Devon Council asks Government to address concerns over holiday parks

No it’s not EDDC – far too tricky for them.

North Devon Council has joined Cornwall in asking the Government for guidance.

Where is  County Leader John Hart and when will he start to lead?

Remember  what he said about flooding? “Self-help is going to be the order of the day.”

Joel Cooper  www.devonlive.com 

(Raised with Secretary of State 20 March)

A Devon council says it is asking Central Government for clear guidance about the status of holiday parks in Devon.

Several holiday parks across the county say they are remaining open and expecting visitors to arrive.

However, concerns have been raised about people travelling to the area from places such as London where the spread of the virus is more developed.

Some people are worried this could cause the virus to spread further in Devon, particularly in areas where there is a vulnerable or aging population.

There are also concerns about how local supermarkets – many of which are already seeing depleted stocks – would cope with increased numbers of customers.

Several holiday accomodation providers in the North Devon area have taken to Facebook to say they are planning to stay open, but have taken Government guidance about coronavirus on board.

Some are still promoting last minute vacancies – which has prompted a backlash from many in local communities.

One person commented on Facebook: “Our local shops are empty already, let alone people travelling here putting peoples lives in danger.  This NEEDS TO STOP.

Another said it felt like some businesses were “putting personal profit before the health of local people”.

As well as holiday parks, there are also concerns about campsites, second homes, Airbnb properties and hotels.

North Devon Council’s chief executive officer, Ken Miles, has told Devon Live he will be raising the subject with the Government this afternoon and asking for “clear advice” on the matter.

Boris Johnson and his Government are currently promoting social distancing  and urging people to avoid places like pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas.

Several businesses across Devon have already announced their closures for the foreseeable future.  This includes hotels, restaurants, pubs and attractions.

Numerous events have also been cancelled including music festivals, literary events, theatrical performances and school events.

 

In a low-key announcement troops will be deployed.

Owl believes we have a complex attitude in relation to our armed forces, and governments have been reluctant to use them in support of home based civil emergencies in the past. (Some trace this back to the Civil War when England first acquired a professional standing army). Other nations are not quite so squeamish, indeed the US has a quasi-military National Guard which is deployed frequently. 

This article discusses the announcement to deploy troops. Certainly they can help logistically, and as Owl has pointed out, there doesn’t seem to be a clear command and control structure to deal with local responses. I.e. who makes decisions and to whom are they accountable running the gamut from operational, tactical and strategic decisions. in a geographic area run by a mix of county, and unitary local authorities with a quite separate health care system superimposed on top of it all.

So far the Police seem to be running the show.

Deploying troops to help fight coronavirus is the right move.

 Mary Dejevsky @IndyVoices  www.independent.co.uk 

It was a low-key announcement that was rather drowned out by the decision to close all schools forthwith. But its significance was at least as great. Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, has doubled the number of troops on standby to help respond to the coronavirus emergency in Britain and issued a call to reservists.

There is now a 20,000-strong special “Covid Support Force” on stand-by – quite a commitment for a country whose combined armed force strength is less than 150,000.

Such a decision is surely wise. France is already using its military to airlift acutely-ill patients from areas of the country where medical facilities are stretched to others where there is still capacity. In Italy, military vehicles are transporting coffins from hospitals to crematoriums. Soldiers on patrol are in any case a regular sight at main stations and airports across Italy, as they are in Belgium and some other European countries. In Spain, the military is being deployed to patrol some cities to enforce the lockdown.  

But UK governments have generally seemed reluctant to deploy the military in civilian situations, preferring to rely on the police and other emergency services. Small numbers assisted during recent floods, and in August RAF helicopters were sent to help reinforce a Derbyshire dam. The military was mobilised, too, during the 2001 outbreak of foot and mouth disease. They were not called, though, to the Grenfell Tower fire, where their expertise and equipment might have usefully supplemented that of the London Fire Brigade.

After Donald Trump ordered a hospital ship to New York City harbour to address a shortage of hospital beds because of coronavirus and there were suggestions that something similar might be tried here, the British attitude was well summed up by the comment of a military official said: “Why would you put patients on a draughty, remote ship when there are hotel rooms lying empty? … It would be better to book up the Holiday Inn next to the hospital.”

Given this background, the defence secretary’s announcement has to be a gauge of how seriously the current emergency is seen from Whitehall. But why the relative unwillingness of UK governments to call upon the military, compared with governments elsewhere in Europe and even the United States?

One reason might be the now largely folk memory of the rejoicing that greeted the end of Second World War conscription. For many, the end of conscription signified the real end of the war, and there has been almost no appetite to revive compulsory military service since – even though some countries, such as Sweden, have recently done so. The UK prides itself on having an entirely professional military, keeps the armed forces and civilians in quite separate boxes and shies away from anything that might mix the two.

Another might be a prevalent view at the top of the armed services that the job of the military is to fight wars, or at very least contribute to international peace-keeping. This attitude is encapsulated in the well-known quip by the then US national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, to the effect that it was no business of the 82nd Airborne to “escort kids to kindergarten”. She was talking about the aftermath of the Bosnian war at the time, but you can see her point. The training and sophisticated equipment of an elite parachute regiment officer could be seen as squandered on largely civilian operations.

In today’s UK context, these misgivings might be coupled with two further concerns. One – that the diversion of precious troops to supposedly “softer” civilian tasks could leave the already depleted armed forces unequal to their prime purpose of defending the nation. The second – less noble, perhaps – that any acceptance of an enhanced civilian role for the armed forces could undermine their claims for expensive new military hardware at a time when security policy is under review.  

As of now, it not at all clear when, or even whether, the military will be deployed in response to the coronavirus crisis. According to the defence secretary, it will only be mobilised in response to formal requests from government departments. I suspect, though, that many – sensing the doom-laden uncertainty all around them – would find even a limited military presence a good deal more reassuring than alarming.

On the rare occasions when the armed forces have been deployed at home in any numbers, the response is invariably positive. People are grateful when uniformed troops show up in emergencies: they are trusted as the supreme professionals. In 2012, after G4S – the private security company contracted to staff the security checkpoints at the London Olympics, the decision was taken to have the military step in. And their contribution was hailed as a huge success. They were well-trained, efficient and down-to-earth.

So why has no real attempt has been made to replicate or capitalise on this experience, because a more visible role for the military at home could have a potentially beneficial effect on the country at large. It could help to salve a lot of wounds.

The UK’s recent involvement in failed wars has left a legacy of popular mistrust, both towards governments and the military command. From Iraq through Afghanistan to Libya, it has been hard to identify much success. There is little appetite for any new foreign intervention. In 2011, voters lobbied their MPs to prevent a new military intervention in Syria and David Cameron accepted defeat. Trainers and special forces were dispatched nonetheless.

The more realistic among the top brass have acknowledged at various times the regrettable fraying of what is known as the “armed forces covenant” – according to which those who serve in the military should be treated with fairness and respect by the civilian community. A potent symbol of how relations between the armed forces and the people had become fractured was what happened in the Wiltshire town of Wootton Bassett, when people flocked to pay their respects to those killed in Afghanistan as their coffins were conveyed to the church from RAF Lineham.

Between 2008 and 2011, this mournful public spectacle became a source not of pride, but of embarrassment, to the military establishment, and the route was changed. It would now appear, from the number of senior military figures decrying the imminent UK withdrawal from Afghanistan that some military leaders and politicians are still in denial about the extent of public support for their ventures.

Deploying a special military contingent to help with the coronavirus crisis could help re-establish the ties that have been lost between the armed forces and civilians in this country. The armed forces have the sort of training, experience and equipment for extreme situations – that, alas, could be sorely needed in the coming weeks.

They have already been involved in evacuations of UK citizens from as far away as Japan and Cuba. Seeing them hard at work at home could help boost not only morale (theirs and ours), but public support for the armed forces covenant and even for a (slightly) enhanced military budget.

 

Self-isolating? These businesses will deliver to your doorstep in Sidmouth and Ottery

Owl could add that whilst flying around Owl’s patch many, many local businesses are offering similar services. The local press doesn’t seem to be taking a consistent approach to publicising this. Hopefully, since these are local services, local people will find out relatively easily.

Other Councils might usefully follow Sidmouth Town Council’s lead on their web site.

Will this bring a welcome renaissance in shopping locally? 

Philippa Davies  www.sidmouthherald.co.uk 

People having to self-isolate in the Sid Vale, because of the coronavirus, are being offered home deliveries by many local shops and businesses.

Food and drink, takeaway meals, household essentials, books, computer supplies and other goods are all available to order.

Some suppliers are providing the delivery service for nothing, others are charging a small fee or specifying a minimum pre-paid order.

In keeping with the guidelines on avoiding social contact, the delivery drivers will leave items in porches or on the doorstep.

Sidmouth Town Council will be distributing leaflets on the local businesses offering home deliveries, and is also keeping a regularly updated list on its website

Among those on board in Sidmouth are Woolbrook News, the Spar supermarket, Drews, The Dairy Shop, Ganesha Wholefoods, Gliddons, Crane and Kind, Sidsoft, the Balfour Arms, The Courtyard and Winstone’s bookshop.

Winstone’s is also offering postal deliveries for customers further afield.

Manager Carl East said he would do his best to keep the shop open, but recognises that many people are no longer able to visit in person.

He said: “If you are in self-isolation you are very welcome to give us a call. We will happily give you recommendations over the phone and place orders. Payments can be made securely by phone, and a member of the team will be out making local deliveries in in the afternoons.”

Fields department store already offered home and mail order deliveries, and has just introduced a new takeaway menu from its coffee shop.

The homewares and DIY store Abbotts, which has branches in Ottery St Mary and Seaton, is offering free deliveries in both towns.

Deliveries will be made for a minimum spend in the wider area.

Manager Chris Abbott said: “A lot of people in self-isolation are worried and scared, and rightly so. You really get a feel for people in that scenario.

“We will provide a ‘yodel’ style delivery, so no handshakes, hugs, or high fives.

“We will pop your delivery on the doorstep, and ring the doorbell, and retreat to a 2m distance.”

The Lamb and Flag pub in Ottery is offering takeaway meals, and the Coldharbour Farm Shop in East Hill is providing home deliveries.

 

Cornwall tells tourists to ‘stay away’ during coronavirus outbreak

Cornwall has become the first major UK tourism destination to tell visitors to stay away until the coronavirus crisis is over.

Visit Cornwall published a statement saying: “Visitors should not come to Cornwall at this time, in order to slow the spread of the virus, to protect themselves, as well as the communities of Cornwall.”

The organisation is critical of the government’s “lack of clarity” about whether domestic tourism is acceptable.

Simon Calder Travel Correspondent  www.independent.co.uk 

On 16 March, the prime minister said: “Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel.”

But Visit Cornwall says: “At present non-essential travel appears to focus purely on the use of public transport. 

“It does not provide any clarity about whether going for a short break or a holiday in the UK is deemed to be non-essential travel.

“Given the fast escalating situation, Visit Cornwall believes that a holiday or short break should be deemed as non-essential travel.

“This would avoid the confusion that currently exists and mean that customers’ personal travel insurance should reimburse visitors who choose to cancel rather than postpone their holiday.

“We are asking people to postpone visiting Cornwall until a later date, when they will find Cornwall the same beautiful and welcoming place.”

The Cornish attitude is in marked contrast to the other side of the River Tamar. 

Visit Devon is telling prospective tourists: “Devon is very much open to visitors and we invite you to come and walk across our beautiful countryside, get some fresh air on our stunning beaches and enjoy our county by remaining aware of social distancing and protecting yourselves and your family by regularly washing your hands.”

The Plaid Cymru leader in Westminster, Liz Saville Roberts MP, has written to the health secretary urging him “to issue an immediate no-travel directive”. There are concerns that second-home owners are choosing to self-isolate at their properties in Wales, potentially adding to pressures on overstretched rural health services.

Tourist destinations elsewhere in Britain are still seeking to attract visitors. For example, Visit Blackpool says: “The resort remains very much open for business.

“Blackpool’s famed range of free attractions are also open including the beaches, promenade, Comedy Carpet and Stanley Park.”

Visit Scotland says: “In light of Covid-19, it’s unlikely we’ll be welcoming as many visitors as our friendly, passionate and unique country deserves.

“If you are planning a trip to Scotland in the next few months … make sure you check with your travel and accommodation providers before travelling.”

With good weather forecast for Mother’s Day weekend, the National Trust says: “The Trust’s coast and countryside places will be open as usual with any car park charges suspended and the charity is working where it can to keep outdoor spaces open and free to access.”

The charity’s nature expert and writer, Andy Beer, said: “Although our coast and countryside will be open as usual, we’d encourage people to stay local and enjoy the first moments of spring where they are rather than making an unnecessary journey.”

Earlier this week the National Trust announced that it would close its houses, shops and cafes to restrict the spread of coronavirus.

 

Devon and Cornwall Police have just declared a ‘major incident’

Before we get to that Owl dares to ask the question: Who is in charge, who takes control? 

Clear Command and Control in emergency situations like this is essential to coordinate actions which are likely to be multi-agency  and resource constrained. 

We emerged from WWII with a strong, largely volunteer, civil defence organisation. Facing the prospect of major civil emergencies arising from nuclear war, contingency plans were developed. They were not widely publicised for obvious reasons. In the worst case scenario local administration (i.e.government) devolved to LA Chief Executives, who assumed absolute power, vested through the Home Office. [Think Mark Williams grabbing his chosen few, diving into the secret bunker built under Blackdown House  – No? Well in fact these plans pre-dated district councils so more likely County CE- the bunkers are still out there somewhere.]

For many years Counties used to have a formal emergency planning officer, often retired Army Officers, not taking charge but preparing contingency plans, but these look to be long gone. 

Owl finds a summary of the current situation in a  2017 House of Commons Briefing Paper, written after Grenfell Tower, it’s all very wooly: 

file:///home/chronos/u-06eb1db4f30497d5c37620af3a3a7c864a5d7095/MyFiles/Downloads/CBP-8016.pdf

From (Page 10):

Who leads the emergency response? The emergency response is based around the concepts of command, control and cooperation and operates at three levels – operational, tactical and strategic. …….   

The structure for responding to any emergency will depend on the nature and circumstances of that emergency. Single agency groups will take command of their own personnel and assets, but a multi-agency Strategic Coordinating Group may be convened to provide coordination – but not control – across agencies:

“ 4.2.1. (…) No single responding agency has command authority over any other agencies‘ personnel or assets. Where multi-agency co-ordinating groups are established to define strategy and objectives, it is expected that all involved responder agencies will work in a directed and co-ordinated fashion in pursuit of those objectives.” ref.18

A major incident has been declared by Devon & Cornwall Police in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, (coronavirus).

Richard Booth  www.devonlive.com

The declaration has been made to ensure that all agencies across the Devon & Cornwall Local Resilience Forum are co-ordinated and working as effectively as possible at a time of critical need.

It comes as Boris Johnson said the Government is telling pubs, cafes, nightclubs, bars, restaurants, theatres, leisure centres and gyms to close from tonight to fight coronavirus.

TACC Glen Mayhew, chair of the Devon and Cornwall LRF, said: “We are facing a critical public health situation nationwide and it is vital for blue light responders and partner organisations across our communities to work together and deal with the challenges which lie ahead over the coming days and weeks.

“Declaring this a major incident means we can put in place well-rehearsed structures and mechanisms for multi-agency working. Resilience plans already exist to help us protect and enable us to support our communities in the best way possible – keeping them informed and able to function.

“This has not been caused by a rise in cases of COVID-19, (coronavirus), in our region or because demand has meant agencies are unable to cope – it is a supportive measure to give strength to all agencies and partners and ensure we can assist each other at a time when we are all likely to see an effect on staffing and our respective agency’s resilience.”

Mr Mayhew added: “The public should not be alarmed, but continue to follow guidance from Public Health England and the Government around measures to reduce risk associated with COVID-19, (coronavirus), access to critical health services, social distancing and self-isolation.

“Whether it be police officers, those working in social care or some of the many hundreds of volunteers in our communities, we need to do our absolute utmost to protect and help the elderly and most vulnerable people in our communities.

“We know there are many strong and resilient communities across the peninsula and Isles of Scilly. It is now, at this time of most need, that we must come together as a partnership and support our communities as one.”