Tories call for inquiry into ‘bad data’ to justify rural housebuilding

Tories call for inquiry into ‘bad data’ to justify rural housebuilding

Conservative MPs have called for an inquiry into “bad” official population projections that are then used to justify the construction of thousands of homes on open fields.

[CPRE Devon have also consistently questioned the baseline used in housing need calculations for Devon – Owl]

Robert Booth 

Tory backbenchers in Warwickshire claim that a population projection for Coventry exaggerates growth by up to 60,000 people over the next two decades, resulting in “major incursions into the countryside”, with areas including the Forest of Arden being zoned for housing unnecessarily.

They are being backed by the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, in a complaint to Sir David Norgrove, the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, that “bad decisions – to irrevocably destroy historic countryside – are being made on the back of bad data”.

Two local Labour MPs have joined the complaint, which is being coordinated by the Warwickshire branch of the CPRE, the countryside charity.

The move opens a new front in the backbench rebellion against rural housebuilding and comes amid continued tensions between Tory councillors and MPs and the government over proposed planning reforms, which could make it easier to build houses in the countryside.

Last weekend, the UK housing minister, Robert Jenrick, was forced into a U-turn on housing targets for some Tory shire heartlands in the south of England under pressure from backbenchers, including the former prime minister Theresa May and the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt. Jenrick announced an algorithm being used to set targets would be reset to allocate more homes in towns and cities and the north.

Midlands MPs are calling for an inquiry into the population projections produced by the Office of National Statistics that they allege overestimate Coventry’s birth rate and underestimate its death rate. They also say it understates international emigration, particularly among students finishing courses.

Merle Gering, the chairman of Warwickshire CPRE who carried out the statistical analysis, said it meant houses were being planned for “ghosts”.

Their letter to Sir David Norgrove, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, comes on the eve of a decision on a planning application for up to 2,400 homes on land known as Eastern Green to the west of Coventry, which until recently was part of the green belt separating the city from Birmingham.

The population projections used to set the targets were produced in 2014. More up-to-date figures from 2018 were made available this summer, but the government is sticking with the earlier numbers to ensure “stability and certainty”, the ONS said.

The letter, signed by the Conservative backbenchers Craig Tracey, the MP for North Warwickshire, Jeremy Wright, the MP for Kenilworth and Southam, and Mark Pawsey, the MP for Rugby and Bulkington, said: “The very high figures for Coventry have led that authority and neighbouring Warwickshire authorities to over-allocate land for housing in their local plans. This has resulted in major incursions into the countryside, both in Coventry itself and in those parts of Warwickshire immediately surrounding it.

“Large amounts of the historic Forest of Arden – precious for history, biodiversity, landscape, heritage, flood control, recreation and providing the green lungs of a crowded urban area – have been removed from green belt in and around Coventry and allocated to unnecessary housing.”

Similar issues have been raised elsewhere. Last year, Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, accused the government of making it impossible to reduce the amount of protected green belt allocated to housing through the use of old population growth figures, which are higher than the most recent projections.

A spokesperson for the ONS said: “Projections aren’t predictions or forecasts and simply show the trajectory of the population or number of households based on a set of plausible scenarios of what could happen to births, deaths and migration. Projections are updated every two years to ensure they use the latest data and methods, new versions supersede old versions.

“We are continuing to have conversations with residents and academics in Coventry and all of our methods have been explained to be fully transparent and helpful.”

Boris Johnson ‘acted illegally’ over jobs for top anti-Covid staff

Cathy Gardner not the only one legally challenging Matt Hancock

Michael Savage

Boris Johnson and his health secretary, Matt Hancock, acted “unlawfully” when appointing three key figures – including the head of NHS Test and Trace, Dido Harding – to posts in the fight against Covid-19, according to a legal challenge submitted by campaigners to the high court.

The Observer has seen details of documents from those pursuing the case – and initial responses from government lawyers – relating to the call for a judicial review into the appointment of Baroness Harding, who is a Tory peer, and into those of Kate Bingham to the post of head of the UK’s vaccine taskforce and Mike Coupe to the role of director of testing at NHS Test and Trace.

The case has been lodged jointly by the not-for-profit Good Law Project headed by Jolyon Maugham QC, and the UK’s leading race equality thinktank, the Runnymede Trust. If it is successful, it would represent a further serious blow to the credibility of the government’s handling of the pandemic and support claims that ministers have been running a “chumocracy”.

The claimants say the appointments were made without advertising the positions, and without the open competition normally insisted on for important public sector roles. Instead they suggest those identified and then appointed were installed in part because of their Tory connections. Harding and Bingham are both married to Conservative MPs while Coupe is a former chief executive of Sainsbury’s, and was a colleague of Harding’s at the supermarket.

The claimants question the experience and suitability of the three to carry out the roles and also say that because the positions were not advertised and are unpaid, the government was guilty of indirectly discriminating against others outside the very well-off, predominantly white group from which the three were chosen. They also say the government breached equality obligations for public sector appointments.

In relation to Harding’s appointment by Hancock in May to head the test and trace programme, the claimants say her experience “was not such that it was obvious without a selection process that she was uniquely qualified for the role”. Hancock and Harding already knew each other, partly through horse racing connections. Harding was appointed to a second role in September as head of the National Institute for Health Protection, again without an open competition or the role being advertised.

The claimants say Bingham, who has worked in the fields of venture capital and therapeutics, and was at school with the prime minister’s sister, Rachel, “has no experience of public health administration and no expertise in immunology”. Her husband, Jesse Norman, is a Tory minister and was a contemporary of the prime minister’s at Eton.

Referring to Coupe’s appointment the claimants say: “Mr Coupe’s most significant professional experience is as the former CEO of Sainsbury’s. He has no experience as a public administrator or in the health sector. He is a former colleague and friend of Baroness Harding, who worked with him at Sainsbury’s.”

The claimants are inviting the court to declare that the government acted “unlawfully” in the way it made the appointments. They are not seeking to remove the three from their posts, which they accept would be disruptive at a time of crisis, but to ensure that in future governments are bound to act fairly and lawfully.

Another 341 people in the UK died of Covid-19 on Saturday, and 19,875 new cases were recorded.

News of the legal legal challenge comes as Johnson prepares to outline to parliament on Monday details of the restrictions that will apply after the lockdown in England ends on 2 December. He will hold discussions with his cabinet on Sunday to finalise the details of extra restrictions that will have to apply in the worst-hit areas, and how rules can be loosened for a few days over Christmas. Sources said the three-tier system would remain, although with extra restrictions imposed where necessary.

Johnson may have to rely on support from Labour when the new restrictions are voted on. It is understood 70 Tory MPs have signed a letter warning they cannot support a return to a tiered system unless ministers can demonstrate measures “will save more lives than they cost”.

The group, led by former chief whip Mark Harper and former Brexit minister Steve Baker, are demanding to see a full cost-benefit analysis of the restrictions being proposed after the current national lockdown ends.

A pre-action letter outlining the details of Good Law Project’s case has been sent to Johnson and Hancock. The government legal department has responded by defending all the appointments, saying the urgency of the pandemic necessitated swift, ad hoc and temporary appointments.

The legal department said they were not civil service roles so fell outside the requirements for full and open competition, and praised the administrative abilities and experience of those chosen. It also dismissed the claims of indirect discrimination as baseless, saying the claimants had failed to say precisely who had been discriminated against. The government’s lawyers say the case is “unnecessary and will soon be academic”.

Dr Halima Begum, director of the Runnymede Trust, said in her submission: “Corners must not be cut to the point where the government is discriminating against non-white and/or disabled people. Qualified individuals should all have an equal opportunity to compete for these vital jobs, no matter their background. They should also be able to afford to accept these jobs while supporting themselves and their families.

“Dispensing with open competition and failing to remunerate full-time positions builds a perception that important jobs are being given to an inner circle of wives and friends within Westminster. This is what people increasingly call the ‘chumocracy’.”

Dave Penman, head of the civil servants’ union the FDA, said: “Ensuring civil servants are recruited on merit is not only a legal obligation on the government, it is critical in ensuring the effectiveness of public services and protects the civil service from cronyism and corruption. It ensures that from local jobcentres to ministerial private offices, civil servants are recruited for what they can do, not who they know or what they believe.”

Maugham said: “If our politicians care in the slightest about public trust, we need to get back to how things used to be. Public service needs to be exactly that – not a cloak for the advancement of private interests.”

Good Law Project is also pursuing allegations that Covid-19-related contracts have been awarded to people with close Tory connections. Last week Julia Lopez, a Cabinet Office minister, said an internal review would be held into the awarding of private contracts during the pandemic, so ministers could be sure there was “no basis” for claims of favouritism towards Tory supporters or donors. The National Audit Office is also carrying out its own review into procurement.

A spokesman for No 10 said: “We do not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.”

From Grenfell to PPE, absolute power still corrupts in high places

Owl was surprise, but on reflection shouldn’t have been, that the Minister “on duty shamelessly forming a square around the Prittster” yesterday was none other than “three homes” Jenrick.

Readers will recall that, at the beginning of lockdown 1, Robert Jenrick fled London to hole up at his second home/mansion in Hereford. Obviously his eyesight is now good enough to read from a script.

Of all the articles describing the extent of sleaze and chumocracy surrounding the Government, this one seems to summarise it well.

Kenan Malik

A  cladding manufacturer allegedly fakes results to win a contract for material it knows is a deathtrap. The government sets up a system to reward companies with whom ministers have links. Almost 90% of Windrush victims making compensation claims have yet to receive payment, while the home secretary responsible for that scheme is found guilty of bullying.

Just another week in 2020 Britain. And, this being 2020 Britain, the people facing the consequences of abuse of power, malfeasance and incompetence are not those responsible but those who suffer.

Last Monday, the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire heard how, after its cladding had failed the first safety test, the manufacturer, Celotex, simply set up a second test, apparently rigged the results and won the contract to wrap the block with flammable cladding. It was an astonishing revelation, but barely reported in the press.

Two days later, the National Audit Office published a damning report on the government’s procurement process for Covid-19, revealing that companies placed in a “high-priority” channel were 10 times more likely to be awarded a contract. You didn’t need to be good at producing PPE to be in this channel, you just needed to know a minister. A currency trading firm, Ayanda Capital, won a £252m contract to supply millions of face masks, in a deal brokered by Andrew Mills, a government adviser who just also happened to be an adviser to Ayanda.

Jobs, too, from the chair of the vaccine taskforce to the head of the disastrous NHS test-and-trace operation, are seemingly allocated on the basis not of what you know but of who you know (or are married to).

Meanwhile, the Guardian’s Amelia Gentleman revealed that Alexandra Ankrah, the head of policy for the Home Office Windrush compensation scheme, had resigned in frustration. The scheme, Ankrah pointed out, was administered by “the very same people who hadn’t questioned the Windrush situation in the first place”. Nine people have died while awaiting compensation.

Look at these cases individually and you might describe each as an isolated instance of “chumocracy” – some might call it corruption – or “policy failure”. They are all different kinds of wrongness. Celotex’s seemingly shocking disregard for human life in the name of profit-making is of a different order to the indifference to people’s needs apparent in the Home Office. But put these cases together and a different picture emerges. A picture of how power works. A picture of elite contempt for rules, for social needs, for the little people.

There is nothing new in corruption or incompetence. Business and sleaze have long worked hand in hand, public officials have often been negligent, ministers have rarely been shy of taking advantage of their connections. What is new is the lack of pushback or the threat of any consequences.

The housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, “shocked” by the Grenfell revelations, insisted on the need for “stiffer regulation for building safety”, which is “too lax”. He failed to mention that the regulations are too lax because of a long history of government mania for deregulation. Or that the year before the Grenfell fire, the then business secretary, Sajid Javid, had introduced a “one in, three out” rule, meaning that for every regulation introduced, three had to be cut, and the government boasted of reducing fire safety inspections from six hours to 45 minutes.

After the NAO report, ministers simply shrugged their shoulders as if to say that’s how it is. “At the time there was huge pressure to get PPE into the system and that’s what we did,” said the business secretary, Alok Sharma. As if a health emergency is good reason for malpractice.

There was a time when those responsible for incompetence might have resigned. Now, it’s those who expose the wrongdoing who have to go: not just Ankrah, but Alex Allan, too, Boris Johnson’s adviser and the author of the bullying report about Priti Patel.

And all the while, the Labour party is too busy fighting with itself, and wanting to appear “responsible”, to hold ministers to account. A 23-year-old footballer has put more pressure on the government than the official opposition. The media seem more interested in soap operas, whether in No 10 or in the Home Office, than in failures of policy or misuse of power. And so incompetence and sleaze have become normalised, brushed aside with a shrug or a transparently insincere apology.

The English ruling class, George Orwell wrote in 1941, during the Blitz, “will rob, mismanage, sabotage, lead us into the muck”, but in a crisis it is “morally fairly sound”. I doubt if it was true then. It is even less true now.

• Kenan Malik is an Observer columnist

Another 244 Covid cases in East Devon with ‘clusters’ in 19 areas of district

 Devon’s director of public health Steve Brown has issued a new plea to residents and said: “There is cause for optimism, without doubt.

“The challenge to us all – my plea to you – is that we do not let our enthusiasm to return to normal actually set us further back.”

East Devon Reporter 

A further 244 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in East Devon in the past week – with ‘clusters’ remaining in all but one of the district’s wards.

Nineteen areas – spanning Exmouth, Honiton, Sidmouth, Budleigh Salterton, Ottery St Mary, Seaton, and Cranbrook – currently have three or more Covid infections.

The highest numbers are in Exmouth Brixington (23), Exmouth Littleham (19) and Ottery and West Hill (18).

In fact, Exmouth’s six wards are in the district’s top seven areas for current infections.

Axminster is the only part of East Devon where there is not a ‘cluster’.

The new cases recorded in East Devon in the last week represent an increase of 27 when compared to the previous seven-day period.

There were 220 new cases in Exeter – a week-on-week increase of 31.

A total of 1,301 Covid-19 cases have now been confirmed in East Devon and 2,428 in Exeter.

As of yesterday afternoon (Friday, November 20), government statistics showed that 2,367 new coronavirus cases had been confirmed in seven days across Devon and Cornwall.

That is compared to compared to 2,068 cases in the previous week.

A total of 15,982 cases have now been confirmed in both counties since the beginning of the pandemic.

‘Clusters’ in 19 East Devon areas

Nineteen ‘clusters’ – where three or more Covid cases have been confirmed – have been identified in East Devon:

  • Exmouth Brixington (23 cases);
  • Exmouth Littleham (19);
  • Ottery St Mary and West Hill (18);
  • Exmouth Halsdon (17);
  • Exmouth Withycombe Raleigh (17);
  • Exmouth Town (15);
  • Cranbrook, Broadclyst and Stoke Canon (14);
  • Clyst, Exton and Lympstone (14);
  • Feniton and Whimple (ten);
  • Honiton North and East (ten);
  • Seaton (nine);
  • Honiton South and West (eight);
  • Dunkeswell, Upottery and Stockland (eight);
  • Sidmouth Sidford (seven);
  • Newton Poppleford, Otterton and Woodbury (five);
  • Budleigh Salterton (five);
  • Kilmington, Colyton and Uplyme (four);
  • Sidmouth Town (three);
  • Sidbury, Offwell and Beer (three).

The ‘clusters’ data, last updated this afternoon (Saturday, November 21), is based on a rolling rate of new cases by specimen date ending on November 16.

‘Clusters’ remain in all of Exeter’s 15 wards:

  • Pennsylvania and University (32 cases);
  • Wonford and St Loye’s (29);
  • St Leonard’s (21);
  • Middlemoor and Sowton (19);
  • St Thomas East (18);
  • Central Exeter (15);
  • Mincinglake and Beacon Heath (12);
  • Pinhoe and Whipton North (ten);
  • Heavitree West and Polsloe (ten);
  • Alphington and Marsh Barton (ten);
  • St Thomas West (ten);
  • Exwick and Foxhayes (ten);
  • Countess Wear and Topsham (nine);
  • St James Park and Hoopern (six);
  • Heavitree East and Whipton South (five).

New cases across Devon and specimen dates

Of the 2,367 new cases confirmed since November 13 up to yesterday afternoon (Friday, November 20), 244 were in East Devon and 220 in Exeter.

There were 79 cases in Mid Devon, 170 in North Devon, 597 in Plymouth, 89 in the South Hams, 108 in Teignbridge, 263 in Torbay, 66 in Torridge and 53 in West Devon.

Cornwall recorded 478 cases.

Of the 2,367 new cases, 1,539 had a specimen date between November 13 – 19, with 172 of these in East Devon and 153 in Exeter.

There were 61 in Mid Devon, 103 in North Devon, 349 in Plymouth, 51 in South Hams, 65 in Teignbridge, 182 in Torbay, 50 in Torridge and 33 in West Devon.

Cornwall had 320.

Despite more new cases being confirmed this week, they are in fact falling in East Devon when looked at purely by specimen date.

Total Covid cases

A total of 1,301 Covid-19 cases had yesterday afternoon (November 20) been confirmed in East Devon and 2,428 in Exeter.

Torridge has had 308 positive cases, West Devon 347, with 542 in the South Hams, 597 in Mid Devon, 709 in North Devon, 861, in Teignbridge, 1,773 in Torbay, 3,436 in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and 3,680 in Plymouth.

The total for Devon and Cornwall has, however, only risen by 1,911 after 204 cases were this week reassigned to other local authorities.

Hospital admissions

The number of people in hospital in the South West has risen to 942 from 759.

There are currently 65 patients in mechanical ventilation beds, up from 58 as of last Friday.

NHS England figures show that, as of Tuesday morning (November 17), there were 265 patients across Devon and Cornwall in hospital after a positive Covid-19 test.

Of them, there are 106 in the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (up from 69), 90 in Derriford Hospital in Plymouth (76), 18 in North Devon District Hospital (down from 19), and 39 in Torbay Hospital (down from 43).

There are 19 patients in mechanical Ventilation beds, up from 18, with three at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, one in Torbay Hospital, eight in Derriford Hospital, and seven in North Devon District Hospital.

‘Cause for optimism’

Devon’s director of public health Steve Brown has issued a new plea to residents and said: “There is cause for optimism, without doubt.

“The challenge to us all – my plea to you – is that we do not let our enthusiasm to return to normal actually set us further back.”

Hedgies take controls to pilot Flybe back into stormy skies

It was easy to identify the biggest losers when Flybe plunged into administration.

[But the winners are……..(Some may also be dismayed by the fees paid to the administrators) – Owl]

Robert Watts 

More than 2,000 staff lost their jobs when the airline went bust in March. There was also a £96.5m hit to the pension scheme.

Then there were the passengers and other small creditors, who were owed more than £450m when the Exeter-based airline went down, and a hit of more than £50m to the taxpayer.

However, eight months on, the winners in this sorry tale are finally starting to become clearer. A new company called Thyme Opco has bought Flybe’s brand and many of its assets out of administration — and now there are plans for the airline to return in the new year.

The two names on Thyme Opco’s incorporation documents are Lucien Farrell and Jonathan Peachey.

Farrell and Peachey are part of Cyrus Capital, a $4bn (£3bn) transatlantic hedge fund, which had owned 40% of Flybe before its demise. Virgin Atlantic and the Stobart Group each had 30% stakes in what had become the UK’s third-largest airline. It floated in 2010 at 295p a share for a valuation of £200m, but the consortium had bought it for £2.2m — 1p a share — in January last year.

Peachey, 46, is the better-known of the pair. After graduating from Warwick University, he joined PwC in 1996 and trained as an accountant. Two years later, Peachey moved to Virgin and soon became a powerful figure in Sir Richard Branson’s US operations, running the American airline and becoming heavily involved in Virgin Galactic, the space travel venture.

In 2013, Peachey left Virgin to run the wearable tech firm Filip Technologies. Four years later, he became an airlines adviser to Cyrus.

Farrell — also 46, born two days before Peachey — runs Cyrus’s European operation. In 2005, American founder Stephen Friedman hired the Cambridge graduate and Farrell has run that side of the business ever since, building a reputation for artfully buying up distressed debt and making investments in more than 100 companies.

Not all of Farrell’s personal investments have proved a triumph. The Notting Hill-based hedgie was one of more than 500 people — along with the comedian Jimmy Carr and the DJ Chris Moyles — to pour money into an investment scheme clobbered by HM Revenue & Customs for tax avoidance.

The episode led to considerable public scorn for Carr, although Farrell managed to retain his customary low public profile.

During his days at Eton, Farrell struck up a friendship with Ben Elliot, co-founder of the luxury lifestyle business Quintessentially. Elliot is now co-chairman of the Conservative Party and they remain friends, completing the same charity bike rides.

When Flybe secured a tax holiday and potential state bailout two months before its March collapse, Cyrus stressed that Elliot was not involved.

Those who lost money in Flybe’s collapse may also be dismayed by the fees paid to the administrators, EY. With the hourly rate of some of staff working on Flybe exceeding £1,000, EY’s bill has topped £13.9m, and it expects to charge £9m more before the job is done.

The terms of the sale were not made public, making it hard to ascertain just how much of a bargain Farrell and Peachey landed. Nor is it clear how they plan to make their money from what has been a perennial basket case, given the slender demand for regional flights.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to relaunch Flybe,” said Cyrus. “The airline is not only a well-known UK brand, it was also the largest regional air carrier in the EU.”

However, with many of the best routes snapped up by rivals in recent months, the new Flybe will have a far less attractive roster of slots. The skies are clear for no one in the pandemic-hit airline industry — least of all Flybe.

Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 9 November

Standing as an Independent

What does it take for women to stand as an independent political candidate? This is a women-only event.

About this Event

Join us in the next online workshop in our Standing for… series.

If you are a woman, that has yet to wooed by any of the political parties on offer and are toying with the idea of standing as an Independent candidate, then this workshop is for you!

In this session we will be demystifying the process of standing for election as an independent political candidate, covering everything from the application to the campaigning process. We will be highlighting the support that is available to you as you embark on your political journey as an idependent candidate and we will be talking about the other programmes available to you from the Parliament Project.

Most importantly we want to support you to define your own next steps in standing for elected office.

During the session we will be joined by Cllr Marianne Overton MBE, who is the Head of the Independent group at LGA and Head of the Independent Network and Independent Cllr Kaye Corfe.

Both women will be sharing with us their knowledge and experiences as standing as Independent candidates n order to help you develop your plans for standing.

This session will be facilitated by Parliament Project facilitator Zainab Asunramu.

A zoom link to access the session will be sent to you in the days leading up to the webinar. You may be interested in other webinars in this series. Check them out on our website here.

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Equal Power is a ground-breaking campaign to transform women’s representation at every level of politics. It’s time for Equal Power: equal representation for women in all our diversity. This three-year campaign, run by a coalition of women’s and civil society organisations, is funded by Comic Relief. We will track the journeys of aspiring leaders to office and the barriers and discrimination they still face.

The Parliament Project is a non-partisan project to inspire, empower and encourage women to run for political office in the UK. Focusing on practical, hands-on training and support, we run workshops and webinars to demystify the process for women wanting to get involved in politics and online peer support circles to support women’s political ambitions more deeply.

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The Parliament Project is a non-partisan organisation which aims to get more women elected in the UK. It helps by running informative and skills building events, providing links to current research in women in politics and offering a peer networking service to support women’s journey to get elected.

Award for tireless effort in Otter Valley – a positive approach to “restoration”

From a correspondent:

Many of the people living in the lower Otter Valley have expressed very forcible views on the Lower Otter Valley Restoration Project but few have actually shown the “get up and go” of Patrick Hamilton, the new Pride of Devon 2020 Countryside Champion, sponsored by Bicton College.

Since 2011 Patrick has led the Otter Valley Association’s project to eliminate Himalayan Balsam, an invasive species on the whole of the Otter catchment and has helped make a big impact on the Lower Otter. He has organised volunteer work parties to pull up the plant and strim in open areas without major obstacles.

Whilst herbicides are effective, they cannot be used indiscriminately, particularly close to water courses.

Annual return visits are required to discourage re-growth.

Following the River Tale’s successful strategy of first clearing the tributaries, the OVA adopted this same policy on the Lower Otter catchment, led by Patrick. He has liaised with the many partners and land owners tackling this project.

In addition, for many years he has organised the annual litter pick at the mouth of the Otter estuary.  

As the citation quotes:

Patrick plays a huge part in the Otter Valley Association running worthwhile projects and practical conservation work including annual litter picks and extricating Himalayan balsam – a plant that threatens the native biodiversity of the Otter Valley. This year despite restrictions on group sizes, Patrick’s efforts have not been diminished. Him and a team of volunteers have still managed to win the fight against the invasive plant. His personal contribution and response to this alien invader locally would not be where it is today. The landscape and communities of the Lower Otter Valley are much indebted to Patrick’s tireless effort. He is a true countryside champion.

Pride of Devon Awards 2020

Countryside Championsponsored Bicton College

Patrick Hamilton

Nominated by Kate Ponting from Clinton Devon Estate