Sacked Mid Devon Lib Dems hit back

Looks to Owl as if the Green member of the cabinet isn’t too happy either. Remember that the cabinet had voted 7 to 1 to pull out of the GESP but somehow that motion never got to be debated at full council and they ended up with a fudge.

By Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter and Radio Exe news

 Lib Dem leader Luke Taylor is no longer in Mid Devon’s cabinet. 

They fell out with independents

The four Liberal Democrats members sacked from their cabinet roles in Mid Devon have hit back at the decision.

Councillors Graeme Barnell, Alex White, Luke Taylor, and Simon Clist have been replaced by Conservatives Richard Chesterton, Bob Evans, Andrew Moore and Colin Slade.

It follows a full council meeting where the Liberal Democrats put forward a rival amendment to one that the leader of the council, an independent, had outlined over the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan, a strategy involving Exeter, East Devon, Mid Devon and Teignbridge.

The Conservatives are the largest group on the council, but they’ve been frozen out of decision-making by an alliance of other councillors, including a cabinet of independents, Lib Dems and a Green. 

The leader of the council, Cllr Bob Deed, had proposed continuing a working relationship with Exeter and Teignbridge and to continue to prepare a revised joint strategic statutory plan, contrary to the rival amendment of the Lib Dems that would stop a boundary blind process while still communicating with other authorities in the area.

Cllr Deed’s amendment was eventually voted through 25 votes to 10, The following day, the four Liberal Democrat members on the seven-strong cabinet, were sacked.

Lib Dem Group leader Cllr Luke Taylor, said: “I am disappointed to have been removed from cabinet after we had given our support to Cllr Deed after the May 2019 elections. I am proud of the work we had done and knew cabinet was moving in the right direction.

“We had been supportive of changes to governance and in my own portfolio with the environment was pleased to have been progressing with more dual recycling bins in our communities and the addition of small electrical items being collected with recycling, however I wish the new coalition all the best going forward whilst the Liberal Democrat group will become sound opposition.”

Cllr Barnell said: “I too am disappointed by the Leader to take this decision, I had read every part of the GESP plans and had concerns from the outset. I knew our communities would be heavily impacted by GESP and could be lost forever. I did all I can to try and protect Mid Devon from mass building,” while Cllr White added: “As Liberal Democrats we did all we could for the benefit of Mid Devon and unfortunately the political ambitions of some has led to this. I hope the new Conservative led coalition will achieve on their promises made whilst in opposition.”

Cllr Clist added that he was ‘slightly bemused’ at his sacking, after he was told he was ‘innocent’, but that if one Lib Dem, goes they all go. He added: “I was willing to remain a Cabinet member and be part of a politically balanced Cabinet which would have been a great benefit to all of Mid Devon – however it appeared my position was already promised elsewhere.”

The cabinet, still led by independent Cllr Deed, now consists of three independents, four Conservatives, and one Green Party member, Cllr Elizabeth Wainwright –  but she’s tweeted in response to a comment about the new cabinet “Can’t be — none of them match how I feel and what I think after having come back from holiday to all this….”

Announcing the changes, Cllr Deed had 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.”

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.

As a result of the decision of last week’s full council meeting, Mid Devon will now commit to prepare a revised joint strategic statutory plan, but should this prove not to be the most appropriate option in planning terms, consider a review of other options for further strategic and cross-boundary planning matters with willing participatory authorities in the Housing Market Area.

Officers will review and incorporate relevant elements of the GESP Draft Policies and Site Options consultation document and other supporting documentation and evidence that remain valid and jointly prepare necessary technical studies and evidence for the new strategic plan, including conducting a further call for sites process, align monitoring and share resources where there are planning and cost benefits for doing so.

The Council’s commitment to the delivery of high quality development at Culm Garden Village as part of the Garden Communities Programme has been reaffirmed.



Just before you call the builder to add two storeys to your house in ………………

New permitted development rights to add additional storeys to create dwellings and dwelling spaces, plus permitted rights to demolish and rebuild are now in force. Much press coverage so far has givens over simplified descriptions. Here is a more detailed account of what is and is not permitted and the various restrictions and prior approval required. – Owl 

The new permitted development rights will come into effect on 31st August 2020 and the changes to the Use Classes Order will come into effect on 1st September 2020. 

Permitted Development Rights for Additional Storeys to Dwellinghouses

The Town and County Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2020 will confer permanent permitted development rights to allow existing houses to be extended by way of the addition of up to 2 storeys. The rights apply to existing houses which are detached, semi-detached or in a terrace. They are subject to a maximum height limit of 18m, and where the house is in a terrace its height cannot be more than 3.5m higher than the next tallest house in the terrace. The rights only apply to houses built between 1 July 1948 and 28 October 2018 and do not apply in Conservation Areas. There is a requirement to obtain prior approval in relation to the impact on the amenity of neighbouring premises, the external appearance, and the impacts a taller building may have on air traffic and defence assets.

Permitted Development Rights for Additional Storeys to Create Dwellings

The above Order will also introduce a new Class AA and AB to Part 20 of the General Permitted Development Order to allow the construction of up to 2 additional storeys on free standing blocks and on buildings in a terrace that are in certain commercial uses (including A1, A2, A3 and B1(a)), and in mixed uses with an element of housing, to create additional self-contained homes. The rights are subject to a maximum height limit of 30m for detached buildings and 18m for terraces.

A new Class AC and AD to Part 20 to the General Permitted Development Order will allow up to 2 additional storeys to be constructed on existing houses which are detached or in a terrace to create new self-contained homes. The rights are subject to a maximum height limit for the newly extended building of 18m and it cannot be more than 3.5m higher than the next tallest house in the terrace.

These rights apply to houses and buildings built between 1 July 1948 and 5 March 2018 and they have to have been in one of the relevant uses or mixed uses on 5 March 2018. The rights will not apply in Conservation Areas or to listed buildings or scheduled monuments. There is a requirement to obtain prior approval in relation to the transport and highway impacts of the development, contamination and flooding risks, the external appearance, impact on amenity, the provision of adequate natural light in all habitable rooms of the new homes, noise impact from existing commercial uses, impact on surrounding businesses and the impact on air traffic and defence assets.

Permitted Development Rights for Demolition and Rebuild for Residential Use

The Town and County Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Order 2020 will introduce a new Class ZA to the General Permitted Development Order conferring permanent permitted development rights to allow for the demolition of vacant and redundant free-standing buildings that fell within use class B1 and C3 on 12 March 2020, and their replacement with residential development. The rights apply to purpose-built residential blocks of flats only, and therefore do not apply to terraced buildings, detached dwellings or mixed-use buildings. The rights will also only apply to buildings constructed prior to 1 January 1990 that have been entirely vacant for at least 6 months prior to the application for prior approval. The development, consisting of both demolition and replacement build, must be completed within three years of the date of the grant of prior approval.

There are various limits placed on the scale of the development permitted, including that it must be within the footprint of the original building with a footprint of up to 1,000 sq m and with a maximum height of 18m. There is a requirement to obtain prior approval in relation to the transport and highway impacts of the development, contamination and flooding risks, the impact of noise from other premises on the future residents, design and external appearance of the new building, the adequacy of natural light in all habitable rooms of each new dwelling, the impact of the introduction of residential use into an area, and the impact of the development on the amenity of the new building and of neighbouring premises, impacts of noise from commercial premises, the impact on surrounding businesses, impact on heritage and archaeology, the method of demolition, plans for landscaping and the impact on air traffic and defence. The rights will not apply in Conservation Areas or to listed buildings or scheduled monuments.

Changes to Use Classes Order

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 will create a new broad “commercial, business and service” use class (Class E) which incorporates the previous shops (A1), financial and professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3) and offices (B1) use class. Uses such as gyms, nurseries and health centres previously within use class D1 and D2, and other uses which are suitable for a town centre area, are also included in the new use class. A change of use within a single use class is not development for the purposes of the Town and County Planning Act 1990, and therefore the use of a building within this new use class will be able to change to another use, or mix of uses, within the use class without the need for planning permission. The Government’s hope is that, by bringing these uses together and allowing movement between them, they will give businesses greater freedom to adapt to changing circumstances and to respond more quickly to the needs of their communities.

The Regulations will also create a new “Learning and non-residential institutions” (F1) incorporating those uses within the former D1 Non-residential institutions use class, such as schools, libraries and art galleries. There will also be a “Local community” (F2) use class incorporating those uses from the former D2 use class which provide for group activities of a more physical nature such as swimming pools, skating rinks and areas for outdoor sports as well as shops servicing the essential needs of local communities. The former A4 drinking establishments and A5 hot food take away use classes have been removed and these uses are now sui generis, together with cinemas, concert, dance and bingo halls.

The new permitted development rights will come into effect on 31st August 2020 and the changes to the Use Classes Order will come into effect on 1st September 2020. The changes undoubtedly give rise to new development opportunities, although the scope of them will be curtailed by the various restrictions and prior approval requirements.


Rising UK infections: what do the latest figures mean?

The Covid-19 symptom tracker app is showing a slow rise in symptoms reported across UK from about 27 August, though levels remain below those experienced throughout most of July. East Devon active cases are estimated at 33 compared to 29 on 21 August. – Owl

Nicola Davis /

As the daily tally of positive coronavirus tests in the UK reached the highest level on Sunday since 4 June, at 1,715 new cases, we take a look at whether this is a true rise in infections, and what it means.

Are cases really rising?

A quick glance at UK figures for positive coronavirus tests shows a clear upward trend since early July. On 5 July 516 new cases were reported, with a rolling seven-day average of just over 546 per day, while on 26 August 1,048 cases were reported, with a rolling seven-day average of just over 1,164 per day.

Some have suggested this rise is largely down to an increase in the number of people being tested. Indeed, 126,100 tests were processed on 5 July, compared with 186,500 on 26 August. But an analysis of the figures shows this only partly explains the rise.

As Prof Paul Hunter of the University of East Anglia points out, the proportion of tests returning positive – the positivity rate – appears to be rising. Over the first seven days in July, 232 tests were done for every positive case reported and in mid August only about 164 tests were done for every positive case – although in recent weeks this appears to have stabilised.

That, experts have said, suggests infections have truly been rising. The conclusion chimes with work from the Office for National Statistics that suggested an increase in the percentage of people testing positive in July – although again it seems this rise may have levelled off.

However, experts say the figures from Sunday should be viewed with caution. While on Monday 1,406 new cases were reported they say data for the next few days will be needed to put the number of new infections in context.

What about deaths?

While infections may have risen, the number of deaths from coronavirus remain low: the daily figure for UK deaths within 28 days of a positive test has not hit 20 or higher since 21 July.

Experts say there are a number of possible explanations for this, including an increase in the use of the life-saving drug dexamethasone, and that infections now seem to be more common among young people – older age is a risk factor for more severe Covid-19.

It is not yet clear if other factors, for example the virus becoming less deadly, could also be at play.

Why are infections rising?

Experts say as lockdown restrictions are eased, a rise in cases is expected. In the UK, restrictions have gradually been eased since mid-May, with social “bubbles” allowed from mid-June and pubs and restaurants allowed to reopen from early July.

“The key thing we have to do is get to balance, letting people get back to normal [while] keeping control of transmission,” said Prof Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London.

That, he added, meant local restrictions – as already seen in Leicester and Oldham – were likely to be a feature in more areas as outbreaks occurred.

How concerned should we be?

The increase in the positivity rate since July has led to concerns about further easing of lockdown – including encouraging employees to return to the workplace.

Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London, said among the concerns were that few offices had windows that opened and many involved sharing lifts and bathrooms.

Ferguson added that a critical moment would be the opening up of schools, and that could lead to a rapid increase in cases of coronavirus.

While Ferguson said he did not want to be alarmist, there was no room for complacency. “We do need to make sure that our testing, tracing and response to outbreaks in workplaces and schools or wherever is up to scratch,” he said.

Prof Rowland Kao, an epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh, agreed, noting “sparks” of coronavirus were to be expected. “How you respond is what matters,” he said.

  • Additional reporting by Natalie Grover


Tory plan to scrap election watchdog ‘undermines democracy’

Labour and Lib Dems says threat to Electoral Commission is bid to stop exposure on Russian funding connections.

Peter Walker

Opposition parties have condemned Conservative proposals to abolish or significantly revamp the Electoral Commission, with Labour saying any move to restrict the elections watchdog risks undermining faith in democracy.

The Liberal Democrats said any moves against the Electoral Commission, as outlined by the Conservatives’ co-chair Amanda Milling, appeared an attempt to prevent the exposure of “embarrassing funding connections to Russian oligarchs”.

The commission regulates political donations, spending and other areas, and has the power to undertake its own investigations, and fine parties and officials for breaches of the rules, although more serious matters are passed to police.

The government’s advisory body the Committee on Standards in Public Life is currently holding a review of electoral regulation. In a submission to the process, the Conservatives said the commission should not be given new powers of prosecution, saying this would bring “too many conflicts of interest”.

Writing in the Telegraph, Milling argued that the body should accept more outside scrutiny or be disbanded: “If the Electoral Commission fails to make these changes and do the job it was set up to do then the only option would be to abolish it.”

The commission is viewed with suspicion by some Conservative MPs who believe it has unfairly targeted pro-Brexit groups, such as with its decision to fine the campaigner Darren Grimes £20,000 for electoral spending offences in the 2016 referendum. This was overturned by a court appeal.

Some campaign groups have called instead for increased scrutiny of the election system, particularly after a long-delayed report by parliament’s intelligence and security committee said the government and intelligence agencies had failed to properly assess Russian attempts to interfere with the Brexit vote.

Cat Smith, Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, who deals with voting issues, called the Conservative proposal “a harmful and worrying step for the integrity of our democracy”.

“Removing the Electoral Commission is just one part of a concerted strategy by the Tories to remove scrutiny and proper accountability,” she said. “Without the Electoral Commission, no one could prevent the Tories from introducing policies that fundamentally make it harder for people to vote, such as mandatory Voter ID.

“This move comes straight out of the Republican party playbook.”

The Lib Dem MP Wendy Chamberlain said that with attacks on judges and the illegal prorogation of parliament, Boris Johnson had shown he was “a threat to the rule of law”.

She said: “Now, with the Tories’ embarrassing funding connections to Russian oligarchs exposed, their plan to turn their guns on the Electoral Commission is a direct attempt to undermine our democracy.”

In its own response to the review of electoral regulations, the Electoral Reform Society has called instead for increased powers for the commission, on the lines of the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The group argued: “It is striking that we now have a regulator with substantial powers to protect data privacy, but no such powers have been granted to the regulator entrusted with protecting our democracy.”

A Conservative spokesman said that if the commission were abolished, its functions should be transferred to other bodies, such as police and Companies House.

He said: “Our submission makes clear that the Electoral Commission needs to reform to become more accountable, with clearer, up-to-date, non-conflicting guidance for political parties, particularly in light of past mistakes.

“Would the Liberal Democrats or Labour say every fine or investigation into them has been proportionate and fair? Rather than lobbying for more powers, the commission should be focusing on getting its house in order.”