Dominic Cummings lockdown cottage ‘built without planning permission’

Planning bosses are investigating whether the property Dominic Cummings stayed in during his controversial lockdown trip was built without planning permission.

Aerial photo on bbc link  here

Kali Lindsay 

The governmental advisor stayed at North Lodge, near Durham, when he travelled to the area on March 27 with his four-year-old son and wife after she started suffering coronavirus symptoms.

The building is understood to have been the site of a swimming pool and permission for the erection of a pitched roof structure over it was granted in 2001.

No other applications have made for it since, apart from the felling of trees.

Mr Cummings told a news conference last week that the building was “an isolated cottage” roughly 50 metres from his parents’ home, and described it as “sort of concrete blocks”.

According to reports, his parents bought the farm in 1999.

Durham County Council has now received several complaints over whether the property has the necessary planning permission to be used as a residential dwelling.

A spokeswoman for Durham County Council said: “We have received a number of complaints and are currently looking into the matter.”

The Prime Minister’s chief adviser was slammed for his decision to travel 260 miles from his home and accused of breaking lockdown restrictions.

Mr Cummings said he acted “lawfully and reasonably” after coming under fire for the trip.

He said the reason for returning to the North East was because his wife had developed coronavirus symptoms and they had issues with childcare if they both became unwell.

He admitted making a 60-mile round trip to Barnard Castle during his stay claiming he needed to check his eyesight after experiencing coronavirus symptoms.

Durham Constabulary has said it doesn’t consider Mr Cummings locating to Durham an offence but said the trip to Barnard Castle may have been a “minor breach” of the lockdown rules.

A spokeswoman for Downing Street declined to comment on the matter.

Coastal council bosses vent disgust at beaches left covered in litter and faeces after lockdown heatwave

On Monday 11 May, Boris Johnson suddenly announced that people in England could travel any distance to their chosen beauty spot, though they may not stay overnight. He did this without consulting Local Authorities, National Parks or Police.

Why he did this is not clear. It set Councils such as EDDC scrambling to try to respond to the sudden invasion of people streaming down the M5 with no toilet facilities open at any of the beauty spots.

We in the South West have the lowest infection levels in the country, but this precipitate action will have exposed us to the mass movement of people from more highly infected regions, especially the Midlands. The consequences of this are, as yet, unknown.

EDDC announced on 15 May that, subject to a risk assessment, they would attempt to re-open a limited number of toilets by 22 May, coincidentally the day the Guardian and Mirror broke the Dominic Cummings story. These toilets have to be supplied with hand sanitiser and members of Street Scene have to deep clean them three times a day.

The Dominic Cummings’ “No regrets, no apology” press statement in the No 10 Rose garden took place on 25 May. On 28 May, many believe to distract attention, Boris Johnson announced further easing of the lockdown restrictions.

This article describes the consequences.

Owl also draws attention to the clean up cost which has to be bourne by small communities with no compensating revenues being spent locally. This looks like a very political decision taken in London by a Prime Minister with no knowledge or feeling for rural communities.

Owl has received reports of toilet paper strewn along many of the East Devon footpaths close to beaches.

Andy Wells Freelance Writer

Beaches in Devon were left covered in litter and human waste after a weekend that saw sun worshippers flock to the coast as lockdown measures began to ease.

As temperatures soared in a mini heatwave, thousands flocked to the beaches to enjoy time outside their homes.

Afterwards, council staff were left stunned when they collected enough litter to fill 500 wheelie bins.

Workers discovered glass bottles, disposable barbecue trays, and even human faeces on a plastic picnic blanket at a beach in Teignbridge.

Teignbridge District Council tweeted: “Our staff (and residents) collected 500 wheelie bins worth of discarded litter from beaches and open spaces after the weekend, including glass bottles, cans & bbq trays.

“Please respect our communities and take your rubbish home with you.”

The council’s recycling chief, Alistair Dewhirst, told Devon Live: “Our staff have been working flat-out throughout the half-term week and this weekend to keep on top of the vast amounts of rubbish generated by visitors to our beaches and open spaces.

“This is on top of the additional pressures and risks they face daily in carrying out their work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic…

“It is completely unacceptable for people to leave their rubbish on the beaches for others to clear up.”

Cllr Andrew McGregor, executive member for leisure services and open spaces, added: ““It’s really important that now, more than ever, we protect our local communities from the threat of coronavirus, and across Devon we’re asking people to continue to follow the social distancing guidelines, when out and about in public.

“But we’re also asking people to take their litter home with them, to follow the safety guidance on beaches and in the sea, and to respect local communities by keeping noise down and behaving responsibly.”

Pictures shared on social media show litter collected from beaches in other areas from over the weekend – including in Brighton, Galway and Sefton.

Crowds on beaches and cliffs at Durdle Door in Dorset also showed a “shocking” disregard for the area, a conservation charity has said.

The Jurassic Coast Trust described the “shocking events” of three people suffering serious injuries at the beauty spot after leaping from the top of the limestone arch, which is 200ft high.

Thousands of people were evacuated from the beach and surrounding cliff area to allow air ambulances to land.

Lucy Culkin, chief executive of the charity, said it had received hundreds of messages from members of the public since the weekend.

She said these highlighted the “appalling volume of litter” on beaches, including human waste, sanitary items and surgical masks and gloves, as well as disposable barbecues.

“The lack of respect for our coastline shown by some has deeply saddened our local communities and visitors alike,” she said.

“It was clear to see that some had all but forgotten the guidelines of social distancing or welfare for themselves and others, or indeed any respect for the natural environment they were visiting.”

James Weld, the owner of the Lulworth Estate on which Durdle Door is situated, said the easing of lockdown restrictions to allow for unlimited travel in England had resulted in an “unacceptable influx of visitors”.

More than 100 colourful scrubs made for East Devon care homes

See online article for photo

A scheme initiated by East Budleigh with Bicton Parish Council has seen more than 100 scrubs made for care homes in the surrounding area.


After parish council clerk Judith Venning learned that some volunteers were making scrubs for the NHS, she decided to help care homes which are also fighting the spread of Covid-19.

A successful application to East Devon District Council’s prompt action fund paid for the materials.

More than 100 colourful sets of scrubs were made for care homes in Otterton, Budleigh Salterton and Exmouth by a group of ladies including Judith.

Aimee Harris, deputy manager of The Firs Care Home, in Budleigh said: “They are so very much appreciated and the staff feel so comfortable in them and much cooler in this hotter weather.

“The residents absolutely love them too – they have all been commenting how nice all the bright colours are.”

Virus in the air now Bacteria in our river water

Recent blooms of blue-green algae in local rivers, which is often fatal to dogs, have prompted a warning to dog owners from a local veterinary practice.

Joseph Bulmer 
Keep dogs out of local rivers – blue green algae warning from Otter Vets

Otter Vets, which has practices in Sidmouth and Ottery St Mary, has warned dog walkers to keep their dogs from entering the River Otter due to harmful toxins released by blue-green algae.

At times of drought bacteria in local waterways multiply causing the bacteria to clump, giving the appearance of algae.

These blooms of blue-green algae create toxins which can damage a dog’s liver, preventing it from functioning properly.

A spokesperson for Otter Vets said: “It can be very difficult to tell where blue-green algae is blooming. Therefore advice is to keep dogs out of the water!

“Sadly, exposure to toxic blue-green algae is often fatal, and can also cause long term health problems in dogs that survive after drinking or swimming in algae-contaminated water. Some types of blue-green algae can kill a dog just 15 minutes to an hour after drinking contaminated water.

“Dogs who have been swimming in water can get the algae caught in their fur, and can ingest it while cleaning themselves later on. Cats are also at risk.”

The bacteria can also cause rashes, sickness, stomach pains, fever and headaches in humans.

Children are reportedly at greater risk than adults. The advice to humans and pets is stay out of the water at this time.

Symptoms of blue-green algae exposure

-Breathing difficulties

Dorset (might this be East Devon & Dorset one day?) National Park Summer Newsletter

The Old (backward-looking) Guard in East Devon has always viewed the idea of a National Park, created by combining the adjacent AONBs in both counties, as a threat rather than as an opportunity.

A threat because it might cramp their style in the weights they attached to the economic benefits of development against those given to protecting and enhancing the landscape. (The level of protection offered by an AONB  should be the same as a National Park  but EDDC in their planning decisions hasn’t interpreted it that way in the past).

Local Planning Authorities (LPA) have enormous freedom to make these subjective  judgements. If you don’t like the  way your LPA interprets the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) your remedy is not generally through the courts, which deal with procedural concerns, but through the ballot box.

Last May, using the ballot box was what the people of East Devon finally did. They threw out the Old Guard.

Readers might remember that the government is seriously considering following the Glover Landscape Review recommendation to create a new National Park combining the East Devon and Dorset AONB’s.

Last October the Ingham regime showed their lack of enthusiasm for breaking from the Tory past when the cabinet decided to do nothing to seize the initiative:

“Resolve to await the Governments response to the recommendations; and note that the Chilterns, the Cotswolds and the Dorset and East Devon AONBs are potential candidates for future designation as National Parks.”

This Newsletter spells out some of the OPPORTUNITIES  and reviews the success the South Downs National Park has achieved in its first ten years.

A National Park proposal would tick a lot of environmental and health and well being boxes as well as potentially unlocking additional resources.

Owl hopes that at the very least East Devon now starts talking to the  “Dorset” team and gets on the bandwagon.

Dorset National Park Newsletter Summer 2020

In this Newsletter:

  • Michael Dower notes why National Parks are as important today as they were 75 years ago when his father, John Dower, recommended they be established as part of a post-WW2 vision for a better world;
  • We congratulate the South Downs National Park on what they have achieved in the first 10 years and welcome their priorities for the future;
  • We preview a new report on Youth Engagement, Health and Well-being and the achievements of National Parks in addressing these issues;
  • We chart a path towards a better future where a National Park in partnership with the Dorset Council and other partners would bring additional resources and expertise to help deliver a shared agenda Dorset-wide, creating opportunities and addressing the environmental and economic challenges we face together, and helping to secure a thriving, prosperous and sustainable future for our communities, economy and environment.

Hancock’s £13.4bn debt ‘write-off’ for NHS could cost hospitals millions every year

Matt Hancock’s promise to “write off” £13.4bn of debt owed by NHS trusts ahead of the worst of the coronavirus crisis could end up costing hospitals millions in annual payments back to the government, The Independent has learnt.

(Under Treasury rules PDC [public dividend capital], carries an annual 3.5 per cent charge, or dividend, to repay the taxpayer for its investment. A complex calculation based on a mix of the hospital’s assets determines how much money has to be paid each year and this depreciates as the assets age and lose value.)

Shaun Lintern Health Correspondent 
Experts have warned that the way the government converted the billions of pounds owed by effectively insolvent NHS trusts will mean hospitals having to pay an annual charge on their assets back to the government in perpetuity.

It also failed to fix the underlying shortfall in hospital funding, with many trusts unable to meet the costs of providing services with the income they receive from NHS England. Without reform, some could build up debts again within a few years.

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, told The Independent: “What the government has done is convert the debt into an equity share. Writing off this debt is not cost free. This is a better deal for NHS providers, but there will be a charge.”

The move created a “window of opportunity” for some trusts who had built up significant deficits to get back on a sustainable footing, she said.

“There is no guarantee of that. It remains the case that even with this, this reset is only really valuable if there’s enough revenue in the system to ensure that on an ongoing basis trusts have enough income to meet their day-to-day running costs and pay their PDC ​[public dividend capital],” she added.

“If there isn’t sufficient funding in the system, for the overwhelming majority of trusts, then we will be back in this position in a few years’ time.”

At the start of April, health secretary Matt Hancock announced the government was “writing off” £13.4bn of revenue debt, needed for day-to-day spending, which was owed by more than 100 NHS trusts. In total 107 NHS organisations had an average of £100m debt each, with two trusts having debts totalling £1bn.

The debt was built up during years of austerity as hospitals were forced to provide services with less and less income and many having to apply for interest bearing loans from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Some of these loans earned the DHSC interest of more than 6 per cent and pushed many hospitals further into the red.

By converting the debt into what is known as PDC, the government has effectively invested the sum of money owed by each hospital back into the trust. Normally PDC is used to fund capital works like the construction of new wards or buildings.

Under Treasury rules PDC carries an annual 3.5 per cent charge, or dividend, to repay the taxpayer for its investment. A complex calculation based on a mix of the hospital’s assets determines how much money has to be paid each year and this depreciates as the assets age and lose value.

Given the scale of debt converted to PDC, experts believe it is likely to still cost hospitals millions of pounds.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, experts say the NHS cost base – ie what it needs to provide healthcare – will be radically different to what it was before the pandemic and a new financial settlement with the government will be needed.

Emma Knowles, director of policy and research at the Healthcare Financial Management Association, the professional body for hospital finance directors, told The Independent: “Our members have been concerned about how cash flows around the NHS for some time now.

“The transfer of loans to public dividend capital is a pragmatic solution and is welcomed as it brings some certainty to managing working capital and the cash position in the short term. It also eliminates valuable management time spent constantly applying for and managing the short-term loans and recognises that some organisations would be unlikely to pay back the loans however long the term.”

But she added: “It is not, however, without cost. The organisations that have benefited from the transfer will continue to incur a cost each year on the new public dividend capital although it will no longer be in the form of interest payment. The impact will vary from organisation to organisation.”

She said the government’s decision solved past financial problems but that some NHS hospitals would need ongoing support to cover their costs or “the cycle will start again”.

She said adequate funding was needed for the NHS as a whole including a review of how money flows from the Treasury through the DHSC via NHS England to frontline NHS services.

A DHSC spokesperson said: “The NHS is on the front line in tackling this virus and we are incredibly grateful to the efforts of staff in helping to tackle this pandemic. We are aware that some trusts may have a higher overall finance cost following the write-off and adjustments will be made to ensure these trusts are not negatively affected by this.”

They did not address whether the DHSC would continue to require annual payments as required by existing rules on public dividend capital.

The government has promised a review of the PDC dividend rate and said any change will apply to all organisations.