Cliff collapse ‘like thunder’ as stunned beachgoers look on below

The incident happened at Jacob’s Ladder in Sidmouth at about 4.10pm today, Thursday.

Joel Cooper

This picture shows the dramatic moment a cliff collapsed at a Devon beach – while beachgoers looked on in shock.

The incident happened at Jacob’s Ladder in Sidmouth at about 4.10pm today, Thursday.

Glen Lear captured the picture above which shows a huge plume of dust coming from the base of the cliffs as it collapses.

You can also see people on the beach watching the spectacle intently.

Paul Clay also saw it happen while he was out on his kayak in the area. He said the landslide sounded like thunder.

Paul said: “It just missed people walking on shoreline at 4.16pm today.

“It happened at the cliff’s highest point with the narrowest (stretch of) beach.

The landslide near Jacobs Ladder, Sidmouth, which happened around 4.10pm (Image: Glen Lear)

“The second photo (below) shows the rubble when dust had cleared.”

The fall is the latest of many to have occurred at Sidmouth in the past few months.

Earlier this month we reported that East Devon County Council had warned people to stay off beach after five cliff falls in a month.

The aftermath of the cliff fall today at Sidmouth (Image: Paul Clay)

Last month, Sidmouth experienced three falls in the space of 24 hours, in addition to a further two which took place the following week.

The council complete annual cliff inspections at Beer, Budleigh Salterton, Seaton and Sidmouth which include removing loose material and additional safety works such as installation of rock netting.

The Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan (BMP) scheme aims to reduce the risk of flooding to Sidmouth by maintaining the standard of defences along Sidmouth Beach, and to reduce the rate of erosion to the cliffs to the East of the town (and therefore the rate of exposure of the East side of Sidmouth to coastal conditions).

In response to whether or not there has been an increase in landslides, a council spokesman said: “It is difficult to say.”

Speaking earlier this month they said: “Cliff falls are a natural and unpredictable occurrence along the East Devon coast, this is because the rock from which the cliffs are formed is soft and therefore prone to rock falls and landslides, which can happen at any time, although heavy rainfall can trigger incidences.

“The BMP cannot, however, stop cliff falls. In fact, many of the recent cliff falls are beyond the area the BMP will protect, occurring further East on National Trust land.”

Despite the glorious sunshine the county has experience over the last few weeks, it is this warm and dry weather that has played a key role in the cause of the landslides.

A spokesperson added: “The main reason [for the cliff falls] is the prolonged dry weather we have had, which followed the wettest February on record.

“The extreme wet to dry condition of the cliff is the likely cause of the falls.

“However there are other factors in place such as the climate emergency and sea level rise.

“On land we own and manage there hasn’t been any increase in cliff falls compared to previous years.

“Along the whole coast there is likely to be a rise in the recording of cliff falls due to the good weather and increase in staycations, there are more people around the coast to witness any fall.

“In a normal year, plenty of falls would go unnoticed.”

“It is good practice when on the beach to stay well clear of the cliff base and to keep an eye out for fresh fall material or water running down the cliffs, which may indicate an area that is weakened and loose.”

The Coastguard advises that walkers should keep a distance away from the cliff, that is equivalent to the cliff’s height.

For example, if a cliff is 20 metres in height, pedestrians should keep 20 metres away.

Speaking earlier this month a Coastguard spokesman said: “Through the Sidmouth and East Beach BMP, we have plans to reduce the rate of erosion of the cliffs where property is threatened.

“The Sidmouth and East Beach BMP is a long term plan, and construction is likely to be a year or so away, we all hope the Covid-19 situation will be over by then, so it should not affect the scheme.”

Regardless of whether or not the cliffs are displaying signs that it may crumble, EDDC urge the public to keep their distance.

A spokesperson said: “You would be putting yours and the emergency services lives at risk.

“Please do not access Sidmouth East beach at all, and at Jacobs Ladder ensure you stay at least the same height the cliff is vertical away from the base.”

If a cliff fall does occur and you suspect that someone has been injured, call 999 immediately.

A Comment on amendment passed to EDDC Constitution during Act V

From a Correspondent:

“This now needs an immediate review of all the previous Conservative Cabinet members who were on the Planning and Licensing committees, and of the decisions they made – with all previous conflicts of interest highlighted and publicised to the greatest possible extent.

If the Conservatives find that they get embarrassed when they profess their new found scrutiny role, perhaps they will think twice in future about such games playing.”

Beach ban for Exmouth party people

“…Radio Exe received reports of 11 police vehicles at Orcombe Point and some armed officers. Devon and Cornwall Police haven’t commented on that scale of response, but say “a large number of units” did attend around 7pm….”

Youths partying in the sunshine at Orcombe Point, Exmouth on Wednesday resulted in police attending at several points through the afternoon – and  dozens of officers arriving in the evening after reports of multiple fights. Dispersal orders have been issued to a small number of people, which means they can’t go back to that bit of the beach today or overnight. They’ll have to wait till Friday at 7am.

Lockdown was largely ignored by many Exmouth young people early in the pandemic. With the lifting of many restrictions and the return of hot weather on Wednesday, booze, boom-boxes and burgers came out early.

Two special constables and one or two regular officers couldn’t do much other than offer advice in the late afternoon. One off-duty police worker said that all the resources in East Devon wouldn’t be able to handle the number of generally good-natured young people, but it was clear that a mix of youth, sun and alcohol wasn’t going to end prettily.

By 9pm Radio Exe received reports of 11 police vehicles at Orcombe Point and some armed officers. Devon and Cornwall Police haven’t commented on that scale of response, but say “a large number of units” did attend around 7pm after reports of a large-scale altercation, a number of fights, and anti-social behaviour through Tuesday afternoon. They say officers issued a small number of dispersal orders, preventing those people going back to the area covered by the order before 7am on Friday. Other people “dispersed of their own accord.”

Holiday home owners claimed £71m in lockdown support cash – only 40% stays in the County

“New figures reveal that holiday home owners received £71 million of coronavirus business grants paid out in Cornwall…

…Of that just under £71m went to “holiday let business premises” – and Cllr Olivier said that £42m of that went to people living outside of Cornwall.”

Owl believes that similar or greater “leakage” occurs with many “Investing in the Region” projects such as  Hinkley Point C (where did all the EC “deprived region” grants to Cornwall go – could this explain why the Cornish voted leave?).

Not to mention the loophole which allows holiday home owners to avoid paying council tax or business rates on their properties.

Richard Whitehouse 

New figures reveal that holiday home owners received £71 million of coronavirus business grants paid out in Cornwall.

The Government provided cash to be paid to businesses which had been hit by the lockdown so that they could keep afloat.

It has previously been revealed that £50m went to holiday let owners but now updated figures show that they received much more than that.

Cornwall Councillor Cornelius Olivier has been highlighting the issue saying that it was “scanadlous” that so much of the money was going to holiday home owners.

Cornwall Council has been administering grants for businesses with funding provided by the Government – those grants are for either £10,000 or £25,000 subject to criteria set by the Government.

In information he received from Cornwall Council the Penzance East councillor said that by June 9 the council had paid out £177m in £10,000 grants to businesses.

Of that just under £71m went to “holiday let business premises” – and Cllr Olivier said that £42m of that went to people living outside of Cornwall.

The Labour councillor has been a longstanding campaigner against a loophole which allows holiday let owners avoid paying both council tax and business rates on their properties. By registering their holiday homes as businesses which have a rateable value less than that eligible to pay rates they avoid paying any tax or rates at all.

Cllr Olivier said that, of the money paid out to holiday home owners, £60m had gone to those which pay no council tax or rates – with £32m going to people outside the Duchy. 

The Penzance Central councillor, writing on his Facebook page, said: “It is scandalous that at a time when so many local businesses are struggling to survive and not getting the support they need, second homeowners who rent their properties out for a few months a year, (or less) as well as using it themselves and who receive a tax subsidy for doing so, are getting £10,000 to compensate them for their ‘financial hardship’.

“A second home is a combination of valuable investment, personal luxury and potential secondary income, they should not be treated as struggling local businesses in need of financial help.

“Even when ‘holiday let business premises’ are locally, or at least Cornish owned, I do not accept that ‘a holiday let’, unoccupied for a large part of the year, is a small local business in the normal sense of the word and that their owners are in desperate need of government financial support.

“A combination of the £10,000 grant and even a partial visitor season means that, regardless of the pandemic, this could be a bumper year financially for ‘holiday let business premises’.”

Cllr Olivier said that the issue further supported calls for the Government to close the loophole which allows holiday home owners to avoid paying council tax or business rates on their properties.

He said that he had written to his local MP Derek Thomas calling on him to help with getting the loophole closed and to help ensure more grants are available for businesses in Cornwall.

Could Flybe, which went bust in March, take to the skies again?

Despite the headline this is a pessimistic article – Owl

Simon Calder Travel Correspondent 
“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it, my lad,” says Eric Praline, in Monty Python’s immortal Parrot Sketch. The character played by John Cleese continued: “He’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with it.”

That, sadly, is what’s wrong with Flybe, too.

Until the early hours of 5 March, the Exeter-based airline was the biggest regional carrier in Europe.

You may recall that it connected the UK’s cities, great and small, with some ventures into “near Europe”: Amsterdam, Dusseldorf and Paris.

But Flybe slumped from a brief post-IPO market capitalisation of £250m to a machine that devoured cash from its rescuers – Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Air and US hedge fund Cyrus Capital – by the million, until they gave up the struggle and stumbled away.

Flybe briefly hit the headlines last week, when one of its Q400 aircraft was being prepared to leave Aberdeen airport but crumpled into an Embraer jet belonging to Loganair – its erstwhile partner turned foe.

“Haunting us from beyond the grave,” one Loganair insider said.

Then, just as all aviation eyes were on the mesmerising spectacle of a parade of ministers announcing that an announcement about the quarantine announcement was impending, they just couldn’t say when, Flybe popped up again.

In an interview with The Australian, Jonathan Peachey – adviser to Cyrus Capital – said: “We are doing everything we can to ensure that the business can emerge in some form from administration.”

Oh dear. It was awful for more than 2,000 Flybe staff when the airline collapsed, and dismal for the travellers who depended on it – especially at airports such as Belfast City and Southampton, where Flybe was the dominant carrier.

But reinventing the same airline would be as much of a failure as Laker Airways mark 2 and 3 turned out to be – the buccaneering Sir Freddie had two more goes at cheap-and-cheerful travel after Skytrain, but the magic had gone and the market had changed.

When the wretched coronavirus crisis eases and regional flying resumes, Flybe’s former rivals will pick up the profitable pieces. Loganair is already connecting Glasgow and Edinburgh with Southampton, and will shortly launch a link between Belfast City and Glasgow.

The previously lucrative links from Birmingham to Scotland’s two biggest cities may not be so profitable in an age of austerity and Zoom meetings – but easyJet will find out soon enough how much demand remains. And since Manchester airport has direct trains to the centres of both Edinburgh and Glasgow, the demise of these sub-200-mile routes is a reasonable outcome.

The triumvirate who tried to turn Flybe into Virgin Connect pumped £100m-plus into an airline that was haemorrhaging cash.

According to a leaked message to staff from Mark Anderson, the unfortunate chief executive at the time of the failure, all but £27m of the rescue fund “was gone before we even really started … we were in worse shape than even the shareholders thought we were”.

Flybe had the right kind of staff but the wrong kind of fleet (a muddle of unloved Q400s and ungainly Embraer jets), and a network that strayed dangerously beyond its potentially profitable UK core. Leeds Bradford to Dusseldorf and Cardiff to Milan were among the expensive aberrations.

Bereft of life, Flybe rests in peace. And that is where it should stay.

Cranbrook town centre plans put forward – residents asked for views

Residents of Cranbrook are being asked to have their say over how they want the town centre to be developed.

Two competing outline schemes have been proposed for how the new town can be delivered, with East Devon District Council’s Strategic Planning Committee set to decide between the two at an upcoming meeting.

Daniel Clark 

The Cranbrook Consortium of developers have outlined plans which would see a range of town centre facilities begin to come forward in the near future, with the aim to deliver the majority of the scheme by the end of 2021.

The Cranbrook Consortium proposals for the town centre

The Cranbrook Consortium proposals for the town centre

An alternative proposal would see a masterplan covering the town centre development created which would aim to deliver a more ambitious town centre, including a leisure centre and a hotel, but would take longer before development takes place and without the guarantee of being delivered or the funding for it.

Cllr Les Bayliss, Chairman of Cranbrook Town Council and Chairman of the Council’s Planning Committee said: “The discussions which are taking place include an identified supermarket provider but if the consortium’s proposals are not taken forward, that provider would fall away and there would be a need to wait for another to come forward. The situation is finely balanced and requires a significant decision to be made.

“There is a chance now to deliver a comprehensive and holistic town centre in the near future – or wait for another number of years before anything is delivered, if at all. Over the next few days and weeks the Town Council will be sharing more details about the two proposals, and residents are invited to comment and, most importantly, to vote in our Facebook poll.”

The proposal from the consortium of developers includes:

  • A 2,500 square metres Morrisons supermarket with an additional 1,000 square metres of retail space on Tillhouse Road (around 10 to 12 shops);
  • A town square
  • A nursery
  • Around 350 town centre homes
  • Town hall with café, meeting spaces and around 15 rentable office units (including land and around one-third of the construction costs)
  • Children’s centre, youth centre and library in a single building (including land and the construction costs to the Section 106 value)
  • A skate park
  • Land for extra care facilities delivered by Devon County Council
  • Land for a “blue light” facility to house fire, police and ambulance services
  • Opportunities to provide additional retail outlets

If this proposal is accepted by the Strategic Planning Committee, a planning application is expected to be submitted very soon with construction work going ahead within the year and the supermarket, shops and town square to be delivered during 2021.

Devon County Council have already put forward outline plans for a new community building for the town, which would include a Library, Children’s Centre with Public Health Nursing provision and a Youth Centre with outdoor recreational space.

Located just off Tillhouse Road and Cedar Close, the proposed building would house four of Devon County Council’s Service Providers for the community within the one building.

The Children’s Centre and Public Health Nursing would share facilities, the Youth Centre will provide indoor recreational spaces and external recreational space including a MUGA, while the library will also include a small café.

The other approach being considered by EDDC planning officers is to develop a “supplementary planning document” (SPD) for the town centre in Cranbrook – which is essentially a masterplan covering the town centre development.

It would include very similar facilities to those listed in the consortium’s proposal above as well as some workshops and light industrial units, a hotel, and possibly a leisure centre, although the final detailed plans have not been made public.

A Cranbrook town council spokesman said: “We have today launched a consultation for residents to state their preference relating to the development of the town centre in Cranbrook and the town council has been pressing for the delivery of the town centre for some considerable time.

“In short there is a choice between delivering a range of town centre facilities now. Or an alternative approach which seeks to deliver a more ambitious town centre at some undetermined time in the future without certainty over what can be delivered, how it’s going to be funded and how long it’s going to take.

“The masterplan proposal might deliver a more ambitious town centre, but we don’t know how long it would take EDDC to develop the town centre masterplan, there is no funding for those extra items and no timescale for delivery – it may take five years, possibly ten, or even longer and there is no guarantee that anything will be delivered at all. The consortium is not obligated to provide these extra facilities and the process would rely on take-up from other potential investors.”

The consultation can be accessed via, with the town council wanting to know the views of residents before they submit their response to EDDC.

Revealed: The Government Isn’t Certain The Coronavirus R Rate Is Below 1 In England

The government is not certain that the coronavirus R rate is below 1 in England, meaning the disease may not be under control even as lockdown restrictions are being lifted, HuffPost UK can reveal. 

According to a classified daily document released by Public Health England to health professionals across the UK, there is “uncertainty” around the figure published by the government, which has been used to justify the lowering of the UK’s “alert level”.

Publicly, the government last stated the R was 0.7 to 0.9 on June 17. If R – short for the reproduction rate of the virus – is greater than 1, the epidemic is generally seen to be growing. If R is less than 1, the epidemic is shrinking.

But a copy of last Thursday’s document, titled “COVID-19 Situation Report” and marked “OFFICIAL SENSITIVE”, states that because of uncertainty in how accurate the figure is “we cannot preclude R being above 1” in England.

It adds that the rate is believed to have risen recently, and explains: “We believe that this is likely to be due to increasing mobility and mixing between households and in public and workplace settings.”

On Tuesday Boris Johnson announced further easing of the lockdown restrictions including allowing two households of any size to meet inside and stay overnight from July 4.

The report also includes other data that have not been made public – most notably that the daily estimate of the number of daily new infections last Thursday stood at 7,000.

This is in contrast to the figure of actual positive tests reported for the same day, which was 1,346.

One health professional, who wished to remain anonymous, told HuffPost UK the information in the PHE report should be made public.

He said: “It really gets my goat – they really should be in the public domain. There’s nothing in it that justifies secrecy and it’s not as though the virus is listening into what we’re saying so it could adapt its strategy.

“The fact that we have to ask if we can share these things is crazy. It’s even crazier that we might be told no.

“There’s a whole other level of pain that this government has made PHE, a civil service body, unable to publish anything, even if it’s in the public interest, until the Cabinet Office and Number 10 have said that they may.”

A government spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “SAGE was totally clear when the most recent UK R rate was released last Friday that it stood at 0.7-0.9.

“The rate for England was also 0.7-0.9.“The latest ONS figures also show that the number of infections is declining.

“Most significantly, the “growth rate” for England alone is at -4 to -1. That means the number of infections is declining daily by between 4 and 1 per cent.”

“All of these figures were signed off by SAGE, on which PHE representatives sit.”

Robert Jenrick under pressure to resign after donor-row documents released

The housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, is under pressure to resign after newly released documents indicated that he “insisted” a planning decision for a £1bn property development should be rushed through so a Tory donor’s company could reduce costs by £45m.

In one document, a civil servant in the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government wrote that the secretary of state (SoS) wanted the Westferry development in east London to be signed off the following day so that Richard Desmond’s company would avoid the community infrastructure levy (CIL).

“On timing, my understanding is that SoS is/was insistent that decision issued this week ie tomorrow – as next week the viability of the scheme is impacted by a change in the London CIL regime,” the official wrote.

Text message exchanges reveal how Desmond, the former Express titles newspaper owner and pornographer, lobbied Jenrick to expedite the development to avoid the need to pay an extra £45m to Labour-run Tower Hamlets council, the poorest borough in London, saying: “We don’t want to give Marxists loads of doe [sic] for nothing!”

Jenrick subsequently overturned a decision by the council and the government’s planning inspectorate in order to approve a 500-apartment, 44-storey development at Westferry Printworks, a former printing plant in east London.

The documents were released on Wednesday after Jenrick faced a debate and vote, and was accused by critics of potentially breaking the ministerial code. The code instructs all ministers to “declare and resolve any interests and relationships” and “take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias”.

Following the documents’ release the cabinet secretary, Mark Sedwill, responded to an urgent query from Labour by stating: “The prime minister considers that the matter is closed.”

The housing secretary has faced accusations of “cash for favours” after it emerged Desmond had personally given the Conservative party £12,000 two weeks after the scheme for 1,500 homes was approved. Jenrick has since had to quash his own approval, conceding the decision was unlawful.

Labour has now raised a point of order in the Commons, claiming there were discrepancies in his account to the House and those that appear in the documents.

Jenrick sat next to Desmond at a Tory fundraising dinner on 18 November. Afterwards he sent the tycoon a text saying it was “good to spend time” with him.

Two days later, Desmond lobbied Jenrick via text message about the deal and arranged a site visit for him.

He wrote: “Your efficient PA … has arranged a meeting for 19th December at 1030am for meet and site visit … we appreciate the speed as we don’t want to give Marxists loads of doe [sic] for nothing!” The message was signed off: “Thanks again, all my best Richard.”

Jenrick, apparently recognising that he was being lobbied, replied: “Richard. As secretary of State it is important not to give any appearance of being influenced by applicants of cases that I may have a role in or to have predetermined them and so I think it is best if we don’t meet until the matter has been decided, one way of [sic] another … I hope that is okay and we can meet to discuss other matters soon, hopefully the 19th. Robert.”

Desmond replied: “Absolutely understood Look forward to meeting on 19th to celebrate the big majority. Best Richard.”

On the same day, emails appear to show that Jenrick asked officials in his department to prepare a ministerial decision.

A housing department official wrote: “SoS has flagged a case in Westferry Docklands (redevelopment of a printworks or something like that?) He understands a ministerial decision on this is likely to be coming up soon and also that there may be some sensitivity with timing on final decision.”

Layla Moran, the Lib Dem MP, said Jenrick’s position is “completely untenable”. “These documents are further evidence that he rushed through this planning decision to help a Tory donor avoid paying millions in tax. This whole grubby saga netted the Tory party only £12,000, but could have helped Richard Desmond save up to £40m. The public will be appalled at what looks like a clear abuse of power. Robert Jenrick should go and the Conservative party should hand back this donation,” she said.

Andrew Wood, a Tory councillor in Tower Hamlets who resigned from the party over Jenrick’s handling of Westferry, issues a five word statement: “I was right to resign.”

The released documents are part of a tranche of 129 pages relating to Westferry Printworks . They come after Jenrick admitted to MPs that he saw promotional images of the development on Desmond’s mobile phone at the fundraiser, as revealed by the Sunday Times.

Jenrick told MPs: “I recognise that there are higher standards of transparency expected in the quasi-judicial planning process, which is why I will also release discussions and correspondence which the government would not normally release.”

He added: “This was a decision taken with an open mind on the merits of the case after a thorough decision-making process.”

During the debate Clive Betts, the chair of the housing, communities and local government committee, questioned why Jenrick had waited until Labour tabled a debate on his role in the development to release the documents. “I think it might have been helpful if we had had it before the debate today,” he said.

Steve Reed, the shadow housing secretary, asked about the Conservative party fundraising dinner in November, attended by both Jenrick and Desmond.

“I understand Mr Desmond’s lobbyists, a company called Thorncliffe, had been busy selling tickets to the event to people who wanted access to the secretary of state,” he said.

“Ministers are not allowed to take planning decisions if they have been lobbied by the applicant and, under the ministerial code, ministers are required not to place themselves under an obligation by, for instance, helping to raise funds from a donor who stands to benefit from the decisions they make because it raises questions about cash for favours – which would be a serious abuse of power.”

Sedwill wrote in response to Labour: “The secretary of state has today written to the housing, communities and local government select committee stating that he has set out a full and factual account. I understand that he has also published a number of documents in support of this account. In light of this account, the prime minister considers that the matter is closed.”

Shock set back for new administration in Act V

Last night’s Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of East Devon District Council saw a surprise defeat for the new administration. The first part of the Agenda concerned a number of changes to the constitution to tidy up loose ends and to enable the EGM to deal with more than one motion. The Opposition tabled a further  amendment to the changes to the constitution to exclude cabinet members from sitting on either the planning or licencing committees. This was carried by 29 votes to 27. A couple of the Independent Progressive Group voted for this amendment. The new Council Chairman Dr Cathy Gardner, who has a casting vote in the event of a tied vote, chose not to exercise her personal vote and there were three absentees.

The grounds for excluding cabinet members from these committees concern potential conflicts of interest. Owl has already predicted that the Conservative Opposition would take renewed interest in scrutiny and it appears that extends to potential conflicts of interest as well. It was clear from the debate that attempts had been made over the past few days to find a compromise solution including calling in the Local Government Association to carry out a review of the governance of planning in EDDC (Owl thinks this is still likely to go ahead). There is no such bar in neighbouring local authorities. Legal restrictions only apply to the Leader and Cabinet members with responsibility over planning related matters such as strategic planning.

During the debate which lasted well over an hour Leader Cllr. Paul Arnott said he had a plan B in case the amendment was carried. (The Deputy Leader Cllr. Eileen Wragg had been nominated as Chair of Planning.)

The meeting concluded quite quickly after this by agreeing to the remaining issues: allocations of seats to committees and appointments etc. with the proviso that the Monitoring Officer would be delegated to agree the changes with Group Leaders necessitated by the amendment.

So we don’t yet know who will replace Cllr. Eileen Wragg as Chairman of Planning.