Farmer’s bid to have land designated official offline black spot

A farmer is lobbying to have the land around her farm protected as an official offline black spot to boost off-grid tourism.

The owners of Creeside Farm near Galloway Forest Park, part of an officially designated Unesco Biosphere, are asking authorities to prevent the introduction of 3G, 4G and 5G networks in the area.

It is believed that if the proposal is successful it will be the first time this has happened in the UK.

Shepherd's Hut
The Shepherd’s Hut at Creeside Farm does not have Wi-Fi (Paul Chappells/PA)

Sarah Redman, of Creeside Farm, said that people who stay at their off-grid Shepherd’s Hut enjoy getting away from their phones and having a “digital detox”.

The Shepherd’s Hut at Creeside Farm also features in what is said to be the first “off-grid” map of the UK which pinpoints many of the best locations where people can switch off from emails and social media.

Ms Redman said: “Improving connectivity around the country is vital to all of our daily lives, but as important steps are made towards improving this in rural areas, it’s interesting to consider the impact it might have on some of our much-loved off-grid spots.

“Everyone who stays at our Shepherd’s Hut actually want to get away from their phones. The fact we don’t have Wi-Fi or reliable signal at our Shepherd’s Hut B&B is a big selling point.”

“South Ayrshire Council has just published a consultation document on planning policy for the area,” she explained.

“We have responded, asking that they consider introducing policy to create or protect a black spot on the land owned by Creeside Farm.

“This high level of protection doesn’t currently exist anywhere in the UK so what we are proposing is unique.

“We’re not looking to hold up improvements in connectivity across the region especially in communities where signal is poor.”

She added: “What we are proposing would look to develop a level of protection around the land owned by the farm, which would therefore stop masts being allowed to be put up within a certain proximity.

“It’s about restricting networks on a small area, and wouldn’t impact the ability to make emergency calls, nor stop connectivity being improved from the surrounding area.”

The bid, in partnership with Shackleton Whisky, comes as new research for the whisky firm found that more than half (56%) of 1,000 UK mobile phone users questioned found it impossible to switch off from technology.

Ed Forrest, co-ordinater of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Unesco Biosphere, said: “Unesco biospheres are all about connecting people with nature and we are fortunate in Galloway and Southern Ayrshire to have a Wild Place where you can really get away from it all.

“So, whilst this is an unusual proposal and we would have questions around its practicality for some of our rural communities and businesses, we do recognise that there are huge benefits to switching off and being at one with nature.”

The off-grid map, developed by Shackleton Whisky, features some of the remotest places in Scotland, as well as caves in the Lake District, and headland hikes in Cornwall.

Map locations were selected because they receive poor or no 3G, 4G or 5G signal within the surrounding area.

The top 10 included Glencoe Valley and Galloway Forest Park in Scotland, Cathedral Cave in the Lake District, Plover Hill in the Yorkshire Dales and Lady Clough Forest in Derbyshire.

The map can be viewed at https://offgrid.theshackletonwhisky.com.

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