Northumberland coastal community calls for power cuts action plan
A coastal community is calling for action to limit the disruption caused by storm damage.
Many residents in Craster parish were without power and mobile phone signal for several days after Storm Arwen last month.
It has led to calls by the parish council for generators to be put in place and for urgent discussions with telecommunications companies.
A volunteer group is also being put together to provide support for elderly and vulnerable residents.
Cllr Martin Smith, parish council chairman, told a public meeting: “This has been an incredibly difficult time for many residents being left without any power for days on end.
"The fact that our village has no mobile phone signal has also added to residents’ fears and isolation.
"It shows that climate change is real and can have a devastating impact on our communities.
“We need to think about what we can do to reduce the impact if this happens again.”
Although electrical distribution companies have a responsibility to support vulnerable residents, Cllr Smith said the extent of the damage caused by the storm and the strain it put on resources made this impossible.
He hoped the parish council and others in the local community could put a plan of action in place to help the power companies meet their obligations to the vulnerable.
Top of the wishlist was a generator at the sub-station capable of supplying the whole community.
"Failing that, we need to have somewhere safe for our vulnerable to be able to be looked after so, if generators can’t be provided for the whole community, we can create some warm hubs in Craster and Dunstan,” he said.
He had spoken to the owner of the Cottage Inn pub in Dunstan who was willing to allow the premises to be used for such a purpose if it had a generator.
It was hoped the village hall in Craster could be used in a similar way.
"Communication was the big difficulty,” he went on. “We need to have some way of having power to run wi-fi, internet and broadband.”
He hoped that a list of the vulnerable could be compiled, although he acknowledged data protection could be an issue, and ask those residents if they would be willing to accept support.
Residents with alternative ways of heating their homes, such as coal and wood burning stoves, could be asked to to help neighbours.
"If this happens again, I don’t want to find out that some people have been without any heat at all,” said Cllr Smith.
"Finally, what we need is volunteers to man the warm hubs and to go around the community and support those who have asked for it.”
He also suggested a coastal summit could be arranged to gauge the views of neighbouring communities.
Cllr Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council, revealed that it was planned to hold coastal summit early in the new year.
Meanwhile, parish council clerk Adam Shanley said that Vodafone, likely in partnership with O2, were aiming to improve mobile phone coverage in Craster which would require a new mast.
"We’ve been pushing for some time for this," he said. “Ultimately, we need to weigh up the community getting a mobile phone signal against those residents who will not like the look of a mast.”