A Correspondent puts forward a more logical alternative for a Tipton Primary relocation

From a corespondent:

I have never understood why a new Primary School could not be accommodated within the village.

To me the logical solution is to build it broadly on the route of the old railway line and adjoining the Cricket Field.    The railway line does not flood, as far as I am aware, so all that is required is to extend its ‘footprint’ to accommodate the new school.

Immediately beside the school would then be the village hall, the public open space that is presently the cricket field, the tennis courts and a good quality play area.  Plus a car park, and footpath access, both north and south.

Financing the new building can at least be partly funded by selling both the sites currently in use.   The old school house would be quite valuable, and the newer ‘bungalow’ component can be developed as a nearby house has , by using ‘stilts’, etc.

It seems a shame to rip the heart out of the Tipton community by closing its school unnecessarily.  I doubt that it would have to be more than half the size of the one proposed by DCC.

A fine new school, sensitively designed, could be the centrepiece of a broader community development including a much-needed new clubhouse for the Cricket Club.

Homelessness guru can’t help building for Manchester’s rich

“Manchester’s Labour-run city council, led by Sir Richard Leese, which has control over planning decisions, says its starting point for negotiation on affordable housing is 20% on new schemes. However, developers often get consent for plans with 0%-3% affordable housing, or the equivalent in S106 payments.”

David Collins and Hannah Al-Othman www.thetimes.co.uk 

In Manchester one property developer rises above the rest when it comes to helping the homeless and regenerating the booming city centre.

Tim Heatley, co-founder of Capital & Centric, is investing half a billion pounds to build plush apartments and a hotel as part of the city’s property boom. A well-known figure, Heatley chairs the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity, set up by Andy Burnham, the mayor, which has raised £2m for charities tackling homelessness. Despite this good work, however, an investigation has revealed that Heatley’s company has big developments that provide no affordable housing — a trend that is becoming common.

Manchester, a Labour stronghold, is in the grip of a housing crisis, according to MPs, housing associations, homeless charities and campaigners. More than 15,000 people are on the waiting list for social housing in Greater Manchester. Just over 7,000 are in a “higher housing need band”. More than 5,500 people are homeless, says the anti-poverty charity Greater Together Manchester.

The shadow housing minister, Mike Aymesbury, a former director of a housing association who was once a Manchester councillor, said developers often “hide behind viability” when they fail to meet affordable housing obligations. By this, he means developers claim their schemes are not worth building unless the requirements are waived.

The government defines affordable homes as those rented at no more than 80% of the market rate or sold below market value. Developers must create such homes as part of their projects or pay the council to build them elsewhere.

Capital & Centric is building 881 flats at Crusader Mill, Kampus and Talbot Mill, some priced at more than £1m. None is “affordable”. Planning documents also show Crusader Mill and Kampus will make no “section 106” payments. Talbot Mill, with more than 200 high-end flats, will provide £50,000 in S106 payments. The money goes into a pot for the council to build affordable homes elsewhere.

Crusader Mill and a block of flats called Phoenix, part of the same project, will cost a total of £40m. Heatley and his business partner expect to make £8m-£10m in profit.

Manchester’s Labour-run city council, led by Sir Richard Leese, which has control over planning decisions, says its starting point for negotiation on affordable housing is 20% on new schemes. However, developers often get consent for plans with 0%-3% affordable housing, or the equivalent in S106 payments.

A council insider defended the policy, saying: “Developers will only put a spade in the ground if a project is viable. And although we negotiate strictly, if the finance of a development doesn’t stack up, then it doesn’t get built at all.”

Heatley, 40, has won awards for his regeneration projects, creating buildings with expensive architecture that are energy efficient with green space. A star of the BBC documentary series Manctopia, which starts this week, he is transforming the area behind Piccadilly station, where oral sex is on offer for £4.99.

“I realise I’m the chair of the Mayor’s Charity for homelessness and built no affordable houses,” he said last week. “But this is a national problem. Developers who want to build affordable homes are being priced out when purchasing the land or buildings. A developer who decides to build no affordable homes as part of a project can bid higher.

“If I make an assumption that a huge percentage of my projects will be affordable housing, I’d never be able to buy the land or buildings. It means all developers are battling against each other because there is no national policy on affordable housing in our city centres.”

The government proposes to phase out S106 and create a flat-rate tax on a development’s value, which would pay for schools, transport schemes and affordable housing — and remove the power of councils to make demands of, or concessions to, developers.

Heatley, who is working on a future development with 100% affordable housing, says the solution should be national. “If Manchester alone brought it in, all the developers would go to Leeds and Sheffield. Otherwise the good guys who are socially conscious will always be squeezed out by the other guys.”

Sports stars have joined developers to invest in city-centre apartment blocks. They include the footballer Vincent Kompany, who is building 75 flats with M4nchester Two. Kompany, who has spoken out on homelessness, has no affordable homes allowance in his block.

Manchester Life, owned jointly by Manchester City’s owner, Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi, and the city council, has built more than 1,000 homes. Not one is classed as affordable and no S106 payments are being made.

Former England cricket star Andrew Flintoff is building a 23-storey block in Castlefield with 335 luxury flats. The developer is providing a cash contribution of £1.15m, equivalent to 5%, towards affordable housing elsewhere.

But many Mancunians are being priced out. “Now you have Media City, Salford is becoming a really desirable place,” said Christina Hughes, from Winton, Greater Manchester. She pays £670 a month to rent a three-bedroom semi-detached house with a garden. “I’m managing, but I couldn’t pay any more.”

A Manchester council spokesman said: “The city is committed to building 32,000 homes between 2015 and 2025, including 20% affordable and social homes — 6,400 properties — as part of the city-wide target for affordable housing.”

Burnham said: “If you look at what Tim Heatley does, he doesn’t sell buy to let. He does a massive amount of work in this city and I’m grateful to him for what he has done on homelessness.”

The mayor called for central government to subsidise councils and private developers who want to build affordable housing on brownfield sites.

“It’s the system which is at fault. It’s easy to point to Manchester City Council or one particular developer. The current system doesn’t give councils enough power to provide affordable homes.”



Hancock axes ‘failing’ Public Health England

Whilst Owl will shed no tears over the demise of Public Health England, a spin-off of the disastrous 2012 Lansley reforms of Health and Social Care, it must not become a convenient scapegoat for the ultimate Government responsibility for Covid-19 response failures. – Owl

By Christopher Hope, Chief Political Correspondent www.telegraph.co.uk

Public Health England (PHE) is to be scrapped and replaced by a new body specifically designed to protect the country against a pandemic by early next month, the Telegraph can disclose.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will this week announce a merger of the pandemic response work of PHE with NHS Test and Trace into a new body, called the National Institute for Health Protection, modelled on Germany’s Robert Koch Institute.

The Health Secretary, who returns to work after a UK holiday this week, wants to give PHE’s replacement time to be set up before a feared surge in coronavirus cases this autumn.

It comes weeks after Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, complained that the country’s response to the pandemic had been sluggish, in remarks which were interpreted as a swipe at PHE.

A senior minister told the Telegraph: “We want to bring together the science and the scale in one new body so we can do all we can to stop a second coronavirus spike this autumn.

“The National Institute for Health Protection’s goal will be simple: to ensure that Britain is one of the best equipped countries in the world to fight the pandemic.”

The institute’s new chief executive will report both to ministers at the Department of Health and Social Care, and to Professor Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, giving ministers direct control over its response to pandemics.

Mr Hancock is seeking someone with experience of both health policy and the private sector to run it. Baroness Harding, the former chief executive of TalkTalk who heads up NHS Test and Trace, is tipped for the role.

The change will be “effective” within the next month but it will take until the spring to formally complete the organisational change of breaking up a large organisation.

A source said: “It will be in place by September.”

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a former Tory Cabinet minister, welcomed the news, saying: “The one thing consistent about Public Health England is that almost everything it has touched has failed.”

The new institute – which will have tens of thousands of staff – will bring together the science expertise at PHE, which first published the genome of Covid-19, with the scale of NHS Test and Trace operation.

The model for the new institute is the Robert Koch Institute in Germany. The independent agency played a central role in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, publishing daily situation reports that log new outbreaks, testing capacity and the current burden on the health system.

Approaches to tackling the crisis in South Korea have also provided evidence for Health officials in setting up the new body.

Over the next few months Test and Trace call centres will be wound down and replaced by local teams run by councils which are seen to be more effective and persistent at tracking down cases.

PHE’s work on tackling obesity will be handed over to local councils and family doctors, who are being encouraged increasingly to intervene to encourage fat people to lose weight.

In the medium term, the Health and Safety Executive, under its new chairman former Conservative MP Sarah Newton, will get a bigger role in assisting companies in getting more staff back to work.

PHE was originally set up in 2013 by then-Health secretary Jeremy Hunt as a result of an NHS shake-up organised by his predecessor Andrew Lansley.

The unprecedented challenge of the pandemic has exposed its weaknesses. Mr Hancock, who has been working on the overhaul for three months, had to take control of the Government’s testing strategy from PHE in March to scale up the numbers quickly.

One Government source said: “One of the many problems with PHE is that it has been spread too thin during the full pandemic.

“Instead of having an organisation that is constantly on alert for pandemics you have an organisation that has been concentrating on prevention of ill-health.”

There has also been a blame game in Whitehall with Health officials furious with PHE for counting all deaths from Covid-19, rather than just those within the first 28 days of contracting the virus, as in Scotland.

The body was also criticised for not having enough diagnostic testing capacity to properly track the progress of the epidemic in the early weeks of the outbreak.

Number 10 is understood to have become frustrated that PHE’s £190,000 a year chief executive Duncan Selbie, who is likely to be forced out under the changes, appeared reluctant to take a lead.

One source said he had rarely been seen in 10 Downing Street when the strategy was being set, despite the scale of the challenge facing the country, which the source said was “bizarre”.

However, in a statement to the Telegraph Mr Selbie said criticism of PHE over its handling of diagnostic testing was “based on a misunderstanding”.

He said: “The UK had no national diagnostic testing capabilities other than in the NHS at the outset of the pandemic. PHE does not do mass diagnostic testing.

“We operate national reference and research laboratories focussed on novel and dangerous pathogens, and it was never at any stage our role to set the national testing strategy for the coronavirus pandemic. This responsibility rested with DHSC.”

Asked if he saw merit in setting up a Centre for Disease Control (CDC) to tackle pandemics, Mr Selbie said: “PHE is already a dedicated CDC for infectious diseases and other hazards to health including chemicals and radiation. But we are not funded or scaled for a pandemic.

“PHE is currently working with the NHS and the Government to prepare for the challenges of the coming winter with an expanded flu vaccination programme and much improved data.

“The pandemic offers the opportunity to reset the balance between risk and investment and our focus is on getting this right.”


Planning Applications verified by EDDC week beginning 3 August

Planning Application, Thorne farm, Ottery St Mary. DCC tries to override Local and Neighbourhood Plans

Owl’s attention has been drawn, by local residents, to the planning application for a 210 space primary school and 150 new houses on Thorne Farm, adjacent to the King’s School in Ottery St Mary, submitted by Devon County Council (DCC) to EDDC  20/1504/MOUT.

DCC want to develop a part of the land they own in Ottery St Mary, outside the Built-Up Area Boundary (BUAB), to help fund the building of a new primary school on the same site, in place of the existing Tipton St John Primary. 

This is proving to be a deeply controversial application, strongly opposed by communities in both Ottery and Tipton. Currently there are  102 objections and 11 supporting comments. The Environment Agency is objecting because there is insufficient information to assess flood risk. Most of the development site is located within flood zone 1, however the northern boundary of the development encroaches into flood zone 3. (Somewhat ironic since the purpose of this application is to relieve flood risk elsewhere).

Well reasoned objections cover a wide range of planning issues.

District Councillors have yet to comment. 

In Owl’s eyes, however, the fundamental objection lies in the application being in direct conflict with both the Local Plan and the Ottery St Mary and West Hill Neighbourhood Plan.

For Owl this crosses a red line. 

It is also a good example, as Owl will explain, of the use and misuse of the consultation process.

The opportunity for communities to create Neighbourhood Plans (NPs) is pretty much all that is left of the much trumpeted 2011 Localism Act. There are already 18  “Made” NPs in EDDC, and Ottery is one. These are plans that have gone through the full consultation and examination process and been voted on by the community. It represents the culmination of an enormous amount of community effort and is not something to be dismissed by the wave of an administrator’s pen in DCC, as an irritating inconvenience.

There are also a further 22 in preparation. Will all their efforts be in vain?

Ottery neighbourhood plan consultation process 2017

Ottery NP consultation period ended at the end of 2017. Not only was the community consulted but interested public and private bodies were consulted twice. This included DCC.

DCC employed a property consultancy NP SW Ltd to submit their consultation response in which they mentioned that the County Council, as the Local Education Authority (LEA), had recently informally consulted on the opportunity to provide a new primary school that will replace the existing Tipton St John Primary School and provide additional capacity for the Ottery St Mary area on the County Council’s land at Thorne Farm, outside the BUAB. The proposed primary school will provide 210 places and 26 nursery places in Phase 1 with a further 210 school places planned for Phase 2. A school of this size requires a site of around 1.76 ha (4.35 acres). This, together with the skateboard park, will require just over half of the allocated site within the adopted Local Plan.

The Ottery NP sought to allocate more of this land outside the BUAB for future social and educational needs but, following the formal objection from DCC, the Inspector reduced the area. However the Inspector agreed that the land should be safeguarded for education or community use, with strong preference  given to meeting the educational needs of the Neighbourhood Plan Area under Policy NP 25.

At no time did DCC, in its consultation response, cite building outside the BUAB in order to finance the school nor did it seek to extend the BUAB to cover its land.

DCC Tipton St John Primary School Relocation Community Consultation Summary Report January 2020 

This is a very clever use of public consultation. To begin with the questionnaire asked very innocuous questions like “Do you agree with the proposals to relocate Tipton St. John Primary School outside flood zone 3?” A resounding yes, we agree. But then the questions became more controversial. Question 5 “Do you agree that there are no viable options available to enable the relocation of Tipton St. John Primary School?”62% disagree. As DCC’s report on the consultation acknowledges: “the final question regarding whether the relocation should be funded by development at Thorne Farm resulted in the most significant negative response. Whilst similar to the figures above, 62% either ‘disagreed’ ‘strongly disagree’ responses (55% of total responses) than the other questions (Sic).”

Despite this, DCC has still has gone ahead with this application. How can they do so with such a negative reaction? It’s our old friend “balance” (plus employing an expert consultant). 

DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL RESPONSE: It is fully recognised that the movement of the school from the centre of the village will be a loss for the Tipton community. However, this needs to be balanced against the benefits of the solution proposed which does ensure a sustainable future for the school in the new location, for it to retain its excellent staff and core values and to continue to serve the children and community of Tipton St John for many years to come.”

Of course we must not forget our other friend  “in the public interest” either.

DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL RESPONSE: We acknowledge that the site is not allocated for housing in the adopted East Devon Local Plan or the Ottery Neighbourhood Plan. This will be a matter for East Devon District Council to consider alongside other elements of the proposal when determining the planning application. The local planning authority may depart from development plan policy where material considerations indicate the plan should not be followed. The scope of what can constitute a material consideration is very wide, however, in general planning is concerned with land use in the public interest.

In the light of this. How do you think the public would fare with a public consultation on the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan”? 

[This is another example of the consequences of blurring the lines between education authority and developer – see Goodmores Farm]