Planners say no to care village on coast near Torquay

Plans have been refused for a care village for the elderly at a former holiday park in the countryside near Torquay.

Looks to Owl like another example of the wrong development in the wrong place but all the usual arguments deployed.

Edward Oldfield

Developers wanted to create a retirement community on land at Sladnor Park near Maidencombe.

But Torbay Council’s planning committee voted against the scheme at a meeting on Monday night.

They were told the scheme on land above the coastal village was for 159 self-contained units, described as ‘close care’ and ‘assisted living’, including 11 apartment blocks, with health facilities.

A 10-storey block forming the village core would include a reception area, staff office and accommodation, nursing stations, restaurant and bar, cafe, shop, gym, hair salon, consulting and treatment rooms, laundry, swimming pool and sauna.

The committee voted for refusal after hearing it conflicted with planning policies for the area and would harm the landscape, had poor access and transport links, and would risk flooding and drainage problems.

Proposed site of care village at Sladnor Park, near Torquay

Proposed site of care village at Sladnor Park, near Torquay (Image: English Care Villages)

Backers of the scheme said it would provide much-needed housing for the elderly and support the equivalent of 75 full-time jobs.

Objectors said the plans were in the wrong place and it would add too much pressure to local health services.

They argued the price of the homes would be too high for local people, and would result in wealthy older people coming to Torbay from elsewhere.

Councillors were told people would have to rely on private cars to reach the site off Teignmouth Road, a narrow winding road with an hourly bus service, which went against sustainable transport policies.

The former country estate once held a Victorian manor house, but was later turned into a holiday park with chalets and lodges. The manor house burnt down after the park closed in the 1980s.

Dr Rodney Horder, secretary of Maidencombe Residents’ Association, told the meeting the proposals breached a series of planning policies and should be refused.

He said: “It is the wrong type of development in the wrong place, in violation of numerous development policies, is not sustainable development, and with 227 objections.”

Maidencombe resident Christine Davies, who lives near the site, said the development would increase the risk of flooding for properties in the village below.

Nigel Goodman, of Sladnor Park Road, said the development would have a “devastating impact” on the rural setting of the area.

Retired Torquay GP Dr Vivienne Thorn said all six Torquay GP practices had issued a joint response that they had no capacity to cope with the number of new patients, many of whom would be frail.

Data showed they would need 1,000 GP visits a year, and add further pressure to health services at Torbay Hospital.

Leon Butler, chair of the Torquay Neighbourhood Plan Forum, said he “vehemently” opposed the application, which was “wrong on so many levels”.

Jonathan Rainey, of Pegasus Group, on behalf of English Care Villages and the landowner, told the committee that the benefits of providing housing for older people outweighed any potential harm.

Keith Cockell, chair of English Care Villages, said the scheme would offer choice for older people who wanted to live in the countryside, and would provide essential housing needed in the area.

St Marychurch councillors Hazel Foster and Anne Brooks spoke against the scheme. Cllr Brooks said: “On so many levels, I think the harm caused would outweigh the benefits.”

St Marychurch councillor Ray Hill, a member of the planning committee, proposed refusing the scheme.

He highlighted difficulty accessing local GPs, and said the application conflicted with the local plan and neighbourhood plan. Councillors voted eight to one for refusal.

The committee heard that planning permission for a 188-unit retirement village had been granted in 2006, then updated in 2008, but the council’s view was that work had not started within three years and the permission had lapsed. The applicant claimed it had started work on an access road, and has appealed against the council’s refusal to allow it to complete the original scheme.

High death rate ‘may be starting to fall’

The higher numbers of deaths seen in the UK recent weeks may be starting to fall, figures suggest.

BBC News

In the week ending 4 December there were 13,956 deaths – 15% above the five-year average.

But that is down on the previous week when deaths were 20% higher.

Just over 3,100 of the deaths involved Covid – down by 200 on the week before. It brings the total excess deaths seen since the pandemic started close to 80,000.


These are a measure of all deaths above what would normally be expected.

It is a different way of measuring the death toll from the pandemic from the daily figures, which look at the numbers of people dying 28 days after a positive Covid test.

People dying from Covid in this period are likely to have caught the infection in the first half of November after cases peaked.

Since then cases continued to drop, before starting to climb again over the last week or so, particularly in the south east, which prompted the government to move London and some surrounding areas into tier three.

That suggests the next few weeks could see Covid deaths going down and then up again in the coming weeks.

RD&E hospital put on highest possible alert

The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital has moved into OPEL 4, the highest alert level, previously known as ‘black alert.’

Katie Timms

The Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust has issued a statement explaining OPEL 4 has been activated due to “high levels of Covid-19 and non-Covid related staff absence”, as well as a large number of inpatients with Covid-19.

It comes after DevonLive reported 411 staff were off work from the RD&E due to Covid-19 related illness, either through sickness or self-isolation as of December 2.

Figures for November 11 showed the hospital had 614 staff off for Covid related reasons, and a further 412 general absences meaning the hospital was down by 1,026 workers that day.

A number of measures are in place to help the hospital out of the highest alert level.

Being on OPEL 4 means pressures on the hospital has left it unable to deliver comprehensive care, and there is an increased potential for patient care and safety to be compromised.

Professor Adrian Harris, RD&E medical director and deputy chief executive stressed that despite the pressures the hospital is facing it is “important” that those who need emergency or urgent care phone 999 or attend the emergency department.

Prof Harris said: “We take infection prevention and control extremely seriously at the RD&E and in line with national guidance, we have strong processes in place to keep patients and staff as safe as possible.

“Hospital acquired infections can occur despite the very rigorous safeguards in place, although such incidences are low. However, if a patient does test positive for Covid-19, we have to shut whole wards or bays, and this leads to a shortage of beds.

“At the same time, we are facing severe pressures as a result of staff being absent from work due to Covid-19 and non-Covid illness or self-isolation.

“As always, our top priority is to continue delivering safe, quality care. To help us ensure this, I am asking people who do not need emergency or urgent care to phone 111 or contact primary care.

“This will help ease the burden on our overstretched services at this time. It is important to stress, though, that if you do need emergency or urgent care, phone 999 or attend the Emergency Department.

“In addition, where patients are medically well and able to leave hospital but cannot be discharged as there is nowhere available for their onward care, we are asking loved ones, where appropriate, to help make the necessary arrangements for them to be cared safely in other settings – either at home or in a care home.”

The measures in place to address the situation;

  • Our Emergency Department is extremely busy today with longer waits than usual. If people need urgent care, before coming to our Emergency Department, we ask that they call 111 or visit 111 online first. Through 111, they’ll be able to speak to a clinician, who will advise you on where to go and what to do next, helping them to get the right treatment at the right place more quickly.
  • Our Emergency Department is for urgent and immediately life-threatening cases only – if people need emergency care, we ask that they call 999 or attend the Emergency Department.
  • It’s really important that people continue to attend appointments and seek medical attention if they need it.
  • If a friend, family member, or loved one is medically fit and able to leave hospital sooner, we ask that people get in touch with our Family Liaison Service to help us make discharge arrangements. The service is open 7 days a week, 8am-8pm, and can be reached on T: 01392 402093 or E: (if you cannot get through on phone please email and we will ensure this is picked up).

A spokesperson for the RD&E added: “To help manage the situation on staffing, the RD&E is working with partners across Devon to encourage staff from the RD&E and other NHS organisations in the county to work additional shifts where possible.

“Staff who can offer this help are being asked to get in touch with the RD&E as soon as possible.”

The RD&E continues to operate its maternity services as normal.

Devon sites rolling out Covid vaccine to GP patients

Eight Devon sites will see family doctors giving the Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine to local people from today.

Katie Timms 

It comes at the NHS continues it phased roll-out of the vaccination programme, with GP practices working in groups to set up local vaccination centres for their patients, which will open in stages over coming weeks.

The first phase of GP-led vaccination centres in Devon will see the opening of eight sites serving 49 of the county’s practices.

The NHS is contacting eligible patients and people are being urged to avoid calling their practices or local hospital to ask about an appointment.

As well as using NHS locations like GP surgeries and health centres, some local vaccination centres are being opened in more unusual venues.

In Devon, these specially adapted sites include Exmouth Tennis and Fitness Centre, The Staddy function centre in Plymouth, and the Riviera International Centre in Torquay.

The eight locations in Devon’s first wave of local vaccination centres will see nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and other NHS staff working alongside doctors to vaccinate people aged over 80 and care home workers, who have been identified as priority groups for a life-saving vaccination.

In Devon, the eight sites in the first phase are;

Abbey Surgery, Tavistock, which is serving patients from Abbey Surgery, Tavyside Health Centre and Yelverton Surgery.

Exmouth Tennis and Fitness Centre which is serving patients from Coleridge Medical Centre, Honiton Surgery, Sid Valley Practice, Budleigh Salterton Medical Practice, Claremont Medical Practice, Haldon House Surgery, Imperial Surgery, Raleigh Surgery, Rolle Medical Partnership and Woodbury Surgery.

Limes Surgery, Exminster, which is serving patients from Cranbrook Medical Centre, Ide Lane Surgery, Pinhoe & Broadclyst Medical Centre, Topsham Surgery and Westbank Practice.

Okehampton Medical Centre, which is serving patients from Chagford Health Centre, Moretonhampstead Health Centre, Okehampton Medical Centre and Black Torrington Surgery.

Riviera International Centre, Torquay, which is serving patients from Croft Hall Medical Practice, Chelston Hall Surgery, Brunel Medical Practice, Southover Medical Practice, Chilcote Surgery, Pembroke Medical Group, Corner Place Surgery, Old Farm Surgery, Mayfield Medical Centres and Compass House Medical Centres.

St Boniface House, near Buckfastleigh, which is serving patients from Leaside Surgery, Totnes, Catherine House Surgery, Totnes, Buckfastleigh Medical Centre, Ashburton Surgery, South Brent Medical Centre, Redfern Medical Centre, Salcombe, Chillington Health Centre, Modbury Health Centre, Norton Brook Surgery, Kingsbridge and Dartmouth Medical Practice, Dartmouth.

Seaton Community Hospital, which is serving patients from Axminster Medical Practice, Seaton & Colyton Medical Practice and Townsend Hose Medical Centre.

The Staddy function centre, Plymouth, which is serving patients from Church View Surgery, Wembury Surgery, Dean Cross Surgery and Yealm Medical Centre.

Between them, the sites will vaccinate people from 49 of the county’s GP practices.

At Exmouth Tennis and Fitness Centre, patients from 10 local practices will be vaccinated from Tuesday onwards in specially adapted clinical facilities positioned on one of the indoor courts.

Dr Barry Coakley, a GP and Clinical Director of Woodbury, Exmouth and Budleigh (WEB) Primary Care Network, who is among those leading the set-up of the centre, said: “We feel honoured to play our part in this wonderful national Covid vaccination programme.

“As soon as the opportunity arose, the teams from all ten practices have come together, working with great skill and efficiency, seizing the moment to ensure that these lifesaving vaccinations are delivered to our communities.

“We would like to thank all those who have been waiting patiently to be contacted for their invitation. We are working through our patient lists in order, as set out in the national guidance, and will make contact with everyone who is eligible in due course.”

Four GP practices are working together to open the local vaccination centre at The Staddy, Plymouth. Dr Mark Sanford-Wood, a GP and Clinical Director of Mewstone Primary Care Network which serves Plymstock, Yealmpton and Wembury, said: “The Staddy is a well known local venue with plenty of space to safely set up the specialist clinical facilities we need for the programme.

“This is the most significant vaccination programme ever undertaken by the NHS and we are eager to play our part in protecting people against coronavirus and saving lives and livelihoods.”

More local vaccination centres run by family doctors will open in coming weeks across the county as the roll-out of the greatest vaccination programme in NHS history expands out of hospital hubs.

Simon Jolly, managing director of Riviera International Conference Centre, where patients from ten local practices are being vaccinated, added: “We were really happy to be able to put the Riviera International Centre forward as a venue for COVID-19 vaccinations. It’s an honour to be able to support such a vital project.”

Darryn Allcorn, Devon’s lead chief nurse, said: “We’re working seven days a week to make sure eligible people in Devon a vital vaccine as soon as possible.

“As a nurse I am proud to be part of this huge national effort to protect our patients against the virus and I would urge people in Devon to come forward when they are called up for the vaccine.

“I can reassure everyone that the NHS will be in touch with you when it’s your turn to have the vaccine. Contacting your local hospital or practice only slows us down as it takes up precious time and resources to respond to the calls.”

The local vaccination sites are using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, building on the work of the scores of hospital hubs which have already started vaccinating.

At Exmouth Tennis and Fitness Centre, which is run by LED Community Leisure, play continues on the courts not being used by the local vaccination centre.

Government gave Covid contract to firm co-founded by Tory pollster

A political consultancy co-founded by the pollster who headed the Conservative party’s general election campaign was given a contract by the government without a competitive tender during the pandemic.

Another example of the “Chumocracy” in action? – Owl

David Conn 

Fleetwood Strategy, which was co-founded this year by Isaac Levido, was given the £124,000 contract by the Cabinet Office in April. The 37-year-old has been credited with playing a large part in securing Boris Johnson his landslide victory.

The government has been accused of giving contracts to companies with links to the Conservative party during the pandemic, drawing criticisms that it has created a “chumocracy”.

The government has also been accused of being unnecessarily secretive after refusing to say which companies have been awarded multi-million-pound Covid-19 contracts after being processed in a high-priority channel for firms with political connections.

Official guidelines stipulate that government contracts should be published 30 days after being awarded. But details of the contract given to Fleetwood were only published on a government website on Friday, six months later than they should have been.

In addition, the Cabinet Office delayed responding to a freedom of information request by the Guardian for a list of contracts that it has given to Fleetwood, claiming that publishing the information could damage commercial interests.

The Cabinet Office has published only a brief description of its two-month contract with Fleetwood, saying it is for “research into government communications for Covid-19 updates”.

It disclosed that other firms had been unable to bid for the contract before it was given to Fleetwood as it was not advertised.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Levido, an Australian, was recruited by Downing Street to help run its communications strategy to combat coronavirus.

During the general election last year, he had headed the campaign from a desk in Tory party headquarters. When the size of the Conservative election victory became clear, others in the office began singing “Oh Isaac Levido” to the tune of The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army in tribute to him.

Sitting next to him during the campaign was Michael Brooks, a pollster. In January, Levido and Brooks set up Fleetwood, claiming they had a proven track record at the highest levels of political campaigning, media, opinion polling and other spheres.

Levido had worked on the two previous Conservative general election campaigns, alongside Lynton Crosby, the political strategist who had run them.

According to official records filed at Companies House, Levido stepped down as a director of Fleetwood Strategy in April, but rejoined in July.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “We want to make sure that people have the information they need to keep themselves safe and take advantage of all the government support available to them. This kind of research helps us do this by making our messages and communications more effective.

“In times of national emergency government procurement guidelines allow for direct awards for urgent requirements. These contracts are subject to all the usual transparency requirements.”

A Fleetwood Strategy spokesperson said its team conducted and analysed public opinion research.

“We work with organisations around the world and are proud to have been able to provide assistance to the UK government as it dealt with the Covid-19 crisis.”

“How not to build a nuclear power plant”.

French auditors have delivered a stinging blow to the French nuclear industry with a withering report on the “failure” of EDF’s under construction Flamanville plant.

Montel News: Chris Eales 12 October 2020

They could have called it “How not to build a nuclear power plant”. Instead, magistrates at France’s Cours des Comptes, the country’s supreme public spending watchdog, went for the anodyne title “The EPR sector: thematic public report”. Yet the 148-page probe from the state auditors, focusing on EDF’s under construction European pressurised reactor (EPR) at Flamanville, pulls no punches. The newbuild plant is a “failure” with “huge” financial consequences and implications for the French nuclear industry and beyond, it says.

Released in July, the report charts the steps that have led EDF and former reactor builder Areva (now Framatome), into a costly mire: from a far too hasty launch, through mismanagement and a striking lack of oversight to a string of costly setbacks.

“It is not only an exceptional documentation of the failures and mishaps of project management, engineering and huge financial consequences, it is foremost an unprecedented illustration of the total absence of state oversight,” writes nuclear industry critic and independent consultant Mycle Schneider in the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2020, published in September.

Flamanville was supposed to be a flagship plant for a nuclear renaissance. Now, 13 years after its launch, the build is billions of euros over budget and a decade behind schedule. EDF’s latest start-update, by 2023, is in doubt given the potential for further coronavirus related delays. And, according to the auditors, the firm’s current EUR12.4bn estimate of the construction cost is unreliable. A further EUR6.7bn may be needed before the 1,600 MW reactor is commissioned, with financing costs in particular – due to delays – contributing around EUR 4.2bn extra.

What’s more, the interminable delays have driven up the estimated cost of power output from the plant to EUR 110-120/MWh, well above the price of renewable wind and solar output, the auditors have calculated, adding EDF itself has failed to publish any cost estimates regarding Flamanville’s generation for over 10 years.

There are two other European EPR builds, Olkiluoto in Finland and Hinkley Point in England. All come in for criticism from the auditors, whopoint to more delays at Olkiluoto – being built by Finland’s TVO – and “risks” at Hinkley Point, which are “weighing heavily on EDF’s finances”. The two completed EPRs sited in Taishan, China, meanwhile, are showing insufficient profitability”, the auditors say.

So how did it all go wrong? EDF and Areva, were at loggerheads from the start. Both state- owned, each wanted to be first in the world to build a series of EPRs. The rivalry led to a “bidding war” and a vast underestimate of costs, along with an “unrealistic” timetable, to build new units in France and Finland, says the report.

Construction at Flamanville went ahead when only 10-40% of the necessary assessments had been completed, says the report. EDF estimated it could build the reactor in 54 months when the average lead time to complete reactors at the time elsewhere in the world was 121 months. It said it needed 5m hours of engineering when “in fact it would take 22m”.

EDF knew it had to “convince public authorities and public opinion” that EPRs could be built and commissioned by 2020 to replace the firm’s ageing, existing fleet of reactors when they reached 40 years old. But in reality, it was woefully disorganised, say the auditors. Its oversight at Flamanville as self-styled “architect builder” led to “confusion” and until 2015 there was no specific entity “responsible for ensuring that the objectives of the technical and financial framework of the project were respected”. It was only in 2012, four years after construction started, that EDF began to “track expenditure” and not until 2015 thatit “estimated completion costs”. The firm’s board rarely discussed the build even when it was alerted to problems, the report says.

Further up the ladder, there is more evidence of a tendency to look away or not to look at all. State representatives sitting on EDF’s board –the company is owed 84.7% by the state – failed to carry out their own analysis of the impact of “successive problems” or to alert ministers of the consequences. “The shareholder appears as a spectator of events which it only seems to know of via the press”, the auditors write. Among other things, the lack of oversight meant the government cleared a EUR7.5bn bailout of Areva and EDF “without having been alerted of the situation in time”.

The report is also critical of EDF’s handling of two of the most notable setbacks to have hit Flamanville’s construction. The risks following the discovery of excessive carbon in the lid of the reactor vessel, equipment that is vital for safety, were “poorly assessed and consequences poorly qualified”. And the auditors reiterate that EDF was only allowed to keep the vessel in place due to a government decree in July 2015 which created exemptions “for the application of compliance rules to nuclear pressure equipment”. The firm will have to replace the lid in 2024.

Secondly, it is currently grappling with sub-standard welding, which has already added EUR 1.5bn to the cost of the reactor. Yet, according to the report, EDF knew about this issue in 2013 but did not inform France’s ASN nuclear safety authority until 2017.

The welding saga illustrates how the nuclear industry has suffered from a “loss of human capital” on the one hand – it’s 30 years since France built a reactor – and more stringent post-Fukushima safety demands on the other, says Aurelien Saussay, an economist at the London School of Economics Grantham Research Institute.“

Those welds would have passed inspection when the EPR was designed,” he says. Now, in a tougher safety environment, “the people with the practical experience of building the French reactor fleet in the 1980s have all retired. This loss of human capital takes years to rebuild”.

Some industry insiders say EDF has learnt lessons from the mistakes made at Flamanville and elsewhere. The firm launched a EUR100m action plan to improve the manufacture of reactor equipment and construction last December following a critical government commissioned audit of the new EPR last year.

The utility is now touting a revised version of the EPR and drawing up plans to build six of them in France over the next 15 years, which it estimates will cost EUR 46bn. Known as EPR2s, these reactors, it says, will be simpler and cheaper to build.

Yet the auditors at the Cours des Comptes take a different view. “We cannot establish with a reasonable degree of certainty that the construction savings of the future EPR2s compared to the cost of construction of Flamanville-type EPRs will be realised.”

EDF alone cannot finance the building of new reactors without some sort of public guarantee, the auditors say. But the estimated costs of power generated by new units would have to be competitive to justify asking consumers and taxpayers to cough up, it adds.

And given that nuclear costs are rising while those of renewablesare falling, “it doesn’t make sense at all for EDF to go ahead with  more EPRs in France compared with pulling their weight towards renewables”, says Saussay. This didn’t mean there was no future for the EPR, however. Far from it.“

The only way that the EPR plans will be shelved is if EDF goes through a dramatic bankruptcy procedure just as Areva did… EDF is a company with tremendous pride and a great history. They don’t want anyone else teaching them what to do, especially not pesky auditors from the Cours des Comptes who have no power of sanction,” he adds.

Watch this space.

Boris Johnson approves talks on new nuclear power plant at Sizewell

Boris Johnson has approved the start of negotiations with EDF about funding a new £20 billion nuclear power plant despite concerns that taxpayers would foot the bill for any extra costs.

As might be expected, “New Anglian” LEP follows Heart of the South West (HotSW) in welcoming this “boost” to the local economy. But Owl detects a more measured tone, none of the “Golden Opportunity” hype of HotSW – see below

[French auditors report on EDF to follow in separate post, essential reading for those footing the bill. ]

Steven Swinford | Emily Gosden, Energy Editor 

The government is considering backing Sizewell C, a twin-reactor plant in Suffolk. It could generate 3.2 gigawatts of electricity, enough to provide 7 per cent of Britain’s energy needs.

The move is a vital part of the prime minister’s pledge to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Most reactors are due to shut down this decade, leading to fears of blackouts in the 2030s.

China General Nuclear Power (CGN), a Chinese state company, has a 20 per cent stake in Sizewell C but is thought to be planning to pull out, increasing the need for new investors. The government is considering taking an equity stake in the plant amid concerns that private investment could still leave it with multibillion-pound liabilities. Taking an equity stake would allow taxpayers to benefit from any profits.

Sizewell C is now the only project in contention for government investment. The government offered to take a one-third stake in Hitachi’s Wylfa plant on Anglesey, but the Japanese company cancelled it in September.

Sizewell would be a sister project to Hinkley Point C, which EDF, the French energy company, is building in Somerset with CGN. Costs there have risen to £22.5 billion. Alison Downes, of the Stop Sizewell C campaign group, has said previously: “Sizewell C is a bad project — if EDF can’t make it work on their own terms they shouldn’t expect the British public to bail them out.”

Tom Greatrex, of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “Any credible analysis of reaching net-zero shows you need lots of zero-carbon, including that which is not reliant on the weather.

“Nuclear construction isn’t expensive — financing nuclear projects is. Using a better model than at Hinkley would significantly reduce the cost for consumers.”

The announcement of talks with EDF comes as the government publishes its energy white paper, which includes plans to switch consumers to cheaper tariffs automatically.

Alok Sharma, the business secretary, will publish proposals today to end the “loyalty penalty”, which according to Look After My Bills, a price comparison website, costs loyal customers an average of £169 more a year. Under one plan to be tested, called “opt-in switching”, consumers will be offered a simple method to switch if their initial contract has ended. “Opt-out switching” will involve consumers being automatically moved to a more competitive rate.

Mr Sharma said the decision to enter talks did not amount to a “green light” for construction to begin. “We are starting negotiations with EDF, which would be the developer at Sizewell C,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“What this is not is a green light on the construction, so what we will be doing is looking to see whether we can reach an investment decision in this parliament on that particular project. We will only do so if this delivers value for money for taxpayers and consumers.”

New Anglia LEP welcomes submission of application for Sizewell C 

EDF Energy submitted its Development Consent Order application for Sizewell C, a new nuclear power station in Suffolk, on 27 May 2020.

The construction of a new nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast would create 25,000 employment opportunities and 1,000 apprenticeships, as well as bringing a huge economic boost to the local area.

New Anglia LEP Chief Executive Chris Starkie said: “We welcome the decision by EDF Energy to submit its planning application.

“The planning process will now give EDF Energy the opportunity to make its case for the project and for supporters and objectors to be heard.

“New Anglia LEP is keen to see the project proceed with the maximum benefits for local businesses and workers and to cause the minimum disruption for residents and the tourism sector. We believe this can be achieved if EDF Energy responds positively to the concerns of local residents.

“We are also calling on EDF Energy to set an ambitious target for the value of contracts of £2bn awarded to businesses from Suffolk and Norfolk.”

Covid PPE: Hospital gowns that cost £122m never used

Millions of medical gowns bought for the NHS at the end of the first lockdown for £122m have never been used.

By Phil Kemp 

The gowns were ordered by the government from a supplier which had set up just a month earlier, and no other companies were asked to bid for the contract.

The supplier, PPE Medpro, says it had met the agreed terms.

The Department of Health said all PPE must undergo rigorous checks.

PPE Medpro was set up as a company in May while the UK was still in the first coronavirus lockdown.

At the time, hospitals across the country were reporting shortages of personal protective equipment – clothing and accessories to protect medics from the virus.

Earlier this week NHS Providers, which represents English hospital trusts, told the House of Commons spending watchdog that the supply of gowns was the most “pertinent problem” over several months.

Six weeks after it was incorporated, PPE Medpro signed a contract with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) for £122m to supply sterile surgical gowns to the NHS in England.

The contract was not opened to competition due to the exceptional urgency of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sterile surgical gowns are used to reduce the risk of infection when Covid patients are put on to ventilators, for example.

The DHSC told the BBC that contracts for the gowns must meet the British Standard for the sterilisation of medical devices or a “technical equivalent”.

PPE Medpro followed this second route. This required the DHSC to seek approval from the health regulator, the MHRA, for them to be used in the NHS.

Ragout of contract showing £122m sum

The contract, which shows the agreed sum of £122m

The DHSC and MHRA declined to comment when asked for details of the approval application made for the Medpro products. There is as yet no record of PPE Medpro or either of its two Chinese suppliers on the regulator’s exemptions list, although it is understood the evaluation process is now under way.

PPE Medpro say they delivered 100 per cent of the contract to the terms specified.

The company said it supplied the equipment “fully in accordance with the agreed contract, which included clear terms as to technical specification and performance criteria of the products”.

“We did so in very challenging circumstances earlier this year and are very pleased to have been able to assist DHSC fully and properly at a time of national crisis,” it added.

In August the BBC revealed that 50 million face masks bought by the UK government from a different company earlier in the year would not be used in the NHS because of safety concerns.

The DHSC said: “The safety of front-line staff and patients is of paramount importance and we now have a four-month stockpile of all Covid-critical PPE in place.

“All PPE must undergo rigorous checks so they meet the safety and quality required.

“Proper due diligence is carried out for all government contracts and we take these checks extremely seriously.”

One in three children in Devon areas from deprived homes

Rapid action has been backed by East Devon council as alarming figures show one in three local children are from deprived homes in certain districts.

Daniel Clark

Councillors at last Wednesday’s full council meeting heard that applications for Universal Credit have doubled since the coronavirus pandemic began, and that is without any potential negative effects of Brexit and when the Government Furlough scheme ends.

There are hundreds of households in deprivation in East Devon in parts of Exmouth, Honiton, Sidford and Seaton, while in some parts of the district, one in three local children are from deprived homes.

The full council meeting unanimously backed a motion that had been put forward to speed up the work to reduce deprivation and poverty in East Devon.

The cabinet, when they meet on January 6, 2021, will be asked to give urgent consideration to the unprecedented challenges now being faced by many residents and in recognition of the worsening poverty crisis decide whether a further report should be prepared to identify practicable and affordable further actions.

Conservative Cllr Mike Allen, who put forward the initial motion, said: “At first sight, the challenges facing us today appear overwhelming, so we have set out to see what we could do at speed to help the poorest in our East Devon and help them to cope during the extreme and unprecedented circumstances we have seen this year. One in six mortgages went into default this year, although many recovered during the summer.

“However with future uncertainty East Devon District Council should look at innovative ways, such as using the Councils housing company funding support to allow hard working people to keep their homes that might otherwise be at risk of being lost.

“The measures put in place to stop spread of Covid has caused a problem for the most deprived and we need to help the poorest in these extreme circumstances. We need to look at the consequences for the economy very fast and need to limit the rise in unemployment, help those find jobs quickly, as work is the best protection against poverty, but even then there needs to be a living wage.

“We are still going through the motions of putting a poverty strategy together and it has been far too slow. This is nothing that hasn’t already been propose but I am just trying to bring things together quicker.”

Moving to speed up the actions that would be set to be taken, Cllr Dan Ledger put forward an amendment to refer the motion to the next cabinet meeting. He said: “We need to debate this and get this right and get this moving. We are trying to come up with results quicker while not detracting from the evidence base programme.”

On January 6, the cabinet will give it urgent consideration to the motion and to decide whether a further report should be prepared to identify practicable and affordable further actions with a view to:

– identifying any emergency actions for prioritisation;

– helping address gaps in the benefit system;

– applying for all available grants;

– strengthening families and communities with clear signposting;

– improving communication with towns and parishes around financial resilience;

– promoting long term economic growth potential;

– addressing issues affecting all age groups with regard to mental health and employment.

– assessing how the Poverty Strategy and action plan can be expedited by the Poverty Working Panel without compromising the evidenced based programme of work.

The motion was unanimously agreed by the council, and the cabinet will in January the need for any short-term actions as well as strategic initiatives to be put in place immediately.

The council had previously agreed a policy vision for poverty that no one in East Devon is to be destitute without immediate help, and nobody should be in involuntary poverty for more than two years duration.