Memo to Simon Jupp on what his predecessor thought about “build, build,build” in East Devon

Memo to Simon Jupp MP.

Here’s what your usually silent predecessor said when he attended the CPRE Symposium in 2018 where they unveiled their report into Devon’s Housing needs. This showed that  the Government figures imposed unrealistic and unjustifiable targets. [Owl has to find the time to summarise CPRE’s latest report]

(Sir Hugo gave his apologies for leaving at noon as he had a lunch appointment with John Varley, Estates Director, Clinton Devon Estates)


CPRE symposium 12 October 2018

‘Really, the Government should follow the evidence, not try and create the evidence to suit whatever pre thoughts they may have about volume house building to meet manifesto commitments.’

 Cranbrook is due to expand ‘I would not support Cranbrook. Indeed I would help try and resist the spread of Cranbrook across the A30 to absorb independent communities in Broadclyst , Rockbeare, Marsh Green and so forth.’

 ‘We do have huge pressure in East Devon, not least because we have as I say our most congenial neighbours, which are the Exe estuary on one side and the sea on the other. We are surrounded by AONB, and the pressure on withstanding existing conurbations such as Sidmouth and Budleigh are very difficult to do.’

Great dilemma.  ‘If you are going for economic growth, which is what Exeter and East Devon want to do, you therefore need to, in order to fuel that growth, you need to provide houses, if you provide that housing you get more people and in turn it becomes a self-fulfilling circle of more and more demand and more and more economic expansion.’


Planning algorithm may destroy suburbia, Tory MPs warn Boris Johnson

No mention of the damage to our countryside. No mention of Simon Jupp MP or Neil Parish MP lobbying the Prime Minister. Owl is very interested in their views especially those of Simon Jupp who we now know sits on the secretive Liveable Exeter Place Board

Steven Swinford, Deputy Political Editor | George Greenwood 

Boris Johnson has been warned by Tory MPs that an algorithm at the heart of his planning reforms risks “destroying suburbia” and “creating the slums of the future”.

The prime minister held a video conference call on Wednesday with 17 Tory MPs from the greater London area about the government’s white paper on planning. He was joined by Mark Spencer, the chief whip, and Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary.

The MPs, who included four serving ministers, were “unanimous” in raising concerns about the reforms, which will treble the number of homes built in London to 93,532 a year. They warned that the reforms would “do real harm to the suburbs” and “real harm to the Conservative vote”.

Some of the MPs raised concerns that Labour local authorities would build tower blocks in suburban areas to fulfil the target and “fundamentally change the nature of the constituency”.

One MP said: “Labour wants to build us out of London. We’ll end up with low-quality homes, rabbit hutch houses, not the family homes we need.”

Another said: “There’s already huge pressure in the planning system to urbanise the suburbs. The housing targets produced by this new algorithm are completely undeliverable and would make an already difficult situation far worse. They would force high rise, high-density development on local communities. There is a real danger that this would lead to the creation of the slums of the future.”

All the London Tory MPs and councillors are planning to make a joint response to the consultation raising their concerns.

Mr Johnson told MPs that he understood their concerns and was in “listening mode”. He stressed the need to build more homes in areas where people wanted to live.

Pushed on the algorithm at the heart of the reforms, the prime minister joked: “Algorithms are banned,” a reference to the exams chaos caused by an algorithm developed by the regulator.

Tory MPs flagged to Mr Johnson the strain that the planning reforms would place on his own constituency in Uxbridge. “He understood where we were coming from,” one said.

However, Mr Jenrick was said to be far more “defensive” about the algorithm.

“Jenrick was talking about how he understood the concerns but we need to build more housing,” one of the MPs said. “He said that everyone had to take their fair share.”

Under the changes to planning laws, local discretion over the rate of housebuilding will be removed and central government will “distribute” an annual target, at present 337,000 a year, among local councils. They will then be required to designate enough land to meet the target.

Analysis by Lichfields, a planning consultancy, has suggested that much of the new housing will be concentrated in Conservative local authority areas in the suburbs and the shires, rather than in town centres.

Tory constituencies will have housing targets raised by 52 per cent, from 81,200 to 123,400. On average, each Conservative-held local authority will have a rise of about 370 homes, compared with 250 for Labour-held areas.

A total of 25 Labour-held council areas would have their housing requirements slashed, with Manchester falling by nearly 1,000, Leicester by 600, Birmingham and Bradford by 500 each, and Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield by 400 each.

Neil O’Brien, the Tory MP for Harborough, Leicestershire, said: “Lots of our large cities have brownfield land and capacity to take more housing and it seems strange when planning to ‘level up’ to be levelling down their housing targets to rates even lower than they have been delivering. It would be quite difficult to explain to Conservative voters why they should take more housing in their areas to allow large Labour-run cities nearby to continue to stagnate rather than regenerate.”

A government source said: “This is not something we’re going to step away from. We’ve got a duty to do this for the next generation.”


20/1504/MOUT Application on Thorne Farm, Ottery St. Mary, Claire Wright Objects

Councillor Claire Wright (Objects)

Comment submitted date: Mon 17 Aug 2020

Tipton St John Primary School is in flood zone 3 and needs to be replaced, I am in no doubt of that.

I have seen the damage caused at clear up events that I helped with, alongside the community and fire and rescue service when the school grounds were filled with mud, sewage and silt.

While I am opposed to this planning application I would like to outline some of the history that has led up to this point, as I believe it is fair to put it into context.

The Environment Agency retains its position, held since 2015, that there is a risk to life related to a potential flood.

Last year rope fastenings at either side of the road between the two school buildings were fixed so that children crossing the road to safety during sudden flood events, were able to hold onto something secure.

I am fully aware of the ongoing stress and worry that this situation has caused headteacher, Colin Butler and his staff for many years as flood prevention measures must be every day be a top priority in order to keep the children safe.

In 2015, the Diocese of Exeter, supported by Devon County Council, applied for government funding under the Priority Schools Programme, to rebuild the school on a piece of land in the village, outside the flood zone.

This application was accompanied by the Environment Agency’s assessment that there was a risk to the lives of the children, if it was not relocated.

During that time, an in-principle agreement with a landowner at Tipton St John had been arranged, to purchase a piece of land on the edge of the village – and various planning suitability investigations were carried out.

After a number of positive meetings with ministers and many hopes raised, the application was finally and disappointingly rejected.

Plugging a financial hole of around £5m is the background that led to a planning application for 150 houses in Ottery St Mary, on a piece of land outside the built up area boundary.

This land, adjacent to Cadhay Lane, is allocated for community and education in EDDC’s Local Plan and also in Ottery St Mary and West Hill’s Neighbourhood Plan, so this application is contrary to the current EDDC Local Plan, as well as Ottery St Mary and West Hill’s Neighbourhood Plan.

Such a significant development would also place additional pressure on the town’s roads and health services.

Any large development on this land could cause problems with water run-off and potentially increase the risk of flooding to lower lying properties on Cadhay Lane and the Thorne Farm estate.

Ottery St Mary has been one of the fastest growing towns (in terms of housing) in East Devon over the past 10 years and should not be expected to cope with more housing at this time.

The government has recently announced a new £1bn school building programme and I have asked the Devon County Council portfolio holder for education, James McInnes, that the council applies for this funding in order to fully fund the rebuild of the school, preferably on land at Tipton St John.

While I fully support the need for a new Tipton St John school, it should be built in Tipton St John, with government funding, not in Ottery St Mary, funded by 150 houses.

[The three District Councillors have yet to comment – Owl]

More on: Ottery housing plan ‘flies in the face of’ public vote to safeguard land 

The layout plan for a new school and houses at Thorne Farm, presented in October's public consultation. Picture: Devon County Council

The layout plan for a new school and houses at Thorne Farm, presented in October’s public consultation. Picture: Devon County Council

A planning application that ‘flies in the face of’ local democracy is to be debated by Ottery Town Council next week.

Devon County Council wants to build up to 150 homes on land that local people had voted to safeguard from development.

The site opposite Barrack Farm is allocated for educational and community use only in the Ottery and West Hill Neighbourhood Plan, and the application is also contrary to the Local Plan adopted by East Devon District Council.

Ottery Town Council is due to discuss its response on Thursday, September 3, with the final decision to be made by East Devon District Council.

The county council says the housing development is needed to pay for a new school to replace Tipton St John Primary, which would be built on another part of the site.

A spokesman for the council said: “We are well aware of the very complex issues surrounding this application and the difficult decision that planners will have to make.”

But he said there is a ‘clear and demonstrable need’ for Tipton St John primary school to be relocated, and for a new primary school in Ottery St Mary to tackle a shortage of places.

He added that nearly a third of the new houses would be affordable and a large part of the site would be set aside for public green space.

He said: “The agreed plan for the area allocates land for education and community use and it is our contention that all of these benefits should be taken into account in deciding the application.”

The application for the school and homes has attracted 131 objections and 17 expressions of support.

People in both camps agree that the existing school needs to be replaced, as it is housed in out-of-date buildings and has frequently flooded in the past.

But while there is some disagreement over whether a relocation to Ottery is right, the vast majority of the objectors are united against the housing development.

One person commented: “This plan flies in the face of the democratic District and Neighbourhood planning process.”

Another said: “The people of Ottery St Mary voted overwhelmingly to support and adopt a Local Plan which excluded the area in question from development. Therefore residential development cannot happen.”

Half of patients struggling to book an appointment with GP

As Paul F pointed out on a previous post concerning hidden waiting lists for follow-up appointments in hospital:

“To put this in context 15m people is 25% – YES a quarter – of the UK population.

That is the state of the NHS – with a quarter of the population on a waiting list – and the government is keeping it secret.”

Now we have: half of patients struggling to book an appointment with GP

Kat Lay, Health Correspondent | Arthi Nachiappan 

More than half of people who have tried to book a GP appointment since coronavirus hit Britain have struggled, according to a poll.

The results from a YouGov survey for The Times showed that 53 per cent reported it had been harder to book a GP appointment, whether in person or over the phone.

Latest NHS figures on GP appointments show there were about 22.8 million in July, 85 per cent of the number during the same month last year.

Appointments have increased substantially from a slump at the height of the pandemic and many patients report satisfaction with GP services. Some 16 per cent of people in the poll said they had found it easier to book a GP appointment during the pandemic.

Patient advocates said, however, that they were concerned by persistent reports of people struggling to access care.

Paula Hooper, 66, said she had been forced to call paramedics after she was unable to arrange a home visit from her mother’s GP. Her mother, who has dementia, was moving in and out of consciousness and complaining of a pain in the back of her head. She said: “We don’t phone the GP willy-nilly. I think we just need a little bit more care locally.”

Linda Millband, head of clinical negligence at Thompsons Solicitors, said many claims dealt with by her practice in the past three months related to health conditions that worsened through patients not being able to get an appointment to see their GP, including cancer cases. “There will be serious issues as a result of this,” she said.

The pandemic has driven a rapid uptake of technology to enable remote consultation in primary care. In July last year 80 per cent of appointments were face-to-face, while this year the figure was 50 per cent.

Imelda Redmond, national director of Healthwatch England, said: “The feedback we have indicates remote consultations are working relatively well for patients who are able to access them but it’s concerning if significant numbers of people are still finding it difficult to make an appointment .”

John Kell, head of policy at the Patients Association, said that for patients where remote appointments were not suitable, GPs should be “making efforts to see them in a way that works for the patient, including face to face if necessary”.

In a letter sent out at the end of July, Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “All GP practices must offer face-to-face appointments at surgeries as well as continuing to use remote triage and video, online and telephone consultation where appropriate, while considering those who are unable to access or engage with digital services.” Health teams should also work to expand the range of services to which patients could refer themselves, freeing up GP time, he said.

Although appointments appear to be below usual levels, GPs said their workload was higher. Senior figures at the British Medical Association have said that hospitals are pushing work back to community practices inappropriately, including requests to write prescriptions or arrange blood tests.

“General practice is open and has been throughout the pandemic,” said Dr Jonathan Leach, honorary secretary for the Royal College of GPs. The college’s data showed that routine GP appointments were back to normal levels, and personal appointments were being facilitated “where necessary”.

“The pandemic isn’t over and we need to remain cautious,” he said. “We’re taking steps to ensure patients who need to come to the surgery are as safe as possible, but it is sensible to limit footfall where possible, in line with official guidance.” He said issues around shortages of GPs and lack of resources that had “understandably taken a back seat in the crisis” remained important.

An NHS spokesman said: “Although this poll is only a snapshot, it shows that of people who tried to book an appointment about the same number found it easier or saw no difference in how they accessed a GP appointment during Covid-19 — a remarkable achievement in the middle of a pandemic.”


New town councillors sought for Budleigh Salterton

Another Council seeking more members. – Owl 

Daniel Wilkins 

Budleigh Salterton Town Council is looking to co-opt two new councillors and is inviting residents to come forward.

The town council currently has 10 councillors and is led by town mayor Michael Hilliar and deputy mayor Roger Sheriff.

Town councillors make decisions on a variety of issues in the town including grant aid funding requests and is consultee on planning applications made in the town.

Meetings are currently conducted via Zoom due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Anyone interested in becoming a town councillor should fill out an application form and return it to town clerk Jo Vanstone by Monday, September 7.

Applications should be posted to Mrs J E Vanstone, town clerk, Budleigh Salterton Town Council, Council Offices, Station Road, Budleigh Salterton, EX9 6RJ.

Alternatively email or ring 01395 442245


The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and healthcare services in Devon

Executive Summary

Health and hospital services in Devon were already run-down and over capacity when the COVID-19 crisis struck.

Devon has had a relatively low rate of infections. Despite this, more people have undoubtedly contracted COVID than would have been the case if the Government had acted more promptly and according to the advice of public health experts.

Local health, care and community workers responded heroically to the crisis. But they were hampered by centralised decision-making, especially over testing, tracing, and PPE procurement, that undermined local planning and side-lined the expertise of local bodies.

Outsourcing of key functions to private sector contractors has led to inefficiencies, duplication, confusion, poor communication, and worse outcomes than if existing NHS and local authority capacity had been extended.

We offer urgent recommendations to ensure that Devon healthcare and hospital services are fit for purpose in the case of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, or a similar public health crisis in the future.

Full report can be found here.


How to Deliberately Mess Up Your New Zoning Local Plan to Build Less Homes

Reference to East Devon! 

“I’m not in the business of advising NIMBY local, authorities but I will point out fatal flaws in the Planning White Paper.

The White Paper proposes to abolish the DTC and the forward looking 5YHLSS. It also proposes no formal requirement to examine alternative realistic plan options (as required by the SEA directive). It leaps directly from a call for proposals to a submission plan. New plans have to be in place within 30 months. The assumption being presumably no need as growth areas will be in place.

So what if you are the kind of authority like Wokingham or East Devon that wants to build far less. Easy just produce a sloppy, stupid, back of the envelope plan showing houjsing in the worst possible places. You will get masses of objections and the plan will fail at examination. Job done.

Thank you Planning White Paper for messing up zoning reform and incentivising the one thing we have too much of: bad plans.”


Mid Devon Council leader removes four senior cabinet members after planning row

After the May 2019 elections the Conservatives lost overall control but did not form the administration. The Liberal Democrats are the next largest grouping. They appear to have entered a coalition with Independents and Greens, yet Mid Devon ended up with an Independent Leader.

He was the only one who voted against leaving GESP when the motion to leave was put to Cabinet (passed 7 to 1). He was the one who tabled an amended “fudge” motion when the leave motion was to have been debated at the full Council meeting.

Did this coalition have any Memorandum of Understanding or any formal arrangement? Is this another example of a LINO (leader in name only)? Anyone able to enlighten Owl?

Four Liberal Democrat cabinet members on Mid Devon District Council have left the ruling administration.

Daniel Clark

The changes, which will take effect from today, will see the addition of four Conservative members joining the current Independent and Green Party Councillors, while the four Liberal Democrats will leave the Cabinet.

It follows Wednesday night’s full council meeting where the Liberal Democrats put forward a rival amendment to one that the leader of the council had outlined over the future of the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan.

Cllrs Graeme Barnell, Alex White, Luke Taylor, and Simon Clist have left the cabinet, and been replaced by Conservatives Richard Chesterton, Bob Evans, Andrew Moore and Colin Slade.

Announcing the changes, the Leader of Mid Devon District Council, Cllr Bob Deed, said: “Everyone knows that, upon becoming Leader, I had sought participation from across the Council to secure the best set of expertise and experience in cabinet roles.

“While the Conservatives did not feel able to take up this offer from the start, I am pleased that we now have the opportunity to welcome their skills into the Cabinet.

“I firmly believe that working alongside our neighbours and colleagues in the wider area is the right way to achieve the best outcomes for Mid Devon.

“Collaboration across willing partners must be the starting point for effective Local Government and, following Wednesday’s Full Council meeting debating competing proposals from within the Cabinet, the four Liberal Democrats have now stood down.

“I thank them for their contribution during the last 15 months and look forward to continuing to deliver the best outcomes for Mid Devon, as we face the major challenges of potential planning changes, devolution, and post-EU transition, alongside our continued efforts to support our businesses and communities through COVID-19.”

The new cabinet makeup in full is:

  • Cllr Bob Deed (Con) – Leader
  • Cllr Bob Evans (Con) – Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing
  • Cllr Andrew Moore (Con) – Cabinet Member for Finance
  • Cllr Richard Chesterton (Con) – Cabinet Member for Planning & Economic Regeneration
  • Cllr Colin Slade (Con) – Cabinet Member for Environment
  • Cllr Dennis Knowles (Ind) – Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing
  • Cllr Elizabeth Wainwright (Grn) – Cabinet Member for Climate Change
  • Cllr Nikki Woollatt (Ind) – Cabinet Member for the Working Environment and Support Services

The 42-strong council had been run by a coalition of the Independents and the Liberal Democrats, but today’s decision to replace the Liberal Democrats on the council throws that working relationship into doubt.

The council consists currently of 17 Conservatives, 11 Liberal Democrats, nine Independents, and two Green Party councillors.

Three seats are vacant following the deaths of Gerald Luxton and John Daw and the resignation of Irene Hill, with by-elections currently under the Coronavirus Act 2020 not allowed to take place until May 2021.