Sunday, 24 May 2015

P-P-Pick up a Penguin

Lincolnshire scientist picked to study penguins in the Antarctic

'Iain Pringle, a geophysicist from Nocton in Lincolnshire, beat 2,000 other hopefuls to take part in the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust's yearly research scheme.'

A New Village Hall

Nocton - A New Village Hall - Survey Results

Nocton Village Hall

It is interesting to refer back to the comprehensive Parish Plan conducted in 2013, to extrapolate some information relating to our Village Hall.

"Built to encourage the social side of Nocton village life there has been a village hall in Nocton since 1946. The present building was a replacement to the first, which sadly burnt to the ground in 1979. It is home to Nocton’s Social Club and is an essential meeting place for Nocton’s many interest groups and Parish Council.

Whilst this building has served us well for the past 33 years a working party comprising representatives of the Parish Council, Village Hall Management Committee and Social Club is considering ways of updating and improving the building so that it can continue to meet the needs of the village for the next 30 years.

Most residents now work outside the village and according to the 2011 census we have a broad mix of skilled, semi-skilled and professional people of all ages. With 97% of those of working age actually in work and many travelling away (see census data, below), time for participation in village projects is clearly limited."

Population Information from the 2011 Census

Total residents - 819
  • 53 [aged 0 - 4]
  • 40 [aged 5 - 9]
  • 98 [aged 10 - 17]
  • 528 [aged 18 - 64]
  • 100 [aged 65 or over]

What does this mean for the village?

As this is the most recent survey regarding the use of the Village Hall, perhaps it is time to try and put some of this data into perspective.

I appreciate the recent survey was targeted at households, but it is actually individuals who use/do not use the facilities in this village. Hence, I have attempted to use the last recorded population figures from 2011 to calculate some percentiles for study.

I accept that the figures may give a rather erroneous picture, given that the survey sheets completed do not reflect every person's opinion in the household. Nevertheless, the information below may put some perspective on the numbers of people who live in the village and use our Village Hall. It is also important to bear in mind that the population of Nocton has increased since the last census in 2011.

Survey as a % age of the total population of Nocton
Survey forms issued - 310/819 [38%]
Survey forms completed - 103/819 [13%]

Survey as a % age of the population of Nocton aged 18 or over
Survey forms issued - 310/628 [49%]
Survey forms completed - 103/628 [16%]

Survey results of those who have used the Village Hall in last 12 months
As a % age of the total population - 71/819 [9%]
As a % age of those aged 18 or over - 71/628 [11%]

Survey results of those who use the Village Hall monthly
As a % age of the total population - 22/819 [3%]
As a % age of those aged 18 or over - 22/628 [4%]

Survey results of those who use the Village Hall once a week
As a % age of the total population - 31/819 [4%]
As a % age of those aged 18 or over - 31/628 [5%]

I believe this demonstrates the importance of making the new Village Hall attractive to the wider masses.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Superfast broadband - really?

Superfast Broadband for Nocton

You may like to read the text of the address that Nocton Parish Council delivered to Lincolnshire County Council's full Council meeting on Friday 15 May 2015:

"Mr Chairman and Members of the County Council.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address you on the matter of bringing superfast broadband to my village – Nocton, where I am proud to serve as a member of its Parish Council.  As you will see from the terms of our petition, we are asking that the necessary work to bring this about is brought forward in your broadband programme.  A number of residents, including our Chair and several of my colleagues on the parish council have tried to find out exactly when our village might expect to be able to benefit from the higher speeds available through super fast broadband but no-one at OnLincolnshire has been able to provide us with a satisfactory answer.  Apparently, it all seems to depend upon reviews, contract issues, technology and change requests to BT.  However, none of what has been said to us is of much help to those who rely upon the internet for their work, education and, of course, entertainment.

Nocton very much feels that it has been left out of the programme to bring superfast broadband to Lincolnshire.  Earlier in the year my Parish Council noted with considerable concern that despite a very upbeat article in the Winter edition of “County News” on the roll out of superfast broadband across the county, there was little sign of our village receiving the benefits of such investment.  Indeed, and to add insult to injury, in the map showing where it had already been made available, there was a large hole right over our village!

Councillors considered this to be even more disappointing given the fact that just a few hundred metres from the village, fibre optic cables have been laid along the B1188 to, it is believed, the exchange at Metheringham.  It was most frustrating to have watched this work going on for many months only to find that the benefits, like the cabling, had passed us by.

Download speeds for the residents of Nocton must be amongst the lowest in the county, if not the country.  Over the past few years, the number of properties in the village has more than doubled with the construction of two large housing estates.  It is most unfortunate, however, that there has been no corresponding upgrade in its infrastructure to support the increasing population.

In some cases residents moving into their new home have to experience download speeds not much higher than those available by “dial-up”.  Together with very poor mobile signals and lack of any meaningful infrastructure (for example, we have no shop or pub and only a part-time Post Office and infrequent bus service) residents of Nocton are, perhaps, entitled to feel hard-done by and it often feels that the world of technology has moved on without us!

In fact, hardly a day goes by when Open Reach workmen aren’t carrying out repairs to the elderly junction box outside the Post Office where, I understand, the ancient aluminium connectors are continually failing.  We are not even guaranteed a stable landline in the village!

As I mentioned earlier, this is not just about being able to download a programme from “Catch Up TV” – although trying to do so is no mean feat when you have to set things up before you go to bed and keep your fingers crossed that it will not have lost connection in the middle of the night!  Nor is it about the younger ones in our community being able to play the latest computer games with their friends elsewhere.  Important as these things are, they cannot compare with the priorities of supporting our local school and those residents who run a business or are required to work from their home.

As I believe has already been pointed out to the County Council, the education of pupils in our local school is suffering because of slow download speeds.  Perhaps I could quote our Head Teacher who has said recently that whilst small schools have been leading the way with projects such as digital feedback, his pupils cannot take part in events like this because our system is so bad.  If we are serious about Lincolnshire’s small schools thriving in today's world, then we need to have the ability to sell ourselves as technically equipped.  I am sure all here in this Chamber would wholeheartedly agree with him.  He goes on to give many examples of where lessons and other material streamed live into schools across the country has lasted less than a minute before his system crashed to the obvious detriment of our pupils’ education.

In addition, of course, I am aware through my role as a parish councillor of many people in the village who run a business from home or, of equal importance, are required by their company to work at home as is increasingly becoming the trend these days.  I have spoken to many such people and all are frustrated by the lack of an effective broadband service and to the effect this is having on them.

In conclusion, I do of course appreciate that Nocton is part of the rural community where things are not always as easy to achieve as they might be in larger towns and cities.  However, I am aware that many surrounding villages already have the benefit of superfast broadband and, on behalf of all who live and work in Nocton, I would very much hope the County Council will do all in its power to provide us with an effective broadband service as soon as possible – so that our village and its residents can finally join the 21st century!

Mr Chairman and Councillors, thank you for your patience in listening to me.

Councillor Mary Ann Williams, Nocton Parish Council"
Correspondence with OnLincolnshire

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know I too have been lobbying for a better service to this village.

By pure coincidence, I have just received a reply to my latest enquiry - the response is below:

From: Stephen Brookes [mailto:]
Sent: 18 May 2015 10:54
To: Geoff Hall
Subject: Enquiry to OnLincolnshire

Good Morning Geoff,

Thanks for taking time to write to us.

We are aware that even after the upgrade of Cabinet 3 off Metheringham Exchange, Nocton will see no real benefit given the distance the community is located in relation to the cabinet.

However, we were aware of this some time ago and have asked BT to survey Nocton, with a view to seeing what else we can do to improve speeds in the area. The survey work is ongoing and we will shortly receive details from BT to include anticipated speed uplifts, cost and benefits etc. At that point in time, we will consider how best we may be able to serve the community.


Steve Brookes
Lincolnshire Broadband Programme Manager
Tel. 01522 552450
Mob. 07825 043978

My follow-up reply

From: Geoff Hall
Sent: 21 May 2015 15:10
To: 'Stephen Brookes'
Subject: RE: Enquiry to OnLincolnshire

Good afternoon Steve,

Thanks for your reply.  You may already be aware that I write a local blog for the inhabitants of Nocton – see here:

You can search for all blog pages relating to our broadband issues by putting ‘British Telecom’ in the Search field.  However, in case you are not aware, a member of our Parish Council addressed full Council of LCC recently (see enclosed document for the transcript).  This is going to be published on my blog on Saturday 23rd - if you have any further comments to make on the whole matter before it goes ‘live’ then I would be happy to accompany these on the blog.

It would be helpful to have some sort of timeline for a resolution to our slow broadband service, as it has been dragging on for quite a while now.  At least, it would be nice to have more detail e.g. who funds the uplift; what expected speeds may be; the differing options of how this might be achieved etc.

Kind regards,
More detailed explanation

From: Stephen Brookes []
Sent: 22 May 2015 11:14
To: Geoff Hall
Subject: RE: Enquiry to OnLincolnshire

Good Morning Geoff,

Thanks for getting back to me.

I was aware that a member of the Parish Council had addressed the meeting last Friday and thank you for sharing the letter with me, which I hadn't seen previously.

With regard to Nocton, I will try to clarify the position as accurately as I can, but equally, I am also very happy to attend any meeting in Nocton to discuss more fully.

The vast bulk of Nocton is fed from Metheringham Exchange and via Cabinet No. 3. This cabinet was upgraded on 2nd July 2014 and at the time, this cabinet served a total of 528 premises. Upon completion, over 60% of premises fed received Superfast broadband, but clearly a good percentage didn't and of those that didn't, some received double figure download speeds and some were actually no better off than previously.

The cabinet is situated a good distance form Nocton and it is the distance that is the critical element. We were aware of this when BT modelled the whole of the county, in as much as some postcodes were placed into Phase 8 of this project (between Jan. 1st 2016 and March 31st 2016), in what we deemed the 'Infill' phase, where those premises not getting 2Mb/s would be upgraded using alternative technologies. This still applies, but things have changed slightly in as much as the Minister declared that all sub 2Mb/s premises in the UK would be upgraded before the end of 2015 and that satellite technology would be used. We will of course comply with this, but I should stress that we are still waiting guidance as to how this will physically be achieved. We believe that we will pay for the installation, equipment etc. and the end user will decide which package they want and pay the monthly rental as normal.

In addition, after cabinet 3 was completed, we received a quarterly report from BT to indicate the speeds achieved by all premises fed from this cabinet. At that point, we had identified a gap where Nocton was concerned and even though we always had the Phase 8 scenario to use and a number of Nocton premises were included in this phase from the day we signed the contract, we felt that we should look to do something more given the size and density of Nocton. Nocton isn't alone in this scenario and we have a list of other communities that is continuing to grow as we move forward.

With regard to Nocton, we have asked BT to survey again, with a view to locating a new cabinet closer to the community and picking up the copper feeds going into Nocton. This will shorten the length of copper and provide much faster speeds to the area. Clearly, this wasn't a part of the original planning and there is additional costs associated with this work. We will await the survey results due in the next couple of months and assuming costs aren't too high, we will look to use what we call Change Control to instruct BT to carry out the additional work.

With regard to funding, the original build plan fully utilised all funding so in theory at least, there is no funding left within this contract to carry out this additional work. However, we are looking at realising a significant underspend as a result of driving efficiencies throughout and this has to be reinvested into the infrastructure and it is this funding that we will look to use, subject to it materialising.

In terms of timescales, we will deploy the satellite solution as required by the end of 2015. BT and LCC will agree any underspend after the end of this project, so in the summer of 2016, but in the interim, BT will have fully planned the alternative solution ready for the green light. If I can persuade them to deploy some of the underspend before contract end, we may be able to complete much sooner, but that cannot be guaranteed.

In answer to the question, 'Why didn't we move the cabinet in the first place?; had we done so, we would have had larger negative effect on the remainder of premises fed from this cabinet in other areas.

I must stress that the objectives of this project are aligned to Government targets of 90% Superfast coverage across the county, with 100% being able to get a minimum download of 2Mb/s. I am confident we will achieve this.

With regard to priorities, we will clearly need to maximise value for money and coverage from any underspend and this will be assessed and executed in a consistent and entirely transparent way and no community will have any priority over others in terms of the evaluation exercise.

I hope this helps clarify things a little more.


Steve Brookes
Lincolnshire Broadband Programme Manager
Tel. 01522 552450
Mob. 07825 043978


From: Geoff Hall
Sent: 22 May 2015 12:21
To: Stephen Brookes
Subject: RE: Enquiry to OnLincolnshire

Hi Steve.

Thank you so much for the very comprehensive explanation. I shall forward this on to our local PC and publish it on the blog too. I think it will be useful for local residents to see the efforts that are being made in the background to solve our 'problem'.

We look forward to developments in due course.

Kind regards,
Sent from my Windows Phone
What about the competition - is satellite broadband the answer?

'It doesn't provide a comparable service to fixed broadband products due to the increased latency.'

Rural broadband: what are the options?

'Around 166,000 people in the UK are stuck in rural broadband 'not spots' and a further two million in rural areas have inadequate broadband.'

BT challenges Ofcom over broadband prices

'BT has challenged Sharon White, the new chief executive of Ofcom, to a court showdown over the communications watchdog’s decision to introduce restrictions on the wholesale price of superfast broadband. '

BT's taxpayer-funded broadband monopoly may lock out rivals, says independent report

'BT’s monopoly in supplying Blighty’s national broadband scheme may have permanently locked out future competition – according to an independent report card on the £780m public purse project.'

Friday, 22 May 2015

Vattenfall - consultation documents

Vattenfall showcases Nocton Fen

'The material covers its detailed assessment and design work to date, the potential environmental effects of the proposals and measures to reduce their impact. It is being released ahead of a final Environmental Statement and submission to the Planning Inspectorate in 2016.'

Consultation to begin on proposed Nocton Fen wind farm

'These photomontages will show people the potential visual effect of the Nocton Fen Wind Energy Project.'

  • It is a shame that Vattenfall were unable to find a suitable venue in Nocton to display their material. It appears from the above publication that the initial intention was to use the Village Hall for this purpose, but for one reason or another this did not come to fruition.
  • As this is one of the main villages likely to be affected by the construction and operation of the wind farm, it is important that the material is easily accessible for local residents to study. I hope in future the Village Hall will not be excluded from having this facility, especially considering all the other locations that have given permission.
  • Of course, the same facility should of course be offered to the local campaign group PNF, so that the Parish Council can show full impartiality over the matter. It is all about good information dissemination rather than who supports what in my opinion.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Vehicle Theft - Wasp's Nest

Neighbourhood Alert

Email received today at 6.11pm from:

Sarah Kennedy (Support, PCSO NC38 Sleaford Rural North, Sleaford Station)

Good Afternoon,

A vehicle has been broken into via passenger window and a gym bag was taken between 1300 - 1340 hours on 21/05/2015.
  • Did you see anything suspicious, any people or vehicles in the area around this time?
  • Do you have any CCTV that may assist us?
If you have any information please call 101 and quote incident number 208 – 21/05/2015

Many Thanks
PCSO Sarah Kennedy 2248