PM ‘Helping Property Developer Mates’ With New Planning Reforms

Boris Johnson faced fresh claims that the Tory party is doing favours for its “housing developer mates” after he unveiled sweeping planning reforms to allow high street shops to be turned into housing.

Both Labour and the Council for the Protection of Rural England hit out after the prime minister used a speech in the West Midlands to set out “the most radical reforms of our planning system since the end of the second world war.” 

Under new rules, existing commercial premises including empty shops can be converted into residential housing without the need for permission, and local councils’ role in the planning system will be cut back.

As well as allowing more shops to be turned into homes in city centres, the changes will allow retail premises to be turned permanently into cafes or offices without a planning application or local authority approval.

Pubs, libraries, village shops and other categories essential to the lifeblood of communities will not be covered by the new “flexibilities” to Planning Use Orders.

Builders will no longer need a normal planning application to demolish and rebuild vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are rebuilt as homes.

Property owners will also be able to build additional space above their properties via a fast track approval process, subject to neighbour consultation.

The government argues that the changes, which are planned to come into effect by September, will both support the high street by allowing empty commercial properties to be quickly repurposed and also reduce the pressure to build on green field land.

In his speech, Johnson said “we are more slow” in housebuilding than in Germany or the Netherlands.

He said: “Covid has taught us the cost of delay. Why are we so slow at building homes by comparison with other European countries? In 2018 we built 2.25 homes per 1000 people. Germany managed 3.6, the Netherlands 3.8, France 6.8.

“I tell you why – because time is money, and the newt-counting delays in our system are a massive drag on the productivity and the prosperity of this country and so we will build better and build greener but we will also build faster.”

The “newt-counting” remark appeared to be a reference to some housebuilding plans being delayed by wildlife habitat reviews.

Asked if he was prepared to take on ‘Nimby’ opponents of his planning changes, the PM replied: “Yes I can imagine there will be some people who want to object to this or that, but there always are. This country took 35 years to get Crossrail done. We need pace.”

But Labour’s Thangam Debbonaire said that the “land grab” away from councils and affordable homes towards developers could harm rather than help the struggling high street.

Affordable homes are typically added to developments so they comply with local planning regulations, but where councils no longer have a say over whether developments go ahead there is little incentive for this to continue.

A joint report by charity Shelter and estate agent Savills today warned that just 4,300 social homes were set to be built annually as the country recovered from coronavirus – not even enough to clear the waiting list in Wakefield, never mind nationwide.

And the reforms were all the more stark in the light of the Westferry “cash for favours” planning scandal involving housing secretary Robert Jenrick and tycoon Richard Desmond.

“The arrogance of Robert ‘three-homes’ Jenrick proposing a roll-out of ill-adapted rabbit hutches is staggering – permitted development has been shown to be a failure and this is just another example of the Tories doing favours for their property developer mates,” the shadow housing secretary said.

“Meanwhile, our climate change targets are urgent, and there are millions of existing homes which need insulation and energy efficiency.”

Johnson revealed that a new “policy paper” would be produced next month setting out comprehensive reform of England’s seven-decade old planning system, “to introduce a new approach that works better for our modern economy and society”.

Tom Fyans, policy and campaigns director at CPRE, the countryside charity, said deregulating planning and cutting up red tape would not deliver better quality housing.

“Our research has shown that three quarters of large housing developments are mediocre or poor in terms of their design and should not have been granted planning permission. Transferring decision making power from local councils and communities and handing them to developers is the exact opposite of building back better,” he said.

“The best way to deliver the places that we need, at the pace we need them, is to make it easier for local councils to get local plans in place, and then to hold developers to those plans. We need to make sure the voices of local communities are strengthened in shaping the homes and places that they will inherit.”

Is Boris the modern-day FDR? Not really.

The PM is not expected to set out a new approach to managing the British economy or to abandon the fixation with endless growth in favour of focusing on health and well-being.

Boris Johnson says he’ll tear up planning regulations in a bid to help Britain build its way out of the coronavirus crisis.

The Prime Minister will change the rules to allow commercial properties including office blocks to be converted into flats more easily.

But the move follows “horror stories” about tiny, cramped homes being created through office conversions – some less than 14 square metres.

Last year homelessness charity Shelter highlighted a property in Balham, South London – where a developer submitted an application to turn a two storey building into 26 ‘flats’.

Some of the homes shared an industrial skylight – but had no windows looking outwards.

Another building in Ilford was converted into 60 flats – with 42 of them described as “double studios” – but started at under 15 square metres.

And a converted block in Harlow was described as a “human warehouse” in a BBC report last year.

Changes to planning laws gave developers the power to turn offices into residential premises without seeking permission from local planning officers.

Unless there are demonstrable concerns about issues such as flooding or contamination, local councils have no power to stop them.

But the PM wants to make it even easier promising to “scythe through red tape and get things done.”

He added: “Time is money – and the newt-counting delays in our system are a massive drag on the productivity and and the prosperity of our country.”

In his speech, Mr Johnson announced more buildings will be allowed to be converted into residential properties without applying for planning permission.

Builders will no longer be required to seek permission to demolish and rebuild vacant buildings, as long as they are rebuilt as homes.

And property owners will be able to ‘fast track’ approval to build upwards, above their properties – subject to “neighbour consultation.”

Number 10 say the new rules are planned to be in place by September, and will require a change in the law.

Lib Dem leadership candidate Layla Moran said: “The Tories are creating the homes but driving out employment, which is perverse, and it just means you are getting terribly unbalanced development, yet again.”

Here’s what else he promised in his speech

He pledged £5bn on capital investment projects, supporting jobs and economic recovery this financial year.

In comparison, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced £640bn of gross capital investment in the UK’s roads, railways, schools, hospitals and power networks over the next five years at the Budget in March.

The furlough scheme has already cost £22.9bn and the three main Covid-19 loan schemes for businesses have already cost more than £40bn.

Breakdown of the £5bn promises in full

  • ‘£1.5bn this year for hospital maintenance’ including to scrap mental health dorms and improve A&E capacity.
  • ‘£100m this year for 29 road network projects’ including bridge repairs in Sandwell, the A15 in the Humber and £10m for “development work” to unblock the Manchester rail bottleneck.
  • £1bn to fund first 50 projects in a ten-year school rebuilding programme .
  • ‘£560m and £200m for repairs and upgrades to schools and FE colleges respectively this year’.
  • ‘£142m for digital upgrades and maintenance to around 100 courts this year’
  • ‘£83m for maintenance of prisons’
  • ‘£60m for temporary prison places’
  • ‘£900m for a range of ‘shovel ready’ local growth projects in England over the course of this year and next’
  • ‘£96m for the Towns Fund this year’ – between £500,000 to £1m for each of the 101 towns selected for town deals with £500k-£1m to spend on projects such as improvements to parks, high streets, and transport.
  • ‘Further projects to be announced in due course’

Lockdown changes in England from July 4

What have we yet to hear about?


The £5bn is only a fraction of what the Government has said it wants to invest in infrastructure over the course of this Parliament.

There is little so far on planning and house-building – although we expect to hear more on this on Tuesday.

There is an urgent need for more focus on employment.

What about jobs?

With unemployment at a its highest level in a generation and the UK suffering the worst economic hit of all industrialised nations, it is essential the PM prioritises a plan for jobs.

It needs to include concrete action preventing further job losses and supporting future employment.

Labour leader Keir Starmer warned the country faced unemployment “the likes of which we haven’t seen for a generation” unless the Government acted urgently.

He called on the PM to introduce an emergency July budget as part of its “duty” to the thousands of people who have already lost their jobs amid the crisis.

Is it enough?

It’s an important start but many will argue that the £5bn doesn’t go far enough.

Of the money announced, £1bn has already been allocated to a ten-year schools rebuilding programme.

But the first projects will only start spadework in September 2021 and headteachers warn that there is a £6.7bn repairs backlog in England.

Another £1.5billion to be allocated this year to hospital maintenance – even though official figures suggest more than four times that is needed.

The PM may have more announcements up his sleeve but if not, critics will argue that he has failed to understand the size and the scale of the targeted investment needed at this pivotal moment.

Is he the modern-day FDR?

Not really.

As well as stimulating the economy after the Great Depression, FDR rewrote the economic rules of the US.

The PM is not expected to set out a new approach to managing the British economy or to abandon the fixation with endless growth in favour of focusing on health and well-being.

Hoping to boost the economy, UK PM Johnson unveils new planning rules

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled new planning rules on Tuesday to boost the number of homes and allow commercial premises to be repurposed more easily, part of a package to spur the coronavirus-hit economy. 

Johnson, whose popularity has flagged over his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, earlier promised to fast track 5-billion pound ($6.14 billion) of infrastructure spending to jump start the economy, which has been largely shut for three months.

Returning to the promises he made at last year’s election, he is targeting much of the spending at those areas in northern and central England, where many traditionally opposition Labour-supporters voted for the governing Conservatives.

The new planning regulations will give greater freedom for buildings and land in town centres to change use without planning permission and create new homes from vacant and redundant buildings.

The changes, which are planned to come into effect by September through changes to the law, include:

— More types of commercial premises having total flexibility to be repurposed through reform of the Use Classes Order.

— A building used for retail, for instance, would be able to be permanently used as a café or office without requiring a planning application and local authority approval.

— Pubs, libraries, village shops and other types of uses essential to communities will not be covered by these flexibilities.

— A wider range of commercial buildings will be allowed to change to residential use without the need for a planning application.

— Builders will no longer need a normal planning application to demolish and rebuild vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are rebuilt as homes.

— Property owners will be able to build additional space above their properties via a fast track approval process, subject to neighbour consultation.

— Work will begin to look at how land owned by the government can be managed more effectively.

A temporary one-way system running the entire length of Budleigh Salterton High Street has been backed by town councillors.

A temporary one-way system running the entire length of Budleigh Salterton High Street has been backed by town councillors.

Looks a bold experiment to Owl creating a “Mons Circuit” around the town. Will “conservative” Budleigh be up for it? Perhaps the real problem is the lack of social distancing shown by visitors. Has yet to be agreed by Devon County Council.

 Becca Gliddon
The measure, flowing east to west from Rolle Road to the junction of West Hill and Station Road, aims to  keep shoppers safe and boost social distancing.

It will also see 14 High Street parking spaces, between its Rolle Road and Ragg Lane junctions, removed.

Barriers will be used to widen the south-side pavement from Hays Travel to Top Notch.

Vehicles entering the town from West Hill will be diverted along Station Road and Upper Stoneborough Lane and then onto East Budleigh Road, Coastguard Road, Marine Parade and Fore Street.

Traffic entering High Street from side streets such as Cliff Road and The Lawn will only be able to travel in a westerly direction.

High Street traffic will flow one-way, from east to west, from the junction of Rolle Road to the junction of West Hill/Station Road. Image: Budleigh Town Council/Google Maps

High Street traffic will flow one-way, from east to west, from the junction of Rolle Road to the junction of West Hill/Station Road. Image: Budleigh Town Council/Google Maps

More barriers will be installed next to the pavement on the northern side of High Street from the former Royal Mail sorting office to the junction of Station Road.

Town councillors voted eight to two in favour of the Temporary Traffic Regulations Order (TTRO) last night (Monday).

Their plan will be amended with a request to close Cricketfield Lane and Chapel Hill to through-traffic – making it accessible to residents only – and for extra signage.

The proposed scheme will now go back to Devon County Council (DCC) and, once formally approved, would take around a fortnight to implement.

Budleigh Salterton High Street will become one-way.

Budleigh Salterton High Street will become one-way. Image: Town council/Google Maps

The diversion route. Image Budleigh Town Council/Google Maps

The diversion route. Image: Budleigh Town Council/Google Maps

A one-way system has been devised as town councillors feel it will ‘allow for a safe reopening of the High Street to residents and visitors’.

District councillor Tom Wright told last night’s meeting the scheme was ‘for the greater good’ – the safety of pedestrians.

“We have to accept we are going to inconvenience some people,” he said.

“It’s not going to be acceptable to everyone.”

Councillor Penny Lewis said: “I’m disappointed that people think a one-way system is the first aim and not to widen pavements.

“We are slow of the mark and it [High Street] isn’t a safe place at the moment.

“I would love to magic a wider High Street, but it isn’t possible.

“What we’re trying to do is get wider pavements so people can move along High Street and use the shops safely.

“It’s not to impose a one-way system, it’s to get wider pavements.”

The view from the traffic lights in Station road.

A mock-up of the view from the traffic lights in Station road. Image: Town council/Google Maps

The view from the traffic lights looking towards High Street.

The view from the traffic lights looking towards High Street. Image: Town council/Google Maps

Where barriers will be placed in High Street.

Where barriers will be placed in High Street. Image: Town council/Google Maps

Where parking will be suspended in High Street.

Where parking will be suspended in High Street.Image: Town council/Google Maps

“It is to create a safer shopping environment in the town,” said Cllr Henry Riddell.

He added that procrastinating over the cost and other elements ‘is not going to cut it for someone who has been hit by a car’.

District councillor Alan Dent added: “This is about safety of pedestrians.

“I believe this is going to improve the shopping experience for people – whether residents or visitors – and in the long-term will be of benefit to the traders in the High Street.”

He warned that ‘Coivd-19 has not gone away’ with an ‘influx of visitors’ set to head to the area.

Budleigh Town Council will review the TTRO in three months and will ask for it to be removed if social distancing restrictions end sooner than this.

The view of High Street from The Lawn.

A mock-up of the view of High Street from The Lawn. Image: Town council/Google Maps

The view from The Lawn looking towards West Hill.

The view from The Lawn looking towards West Hill. Image: Town council/Google Maps

A report by town clerk Jo Vanstone said social distancing has seen pedestrians have to walk in the road – posing a danger to them and motorists.

Her report adds: “The town council would like to encourage visitors and residents to use its High Street by showing that Budleigh Salterton is safe to visit whilst still allowing shoppers to follow social distancing restrictions.

“Members feel that by allowing more space for people to walk freely and browse, it will be a more enjoyable atmosphere with the knock-on effect of helping the town’s traders.”

The council has worked with Devon highways officers, district and county representatives and held talks with the chamber of commerce on finding a solution.

Councillors believe that the loss of some on-street parking in High Street will be ‘cancelled out’ by the 123 free and 505 pay-and-display spaces across the town’s five car parks.

“Safety of all those wishing to shop in the town is the main purpose of this system and if at any time the situation changes in the future the town council will review the situation to see if the one-way system can be lifted or changed,” the report adds.

Ragg Lane looking towards Brook Road.

A mock-up of Ragg Lane looking towards Brook Road. Image: Budleigh Town Council/Google Maps

The view of High Street from Cliff Road.

The view of High Street from Cliff Road. Image: Budleigh Town Council/Google Maps

Last night’s meeting heard concern from one resident that Chapel Hill and Cricketfield Lane would be used as a shortcut to the High Street by delivery vehicles.

She said the scheme was unintentionally ‘protecting one set of pedestrians while putting a different set elsewhere at risk’.

Dad-of-two Tom Dixon asked for a pedestrian crossing to be installed in Upper Stoneborough Lane and expressed concern about ‘general safety’ with more vehicles using the road.

“Cars come winging down that road often in excess of 30mph,” he said.

His request will not be included in the one-way scheme, but will be considered at a later date by the council’s traffic group.

Cyclists will have to observe the one-way system.

Popular Cornish holiday towns to ban cars this summer to help social distancing

TOURIST hotspots across Cornwall will ban cars and close roads this summer to allow visitors to social distance. Will this be needed in Devon?

Kara Godfrey 

St Ives, along with areas in Falmouth and Truro, are just some of the locations introducing new measures ahead of the holiday season.

Falmouth has already closed a number of streets in the busy town centre for a set number of hours since June 15, along with Truro, following the announcement that non-essential shops could open.

Truro Mayor Bert Biscoe said he hoped that it would allow locals to return as well as “encourage others to come,” according to the Telegraph.

Closing the roads will allow visitors more room to visit the region, with many of the small towns having narrow pathways and thin streets which often become overcrowded during peak holiday seasons.

St Ives looks to be the next tourist town to follow in their footsteps, after new plans introduced by the town council to stop road traffic between 11am and 4pm from today.

The road closures will be marshalled, while permits will be issued for certain cases and emergency services can continue to drive through. Deliveries will have to operate at the beginning or end of the day.

St Ives Town Council and the St Ives Business Improvement District (BID) Helen Tripconey told local media that the measures were “temporary” until things returned to normal.

Ron Johns, who owns a bookshop in St Ives, said he had “no idea” it it would work but was needed as the “streets are very narrow in Cornwall”.

It comes after Boris Johnson announced that Britain’s 2m social distancing rule would be reduced to 1m+ in places where 2m was not possible.

Locals fear that without the new measures, a situation similar to Bournemouth beach could happen.

Last week, tens of thousands of Brits descended to Bournemouth as temperatures soured, with little social distancing and tons of litter left behind.

Roads were blocked and emergency services were unable to get through to the beach after a major alert was declared.

Visit Cornwall’s Malcom Bell said they were “fully in support of traffic restrictions” across the region, adding: “It provides a step change in the space available for local and visitors to access and enjoy our wonderful towns.”

Other areas in the UK such as Norfolk, Oxford, Cambridge and Whitby are also looking at closing a number of roads in the busy towns and cities as well.

Mr Bell previously said that Cornwall would allow tourists to social distance due to the large number of beaches compared to the rest of the country.

He said, according to Cornwall Live: “We are in a fortunate position due to our location, with the number of beaches we’ve got and with the right information we should avoid the Brighton, Southend and Bournemouth problem, which is sheer volume and lack of beaches.”

A holiday to Cornwall is likely to be very different compared to previous years, he added.

He told Sun Online Travel: “The bulk of popular attractions will be doing timed ticketing and all restaurants will be doing reservations.

“We need to also avoid people turning up and queuing at places, so for takeaway food like fish and chips, people will need to order their food online and then wait to be told when to collect it.”

Used tampons and human poo dumped on Exmouth beach

Members from ‘Plastic Free Exmouth‘ (PFE), as well as independent volunteers, all clubbed together in order to remove the waste that had been discarded along the seafront following the busy crowds which gathered in Exmouth last week.

Chloe Parkman

Bottles, beers cans, used sanitary products and even human faeces are among many other things that were discovered by volunteers who carried out a beach clean in Exmouth yesterday (June 28).

Members from ‘Plastic Free Exmouth‘ (PFE), as well as independent volunteers, all clubbed together in order to remove the waste that had been discarded along the seafront following the busy crowds which gathered in Exmouth last week.

Following the discovery of human faeces, PFE member Lucy Oakes-Ash, 33 said: “If you know you are going out to the beach for the day and there is no toilets, take a doggy bag and dispose of it. There is no excuse.”

East Devon District Council (EDDC) who are regularly emptying the bins were also present at Orcombe Point.

Used sanitary products (Image: Transition Exmouth)

Lucy said: “This all came about following the warm weather which encouraged people to go to the beach.

“People from the Plastic Free Exmouth team went down on Friday morning (June 26) originally.

“They cleaned up huge volumes of rubbish and waste, the Council were also there, they’re doing a great job.”

Non-profit organisation, Plastic Free Exmouth, is an active group who work with Exmouth Council, businesses, schools, and individuals to gain certification for a Plastic Free Community with Surfers Against Sewage.

Following their beach clean on Friday, the group posted images and details of their discoveries onto social media which generated a huge response.

The organisation then arranged another beach clean which was to take place on Sunday, June 28, at around 7:30am.

Lucy adds: “The David Attenborough effect had been reduced but this bought it back into the public eye.

Overflowing bins in Exmouth (Image: Jamie Forster)

“A group of us met yesterday (June 28) completely independent of one another.”

With many members of the team conducting the clean on the beach itself, Lucy decided to venture into the shrubbery behind the beach to see if there was anything buried in the trees and so on.

She said: “The main thing we found was bottles and cans.

“Both of those things are so easily recyclable. You could see they had been so obviously thrown into the hedge.”

Despite much of the waste being relatively new, Lucy stresses that a large number of the bottles, cans and so forth had been there for quite some time.

She adds: “When some people blame the youths of today throwing their rubbish away, this wasn’t new stuff we were finding.

“We had to basically dig one bottle out as it had been buried for quite some time.”

However, the worst discovery was yet to come for Lucy.

As she made her way up the “zig zag” path behind the beach, Lucy checked behind one of the benches to see if anything had been discarded only to discover a “whole load of used tampons.”

“It made me feel very sick.

“We safely removed them using gloves, a litter picker and bags.”

The rubbish was dumped around the bin provided (Image: Jamie Forster)

On top of this, the volunteers discovered human poo which had been dumped in the hedges behind the bins at Orcombe Point.

Lucy adds: “It looked relatively fresh.

“The toilets are open by the Lifeboat Station which are only around 200 yards away.

“I have two young children and when they tell me they need to go to the loo whilst on the beach we walk that little bit further in order to use the facilities.

“There is no excuse in my mind.”

Over 20 seagulls were spotted snacking on the rubbish (Image: Alison Laxton)

Despite the heaps of litter that have been dumped along Exmouth seafront over the last week, Lucy adds: “The Council have been doing an amazing job the whole way through.

Plastic Free Exmouth have now arranged in informal beach clean which is due to take place every Sunday morning at 7:30am.

“We don’t want Exmouth painted in a bad light, it’s an absolutely beautiful beach.

A beach mat was spotted hanging out of the bin (Image: Jamie Forster)

“If we make this informal beach clean a regular thing we will stay on top of it and keep it as pristine and beautiful as possible.”

For those who wish to join in on the Sunday Morning beach clean, must ensure that they arrive at Orcombe Point with all of the appropriate equipment such as a litter picker, gloves, and bags (reusable if possible).

For further information visit Plastic Free Exmouth here.


Trusting local government: if not now, when?

“If post-lockdown England is to navigate its way through the next period, Boris Johnson and his senior ministers must shake off their centralising instincts and finally learn to trust local knowledge and experience. There must be no more Leicester-style fiascos.”

The Guardian view on trusting local government: if not now, when?

On 18 June, the day before Britain’s Covid-19 alert level was lowered, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced that there had been a spike of infections in Leicester. Mr Hancock said a speedy response was well under way, thanks to what he described as good collaboration with the city’s local authorities.

Not for the first time, this turned out to be a blithe ministerial assertion that was soon disproved by events. Over the weekend, confusion reigned over what to do about Leicester’s surge of cases and who was responsible for doing it. The home secretary, Priti Patel, suggested on national television that a stricter lockdown was imminent in the city; Leicester’s mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, said such talk was simply speculation. Sir Peter said there had been no discussions with the government on the subject and that the council had no powers to implement a lockdown. In the early hours of Monday, the mayor received a peremptory government email which, he said, looked like it had been “cobbled together very hastily”. It recommended that present restrictions be extended for two weeks beyond 4 July.

Miscommunication was followed by misunderstanding and mutual incomprehension. Far from collaborating effectively with Leicester’s local authorities, the government appears to have failed adequately to either liaise with, inform or empower them.

Efficient local lockdowns could be crucial in preventing a second wave of Covid-19, so this desperate muddle has worrying implications. It is also part of a pattern of disregard and highhandedness in Whitehall’s dealings with the regions. From the beginning of this crisis, the government has ignored, bypassed and undervalued the expertise of councils. Private companies have been deployed to carry out testing, the results of which were often delayed. The contact-tracing experience of local authority public health teams has been underutilised, as Serco was awarded a contract to hire teams of tracers from scratch.

Earlier this month, Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester, had described the idea of local lockdowns as a “recipe for chaos”. In a joint statement with the mayor of Liverpool, Mr Burnham lamented the lack of information on how shutdowns would be enforced and pleaded for local directors of public health to be given far more real-time data on local infections.

The sense of neglect extends to a financial black hole in town hall finances. Having been promised that the government would do “whatever it takes” to support them through the crisis, it emerged last week that many councils were on the verge of going bankrupt.

As ever during this epidemic, comparisons with Germany, where regions have more power and more responsibility, are instructive. Last week, the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia swiftly reimposed lockdown in two neighbouring communities, after a surge in cases related to a local meat-packing factory. Stricter physical-distancing rules were enforced, schools closed and the hospitality sector shut down. The state’s response came against the backdrop of an agreed national containment threshold of 50 new infections per 100,000 people over a seven-day period. Contrast that with this country, as it prepares to reopen pubs, restaurants and hotels on Saturday. At this crucial stage, there should not be a lack of clarity over what happens if things go wrong.

If post-lockdown England is to navigate its way through the next period, Boris Johnson and his senior ministers must shake off their centralising instincts and finally learn to trust local knowledge and experience. There must be no more Leicester-style fiascos.

The 36 cities and counties where Covid cases are rising – risking more local lockdowns

Did Boris/Dominic unlock too soon? Did they get the messaging wrong? Surely this wasn’t meant to happen quite so quickly? The Telegraph article contains detailed tables and graphics. Locally, Tim Spector’s symptom tracker app indicates 0.2% incidence in East Devon – i.e. falling. – Owl

Leicester looks set to be the first city where a local lockdown could be imposed – with new confirmed cases on the rise.

But it is by no means an isolated case, with 36 cities or counties across England now seeing a fresh surge in cases.

By Dominic Gilbert 29 June 2020 

Leicester looks set to be the first city where a local lockdown could be imposed – with new confirmed cases on the rise.

But it is by no means an isolated case, with 36 cities or counties across England now seeing a fresh surge in cases.

Some, such as Doncaster, have seen a larger week-on week increase in new cases, and many of the areas seeing new upticks in Covid-19 are those in urban, densely populated areas.

The Government has consistently said it will consider regional and local lockdowns if necessary, and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has deployed four mobile testing sites to Leicester and made thousands of home testing kits available.

Cases on the rise

New confirmed cases are rising in 36 of the 151 upper-tier local authorities in England as the nation has begun emerging from lockdown.

Some, such as Sunderland, York and the Isle of Wight, detected just a single case in the week to June 26, but had not picked up any cases the week prior.

Others are seeing much higher numbers of new cases, including Leicester.

And cases are rising week-on-week in the city – from 39 cases in the week to June 19 to 41 cases in the week to June 26.

It is one of the epicentres of the virus in the country, with the second highest number of new cases in the week to June 26.

Doncaster has also seen a worrying spike in new cases – from 11 in the week to June 19 to 32 last week.

Derbyshire saw 25 new cases in the week to June 26, up from 23 the week before.

It is set against a general trend across the UK of falling cases, including in some of the worst-affected areas.

In Lancashire weekly cases fell from 42 to 16 in the same period, and in Essex, from 68 to 14.

The data is likely to be an underestimate, as figures published by Public Health England relate only to cases confirmed in NHS or PHE labs, not those carried out by commercial partners.

Cases rising in half of the most densely populated areas

Amid the general downturn in the virus, more than three-quarters of lower-tier local authorities (district councils and London boroughs) are seeing cases fall week-on-week.

But among the most densely-populated areas, more than half are now seeing a rise in weekly cases.

According to data from the Office for National Statistics and Public Health England, 12 of the 23 areas with more than 5,000 residents per square kilometre are seeing rises in new cases.

In total, 15 of the 33 London boroughs are experiencing rises in new confirmed cases, suggesting the virus has not yet been eliminated in the capital.

With Covid-19 disproportionately affected BAME households, some of the most ethnically diverse areas of England are those experiencing upticks in case numbers.

Eight of ten of local authorities with the lowest proportion of white residents are seeing a week-on-week rise in cases.

They include Leicester and London boroughs Ealing and Brent.

In response to the news that a local lockdown could be imposed on Leicester “within days”, an expert has said that defining the specific area for local lockdowns will be one of the “largest problems”.

Professor Keith Neal, Emeritus Professor of the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases at University of Nottingham, said: “One of the biggest problems is deciding who is in the lockdown area and who is not.  This needs to be understandable to both the people who are inside and the people on the outside.”

He added: “Defining the specific area will be one of the largest problems.  Local authority boundaries can run down the middle of the street with one side in one local authority and the opposite another.

“Urban sprawl has allowed towns and cities to expand resulting in these areas often joining other areas who identify differently and do not see themselves as part of the expanding town or city.

“Locking down at the regional level would be seen as unfair or worse as Leicester City has really very little to do with rural Lincolnshire.  People do not identify with their regional boundaries and many would not actually know where they are.”

Prof Neal added that even islands are not necessarily simple, as some are linked by bridges and communities interact “significantly”.

Residents ‘appalled’ over behaviour at Sidmouth beach

Dartmoor Chief Executive recently described every day on the moor as being like a Bank Holiday on steroids. Owl understands Exmouth and Budleigh beaches could have been described similarly ever since Boris Johnson took the cork out of the bottle. But Sidmouth – surely not! – Bring on the rain! – Owl

Chloe Parkman 

A councillor is calling for two bylaws to be brought in to prevent anti-social behaviour at Clifton Beach in Sidmouth.

Cllr Stuart Hughes is calling for bylaws following numerous complaints he has received from local residents who have been “appalled at the behaviour of young people who have been congregating there [Clifton Beach] during the heatwave.”

It is understood that up to 100 people have been gathering with small portable BBQ’s as well as lighting fires along the beach.

Cllr Stuart Hughes said: “The complaints I’ve received have expressed concerns over the behaviour and foul language from some of those gathered on the beach.

“They have also been lining empty bottles up and throwing stones smashing them which is also a potential hazard for children and other beach users.

“I contacted Alison Hernandez and asked if the police could keep a watchful eye on what’s happening, however I know they are stretched especially with lockdown being relaxed.

“I am therefore asking East Devon to see if bylaws can be fast tracked to prevent drinking and use of loud beat box radios along with a dedicated area being introduced for BBQ’s.”

The Councillor adds: “With hotels reopening [at a later date], need to show Sidmouth in its best light.

“As we come out of lockdown it’s important that we do everything we can to kick start the local economy.

“Unfortunately, the type of recent behaviour does nothing for our image.”

No 10 will ‘build, build, build’ its own grave with this blinkered revival strategy – Telegraph

“Downing Street is clinging to a fundamentally bad strategy. Since day one, its overwhelming political priority has been to get through the Covid crisis with Red Wall support intact. It believes it can do this by following the polls in its response to the pandemic, while following through on its manifesto pledges. It is in denial that these two parallel strategies have spectacularly collided.”

Sherelle Jacobs Daily Telegraph Columnist

The Tories want you to think they are back. In truth, they are stuck on a loop. Granted, the departure of Sir Mark Sedwill and the demise of Dfid are strong opening riffs to the Whitehall Revolution. All the right noises are coming out of Brexit negotiations. And now, a multi-billion spending pledge to restore the ‘health of the nation’ falls to the energetic beat of the party’s levelling up agenda.

And yet something feels very, very wrong. The momentum is robotic. No 10’s demeanour is steely but the eyes are dead. From pledging new school buildings when children are still yet to return to their lessons, to doubling down on a travel infrastructure drive at a time when the future of commuting has never looked more uncertain, it is strategising and spinning as if lockdown has changed nothing. And yet lockdown has changed everything.

Downing Street is clinging to a fundamentally bad strategy. Since day one, its overwhelming political priority has been to get through the Covid crisis with Red Wall support intact. It believes it can do this by following the polls in its response to the pandemic, while following through on its manifesto pledges. It is in denial that these two parallel strategies have spectacularly collided.

Not least because public opinion, quite understandably, failed to see into the future. In spring, support for lockdown was highest in the Midlands and North East. Polling showed the majority of Brits believed Covid-19 would not economically affect them. Early analysis suggested that London was seeing the sharpest drop in business activity caused by retail, hospitality and venue closures, a sentiment relayed in Northern media, encouraging a false sense of security.

But so it goes that ex-industrial towns are the worst hit by lockdown job losses, according to the Institute for Employment Studies. These regions are expected to see an average fall of 12 per cent in output over the next five years, more than double that in the South East, at 5 per cent.  The myth that the Government could somehow put the economy on ice and then unfreeze looks absurd in retrospect. Unfortunately for the Red Wall though, the lockdown lie has taken on a life of its own. Boris Johnson’s refusal to explicitly pursue a strategy of business as usual while shielding the vulnerable means that economically ruinous local lockdowns in certain Red Wall provinces now look inevitable.

The Tories are stuck in a similar rut with their levelling up agenda. This flagstone policy was always all about making simple, visible improvements in deprived towns by the next election: gleaming new hospitals and schools, spruced-up high streets and “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects. Perhaps this would have been just enough to create a sense of progress in normal circumstances. But, in the middle of an unprecedented economic crisis, it looks like window dressing when the house is on fire.

If ‘Jobsageddon’  is coming to Britain, one would be forgiven for expecting a Conservative government to try and douse its flames with authentically conservative policies. It should be slashing employment red tape, particularly around the hiring of agency workers, and freezing the minimum wage to encourage employers to keep on staff. It should be driving a tank through planning regulations, and aggressively pursuing tax cuts.

Instead, Boris Johnson continues to pursue strongman statism, pouring billions into road and rail connections, and flashy housing developments. Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak runs scared of tax cuts, even dithering over a temporary reduction VAT. In fact, from paying people not to work through lockdown, to effectively renationalising the railways in a cap-tip to Corbyn, it is difficult to discern anything particularly conservative about this government, or its response to the pandemic.

Perhaps the so-called party of business has forgotten how much politics resembles the economy it continues to trash. Parties that lack a strong USP are easily undercut by cheap imitations. Just as voters traded in trite Blarite passion in favour of cuddly Cameroonism, the avuncular and meticulous Keir Starmer might yet outmanoeuvre Boris Johnson’s pitch as the command-and-control father of the nation.

Times Radio launches with Boris Johnson and Malawi mix-up

Those who asked Amazon’s smart speakers, Alexa, to tune in to the new Times Radio yesterday to listen to extensive interviews with Boris Johnson were treated to a Chichewa-language discussion of Malawi’s politics and some upbeat music instead. Much more uplifting – Owl

Jim Waterson

Times Radio launched with a large budget, high-profile presenters and an exclusive interview with Boris Johnson.

Unfortunately, the new national speech radio station from Rupert Murdoch’s News UK had not banked on its big unveiling being disrupted by an outlet with a similar name in Malawi.

Many of those trying to tune in to the station via Amazon’s smart speakers, Alexa, were baffled to be directed instead to Times Radio Malawi, a music and talk station based in the east African country.

Rather than hearing the Times Radio breakfast show hosts, Aasmah Mir and Stig Abell, hold in-depth discussions on the prime minister’s education policies, listeners were treated to a Chichewa-language discussion of Malawi’s politics and some upbeat music.

Smart speakers are a crucial way of reaching new radio audiences as a fifth of British homes have one, with them often replacing radios in kitchens. However, the issue highlights the lack of control local broadcasters have over interfaces designed by international tech companies that struggle to adapt to local needs.

Users of Google’s smart speakers also reported problems hearing Times Radio, with the voice assistant redirecting listeners to Chris Moyles on Radio X – after mistaking the word “Times” for the multiplication sign. Times Radio is also broadcast on DAB radio, online and via an app.

The new station, which is heavily staffed by former BBC presenters and producers, is being run without adverts as a promotion for the Times’s digital subscriptions, in the knowledge it will make a hefty loss for the first few years.

There are signs the government is supportive of the challenge to the BBC’s dominance of speech radio. Johnson granted the station his first live broadcast interview in months, having not appeared on Radio 4’s flagship Today programme since last October.

Ironically, the new British listeners to Times Radio Malawi – which describes itself as “the radio experience that engages all Malawians at different social economic levels” – will have tuned in at a crucial time in the African nation’s politics.

On Sunday, Lazarus Chakwera was sworn in as Malawi’s president following a bitter election, held after a previous election result was declared void by the country’s courts.