 2002) was headed “3,000 miles of line ‘should be closed’”. This must be a warning to all concerned with the welfare of rural communities. The report says that 70% of all train journeys begin or end in London but the South East train companies receive less than an a fifth of total train subsidies. The premise of The Institute of Directors seems to be ‘if it cannot make a profit it should be closed’.

The Beeching cuts were a disaster for many communities, with heavy goods being forced onto the road network. Traffic through many country villages is already an unbearable burden. What happens if subsidies are withdrawn and a new round of closures begins does not bear thinking about.

Surely now is the time to be looking at the possibility of reopening closed lines to relieve pressure on the roads, not the other way round. This could lead to an improvement in access for tourists to the amenities of the countryside without the need for more motorways and other access routes through areas of outstanding natural beauty.

However, even more threatening is the underlying thinking behind the report! There must also be a threat to rural postal services, rural telephone boxes, (yes! there still are people who use them. I know, because they sometimes use my gateway to park while doing so!), rural social services, rural roads, the list is endless.

6/6/02: - To this list must now be added rural cash machines.

The fact that ‘profit isn’t everything’ has been recognised for thousands of years! Jesus was quoting from the book of Deuteronomy when he said ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’ (Matthew 4 v.4 and Deut 8 v.3). The value of re-creation, nature and the environment must be taken into account by central government. We must look beyond mere profit to see what can be done long term, to protect, conserve and use to the full our beautiful countryside, the gift to us from God and generations of rural dwellers.

Ours to use but not to abuse.

T. W. Brighton May 2002

Railways 2005
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June 2002

Rural Cash Machines

Just over a week after writing on threatened railway closures comes the news that the banks are looking to withdraw cash machine facilities from rural areas and / or introducing charges for their use. Among others, as reported by The Western Morning News on Thursday 23rd. May, is Abbey National. They are looking to shut down 100 machines ‘mainly in loss-making rural areas’.

Banks have withdrawn branches from many rural towns over the past few years. Usually with the excuse that they are continuing to provide a service through ‘cash machine outlets’. In spite of the Alliance and Leicester making a pre-tax profit of £396 million last year they are quoted as saying ‘we are having to look at some machines to see whether they are viable on a fee-free basis. We may have to bring in charges . . . or withdraw the machines’.

Banks and Building Societies used to be called ‘Service Industries’ - some service! If we look to tourism to provide income for the more remote parts of the coutryside, where do tourists get their cash? Many purchases are for a few pounds only.

“Two Devon Cream Teas please, you do take a credit card don’t you?”

Rural Proofing? You must be joking!

Rural Cash Machines 2005
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August 2002

Tourism needs 'Brown' Road Signs

The Western Morning News (1st August 02) carries a report on a proposal to abolish many of the brown tourist signs following new government guidelines. For many small as well as large tourist attractions and small communities these signs are a vital way of alerting visitors to their existence as well as enabling them to find them.

There is naturally therefore horror at a scheme which could see Exeter Cathedral, Buckfast Abbey and the National Trust among a list losing their signs. Communities affected could include Tiverton, Barnstaple and Bideford (if there were changes to the classification of the A361/A39). Bypassed communities such as Ashburton, Okehampton and Honiton would have greatly reduced signs with at least half the destinations/symbols removed.

Devon County Council has already made representations to the Department of Transport. It calls for greater flexibility of the plan according to local needs if the tourism industry is not to suffer unduly. The Council also calls for the Highways Agency to be seen as the instigator of the change rather than making it appear to come from the councils themselves.

The report in the Western Morning News carries the results of a survey undertaken by its author Mr Russell Crisp.Not surprisingly this shows that most people involved in the tourism industry are against the proposals.

Our own experience while in Cumbria this summer is that these signs are vital if rural tourism is to attract visitors to places of interest, especially the remote or hard to find.

For further comments or details ‘watch this space’!

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