Johnson, wearing hi-viz because he thinks that makes Britain like him, told care homes that they had no excuse for being cavalier about the risks after he demonstrated the risks of being cavalier.
He said: “They should have worn the PPE they didn’t have, should have taken the tests that weren’t available, and should have refused to take the infected patients we sent them.
“Coronavirus is very dangerous. I myself was admitted to intensive care because I ignored all medical advice around it, much as I am doing now.
“There is absolutely no excuse for not doing the right thing, unless you wish to exploit the ‘exceptional circumstances’ clause to drive to Durham in which case no problem.
“Consequently there were a number of regrettable circumstances in care homes which could easily have been avoided if the senior citizens involved had merely travelled to Greece via Bulgaria to stay in their mountain villa.
“I look forward to repeating this at the upcoming public inquiry, chaired by one of my mates, the report from which will be delayed and buried. Thank you.”
So if we had asked for a single training and skills grant from government, we would have a list of 36 measures.
The entire funding package being sought from central government is £550 million, enough to build a mile and a half of HS2 track.
By asking for £550 million, we are effectively saying we will settle for half that amount, say £250 million. Looking at the package, this will be spread over at least five years, so we are only talking of around £50 million per annum over a five year period. Every year for five years, we can expect the government to give Devon the equivalent of 200 yards of HS2 track.
£250 million is also not enough to build an 8 mile dual carriageway by-pass around Monkton.
Team Devon claim that the package will create 30,000 jobs. Which is remarkable value for an investment of £550 million. Some predict that unemployment nationally will reach 3 million post-virus, which means that if Devon’s package were to be introduced across the country at an equivalent cost of £55 billion, all unemployment in the UK would be eliminated. Rishi Sunak would write that cheque out immediately. That is less than the government borrowed in April.
Bear in mind that the package, at the same time as creating 30,000 jobs is also going to retrain an incredible 80,000 Devon citizens. So within that £55 billion Sunak will also in theory be able to retrain an astonishing 8 million of the national workforce.
Why doesn’t the Chancellor simply ask Team Devon’s economic team to run the Treasury?
So, the Team Devon package is absolute peanuts compared to what will be given to other parts of the country. We are then going to settle for much less, celebrate a pyrrhic victory and congratulate ourselves on being insulted. Almost all the money is going to be spent on training tens of thousands of Devonians who have no desire to be retrained. The A303 will remain a country lane for the foreseeable future.
Patients can now start being screened at the facility which has been transformed from a former Homebase store into hospital at Moor Lane, Sowton, in just six weeks.
On Friday (July 3) health bosses clarified that it will be using its CT scanner to help local GPs and hospitals provide people with safer and faster access to tests for a range of conditions, not just cancer.
It also added its hospital beds are specifically designed for people with Covid-19 needs, and throughout this time the facility will remain ready to quickly revert to its primary purpose and receive patients with coronavirus, if the number of cases in the region rises significantly.
To mark the opening of the hospital today (July 6), an internal ‘thank you’ event was held for staff and clinicians.
Health secretary Matt Hancock announced last Tuesday (June 30), that the Exeter Nightingale Hospital was to be the first to be converted into a cancer testing centre.
The previous week he confirmed it could be used to help other Devon hospitals tackle winter pressures later this year after health bosses stated it would remain on standby as a ‘flexible’ hospital.
The new hospital will now be used to cope with a huge backlog of potential cancer patients.
It will be open seven days a week, from 8am to 8pm, and will screen multiple patients a day, starting from today.
The hospital had been meant to open by the middle or end of June, instead of late May, as originally stated when it was proposed to build the hospital at Westpoint.
Health commissioners and providers have also not yet disclosed how much it is costing to build and then maintain the running of the hospital.
All that has been confirmed by NHS England is it is a “nationally funded” project and that some of the information is “commercially confidential”.
Assurances have been made that what isn’t in the public domain will be in “due course” but no time frame has been provided.
The swift rebuilding of the site has seen the former Homebase building double in size. It is a single-storey building and will support patients from Devon, Cornwall and neighbouring counties to support the existing hospital network.
A nightmare legacy for East Devon’s new administration – The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP). (Thought by some to have been postponed last year because of possible electoral consequences – but Owl thinks these consequences will linger for decades).
Owl understands that on 25th June 2020 EDDC councillors were finally given a whole council briefing and report by Ed Freeman – Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management on GESP. But the whole process is shrouded in secrecy (“commercial sensitivity” – you bet it is – because local landowners have been “called” to submit parcels of land for consideration to develop with the well known windfall financial gain for those finally approved of up to 100%).
The GESP seeks to determine where residential and business development will take place in East Devon in the period 2020 – 2040. GESP concerns itself with housing sites of 500 houses or more. The government calculator states East Devon must build approximately 844 new houses per year (this figures can be averaged out across years), but due to complexities of the calculator EDDC should actually be building more than this to keep ‘on a trajectory’ (the old argument Owl has heard many times before).
In comparison Mid Devon only has to build 363 new houses per year in the GESP plan according to the government calculator. In total 57,200 homes are to be built in the GESP area by 2040.
Something like 700 sites were put forward and as there are no large scale brown field strategic sites in East Devon vast swathes of agricultural land will be under more concrete.
Mid Devon, Exeter, East Devon and Teignbridge Councils are all considering whether to begin the next round of consultation on their Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP).
A series of meetings will ask Councillors to agree the ‘draft policies and site options’ document and a public consultation to begin in September. Exeter City Council will be first to decide at their Executive meeting on 7 July, followed by Teignbridge on 21 July, Mid Devon on 6 August and East Devon on 18 August.
The Councils have been asked to carry out the consultation (which was originally planned in for June) from September, following Government advice that planning authorities should continue despite Covid-19. The consultation will ask for the public to have their say on the draft policies and site options, which will influence the next stage.
As background Owl would draw attention to the CPRE Devon “Devon Housing Needs Evidence” September 2018. This study is the only strategic study of Devon’s housing needs and delivery. The only one to have assembled and reviewed all the extant (and one draft) Local Plans for authorities in Devon on a comparable basis. It concludes that 35% more houses are planned over the next 10 years than are required for anticipated population growth and inward migration. Most of these will be built on green field sites (agricultural land). New-build homes, on average, cost more than existing homes. The average priced new build is 18%, and a lower quartile new build is 27% more expensive than an existing home. There is now a significant proportion of second homes in the county. And, frankly, all the assumptions must now be re-considered in a post Covid-19 environment.
A ‘second Cranbrook’, relocating Exeter and Cullompton’s motorway service stations, and a regional sports hub are among the proposals for major development in the Greater Exeter Area.
Further development around the edge of Newton Abbot, Honiton, Feniton, Axminster, Tiverton, Cullompton, Crediton, and the area around Exeter are also proposed in the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan, for which a draft policies and site options document has been produced.
It will provide the overall spatial strategy and level of housing and employment land required across Exeter, East Devon, Mid Devon and Teignbridge in the period to 2040.
A minimum target of 2,663 homes per year, or 53,260 homes over the 20 year period of the plan, is required to be built, with the overall need for development sites equating to 63,912 homes.
Existing planning commitments – either unbuilt homes with planning permission or sites in local plans – amount to about 33,390 homes, with the GESP proposing that about 18,500 of the homes are provided on strategic scale GESP allocations, with 12,000 to be allocated on smaller sites via local plan reviews and also potentially in neighbourhood development plans.
The document takes forward a scenario of allocating the majority of the 18,500 new homes in the region near to public transport infrastructure corridors and hubs to maximise opportunities to encourage more sustainable forms of travel by giving the highest proportion of residents a choice of transport mode to the key service and job locations.
A total of 39 strategic site options are considered to have potential for allocation in the GESP, although following consultation to inform the final version of the GESP, not all sites will be taken forward for development.
Among the proposals in the GESP include relocating the J30 motorway services in Exeter and the J28 Cullompton services to a ‘super service station’ near Poltimore in order to unlock the land at both sites for development.
Other proposals could see a large area of 660 hectares of rolling farmland extending from the A30 to the A3052 across Clyst Honiton, Sowton, Farringdon, Aylesbeare be concreted over to see 10,000 homes built, with a further 1,300 homes allocated around Greendale, with a new link road to connect the A30 and the A3052 provided.
The Hill Barton site could also house a regional sports hub, with the Culm Garden Village expansion also having the same possibility.
Newton Abbot could see further expansion of the Houghton Barton site to the west of the town with an additional 1,750 homes, while a further 500 homes could be built on land to the south of the NA3 allocation.
More than 1,000 homes could be built to the East of Honiton, with 540 homes in Axminster, 2,800 homes around Feniton, and 2,500 homes around Whimple also sites to be consulted on.
To the north of Exeter, 750 homes in Crediton, 500 homes in Cowley and 1,200 homes in Newton St Cyres are proposed, while to the south, 1,100 homes around Shillingford and 1,500 homes at Peamore could be built.
Redevelopment of land around Marsh Barton, Exeter St Davids, Topsham, Sowton. Pinhoe, and within the city centre allocate around 12,000 new homes within the boundary of Exeter
New rail stations at Marsh Barton, Monkerton, Cullompton, and Cranbrook East are proposed, as would 15 minute bus frequency on the routes on the A3052 to M5 J30, Heavitree Road, the A379 South West Exeter and around. Exe Bridges / Alphington Road.
Park-and-ride sites will be allocated around Exeter, with one on the Pinhoe Road B3181, Heavitree Road, Clyst St Mary, A379 Matford, A377/A30 Alphington Road and A377 Cowley Bridge corridors planned.
Land will be safeguarded for improvements around the Strategic Highway areas of junctions J27 and J28 of the M5, enhancements of local routes to improved capacity and resilience between M5 J29 to M5 J31, and the relocation of M5 J30 and J28 motorway services to one new “on-line” site.
A30/A303 improvements between Honiton and Marsh are called for, while a new link road between the A30 at Clyst Honiton and the A3052 could be built to allow movement without the need to use the motorway junctions.
A comprehensive pedestrian and cycle network within Exeter is also proposed, with City Centre streets, including South Street, Fore Street, Paris Street, Queen Street, Heavitree Road and Cowick Street to have more priority given to active travel over the car.
A comprehensive pedestrian and cycle network within identified towns, including in Newton Abbot, Cranbrook, Crediton, Cullompton, Dawlish, Exmouth, Honiton, Teignmouth, Tiverton and the GESP allocations, will come forward at a later date.
Each council will be holding meetings to ask councillors to agree to the ‘draft policies and site options’ document and that a public consultation should begin in September. Exeter City Council will be first to decide at its Executive meeting on 7 July. Teignbridge’s Executive will consider the proposals and decide on 21 July followed by East Devon on 23 July and Mid-Devon on 6 August.
Councillors will be asked to approve the document for consultation and will not at this stage be making any decisions over which sites are taking forward for development within the final GESP document.
THE 39 SITES and their pros and cons, as outlined in the GESP
The area consists of a bowl of mainly steep agricultural land on the north west fringe of Exeter, beyond the built-up area of Exwick. The area is bounded by Rowthorn Road and Redhills to the west. Exwick Lane crosses the site east to west. The 44 hectare site covers land both in Teignbridge and Exeter, in the Whitestone and Exwick parishes. 400 homes could be located on the site
A large proportion of the site has been put forward by landowners for development, with homes 3km from the centre of Exeter, within cycling distance and with potential for improvements, and local facilities nearby.
The local road network and road access is poor and there is limited scope for upgrading. A large proportion of the site is high grade agricultural land and the site is likely to be too small for a new primary school or GP services, so will rely on off-site provision. Improved road access, particularly to Redhills, would be required.
The area consists of 27 hectares of predominantly agricultural land surrounding and to the west of the hamlet of Cowley. Up to 500 homes could be built in the parish than comes under East Devon District Council.
It is close to significant job opportunities in Exeter city centre and the University, it has the potential to accommodate a Park and Ride/Change, and it could potentially deliver part of the Boniface Trail cycle route
It may impact upon the Exe Estuary which is a Natura 2000 protected wildlife site sensitive to an increase in the number of visitors, while a small area of the site is affected by flooding St. Andrew’s Road and the existing junction with A377 would be an unsuitable access, Cowley Bridge and roundabout junction with Stoke Road/Wreford’s Drive are at capacity, and there are no schools within safe walking distance of the site.
This 90 hectare agricultural site adjoins the southern boundary of the historic market town of Crediton, and could accommodate up to 750 homes
There is a possible relationship with site at Newton St Cyres and Cowley to collectively deliver transport infrastructure, including rail, bus and cycle improvements, is within walking distance of the services and facilities within Crediton, and the nearby train station offers the potential for residents to travel by rail, with a 10 minute journey time, into Exeter (with also the potential to travel north. The potential Cowley site option also considers provision of a Park and Ride, which would be an alternative means of accessing Exeter
A large proportion of the site is identified as a monument of local importance – ‘Manor of Crediton Parks’ (an undesignated medieval deer park), and the site may contain bats, otters and other protected species. A large proportion of the site is high grade agricultural land and a package of improvements to upgrade highway access and level crossing upgrade would be needed.
Currently is a mixed use area on the eastern side of Exeter city centre. Includes homes, business, leisure and institutional uses, a bus station and public car parks. The 16.4 hectare site is identified for future redevelopment in Exeter City Council’s Liveable Exeter Programme and could accommodate 1,160 homes.
It provides an opportunity to make more efficient use of a brownfield site, HAS excellent access to public transport and is close to a wide range of job opportunities and facilities, giving the potential for car-free residential development. A proportion of the site is in public sector ownership, enabling additional influence over design and delivery and the opportunity to reinvest proceeds into city improvements and part of the site has been put forward landowners for development
The site currently includes homes, businesses, institutional uses, public car parks and transport infrastructure and is affected by air and noise pollution from nearby roads and city-centre uses and may be contaminated
EXETER ST DAVIDS
The mixed-use site in Exeter includes surface car parks, storage and industrial uses, student accommodation and retail, with Exeter St Davids station to the west. The 5.3 hectare site could accommodate 660 homes
The site is identified for future redevelopment in Exeter City Council’s Liveable Exeter Programme and it provides an opportunity to make more efficient use of a brownfield site. It has excellent access to public transport and is close to a wide range of job opportunities and facilities, giving the potential for car-free residential development and gives an opportunity to create an attractive gateway to Exeter
It includes a number of existing student homes, businesses and public car parking which would need to be taken into account, is close to listed and locally listed buildings and within St David’s Conservation Area, and is affected by the operational requirements of Network Rail
The 16 hectare site is on western edge of Exminster with the M5 to north. The site is less than 1km from South West Exeter (SWE1) urban extension in the Teignbridge Local Plan and could accommodate 200 homes
A large proportion of the site has been put forward by landowners for development, is adjacent to Exminster which has a range of shops, services and facilities and an existing regular bus service into Exeter, and the site is marginally within cycling distance of Exeter
There is no potential to increase existing primary school capacity as the existing site is significantly undersized and the school has already been expanded and the development would not support viable new primary school provision. A large proportion of the site is high grade agricultural land and there may be noise from the M5 Motorway
The 107 hectares of land is adjacent to the A3052. It adjoins Crealy Adventure Park to the west and Greendale Business Park to the south. A total of 1,300 homes plus employment use could be accommodated
It could deliver a significant amount of employment as an extension to Greendale Business Park and/or smaller scale employment uses to support housing development. There are approximately 30,000 jobs located within 5km of the site including at Skypark, Science FPark, Greendale and Hill Barton Business Parks, and it could utilise nearby Clyst Valley Regional Park and proposed Clyst Valley Trail and existing bus services that run along the A3052
Windmill Hill is the likely location of a major battle during the 16th century Prayerbook Rebellion and has far reaching views. It is a long distance from existing services and facilities and on its own may not be large enough to deliver a wide range of services and facilities, and development could increase traffic on the Clyst St Mary roundabout and Junction 30 of the M5 which is at or nearing capacity. Improvements to the bus network along the A3052 including park and ride and bus priority and a new primary school would be required.
A large area of 660 hectares largely comprised of rolling farmland extending from the A30 to the A3052, before adjoining the Hill Barton industrial area to the south. It covers the parishes of Clyst Honiton, Sowton, Farringdon, Aylesbeare and could see 10,000 homes built, as well as employment land
A large proportion of the site has been put forward by landowners for development and it comprises predominantly level land with limited landscape or historic sensitivity. There are approximately 30,000 jobs located within 5km of the site including at Skypark, Science Park, Greendale and Hill Barton Business Parks, and it could deliver a new route connecting the A30 to the A3052. It has the capacity to deliver a self-sufficient, mixed-use garden community and it could deliver a regional hub for sports
It is not located in close proximity to an existing Railway route and development here could increase traffic on the Clyst St Mary Roundabout and Junctions 29 and 30 of the M5 which are at or nearing capacity. A large proportion of the site is high grade agricultural land and a small area of the site is affected by flooding along the Aylesbeare stream / Holbrook. Considerable improvements to the bus network including provision of new park and ride facilities along both the A30 and A3052 corridors and bus priority on the A30 would be needed.
The site is 0.9 hectares and is currently a car park. It could deliver 106 new homes
It provides an opportunity to make more efficient use of a brownfield site and it has excellent access to public transport and is close to a wide range of job opportunities and facilities, giving the potential for car-free residential development.
It includes a public car park and is affected by air and noise pollution from nearby roads and the railway and may be contaminated, as well as by flood risk
This site is a series of agricultural fields on a steep hill on the south-western fringe of Exeter, within the landscape setting of the city, but located within the Ide and Shillingford St George parishes in Teignbridge. The 62 hectare site could deliver 1,100 homes.
A large proportion of the site has been put forward by landowners for development. The site is close to Exeter and 1km from Alphington which has a good bus service, and is within cycling distance of Exeter. A proportion is in public sector ownership, providing potential influence over delivery and the opportunity to reinvest proceeds into infrastructure
It will impacts on existing villages of Ide and Shillingford Abbot and will have a landscape impact, particularly on the green setting of Exeter. There is potential for relatively high development costs and infrastructure costs, and creating a suitable access to the Ide A30 Junction may be unfeasible and requires further investigation
The site consists of a large area of older employment, retail, quasi retail and car showroom uses in the south of the city, largely bounded by the mainline railway, Alphington Road, residential areas and the Alphin Brook. A total of 5,544 homes could be delivered in the 85 hectare site
Various employment and commercial permissions across the trading estate area and planning consent has been granted for a new train station off Alphin Brook Road. It provides a substantial, flat brownfield redevelopment opportunity, is within cycling distance of the city centre and within walking distance of Exeter St Thomas and the proposed Marsh Barton railway stations, the Alphington Road bus route and St Thomas local shops and therefore has the potential to provide largely car-free residential development
The could loss of, or disturbance to, many local businesses providing about 4,000 – 5,000 jobs, and all of the site is affected by flooding
NEWTON ST CYRES
The site is around 8km from Exeter and comprises predominantly gently undulating agricultural land. The hamlet of Sweetham is located in the centre of the site with the larger village of Newton St Cyres on the south-west boundary. The site includes farms and isolated dwellings, with a golf course near Higher Rewe. 1,200 homes and employment land could be accommodated in the 303 hectare site
The site is reasonably close to Exeter, with the potential to access high quality jobs in the city, and the train station offers the potential for residents to travel by rail, with less than 10 minute journey time, into Exeter (or beyond), and residents could cycle to Exeter or Crediton. The characteristics of the site provides the opportunity to deliver a new sensitively designed rural settlement based on garden village principles
A large area of the site is affected by flooding along the River Creedy and includes sections of Langford Road and Station Road. The highway network in the area is restricted and is likely to require significant investment to provide increased capacity and flood resilient access to the site, and the site is segregated by the Tarka Line railway, with access points to Sweetham over railway bridges on Langford Road and Station Road
Mixed-use site within Exeter’s urban area, including part of the Guildhall and all of the Harlequins Shopping Centres (developed in the 1980/90s), alongside the Guildhall and Mary Arches public car parks, a large listed Bingo Hall, smaller scale commercial uses and homes. 310 new homes could be accommodated
The site is identified for future redevelopment in Exeter City Council’s Liveable Exeter Programme, provides an opportunity to make more efficient use of a brownfield site, and additional residents in this area could boost city centre viability
The site includes existing businesses, homes and public car parks, and may contain important archaeological remains
OIL MILL LANE
A large area in East Devon largely comprising rolling farmland extending from the A3052 to Woodbury Road, and adjoins Crealy Adventure Park to the north-east. It stretches through 380 hectares across Sowton, Clyst St Mary, Clyst St George, Woodbury and could accommodate 4,000 homes and employment
There are approximately 30,000 jobs located within 5km of the site including at Skypark, Science Park, Greendale and Hill Barton Business Parks. It could deliver a link road connecting the A376 and A3052 which could relieve pressure from local traffic on the Clyst St Mary Roundabout and has the capacity to deliver a self-sufficient, mixed-use garden community
It is not located in close proximity to an existing railway line and development could increase traffic on the Clyst St Mary roundabout and Junction 30 of the M5 which is at or nearing capacity with a potential traffic impact on Topsham. It is located near to historic settlements of Clyst St George, Clyst St Mary and Woodbury Salterton, with possible difficulty in accessing the site over a floodplain and in the availability of land for development
The site is south west of Exeter, 4-5km from the centre. This area is agricultural in use and residential properties scatter the site, with a concentration at Little Silver. Towards the south of the site is an industrial estate, which has planning permission for an extension. 1500 homes could be provided on the 146 hectare site in Teignbridge
It is adjacent to existing Teignbridge Local Plan & Exeter Core Strategy allocations in South West Exeter. The site contains an existing substantial employment planning permission, which would enable jobs within walking distance for residents, and Devon County Council has agreed to pursue a park and ride site in this location to provide a link to Exeter, and a potential northbound sliproad onto the A38 could be created
Peamore House and other listed buildings and features which form part of the historic house estate would need to be considered, and there are wooded areas, including Little Silver Plantation and with Ancient Woodland next to the site. A large proportion of the site is high grade agricultural land with steeper slope areas within the site
PINHOE TRADING ESTATE
The suburban trading estate comprises a range of unit sizes, together Pinbrook Recycling Centre, one home and a supermarket. It could be 278 new homes built
It provides an opportunity to make more efficient use of a brownfield site and it has good access to public transport, is on a strategic cycle route, and is close to a wide range of job opportunities and facilities, giving the potential for car-free residential development
The trading estate is protected for employment use by Policy CP4 of the Exeter Core Strategy and is also covered by the waste consultation zone for Pinbrook recycling centre. A phased release of land for employment use would be needed to allow for consideration of supply and demand, as would consideration of the recycling centre to enable continued operation
A series of agricultural fields on a shallow ridge which slopes gently down eastwards towards the River Clyst. The land could be used as a Motorway Services Area only
A large proportion of the site has been put forward by landowners for development and it provides an opportunity to reconsider the existing motorway service station provision at Exeter which could free up the existing site for alternative uses and relieve pressure on Junction 30 of the M5, with limited feasible locations for the proposed use between Junctions 28 and 30. It could provide a link to Poltimore House which is on the Historic England heritage at risk register, increasing the number of potential visitors which may aid in restoration efforts
The site is largely within the East Devon Local Plan designated Clyst Valley Regional Park, and the new service station could impact on views from Killerton Estate, Poltimore House and Broadclyst Village, which are important heritage assets in the area
The split site lies to the west of Junction 30 of the M5 motorway and includes the motorway services, fuel station, retail, surface car parking/park & ride, industrial/ employment units, hotel, restaurants and cafés, and agricultural land. 1,050 homes on the 36 hectares could be delivered
It would support the relocation of the Motorway Service Area with potential to relieve congestion at Junction 30. It provides an opportunity to make more efficient use of a brownfield site and is within cycling distance of Exeter city centre and has excellent access to public transport (bus services and Digby & Sowton Railway Station) giving the potential for car-free residential development
There are existing homes, businesses, park and ride site and motorway service station on the sites, and there are concerns over the feasibility and potential high cost of altering the local highway and junctions. A new service station and either the retention of park and ride capacity on site or potential off-site relocation to A376 or A3052 would be required
Includes the Holloway Street/Western Way/South Street/Magdalen Street junction together with land around it, surface car parking and blocks of flats, plus the redevelopment of Magdalen Road Car Park. A potential for a mix of employment uses alongside 300 homes
The site is identified for future redevelopment in Exeter City Council’s Liveable Exeter Programme. It provides a substantial brownfield redevelopment opportunity and it is within walking distance of the city centre, railway and bus stations, giving the potential for car-free residential development
The scheduled Exeter City Walls run through the western end of the site and it contains other significant buried archaeological remains. Potential nuisance to new residents from night time economy while the development could result in a reduction in city centre parking
Mixed use area of post-war redevelopment within Exeter city centre next to the Corn Exchange OF South Street, Market Street and Fore Street, currently including shops, offices, homes and two small public car parks. Could accommodate 175 homes
It provides an opportunity to make more efficient use of a brownfield site and it has excellent access to public transport and is close to a wide range of job opportunities and facilities, giving the potential for car-free residential development
It includes a number of existing homes and businesses and is part of an Area of Archaeological Importance, with the potential to contain significant remains
An area of land adjoining the A30 and close to Junction 29 of the M5. The 30 hectare site could be used as employment land as an extension to the Science Park
A large proportion of the site has been put forward by landowners for development and could form an extension to the Exeter Science Park and encourage the provision of high-tech, well paid jobs in a landscaped environment. It could link into existing bus and cycle routes into Exeter and Cranbrook at the Science Park
The site is within the East Devon Local Plan designated Clyst Valley Regional Park and areas of the site are visually prominent in the landscape. It is currently separated from Exeter by the M5 and the existing Science Park by the A30 and development could increase pressure on Junction 29 of the M5 which is at or nearing capacity
Located to the north of Exeter’s built-up area, 768 homes could be accommodate on the 58 hectare site
Homes would be 3km from the City centre, with potential for improved walking and cycling routes and bus services and it could include new opportunities for publicly accessible green infrastructure
It is allocated as Valley Park and/or landscape setting in the Exeter Core Strategy and Exeter Local Plan First Review. It includes part of Savoy Hill Valley Park and is of high landscape value, with a number of steep slopes that are unsuited to residential development, while road access is constrained
A stretch of land between the M5 and Topsham and approximately 5 km from Exeter city centre. Contains a range of existing uses including residential, sports facilities and agriculture, with 1,500 homes accommodated on the 95 hectares of land in East Devon and Exeter
There are already multiple applications for piecemeal residential development within the site are at various stages, from submitted to approval granted at appeal. It provides a sustainable location for development, being close to Topsham and Topsham Road which host a range of facilities and services including schools and public transport., and is well located in relation to existing employment areas including Sowton and Exeter city centre, and has excellent access to public transport, both bus services and proximity to Newcourt and Topsham Railway Stations
A large proportion of the site is high grade agricultural land and there are issues of cost and feasibility of improving the local highway and junctions, particularly Old Rydon Lane and the Clyst Road junction with the A379. A new primary school with early years to serve the site and contributions to additional secondary school provision and a new multi-purpose community facility and neighbourhood hub to host local events and work space for small businesses etc would be needed
A Predominantly industrial site between the Exe Canal and a mainline railway, 1,570 homes could be built on the 26 hectare site
It provides an opportunity to make more efficient use of a brownfield site and has excellent access to public transport and is close to a wide range of job opportunities and facilities, giving the potential for car-free residential development. 800 homes are already committed in the Exeter Core Strategy
Previous planning applications for piecemeal residential development within the site have been refused, because the infrastructure and environment needed to create sustainable development will only be delivered if the site is redeveloped comprehensively. Most of the site is affected by flooding
A Predominantly brownfield site around Exe Bridges, and 620 could be built on the nine hectare site
The site is identified for future redevelopment in Exeter City Council’s Liveable Exeter Programme, it is within walking distance of the city centre and has excellent access to public transport, jobs and services with potential for car-free residential development and could deliver sustainable transport improvements including improved pedestrian and cycle connectivity across the rive
Policy CP10 of the Exeter Core Strategy protects facilities that meet the city’s community, social, health, leisure and recreational needs and the site includes key river crossings and roads, which are key features of the city’s highway network and bus corridors. The northern half of the site is within Riverside Conservation Area and a large area of the site is affected by flooding
WESTCLYST AND MOSSHAYNE
The site consists of 117 hectares of predominantly agricultural land and marshland surrounded by the M5 motorway, railway and the River Clyst. Sites immediately to the west of the site and the M5 and south of the site and the railway have been allocated by the East Devon Local Plan and Exeter Core Strategy and are now under construction and 1,600 homes could be built
The site is in close proximity to significant numbers of jobs proposed on allocated sites in East Devon’s West End. It is close to Pinhoe train station and it is well located to attract strategic employment development as part of a mix of uses. It could easily link in to the Monkerton/Tithebarn heat network
A large area of the site is affected by flooding and the southern-most part of the site contains potentially important archaeological assets. The M5 and railway could act as barriers to movement causing issues of severance and the noise from the M5 and railway could reduce capacity and need mitigation. Local primary schools in Pinhoe are at/approaching capacity and the potential for Clyst Vale Community College to expand would need consideration. Langaton Lane would currently be unsuitable and lacks resilience as sole point of access while there are highway constraints in Pinhoe Village
CULM GARDEN VILLAGE
A large area of predominantly flat agricultural land east of the M5 at Cullompton. The site includes the emerging East Cullompton allocation within the Mid Devon Local Plan Review and includes the Culm Garden Village area. It includes dispersed farms and isolated dwellings. 5,000 homes, to reflects the scale of Garden Village proposal, are planned
The East of Cullompton has been designated as a Garden Village by the Government and a first phase of the site is an allocation in the Mid Devon Local Plan Review. It is close to the M5 and the Great Western Mainline providing good links to Exeter and beyond and its large scale would enable comprehensive masterplanning, significant infrastructure provision and high quality design. It offers the potential for a mixture of uses including residential, employment and community infrastructure, helping to reduce the need to travel , and it could deliver a regional hub for sports
There is potential for significant commuting to Exeter by car while a large area of the site is affected by flooding. There is the wish to maintain physical and visual separation from Kentisbeare
A site east of Tiverton and west of Halberton and is bounded to the south and east by the Grand Western Canal. The 101 hectare site could accommodate 950 homes
A large proportion of the site has been put forward by landowners for development and it would provide a logical extension to Tiverton linked to an existing allocation and planned facilities There is the potential to provide residential development linked to existing employment, reducing the need to travel, the site will have good strategic highway access from a new junction on the A361, and the site provides the potential to improve National Cycle Network Route 3 along the disused railway line
The Grand Western Canal (Conservation Area, Local Nature Reserve, and County Wildlife Site) which would need careful treatment and landscaping, while there is potential for car-borne out-commuting to Exeter
SAMPFORD PEVERALL SOUTH
The site is predominantly relatively flat agricultural land to the south of Sampford Peverell. The site adjoins the Great Western Canal and Sampford Peverell to the west, with the Great Western Mainline and M5 motorway in close proximity to the eastern boundary. The 167 hectare site could accommodate 2,200 homes
A large proportion of the site has been put forward by landowners for development and the site is generally relatively level. The site is close to the M5 motorway and Great Western Mainline strategic transport corridor providing access to Exeter and other towns/cities along the corridor while the train station at Tiverton Parkway (adjacent to the site) offers the potential for residents to travel by rail, with an average 15 minute journey time to Exeter. There is potential for investment in strategic cycle routes and highway improvements to the A361 Tiverton Parkway junction and Junction 27 of the M5
Part of the eastern boundary is next to the Grand Western Canal county wildlife site and local nature reserve and landscape sensitivity is high around the setting of heritage assets – Great Western Canal and Sampford Peverell conservation areas and associated listed buildings. Large areas of the site are affected by flooding associated with the River Lyner along the eastern boundary and with streams/sluices running across the site that may constrain access through the site. There is also a sewage works in the centre of the site and the potential for traffic impacts on B3181 to Tiverton, A361 Tiverton Parkway junction, and congestion at Junction 27 of the M5
23 hectares of gently undulating fields west of the A382, approximately2.5 km north of Newton Abbot and 1.5 km south of Drumbridges (A38). To be used for employment land
The adjacent A382 is planned to be improved, widened and a cycle path added. The site is close to the A38 Drumbridges junction and is adjacent to an existing Teignbridge Local Plan employment allocation at Forches Cross
It is largely within the Bovey Basin Minerals Safeguarding area for Ball Clayidentified in the Devon Minerals Plan and the site is currently separated from the built up area of Newton Abbot and development will alter the character of this location
HOUGHTON BARTON WEST
A 120 hectare site currently in agricultural use, adjacent to Seale Hayne and Teignbridge NA1 allocation for 1,800 homes. The site lies approximately 3.5km from Newton Abbot town centre and could see a further 1,750 homes built.
It is next to the existing Teignbridge Local Plan Houghton Barton NA1 allocation and the site is within cycling distance of Newton Abbot. The site (combined with NA1) could support a regular bus service into Newton Abbot and an appropriate site layout, use of material, planting and supporting infrastructure could potentially support and enhance the role of Seale Hayne as a community facility
There is only westbound access from the A383 onto the A38. However, the new link road to Forches Cross has planning permission, while the impact of the elongation of the town will have an ability of residents to make active and sustainable travel choices. Measures to address the risk of flooding including contributions to increase the capacity of flood defence infrastructure at Holbeam dam would be needed
A 46 hectare site of flat land in use as forestry, with some commercial and residential (C2) uses. The site is adjacent to the A38 Drumbridges junction and Trago Mills
Permission has been granted for a mixed use development comprising of employment development, a restaurant/public house, and residential development. The topography is suitable for employment uses and has potential for a service station to serve the Devon Expressway dual carriageway
It includes large wooded areas which might host Greater Horseshoe bats, Great Crested Newts, Cirl Buntings and other protected species, while is close to Stover Country Park SSSI. The existing Gaverick Court provides accommodation and specialist care for up to 95 vulnerable elderly World War Two veterans and existing permissions have not been delivered due to significant investment needed in infrastructure including electricity sub-stations and highways
The site is south of the NA3 allocation in the Teignbridge Local Plan and the area is primarily in agricultural use. 500 homes could be accommodated in the 59 hectare site in Kingskerswell and Abbotskerswell
A large proportion of the site has been put forward by landowners for development, while the site is adjacent to the existing NA3 allocation which offers some opportunities for shared infrastructure, in particular primary education. The site is within cycling distance of Newton Abbot
There will be a large cost of improving access into the site from Kingskerswell Road including widening of the road bridge over the railway and potential impact on the Grade 2 listed bridge. The site may contain Greater Horseshoe Bats, Cirl Buntings, Great Crested Newts, Dormouse, Otter and other protected species while a large proportion of the site is high grade agricultural land
AIRPORT BUSINESS PARK
27 hectares of primarily agricultural land sandwiched between the airport and the A30 which could be used for employment land
A large proportion of the site has been put forward by landowners for development, it is close to homes, jobs and services on sites allocated in the East Devon Local Plan, and is well located to attract strategic employment development. It could make use of and further enhance planned improvements to Long Lane and wider airport access
Access along Long Lane needs significant improvement, although plans are in progress, and the airport junction on the A30 is nearing capacity. Airport related development could be required on this site and there is the potential for impact upon safe operation of the airport without appropriate safeguarding
22 hectares of land within active airfield uses and hosting supporting infrastructure on the north side of the runway at Exeter Airport, south of Skypark and Cranbrook’s proposed southern expansion area
A large amount of land within the site could be considered as brownfield land, it is close to homes, jobs and services on sites allocated in the East Devon Local Plan and it is well located to attract strategic employment development
It is dependent upon access through adjacent development sites and the site was previously allocated in the 1995-2011 East Devon Local Plan for airport terminal development
A rectangular shaped site adjacent to the southeast of the existing built-up area of Axminster. The site is bounded to the south by the A35, the west by the A358 and the north by Woodbury Lane. 540 homes could be built in the 54 hectare site
It would provide a logical extension to Axminster, has fairly level topography which would enable development, and is located close to the A35 which provides good strategic road access The site could provide land for a junction improvement on the A35 and is located within walking distance of Axminster station which provides sustainable travel options
A Scheduled Monument sits within the site at Woodbury Farm, together with the considerable likelihood of significant related, Roman archaeology beyond the Monument boundary. There is the potential for an increase in car-borne out-commuting to Exeter while a small area of the site is affected by flooding. A variety of amenity and community facilities including community building, outdoor play space, small local shop and potential contributions to healthcare improvements would be needed.
The sites consists of 352 hectares of predominantly agricultural land surrounding the village of Feniton, on both sides of the railway, and could accommodate 2,800 homes
It is close to Feniton train station and the A30 while Feniton includes a number of essential services already which could be enhanced
Parts of the site are affected by flooding while the topography could reduce capacity in some parts of the site. Access from the A30 and across the railway insufficient for strategic scale development while the frequency of train and bus services in Feniton is poor and is some distance from Exeter. Limited employment opportunities in close proximity and the local primary provision at/approaching capacity.
72 hectares of agricultural land to the east of Honiton situated primarily on land rising towards and surrounded by the Blackdown Hills and East Devon Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Site is sandwiched between the A35, ExeterWaterloo railway line and the A30 and could see 1,100 homes built
A large proportion of the site has been put forward by landowners for development or was promoted during the previous East Devon Local Plan process, and it is close to Honiton train station and both the A30 and A35. Honiton Community College has some limited scope for expansion
The site is surrounded by the Blackdown Hills and East Devon Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and would be visible from both. The existing rail infrastructure limits the frequency of train services in Honiton, while there is potential for the achievement of safe site access from the A35 Kings Road to cause detrimental impacts on traffic flow along the strategic road network, and potential severance issues caused by difficulty gaining safe pedestrian and cycle access across the A35 Kings Road
337 hectares of predominantly agricultural land to the north and east of the village of Whimple, located on both sides of the railway and could accommodate 2,500 homes
It is close to Whimple train station, and Whimple includes a number of essential services already which could be enhanced. The planned jobs growth at the West End is reasonably nearby
Access from the A30 and across the railway insufficient for strategic scale development while frequency of train and bus services in Whimple is poor. As some distance from Exeter it could increase pressure on the already at capacity Junction 29 of the M5, while local primary school provision at/approaching capacity. Clyst Vale Community College lies a significant distance away and the school has limited scope for expansion
Care leaders, unions and MPs have rounded on Boris Johnson after he accused care homes of failing to follow proper procedures amid the coronavirus crisis, saying the prime minister appeared to be shifting the blame for the high death toll.
With nearly 20,000 care home residents confirmed to have died with Covid-19, and estimates that the true toll is much greater, there has been widespread criticism about a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), testing and clear guidelines for the sector. On Monday, the total UK coronavirus death toll rose to 44,236, up 16 on the day before.
The Guardian has previously revealed how public health officials proposed a radical lockdown of care homes at the height of the pandemic, but they were overruled by the government. Agency staff were found to have spread the virus between homes, but a health department plan, published in April, mentioned nothing about restricting staff movements. Around 25,000 patients were discharged into care homes without being tested for coronavirus, an official report said.
Speaking during a visit to Goole in Yorkshire, Johnson said the pandemic had shown the need to “make sure we look after people better who are in social care”.
He went on: “We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have but we’re learning lessons the whole time. Most important is to fund them properly … but we will also be looking at ways to make sure the care sector long term is properly organised and supported.”
The comments followed fears that ministers – mindful of a likely future inquiry into how the UK came to have the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe, with the proportion of care home deaths 13 times higher than in Germany – could be seeking to lay some of the responsibility on outside bodies, including Public Health England (PHE).
A No 10 spokesman insisted Johnson was not blaming care homes, saying they “have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances”. He added: “The PM was pointing out that nobody knew what the correct procedures were because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known at the time.”
But Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association, which represents smaller and medium-sized care providers, said Johnson’s comments were “a huge slap in the face for a sector that looks after a million vulnerable people, employs 1.6 million care workers and puts £45bn into the economy every year”.
She added: “Despite the fact PPE was diverted, despite the fact we didn’t have testing in our services, despite the fact they’ve not put any money into our sector, it has worked its socks off, and it’s a huge disappointment to hear the leader of our country say what he’d said.”
A spokesman for the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said Johnson was correct to say the sector needed reform and more funding. But he added: “Social care has been hit hard by Covid-19 and it feels unfair to blame care homes for the initial response to the pandemic as they did not feel prioritised from the outset.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said: “It would be unfair for anyone to suggest that care staff have been authors of their own misfortune: on the contrary, in a neglected and cash-strapped system they have been magnificent throughout the pandemic – arguably far better than we as a country deserved.”
Rehana Azam, national officer for public services at the GMB union, which has many members in the social care sector, said: “Johnson is complaining about the arrangements that he and his government have established and failed to change. There is no point the prime minister passing the buck on this one.”
The criticism was echoed by opposition politicians, with Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow social care minister, saying: “Staff who have gone the extra mile to care for elderly people, and experienced things the rest of us can only imagine, will be appalled to hear the prime minister’s comments. Boris Johnson should be taking responsibility for his actions and fixing the crisis in social care, not blaming care homes for this government’s mistakes.”
Ed Davey, the Lib Dems’ interim leader, said Johnson was “trying to shift the blame to those who risked their lives caring for our loved ones”.
Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle city council, said that at the start of the crisis the local authority had 147 requests for emergency PPE from care homes because they only had enough stock to last 24 hours. He said: “The prime minister is either woefully uninformed or wilfully misleading with those comments and it will anger people right across the sector.”
While the government said it had “thrown a protective ring around care homes”, studies and reports from the sector have painted a different picture.
During flu pandemic planning in 2018, a report from social care directors warned ministers that frontline care workers would need advice on “controlling cross-infection”. But the health department’s social care plan, published on 16 April, mentions nothing about restricting staff movements between homes.
The Guardian also learned that while public health officials proposed an 11-point plan to protect care homes in April, including a radical lockdown, with staff moving in for four weeks while temporary NHS Nightingale hospitals were deployed, it was rejected by the government.
The care sector has also complained about a lack of protective equipment for staff, with providers in some cases having to secure their own supplies. Earlier in the outbreak, care home operators accused the government of “a complete system failure” over testing for Covid-19.
Care home managers said lives have been put at risk and conditions for dementia sufferers have worsened because of the government’s failure so far to test hundreds of thousands of staff and residents.
The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) is asking the companies to agree to operational separation by June 2024 to ensure their audits “do not rely on persistent cross subsidy from the rest of the firm”.
The FRC had already begun seeking voluntary changes to help speed up reform, and said on Monday it was asking the Big Four firms to agree to operational separation based on a set of principles it has already discussed with them.
Sir Jon Thompson, chief executive of the FRC, said that operational separation of audit was a “major step in the reform of the audit sector”.
“The FRC remains fully committed to the broad suite of reform measures on corporate reporting and audit reform and will introduce further aspects of the reform package over time,” he added.
Firms must submit an implementation plan to the FRC by 23 October this year, for implementation by June 30, 2024 at the latest, the regulator said.
Big Four back watchdog’s plans
All Big Four firms issued statements welcoming the watchdog’s announcement.
A PwC spokesperson said the firm “shares the FRC’s objectives of improved quality and confidence in audit” and “will continue to engage constructively” with the regulator.
Stephen Griggs, Deputy chief executive at Deloitte UK, said: “We welcome this clarity from the FRC on the principles of operational separation and will continue working with them to develop our plans over the coming months.”
EY and KPMG both said they supported the FRC’s plans, but also called for changes to corporate governance in the UK in addition to audit reform.
“As part of the audit profession’s evolution, a holistic package of reforms, including improved director accountability and changes to the scope of audit, is required to deliver effective and sustainable change,” said Hywel Ball, chairman of EY UK.
Jon Holt, head of audit at KPMG UK, called for “an ambitious package of wider reforms across the corporate landscape,” including “clarifying and enhancing the responsibilities of boards, directors and management”.
Some of Devon and Cornwall’s most popular beauty spots will be made safer and cleaner this summer thanks to a half-million-pound fund set up by the Police and Crime Commissioner.
Alison Hernandez is making extra money available to tackle antisocial behaviour in 20 key summer locations across the two counties ahead of Saturday’s easing of coronavirus restrictions and a summer surge in visitors.
The funding can be spent on street marshals, CCTV, assisting volunteer schemes like Street Pastors and the provision of temporary toilets.
In recent weeks police and communities have had to deal with incidents of antisocial behaviour linked to excessive drinking as restrictions on people’s movement have eased.
The new measures will help complement a wider summer policing plan that has enabled Devon and Cornwall Police to place extra resources at hotspots like Orcombe Point in Exmouth.
The 20 locations to benefit from the additional funding have been identified by Devon and Cornwall Police to help prevent alcohol related antisocial behaviour over the busy Covid-19 summer period.
The 20 locations are: Exmouth seafront and Orcombe Point, Exeter Quay, Exeter Cathedral, Bideford Quay, Woolacombe Beach, Croyde Bay, Torquay seafronts, Paignton seafronts, Newton Abbot, Teignmouth waterfront, Brixham Waterfront and Harbour, Towan Beach and waterfront (Newquay), Fistral Beach (Newquay), St Ives Waterfront, Lemon Quay (Truro), Perran Sands (Perranporth), Penzance waterfront, Bude waterfront, Plymouth Hoe and Plymouth Barbican.
The commissioner will be working with local authorities and community safety partnerships over the next few days to agree bespoke solutions for each of the locations but has immediately made available £3,000 per location to support this coming weekend.
This new initiative comes directly from discussions between the Commissioner and councils in response to concerns about specific locations.
In Torbay Brixham, Paignton and Torquay will receive a total of up to £60,000 to spend on the measures.
Torbay Council Leader Cllr Steve Darling said: “Over recent weeks we have been working with our partners to tackle the emerging anti-social behaviour in public places since we have started to come out of lockdown, and we welcome this additional financial support from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office to help address the issue.
“In common with many areas in recent weeks there has been some antisocial behaviour in Torbay and it’s important that we work together with all our partners to tackle the issue head on.
“We fully appreciate that people are keen to venture out and meet up with family and friends on a more social level as the lockdown restrictions are lifted, but we’d like to encourage people to please act responsibly. We will work with the Commissioner, local police, other partners and our communities to ensure that everyone can enjoy the beautiful surroundings Torquay, Paignton, Brixham and surrounding areas have to offer and help to keep people safe.”
Exeter City Council leader Councillor Phil Bialyk also welcomed the initiative.
Cllr Bialyk said: “I’m very pleased to be working with Alison and her office on issues we have seen at Exeter Quay and I’m grateful for her quick response.
“There is a lot to be said for people taking personal responsibility when it comes to sporadic outburst of antisocial behaviour. It has been a national problem and unfortunately Exeter hasn’t been immune.
“Together with the Commissioner I am confident we are doing everything within our control and resources to continue to retain Exeter Quay a stunning location for people to enjoy.”
The Police and Crime Commissioner said that the funding was in addition to the £1.7m invested annually by her in community safety partnerships. These work with local partners to build safer communities.
“We are entering what is traditionally Devon and Cornwall Police’s busiest period, with potentially even more visitors to the Westcountry than in previous years,” she said.
“I welcome the fact that the bars, restaurants and cafes which are an important part of our economy will be able to open this weekend, and we can once again give tourists a warm westcountry welcome.
“But I do want people to behave responsibly and consider the impact of their behaviour on others. This funding represents a significant investment in practical measures that, in partnership with councils and police, will help keep people safe and reduce the impact of the impending changes to coronavirus regulations.
“Our work with Exeter last week identified a wider opportunity to see us help more locations and I am delighted we can offer similar support to a wider group of areas to help prevent alcohol related antisocial behaviour this summer – in addition to the significant investments already being made through our summer policing plans.”
The recent positive testing case in Exmouth Community College was asymptomatic and only picked up by chance. This article explains how asymptomatic and “silent spreaders” pose particular problems in tackling Covid-19. Not something to outsource to Deloitte in Owl’s opinion – you need experience (Oh and a world class test, track, trace and isolate system).
As the crisis has unfolded, scientists have discovered more evidence about a strange and worrying feature of the coronavirus. While many people who become infected develop a cough, fever and loss of taste and smell, others have no symptoms at all and never realise they’re carrying Covid-19.
Researchers say it’s vital to understand how many are affected this way and whether “silent spreaders” are fuelling the pandemic.
When people gathered at a church in Singapore on 19 January, no-one could have realised that the event would have global implications for the spread of coronavirus. It was a Sunday and, as usual, one of the services was being conducted in Mandarin. Among the congregation at The Life Church and Missions, on the ground floor of an office building, was a couple, both aged 56, who’d arrived that morning from China.
As they took their seats, they seemed perfectly healthy so there was no reason to think they might be carrying the virus. At that time, a persistent cough was understood to be the most distinctive feature of Covid-19 and it was seen as the most likely way to transmit it. Having no symptoms of the disease should have meant having no chance of spreading it.
The couple left as soon as the service was over. But shortly afterwards, things took a turn for the worse, and in a wholly confusing way. The wife started to become ill on 22 January, followed by her husband two days later. Because they had flown in from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, that was no big surprise.
But over the following week, three local people also came down with the disease for no obvious reason, leading to one of Singapore’s first and most baffling coronavirus cases. Working out what had happened would lead to a new and disturbing insight into how the virus was so successfully finding new victims.
Mobilising ‘disease detectives’
“We were extremely perplexed,” says Dr Vernon Lee, head of communicable diseases at Singapore’s Ministry of Health. “People who didn’t know one another somehow infected each other,” while showing no sign of illness. This new batch of cases simply did not make sense, according to what was known about Covid-19 back then.
So Dr Lee and his fellow scientists, along with police officers and specialist disease trackers, launched an investigation, generating detailed maps showing who was where and when. This involved the very best of the process known as contact tracing – a version of which is getting under way now in the UK. It’s seen as a vital system for tracking down everyone involved in an outbreak and helping to stamp it out, and Singapore is renowned for the skill and speed with which this is carried out.
Amazingly, within a few days, investigators had spoken to no fewer than 191 members of the church and had found out that 142 of them had been there that Sunday. They quickly established that two of the Singaporeans who became infected had been at the same service as the Chinese couple.
“They could have spoken to each other, greeted each other, during the usual activities of a church service,” says Dr Lee.
That was a useful start and would explain in theory how the infection could have been passed on, apart from one key factor. It did not answer the crucial question of how the virus could have been transmitted by the two Chinese people when at that stage they had shown no indication of having the disease.
And on top of that was an even greater puzzle. It was confirmed that the third Singaporean to become infected, a 52-year-old woman, had not been at the same service as the others. Instead she had attended another event in the same church later that day, so how could she have picked up the virus?
Evidence no-one expected
Investigators resorted to going through the CCTV recordings made at the church that Sunday to search for clues. And they stumbled across something completely unexpected – the woman who’d attended the later service, after the Chinese couple had left, had sat in the seats they had used several hours earlier.
Somehow, despite having no symptoms and not feeling ill, the Chinese husband and wife had managed to spread the virus. Maybe they’d had it on their hands and touched the seats, maybe their breath carried the infection and it landed on a surface, it’s not clear, but the implications were huge.
For Dr Lee, piecing everything together, there was only one possible explanation – that the virus was being passed by people who had it without even realising. This was a revelation that would be relevant the world over because the central message of all public health advice on coronavirus has always been to look out for symptoms in yourself and others.
But if the virus was also being spread by people without symptoms, silently and invisibly, how could the disease be stopped? He remembers the moment, while working in his office, when the reality dawned on him. “Every time you make a scientific discovery, it is like a ‘eureka’ moment when you realise that this is something important that you’ve uncovered, through the hard work of many individuals and teams.”
Spread before symptoms show
What was revealed was what’s known as “pre-symptomatic transmission” where someone is unaware of being infected because the cough, fever and other classic symptoms have yet to begin.
Along with many others, this study highlighted a critical period of 24-to-48 hours before the visible onset of the disease in which people can be highly infectious, perhaps even their most infectious.
Being aware of that is potentially invaluable, because as soon as you realise you’re ill then everyone you’ve been in close contact with can be warned to stay at home.
That would mean that they would be isolating during the key phase of infection before their own symptoms start. But exactly how the disease can be transmitted without a cough to project droplets containing the virus is still open to debate.
One option is that simply breathing or talking to someone can do the job. If the virus is reproducing in the upper respiratory tract at that time then it’s possible that some of it will emerge with each exhalation. Anyone close enough, especially indoors, could easily pick it up.
And another potential form of transmission is by touch – the virus gets onto someone’s hands and they touch another person or a door handle – or a seat in a church. Whatever the route, the virus is clearly exploiting the fact that people are bound to be less vigilant if they’re not aware that they might be infected.
Some people never show symptoms
This is an even more mysterious scenario, and one that scientists simply have no definitive answer to. It’s one thing to know that people can be infectious before their symptoms show, quite another when they become infected but never have any sign of it.
This is what’s known as being “asymptomatic” because you are a carrier of the disease but do not suffer in any way yourself. The most famous case is that of an Irish woman who was working as a cook in New York at the beginning of the last century.
Wherever Mary Mallon was employed, in house after house, people became ill with typhoid and at least three, maybe many more, died of it, but she was completely unaffected. Eventually a connection was established and it was confirmed that she was the unwitting spreader of the disease.
Reporters dubbed her “Typhoid Mary”, a label she always resented, but the authorities took no chances and kept her in confinement for 23 years until her death in 1938.
Staff nurse Amelia Powell was shocked when she found out that she is asymptomatic. She was at work on her hospital ward at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge in April when a doctor rang to give her the result of a swab test.
She had been feeling normal and safe behind the personal protective equipment she had to wear while caring for patients with Covid-19. But suddenly all those assumptions were undermined because, to her horror, she had tested positive.
“It was a bit like hearing that someone in the family had passed, it was surreal. I thought, ‘This can’t be right, not me, I’m absolutely fine,'” says 23-year-old Amelia.
She had to leave her post straightaway to go into isolation at home.
“I was worried because I’ve seen the other side, with patients deteriorating very quickly with it, so I did wonder if this would happen to me.” But, to her surprise, at no point did she feel unwell. “I had nothing, literally – I was exercising indoors, eating normally, sleeping normally.”
At the moment it’s impossible to know how many cases of infection exist but remain hidden from view.
The discovery that Amelia was infected was only revealed because she was part of a study of all the staff at her hospital. It produced the surprising result that as many as 3% of more than 1,000 people were positive while showing no symptoms at the time of the test.
An even greater proportion of asymptomatic cases was found on the Diamond Princess cruise ship which had been sailing off the coast of Japan earlier this year. Later branded “a petri dish for infection”, it had around 700 cases.
And at a care home in Washington state more than half the residents were positive but had no sign of the illness.
‘No single reliable study’
Different studies suggest a huge range of possibilities for how many cases are asymptomatic stretching from 5% to 80% of cases. That was the conclusion of an analysis by Prof Carl Heneghan of the University of Oxford and colleagues who looked at 21 research projects.
The upshot, they said, was that “there is not a single reliable study to determine the number of asymptomatics”. And they said that if the screening for Covid-19 is only carried out on people with symptoms – which has been the main focus of UK testing policy – then cases will be missed, “perhaps a lot of cases”.
The risk of ‘silent spreaders’
The biggest concern of Amelia, the nurse, was that she might have unwittingly transmitted the virus either to those she works with or to the patients who depend on her help.
“I don’t think I passed it on because all the colleagues I work with tested negative but it was worrying to think how long I’d been positive for,” she says. “But we still don’t know if people who are asymptomatic are contagious or not – it’s very bizarre and the information about it at the moment is minimal.”
One study in China which found that the number of asymptomatic cases was actually greater than those with symptoms had a warning for the authorities. “As ‘silent spreaders’,” the scientists wrote, “asymptomatic carriers warrant attention as part of disease prevention and control.”
The team that studied that Diamond Princess reckoned that asymptomatic cases were likely to be less infectious than people with symptoms but even so they’re estimated to have caused a significant number of cases.
The ‘dark matter’ of asymptomatic infection
To try to get an answer, scientists in Norwich are pushing for the population of the entire city to be tested.
“Asymptomatic cases may be the ‘dark matter’ of the epidemic,” according to Prof Neil Hall, head of the Earlham Institute, a life science research centre, who’s leading the initiative. Dark matter is the invisible substance believed to make up most of the matter in the universe, and it’s yet to be identified.
Prof Hall worries that asymptomatic cases may actually be driving the pandemic, keeping it going despite public health measures. “If you have people who don’t know they’re ill while using public transport and health care facilities, inevitably that’s going to increase transmission,” he says.
“Any intervention that’s only based on people coming to primary health care when they have symptoms will only deal with half the problem.”
A team of scientists in California believes that not knowing who’s carrying the virus without symptoms is the “Achilles Heel” of the fight against the pandemic.
In their view, the only way to stop the disease from spreading is to find out who’s infected regardless of whether they think they are or not. That was also the recommendation of MPs on the Commons Science and Technology Committee in a letter to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
They wrote that the risk of asymptomatic transmission has “a profound consequence for the management of the pandemic”. And they said that anyone looking after vulnerable people – such as health workers or care workers – should be given regular testing.
A similar approach is being adopted on a far larger scale in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic is thought to have begun.
As many as 6.5 million people there were tested in as little as nine days in a mass screening programme designed to detect the disease – including in those showing no symptoms.
Easing of lockdown
As lockdown measures are eased and more people start to use public transport, return to work or go shopping, getting to grips with the invisible risk matters more than ever. At the moment, there is no way of telling who among the growing crowds may be carrying the virus without knowing.
That’s why governments the world over say it’s essential that everyone cooperates with efforts to trace the contacts of anyone infected and then quickly self-isolates. They also advise that the best defence remains social distancing – to keep apart wherever you can. But where that isn’t possible, the recommendation is to cover your face, even with a mask that’s homemade.
Image copyright Getty ImagesImage caption More and more governments are advising wearing face masks
When the US government announced this policy, it highlighted the discoveries made in the church in Singapore back in January. The logic is that this is not about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting others from you, in case you’re infected but don’t know it.
Many health professionals worry that masks might distract people from hand washing or social distancing, or increase the risk of contamination if they’re clumsily handled. But more and more governments, most recently that of the UK, have become convinced of the benefits.
Not that face coverings will halt the pandemic on their own. But because there’s still so little we know about asymptomatic transmission, almost anything is worth a try.
University College London professor Ben Clifford – who recently completed a government review of housing produced outside the conventional planning system – said allowing developers to turn a wider range of commercial properties into flats without planning checks could lead to a wave of substandard conversions.
“Unless there are proper safeguards, we could see even more poor-quality, tiny flats being crammed into commercial buildings lacking amenities and green space,” he said. “These could be what others have rightly called the slums of the future.”
Johnson last week pledged to bring forward the most radical reforms to the planning system since the end of the second world war, starting with an expansion of permitted development rights, which allow buildings to be repurposed without full planning permission.
Clifford was last year asked by the government to review the quality of homes delivered through existing permitted development rights, which cover offices, retail and light industrial units. He urged ministers to publish the report, which was submitted in January. “The evidence in the report would help inform a debate that has already started about these important issues, which could lead to huge changes in many towns and cities,” he said.
Clifford previously co-authored a report for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors that suggests 70% of flats produced by permitted development are below the government space standards, with some measuring just 15 square metres. Basements with little natural light and blocks on lorry-clogged industrial parks have been turned into flats by developers.
Since 2015 more than 60,000 flats have been created through permitted development in England, with almost 90% coming from office conversions. “It is popular with developers because they do not have to make a contribution to affordable housing and local infrastructure,” added Clifford. “It’s often far more profitable than going through the normal planning system.”
The latest changes will come into force in September. Details are expected later this month but it could cover banks, building societies, clinics, training centres and even gyms. “Under these proposals the government might allow a whole host of other commercial buildings to be converted to residential uses,” said Clifford. “It could lead to thousands of new conversions.”
Some areas have already seen a flurry of controversial office to residential conversions. In Harlow, Essex, half the new homes created in 2018/19 came from office conversions. The town’s Conservative MP Robert Halfon said he would be writing to the prime minister and the housing minister, Robert Jenrick, about the latest proposals. “I think it is a disaster in the offing,” he said. “If there are not proper controls on quality and developers are allowed to build ghettos for people on the lowest incomes then we will have a repeat of what we’ve had in the first wave of permitted development.”
Halfon called for Clifford’s report to be published. “I’m in favour of liberalising the planning system” he said. “But permitted development is about quantity rather than quality.”
Hugh Ellis, policy director for the Town and Country Planning Association, accused ministers of sitting on Clifford’s report because it did not align with their deregulatory drive. “The report will – I’m sure – show that permitted development has produced some dreadful outcomes,” he said. “Could it be that the government received a report raising very significant challenges about what they have been doing and they choose to ignore it?”
According to the Local Government Association, more than one million homes granted planning permission have not been built by developers in the past decade. “Planning is not a barrier to building new homes,” said David Renard, the LGA’s housing and planning spokesperson.
A housing ministry spokesperson said: “Like any other project, homes built under permitted development rights must meet rigorous building regulations. These new regulations will cut red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy while maintaining high standards, and make effective use of existing buildings in keeping with the character of their local area.”
• This article was amended on 5 July 2020. An earlier version referred to UK, rather than England, planning rules, and described some flats measuring 15 metres squared, when that should have said 15 square metres.