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The Friday five 10.02.23

Published on: 10 Feb 2023

It's the Friday Five. This week: ancient humans in Suffolk, choughs in Wales, Britain's first Wurlitzer and the reason why coalmines are the future. Oh, and some jobs.


Location: Lowestoft or Woodbridge

The job: “This lead planning role will focus on the delivery of allocated strategic scale sites and supporting infrastructure. With two recently adopted local plans the council is fulfilling its ambitions for growth by working to secure the timely submission of legally compliant applications, planning permissions and their implementation to meet the requirements of the development plan.

“The role will involve a considerable place shaping responsibility for several new garden village and garden neighbourhood communities for up to 2,000 homes. Achieving high-quality, well-designed places will be a leading responsibility alongside addressing environmental effects and mitigation, both locally and cumulatively in the district.

“You will lead the planning process for the delivery of strategic sites and garden neighbourhoods/villages across the district. This includes project management across teams as part of a single planning team approach that will include colleagues from other organisation/bodies, as necessary, to present a single point of contact with the site promoters to ensure a co-ordinated and effective interaction between all parties.

“In addition, you will contribute to the wider development management team, supporting colleagues to deliver planning decisions of all scales whilst also assisting Infrastructure Team to support infrastructure delivery through CIL, s106 and with external bodies. You will have a strong eye for urban design and good environmental awareness in decision making including experience of environmental impact assessments.”

Pakefield Man [square]Fun fact: In 2001, two amateur archaeologists found evidence of the earliest human activity in Europe, on the foreshore at Pakefield, just south of Lowestoft in East Sussex. The small flint flake found at the base of a cliff has been dated to 700,000 years ago. 

The activities of Pakefield Man (and woman, presumably) have so far yielded 32 such flints, along with a “huge quantity” of small mammals that have helped to date the finds. 

Paul Durbidge and Bob Mutch were both experienced amateur fossil hunters who had lived and worked the Suffolk shoreline for years. In 1994 a big storm uncovered a lot of material at Pakefield and the two men turned their attention to the foreshore there. After years of uncovering animal fossils they finally hit the jackpot – a worked flint that could only have been made by a human hand. The dating pushed the evidence of human occupation of Europe back 200,000 years.

Little to nothing is known about the humans in question except that they would likely have been a distant ancestor of Neanderthals and indirectly related to modern humans (who emerged around 300,000 years ago in Africa). With the many fossils that have been discovered in the area, it’s been possible for archaeologists to build a picture of the environment at the time: it would at first glance, they say, have been rather like the environment there today, but warmer and wilder with broadleaved woodland opening onto marsh and a meandering river.

But there the familiarity ends. Among the creatures living in this habitat would have been hippos, lions, giant beavers, giant deer, bison, rhinos, elephants, mammoths, wolves, bears, the ferocious sabre-toothed cat and a handful of early humans, too, trying to stay out of the way of predators. What would they have been like? It's hard to say, but they would have been much closer to modern humans in appearance than our closest living relatives, chimpanzees.

And, of course, they have the capacity to work flint to create cutting and smashing tools to slice and soften up flesh for consumption. This was, after all, around 200,000 years before early humans mastered the art of creating and managing fire for cooking.

Find out more and apply


Location: Mansfield/Hybrid

The job: “As a planning and development manager, you will prepare bespoke responses to consultation requests from local planning authorities, to ensure that new developments within coalfield areas are safe and stable. 

“The Coal Authority’s planning team currently deals with around 10,000 consultation requests per year, and provides advice to 181 local planning authorities across England, Scotland and Wales. We provide essential assistance and inputs into development management and development plan processes, but we’re also involved in influencing national planning policies, providing pre-application advice to the development industry and in supporting the Coal Authority’s own development projects.

“The successful candidate will also be involved in the delivery of pre-application advice to the development industry, and in our ongoing programme of proactive customer engagement. In time, the role will also potentially involve undertaking research, providing planning advice and making key inputs into the Coal Authority’s own development projects.”

Abandoned coalmine [square]Fun fact: Britain’s abandoned coal mines could soon be providing zero-carbon heat to millions of homes. How so?

Well, with their pumps turned off after closure, the mines are apt to fill with water. Given the depth of the mines, this water naturally warms to a steady temperature that, when pumped to the surface, is around 20 degrees Celsius. Using an electrical heat pump (like a fridge in reverse), you can increase the temperature further with minimal energy expenditure and use the water to heat homes and buildings. This water is hot enough to heat homes in winter and cool enough to keep them mild in summer.

It’s estimated by the Coal Authority, which basically owns these mines and is responsible for their future development, that a quarter of British homes currently sit on a coalfield, stretching across Wales, central Scotland, northern England, and the Midlands. 

Around two trillion litres of warm water occupy the old mine shafts – equivalent to more than a quarter of the volume of Loch Ness in Scotland. Researchers suggest that this makes mine water one of the UK's largest underused clean energy sources. It’s thought there’s around 2.2 million GWh of heat stored in these mines, with the potential to store more.

It was reported in 2021 that the Coal Authority was investigating 70 potential mine water heating projects and several are already up and running. This new source of heat would a) be cheaper than gas; and b) provide an alternative to heating through electricity that would place enormous pressure on the electricity grid.

Who would have thought coal mines would be the future, eh?

Find out more and apply


Location: Walsall, West Midlands/ Hybrid

The job: “We are looking for a highly motivated team member to take a lead role in project management for preparation of the Walsall Local Plan which seeks to deliver growth and regeneration in Walsall through delivery of new housing, employment and infrastructure. The position is a fixed term vacancy for three years on a 0.6FTE basis as part of the planning policy team within the planning and building control service area.

“Walsall is a regional town with a rich history and a bright future with potential to deliver significant development and investment projects. Walsall Council has been awarded £11.4m from central government for the Future High Street Fund Programme and £21.3m town deal funding to deliver urban regeneration, green transport and economic growth outcomes. Walsall has also secured £20m of Levelling Up Fund money for Willenhall.

“The role is to take the lead in the overall project management of the Walsall Local Plan preparation of detailed work plans necessary associated with the preparation of the plan, including management of a defined project portfolio with full operational responsibility and accountability. The role will include managing resources and projects to help deliver the plan, reporting on progress of projects, maintaining an overview of project risks to ensure these are proactively managed and resolved as necessary and to work collaboratively with stakeholders, and relevant external partners, to assist in the delivery of the programme.”

Wurlitzer organ [square]Fun fact: Walsall’s Picture House held the first Wurlitzer organ in Britain. The huge pipe organ, shipped over from the United States, where where they were routinely used to provide a soundtrack to silent films, was installed in 1925.

The Wurlitzer was actually inspired by an Englishman, who is considered the inventor of the theatre organ. He had the notion that such an organ should operate as a ‘one-man orchestra’ to accompany silent films. Hope-Jones merged his own business with Wurlitzer and then committed suicide in 1914. The dream lived on, though: Wurlitzer perfected the machinery and built 2.243 pipe organs between 1914 and 1942.

The UK was the company’s largest export market. The first left the company’s North Tonawanda factory on 1 December 1924. It opened at The Picture House in Walsall at the end of January 1925. Although the cinema itself is long gone, the instrument survives: it’s now installed at the Congregational Church in Beer, Devon, which hosts regular Wurlitzer concerts.

A number of British Wurlitzer organs are still in their original locations: the Gaumont in Kilburn, London; the Granada in Tooting, London; the New Gallery in London; and two in Blackpool – at the Opera House and the Tower Ballroom. These ‘Mighty Wurlitzers’ are now indelibly associated with early cinema, a time before ‘talkies’ and continue to be cherished by enthusiasts.

The Walsall Picture House itself continued to operate as a cinema under different brand names until it was gutted by fire in 1971, the result of an arson attack. The site is now a supermarket.

Find out more and apply


Location: Hertford, Hertfordshire/Hybrid

The job: “We’re looking for a principal planning officer to support exciting developments across East Hertfordshire and ensure we can meet the planning challenges of the 2020s and beyond.

“This is a brilliant opportunity for a planning professional with experience dealing with major development proposals to join our organisation, situated in this rich and diverse and historic environment.

“You will play a key role in supporting the delivery of exciting new development sites in the district, helping us reach for a greener planet, protect our unique array of heritage assets and conserve the beautiful natural environment that surrounds us.

“As a principal planning officer, you will manage a caseload of complex planning and related applications, including pre-application submissions, focusing on development management.

“Providing a service that is efficient and effective, you will oversee all stages of the process from initial assessment, through to committee reporting, legal agreements, conditions and appeals.”

Historic toothbrushes [square]Fun fact: Need a toothbrush? Best head to Hertford Museum, home the the UK’s largest collection of toothbrushes (yes, such a thing exists) – 5,000 of them, in fact, dating back more than 200 years.

Why would anyone collect toothbrushes? Well, they’re not exactly a personal collection but rather a record of the thousands of brushes made by the Addis company, which was a major employer in the town from 1920 to 1996. The business itself, though, can date its origin back to 1780.

The story goes that entrepreneur William Addis was imprisoned for starting a riot in East London. While there, he decided that the existing methods for cleaning teeth (using crushed shell or soot applied with a cloth) could be improved. To this end he saved a small animal bone from a meal, drilled holes in it, obtained some bristles from somewhere (because obviously, bristles were everywhere in late 18th-century prisons), threaded them through the holes and glued them in place. Hey presto, the first modern toothbrush.

On release, William started a business and became very rich very quickly. By 1840, toothbrushes were being mass produced all over the world. In the First World War, the Addis company supplied troops with brushes, turning daily tooth cleaning into a national habit. By 1920, the firm was supplying Boots with a value toothbrush that retailed at a shilling.

In 1940 it produced the first nylon toothbrush under the Wisdom brand; in 1947 Addis produced its last bone-handled toothbrush. Incredibly, it remained a privately owned company in the hands of the Addis family until 1996, when the Addis group was sold in a management buyout. The company still exists and produces a whole range of cleaning and kitchen products.

Find out more and apply


Location: Pembrokeshire, Wales

The job: “There are two positions available, one on a permanent basis and one for a fixed-term 12 month contract.

“Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority has an exciting new role within our planning team. We are looking to recruit a planning assistant and a planning officer who will contribute to a high-quality development management and development plans service that meets service and corporate objectives of the National Park Authority.

“The candidate will be required to:

  • Process and make recommendations on householder, minor and other planning applications
  • Negotiate design and other improvements to submitted schemes
  • Provide advice on pre-application and general enquiries
  • Investigate breaches of planning control 
  • Process and make recommendations on applications for listed building consent, conservation area consent, advertisement consent and on applications for works to trees
  • Deal with minor enforcement investigations
  • Assist in the development plan preparation including supplementary planning guidance including gathering information, monitoring, policy analysis, report writing and drafting policy and guidance.”

Chough [square]Fun fact: The red-billed chough (pronounced ‘chuff’). A crow basically, but with a bright red bill and legs. And much rarer, too. In fact, Pembrokeshire coast National Park is one of its last strongholds in the British Isles, along with the tip of Cornwall, the Isle of Man and the West coast of Ireland. 

It’s become a coastal specialist on account of its particular nesting and feeding needs; the bird thieves in low-intensity livestock farming systems that occur close to suitable nesting sites on rock faces, in caves and in old buildings. So, the kind of habitat that only really survives in remote coastal areas.

They’re named after their call (‘chee-ow’), mate for life and are renowned for their aerial agility. There are some interesting cultural associations, too, possibly related to their red bill and legs, but also their alleged habit of stealing items from people’s homes.

Until the 18th century, choughs were associated with fire-raising and considered something of a nuisance. No less an authority (cough) than Daniel Defoe said of them: “It will steal and carry away any thing it finds about the house, that is not too heavy, tho’ not fit for its food; as knives, forks, spoons and linnen cloths, or whatever it can fly away with, sometimes they say it has stolen bits of firebrands, or lighted candles, and lodged them in the stacks of corn, and the thatch of barns and houses, and set them on fire.”

This seems rather unfair, since it’s human activity that is the greatest threat to the species’ survival, in the British Isles at least. Interestingly, a small group of wild chough arrived in Cornwall in 2001, after an absence of more than half a century, and are establishing a breeding colony in the county. A breeding programme in Jersey is also supporting the bird. And, of course, in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, where landowners are encouraged to adopt land management techniques that will help the chough to thrive.

Find out more and apply

Image credits | Brendan M. Allis, Shutterstock; MRo, Shutterstock; iStock; iStock; iStock