Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Coastal communities getting left behind

From the latest news from the New Economics Foundation:
NEF in the news, August 2018 | New Economics Foundation

Are seaside towns like Morecambe getting left behind?

Channel 5 News used our research on insolvencies and startups in coastal communities in their coverage of declining seaside towns. Watch

This summer, seaside towns and villages across the UK have never looked better, as hundreds of thousands flock to the coast to enjoy the benefits of being by the sea. But while it all looks good on the surface, for many of the people who actually live there, life is far from a picture postcard. Figures obtained exclusively by 5 News show that insolvencies are nearly 30% higher in coastal areas, and there is also 46% fewer start-ups than in inland areas. And wage packets are smaller too – recent figures suggest annual earnings are more than £3,500 less than those living elsewhere. 

Plans for Port Royal: BREAKING NEWS: a community bid for the Drill Hall launched > "Sidmouth Sunrise Drill Hall"

There has been considerable build up and interest in the prospect of a community bid for the Drill Hall over the last weeks:
Futures Forum: Plans for Port Royal: a community bid for the Drill Hall > raising awareness during Folk Week

Last night's Town Council meeting did not have this on the agenda as such:

But the issue was raised by members of the public and heated debate ensued amongst members.
And it was pointed out several times that it is now a year on since the Neighbourhood Plan steering group produced clear parameters for any bids:

In the midst of this, a specific community bid process has been launched:

Gillian Mitchell shared a Page.
Hi everyone I would like to introduce you to a brand new Facebook page that has been launched to back a community bid to buy the Drill Hall, engage in a complete restoration programme, and launch it as a community venue.
Sidmouth Sunrise would love people to get involved and make this a real community effort. So please do visit the page where we will post details of particular skills that we are looking for as the bid progresses. And of course we also just need you to register your support đź™‚
Would also love to read your memories of this special place.
Sidmouth Sunrise Drill Hall bid
Community Organization
Sidmouth Sunrise Drill Hall bid's photo.
Sidmouth Sunrise Drill Hall bid
254 talking about this
Jenny Placentino, Tracey Pile, Kate Summers and 24 others like this.
Graham Symington
Graham Symington
Ian Edgecumbe
Ian Edgecumbe we all loved going there for Army cadets with Jumbo Collins.

Sidmouth Remembers Public Group | Facebook

And here's the new Facebook site:

Sidmouth Sunrise Drill Hall bid
Community Organization

Sidmouth Sunrise Drill Hall bid - Home | Facebook

See also this blog's first posting:
Futures Forum: Plans for Port Royal: VGS and PRSG

And the quagmire that is 'viability':
Futures Forum: Plans for Port Royal: and viability

Open-plan offices are killing face-to-face communication.

Watch BBC Head of Values Ian Fletcher negotiate the tricky terrain of the office hot desks. 
Clip from W1A (BBC Comedy):
BBC iWonder - Is hot desking all good?

It's clearly not a good place to work - despite what our local political leaders would have us think:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: Open-plan offices have been found to reduce productivity and impair memory. They’re associated with high staff turnover. They make people sick, hostile, unmotivated, and insecure.

As is clear from this excellent piece looking at the issues, from the i-newspaper last month: 

Open-plan offices are killing face-to-face communication. Should we bring back the cubicle?

Production staff on the weekly fashion magazine, Grazia edit in a makeshift open-plan office. Photo: Getty
Friday July 13th 2018

There is a scene in the BBC’s self-flagellating comedy W1A in which Ian Fletcher, the corporation’s fictional Head of Values, gets the chance to explore “some of the possibilities offered by the open-plan work environment in New Broadcasting House”.

He wanders haplessly in search of a vacant computer – the few that are unoccupied are bedecked with handwritten signs declaring: “This is not a hot desk”, “Dunroamin” or simply “F*** off” – while overhearing a colleague, who has nowhere private to have her excruciating telephone conversation about Alan Titchmarsh having been voted the world’s second-sexiest man.

The next time we see Fletcher, he has built himself an office, despite this being against protocol, because “ultimately, in the big scheme of things, sod it”.

There are many who feel his pain – not least at the real-life BBC, where only 3,500 workstations were provided for the 5,600 staff at its new London HQ in a bid to generate collaboration and “positive crowding”. Despite being favoured by many employers, open-plan offices are the bane of many workers’ lives, and for some years, evidence has been mounting that they make us distracted, stressed and unproductive.

Permanent exposure

A study published this month in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences demonstrates that open-plan does not achieve one of its primary purposes: making us collaborate and communicate with our colleagues.

Researchers examined what happened when two major corporations switched from cubicles to open-plan working. Face-to-face interactions plummeted by 70 per cent, as employees switched to email and instant messaging. Ethan Bernstein of Harvard Business School said that while it seems logical that being close to your colleagues should mean more communication, things have become a little too up close and personal.

The comfort of office cubicles has all but been forgotten. Photo: Getty

“I’ve spent enough time on the Tube at rush hour to see that being packed together doesn’t necessarily lead to interaction,” he said. Being permanently exposed, he theorises, leads workers to erect their own defences.

“People put on huge headphones to avoid distraction. They stare intently at their screens, because they know people are watching and want to look busy. Then people looking at them from across the room see someone working intently and don’t want to interrupt. So they send an email instead.”

Importance of privacy

His findings might be unpalatable to companies who have invested big in the open-plan model. Few have gone bigger than Facebook, whose Menlo Park HQ in California boasts what Mark Zuckerberg hailed as “the largest open-floor plan in the world”, accommodating more than 2,800 engineers. But do they “like” their Frank Gehry-designed home? They’d be in the minority if they do.

An international survey of 10,000 workers by Ipsos in 2014 found that 85 per cent of employees are dissatisfied with their workplace and cannot concentrate. While 95 per cent said that being able to work privately was important, only 41 per cent said this was possible, and the average office worker lost 86 minutes a day to distractions.

And if the open plan isn’t too noisy – Steve from HR discussing last night’s Love Island – it is too quiet. Two Harvard professors reported in a 2011 article titled “Who Moved My Cube?” that employees who know they might be overheard “have shorter and more superficial discussions than they otherwise would”.

“Open-plan offices are really about saving money, says Lily Bernheimer, author of The Shaping of Us: How Everyday Spaces Structure our Lives, Behaviour and Well-Being. At best, the funds saved are put into common amenities, creating a variety of benefits and spaces for different kinds of work. But pros often don’t outweigh cons.”


Most, though, have come a fair way from the banks of desks in classroom formation favoured by industrialists such as American engineer Frederick Taylor at the turn of the 20th century. “Taylorism” was all about efficiency, and pioneered open-plan as a form of battery farm for clerical workers, with managers looking on from offices.

In the 1960s, German companies pioneered BĂĽrolandschaft, which cut down the them-and-us approach of Taylorism by bringing managers into a more organically designed open-plan mix, before Herman Miller pioneered the “Action Office” (aka the cubicle) later that decade.

By the 1980s, companies such as Apple were swapping suits for hoodies and pulling down the partitions, in a move that changed corporate culture almost as much as the company changed computing, and a decade later, amid a “virtual office” revolution prompted by developments in laptop computing and mobile phones – and a desire to reduce rent – advertising executive Jay Chiat was trumpeting the fact that his Los Angeles staff had been stripped of not only their cubicles, but of their own workstations. 
“Work,” Mr Chiat said in 1993, as hot-desking became the latest craze, “is no longer a place but a process.”

Some not-so-subtle messaging on the Facebook London HQ stairwells to encourage productivity. Photo: Getty

Fast-forward to the new millennium. Four years ago at Lego’s London headquarters, they took hot-desking to the next level with “activity-based working”. Gone were the offices and even the fixed seating; in came zones for quiet and team work, and lockers for belongings.

“All employees have to get used to the fact that they do not have a dedicated desk,” said Bali Padda, then the company’s executive vice-president, “and that their activities during the work day determine where they are – not what department they are part of.”

Office quirks

Shiny add-ons have become part of the workplace. Google’s Zurich HQ has a slide into the canteen and Deloitte’s Amsterdam base has a room on every floor in which workers can put whatever they want – table football features heavily.

With more people technologically able to work from wherever, the office – a bit like the high street shop – has become a “destination” to keep us coming back. Or at least, that’s true for the lucky ones.

“Many of these benefits are showered upon rising industries like tech,” says Ms Bernheimer, “while other workers find they don’t even have a desk to depend upon!”

Some of the trends are more substantive than others. More of us are opting to work standing up, as awareness that constantly sitting isn’t good for our health, although the roughly 1 per cent who have standing desks is tiny compared with Denmark, where it is a legal requirement to offer sit-stand desks.

A sweet dispenser decorated as a double-decker bus is displayed at Facebook’s London HQ. Photo: Getty

Mobile tech now means that we can be at work 24/7, wherever we are – which not everyone sees as a healthy idea. In France, employees have a legal “right to disconnect” and not answer emails outside of working hours.

Gideon Haigh, author of The Office: A Hardworking History, has said that technology risks making work “encompassing and inescapable”. The advantage of a physical workplace, however much we might moan about it, is that: “For as long as the office exists, it will be possible to get away and leave it behind.”

For all of the innovation a 2016 report for Oxford Economics contained a simple and perhaps surprising truth. Asked about the most important feature of their work environment, 1,200 employees from around the world cited the ability to focus and operate without interruptions more often than anything else.

“Leadership at some companies may think employees only care about bean bag chairs and free burritos,” the report’s authors noted, “but most people come to work to – well, work.”

Open plan offices 'killing' communication. Should we bring back cubicles? - i news

Monday, 13 August 2018

Sidmouth Food Festival >>> Saturday 18th August

Every August now, there has been a big food event held in the grounds of Kennaway House:
Futures Forum: Sidmouth Food Festival >>> Saturday 19th August
Futures Forum: First Sidmouth Food Festival >>> Saturday 13th August

And this coming Saturday sees it happening again: should be really good!

Sidmouth Food Festival at Kennaway House | Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

The Otter @ Radio 4's Natural Histories

We have otters in Devon:
Where to see otters in the UK - Telegraph
Two juvenile otters playing on the mill... - Devon Wildlife Trust

And we have otters in the Sid Valley:
Otter watch lauch at River Sid | Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

There are fears for their future:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and the County Council protecting Devon's nature >>> urging the government to guarantee protection for wildlife after Brexit

But there is so much interest in them that they should be guaranteed a place in our countryside:

With its playful, hand-holding, pebble-juggling ways, the otter wins the cuteness contest with its eyes closed. It's no wonder such a stunningly elegant and charismatic animal has been the star of films and books and the inspiration for thousands to make pilgrimages to rivers in Devon or rings of bright water in Scotland.
But do not be deceived. As Brett Westwood discovers, this elusive wild animal is a skilled and ferocious predator and, given half a chance, he'll have your fingers off!
Writer Miriam Darlington shows Brett the paw prints on the banks of the river Dart, and describes the first time she ever saw an otter.
Anthony Phillips, once the guitarist for global pop group Genesis, now composes music for screen and, he tells us, it all started with reading and feeling compelled to make music inspired by Tarka.
Dr Elizabeth Chadwick, who manages to slit otters open for science, explains how the otter's insides are a barometer of health for our environment.
Dr Daniel Allen charts the history of otter hunting from anglers removing fish-eating vermin, to a Great British summertime sport, and the legislation that saved them.
And Olivia Morgan reads Robert Macfarlane's spell for conjuring an otter, over the watery sounds of Joanna Newsom's Divers, in an attempt to evoke the slippery land fish that inspires such awe, devotion and fear.

BBC Radio 4 - Natural Histories, Otter

Climate change: the impact on agri-food supply chains

With changes in our circumstances will come changes in how we get our food:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and food security
Futures Forum: Food sovereignty in the UK
Futures Forum: Brexit: and food security: "A Food Brexit: time to get real"

And a very obvious change in our circumstances is what's happening to the climate:
Futures Forum: Climate change: and 'security'
Futures Forum: Climate Change: and Food Security @ Café Scientifique: Tues 19th June
Futures Forum: Climate change: meeting growing food demand and limiting warming to 1.5°C

Here is an excellent analysis from ADAS, the agricultural and environmental consultancy: 

2018 Heatwave: Evaluating the resilience of agri-food supply chains

Published on 


While the UK is not particularly noted for extreme weather, it is well known for the variability of its weather - from day to day, season to season, year to year and place to place. However, due to climate change, the UK is expected to experience more extreme events (e.g. heavy rainfall, flooding, heatwaves, drought etc.), which will put increasing pressure on food and drink companies to manage climate and weather related risks within their supply chains. This article reviews some of the key weather events in England this year and its impact on agri-food supply chains.

As the UK continues to swelter in above average conditions across much of the country, what have been the impacts on agri-food businesses? It seems a long time ago now (albeit only 3-4 months) when in March and April, much of England was hit by significant rainfall, classed by the Environment Agency as well above average across the majority of hydrological areas in England1. In addition, March exhibited two notable snow events, occurring at the start and in the middle of the month, gripping large parts of the country and causing widespread disruption to food supply chains as deliveries failed to meet their destinations.

It is fair to say that the winter was notably longer than recent years, and no sooner had spring started to kick-in, summer made an appearance shortly after. The Met Office has confirmed that it has already been the driest start to summer (1 June to 16 July) since modern records began 57 years ago (1961). On average the UK has seen just 47mm of rain during this period, and the average daily maximum temperature across the country for this period was 20.9°C — just below the 21°C recorded in 1976 (the hottest summer on record). 
Furthermore, Environment Agency monitoring sites show soil moisture deficits are larger than average for the time of year across all regions of England; river flows and groundwater levels are decreasing at many sites, and reservoir stocks are being heavily utilised, prompting water companies in the North West to announce a hosepipe ban, set to come into effect next month.
So what impacts have agricultural producers and supply chains been dealing with during this year’s extreme weather?
  • Food shortages - missed and failed milk collections due to blocked roads associated with the heavy snowfall led to widespread shortages of milk. Deliveries of produce and products struggled to get through the snow and ice, causing shortages in shops and distribution centres in some parts of the country. Panic-buying at some supermarkets further added to the problem as shelves were emptied as customers feared the worst.
  • Water shortages - burst pipes caused by the extreme weather led to water shortages for households and businesses across London and south east England, as well as some other areas.
  • Food shortages - the onset of warm weather caused the demand of some products (e.g. halloumi, barbeque food etc.) to outstrip supply, with shortages in some supermarkets as consumer demand peaked.
  • Reduced grass yields - grass yields started to be depleted in some parts (south and south east) as fields were scorched and dried out.
  • Increased fire risk - wildfires were prevalent across some heathlands and rough ground in some areas, largely started by arson.
  • Exceptionally high temperatures - a Level 3 Heatwave Action Alert was announced in England for the third time this year, with warnings for people and animals to stay out of the sun during peak times as temperatures soared above 30°C across much of southern and eastern England, reaching as high as 35°C in some parts.
  • Water shortages - producers in the East of England have been forced to halt irrigation due to water shortages. Some rivers have run completely dry (e.g. in Yorkshire Dales).
  • Increased fire risk - crop-fires have been an over-riding concern for many farmers, due to dry conditions. Thunderstorms in late July triggered wildfires on common ground also.
  • Reduced yields - harvesting has occurred earlier than average in some crops (e.g. oilseed rape) to try and manage moisture levels and early indications suggest cereal yields will be lower than average. A reduction in milk yields of up to 10% has been common in some areas due to livestock struggling in the hot conditions, although overall milk volumes remain abundant.
  • Reduced grass yields - grass yields are depleted across most of England as high temperatures and drought have scorched grass at field scale. Some farmers are resorting to using winter forage rations (as the grass has stopped growing), which may cause forage shortages in the winter.
  • Increased food waste - fruit (e.g. strawberries, raspberries, blackberries etc.) has been ripening in large quantities, much earlier than usual. Combined with labour shortages, fruit is not being picked quick enough and has led to tonnes of strawberries and raspberries being left to rot in the fields.
Foreseen impacts to come
  • Food shortages - some farmers have indicated that staple foods from bread to potatoes, onions, milk and meat may be in shorter supply than usual this year. Brassicas, such as broccoli and cabbage, are down in volume, and growers are having difficulty keeping some plants alive, indicating impending lettuce shortages etc.
  • Increased food prices -  food prices to consumers may have to rise, due to reduced yields and increased costs of imported raw materials.
  • Reduced straw yields -  shortages in straw for bedding are envisaged as straw length is reduced due to the impacts of the hot weather on the growth of wheat and barley.
These impacts demonstrate that resilience is being pushed to the limits for some agri-food businesses and supply chains. So what can businesses do to tackle climate and extreme weather threats given the uncertainty around what may or may not happen?
In essence there are two options. Firstly, the business as usual approach of ‘it may never happen’ (which would also involve ignoring the current extreme weather out the window), then in the event of disruption, putting all resources possible into recovering back to a normal state – if even possible, at significant cost. The second approach, which demonstrates good corporate responsibility, can deliver short and long-term economic benefits and ensures security of supply, is to anticipate the types of threat to agricultural businesses and along the supply chains, to assess the risks, take action where necessary and put recovery plans in place.
Information on many of the risks that climate change presents to the agricultural (and other) sector in the UK can be found in the 2017 UK Climate Change Risk Assessment. In addition, every five years the UK government sets out how it intends to manage the increasing risks (e.g. from flooding, drought, heat, sea-level rise and severe weather) in a National Adaptation Programme (NAP). Published this month, the second NAP for the period 2018-2023 sets out the actions that government and others will take to adapt to the challenges of climate change in the UK over the next few years.
To find out more about how ADAS can help your business identify and manage climate and extreme weather impacts; adapt and build resilience to extreme weather events; capitalise on opportunities associated with a changing climate; or help reduce carbon emissions through science-based targets, please contact Charles.Ffoulkes@adas.co.uk.

Information sources
AHDB (2018) 2018 GB Harvest Progress Results; BBC News (2018) Fruit 'left to rot' due to labour shortages; BBC News (2018) UK heatwave: Temperatures rise as alert continues; Committee on Climate Change (2018) The new National Adaptation Programme: Hit or miss? ; Defra (2017) UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017; Defra (2018) The National Adaptation Programme; Environment Agency (2018) Water situation: national monthly reports for England 2018; Farming UK (2018) Crops are 'being parched to the bone', NFU says; Food Manufacture (2018) Beast from the East causes disruption for food sector; Guardian (2018) British farmers fear fire as heatwave creates 'tinderbox'; Guardian (2018) Extreme weather could push UK food prices up this year, say farmers; Met Office (2018) Heat-health watch; Met Office (2018) The summer so far, official blog of the Met Office news team ; NFU (2018) Issues with greening and cross-compliance; and Telegraph (2018) Thousands of homes left without water.

2018 Heatwave: Evaluating the resilience of agri-food supply chains