Just over a year ago the region was devastated by Storm Arwen, with thousands of farms, homes and properties being left without electricity and some outlying areas not having power or heating for up to 18 days.

On Friday, November 27, 2021, winds of between 98mph and 110mph tore through the region, cutting a swathe through coastal and rural communities from the Scottish Borders to Durham, North Yorkshire and beyond.

An estimated one million trees were brought down at Kielder Forest, Northumber-land, causing widespread damage and destruction to plantations and properties.

Hundreds of trees were strewn across rural roads, preventing access to isolated communities and vulnerable people, and countless properties were left wrecked, with roofs, chimney pots and gable-ends collapsing.

Damage from Storm Arwen

Damage from Storm Arwen

Bruce Jobson, who lives in Northumberland, said: “Storm Arwen was described as a once in 200-year event but it was a living nightmare as it battered properties through the early evening and night.

“What made matters worse was the lack of communication available due to the power outage.

“No-one knew what was happening, nor if and when power would be reconnected.

“Distribution Network Operator Northern Powergrid received criticism for its lack of communications strategy and co-ordination in rural areas that did not have television and telephone connections for information due to the storm.

“Elderly and vulnerable people went days without heating and hot food, not knowing when power would resume.”

One source of communication failure was that mobile phones ‘crashed’ within hours as they couldn’t be recharged and, more importantly, mobile phone masts were left without power.

“With traditional telephone lines down many people hoped mobile network communications would provide information and contact to the outside world, including access to Northern Powergrid and emergency services.

Damage from Storm Arwen

Damage from Storm Arwen

“But mobile phone masts crashed after about eight hours due to a lack of backup generators and fuel storage,” says Bruce.

“Some people were ‘left in the dark’ for days on end without phones and internet connections. Thankfully, a new Virgin 02 mast near outlying Rothbury is to have backup generators in the event of another such power outage.

“There is no planning law to compel mobile phone operators to include backup generators as part of planning processes, but local authorities should strive to get mobile phone operators to include backup systems which enable customers to make contact in the event of power outages.

“Perhaps this needs to be legislated by Government for any future phone mast planning applications.

“That way customers will have mobile access as long as mobile phones and electronic devices have battery supply, allowing family and friends to make contact and check up on elderly relatives.”

The total repair cost of Storm Arwen is expected to run into millions. Some plantations, however, may never recover – especially where trees were brought down in inaccessible locations.

It will take at least 30 to 50 years for replacement plantations to fully regrow.