Plea to ‘not ring death knell for villages’ in East Devon local plan

Consultation will begin early in 2021 on a new blueprint for development for East Devon – with a plea from councillors to ensure the death knell for villages isn’t sounded.

Daniel Clark 

East Devon District Council’s strategic planning committee on Tuesday agreed to start consultation in January 2021 on a new local plan issues and options report, which aims not to set out defined solutions for a new local plan, but to raise some of the key issues and seeks feedback on options presented.

The feedback received from the consultation will be used to inform emerging and developing thinking on the form, structure and content of a new local plan.

And while the new local plan will set out how development in the district should take place, as well as allocating some land for large scale strategic development – potentially including another Cranbrook-style new town – councillors were keen to make the existing small villages in East Devon sustainable.

Cllr Mike Howe, speaking at the meeting, said: “We need to make the sustainability work better for many villages who have been left to quite honestly go on and die. We have to bring some sustainability to the communities, particularly those who want some small scale growth.

“We need to keep them sustainable as they are and things like bus services, even if just one a week, are under threat unless there is a gentle keeping the population at the same level. We do need to keep the unsustainable villages ticking over which is different to make them sustainable.”

Cllr Eleanor Rylance added: “Our planning policy has effectively rung the death knell for small villages. We have told them they are not sustainable because they don’t have ‘x, y and z’, which leads to a total demographic change as some people afford to live there and have to move out. And the first thing is the school shuts as there are no more children any more.

“And then bit by bit, all the things that contribute to a village being sustainable go and then you end up with a hamlet.

“Our own planning policy can ring the death knell for a village and that is shocking. There is a village in the district told unsustainable even though there is a main road through it, a shop, a school, and on a main line train line, that village was told it was unsustainable.

“We have to be mindful a village isn’t a collection of houses but people who live there and the range of demographics that make it a community. I have a village in my patch with no new houses since 1999 and the school is only hanging on by a thread.

“That village could be more sustainable if we had not told them they could not built anything. Our focus has been building new towns but there are existing communities that need to expand a little to accommodate for existing residents. It need a rethink and if a village wants to develop then they should be allowed to develop.”

Cllr Philip Skinner said: “In some of my villages, they wouldn’t want to support 50 houses, or 20 houses, but allowing some houses to come through incrementally and evolve out the plan period rather than a big chunk of housing at once, and we cannot get lumbered with something that people neither need for want in their villages.”

Ed Freeman, Service Lead for Planning Strategy, said that this was a big issue for the local plan as to how they support rural communities in the future.

He said: “Community led development is a big part of that to allow communities to bring forward growth where they want it without imposing it on the communities that don’t want growth. The challenge for villages that the scale of growth needed to deliver the facilities these need may not be that appetising – you may have to double the size of communities, but it does need a lot of further work and thought and discussions.”

This substantial station house is in an idyllic East Devon village

This substantial station house is in an idyllic East Devon village

And Cllr Nick Hookway added that the concerns over infrastructure had not gone away, saying: “You cannot have new developments that are not connected and some of the infrastructure issues aren’t going to go away, so that needs to be considered as part of the call for sites.”

The committee unanimously agreed that consultation on the draft issues and options report should start on January 18, 2021, and run for eight weeks, with the feedback received from the consultation to be used to inform emerging and developing thinking on the form, structure and content of a new local plan.

Work will also start in January to assess the smaller sites submitted into the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan call for sites in 2017, as well as running a new ‘call for sites’ for development.

And the committee recommended to Cabinet that a budget of £300,000 over a three year period is established for work towards the delivery vehicles for any proposed garden community.

Payhembury village centre

Payhembury village centre

Andy Wood, Service Lead for Growth, Development & Prosperity, in his report, added: “While we start to contemplate the next generation of strategic sites through the Local Plan review, the development of Cranbrook is far from complete and indeed there are immediate challenges not least in relation to the delivery of the town centre.

“The development to date has benefited from the land largely being in the control of a single Consortium but by contrast, the Cranbrook expansion areas are all in the control of separate, unconnected developers. This will make the timing and coordination of infrastructure delivery much more challenging.

“There is a logic therefore in testing whether some form of delivery vehicle could be also retrofitted to encompass Cranbrook and support the growth of the town up to the circa 8,000 homes anticipated in the current Local Plan

“Finally it is important to emphasise that the delivery of major strategic developments is a long term endeavour. Even when the development of individual homes has finished it is essential that there are robust and cost effective stewardship arrangements in place to ensure the ongoing delivery of assets and services that continue to meet the needs of the residents over time. Ensuring that such arrangement are in place is again one of the leading objectives for development corporation status.”

Cllr Ian Thomas, asked for clarification as to the scale of development that would be provided by any development corporation around a garden community, asking: “Are we talking about significant strategic developments rather than adjustment of villages, and would it be fair to say to support this proposal, the principle of looking for one or more significant strategic developments would be implicit in support for this?”

In response, Mr Wood said: “Yes, it would focused on big strategic developments, subject to what comes through the local plan review. The business case would only stand if there is strategic development to deliver.”

NHS must double efforts to vaccinate key workers and vulnerable by Easter

The NHS is set to miss its target of vaccinating all vulnerable people and key workers by Easter, official data suggests.

Katie Gibbons 

The health service will need to more than double its efforts, ministers have been told, as figures suggested the government will also fall short of a pledge to vaccinate millions by Christmas.

In all, 137,897 people in Britain received the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine in the first week up to December 15. However, unless the pace increases to about 17,237 jabs per day, fewer than 400,000 would get the first dose of the vaccine by December 25.

Pfizer pledged to deliver five million doses by the end of the year, to inoculate 2.5 million people with two jabs three weeks apart. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, last week said that “several million people” would be vaccinated by Christmas.

Responding to Mr Hancock’s latest Covid-19 statement yesterday, Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, questioned how realistic the goals were. “To vaccinate every older person, vulnerable person and key worker by Easter, we’ll need to do something like double that, every day,” he told the Commons.

Last month Boris Johnson suggested that the “vast majority” most vulnerable to coronavirus could be vaccinated by Easter. The programme has been allocated £11.7 billion in funding and 46,000 extra staff, the National Audit Office revealed this week.

Due to the complex logistics of the Pfizer jab, which must be stored at around minus 70C, only 50 major hospitals were able to administer the vaccine in the first week. This is to increase to 70. As of this week 200 GP surgeries and hubs, including at football stadiums, are administering the vaccine.

However, several GPs have complained of deliveries not arriving on time, forcing them to push back hundreds of appointments. Technical problems meant that many GPs had to record data by hand on who had received the vaccine.

These system errors have not been rectified and threaten to cause further delays. A senior health official told Sky News that the IT system, known as Pinnacle, was “failing constantly” and that GPs were “having to record on paper and then transfer”.

A second coronavirus vaccine neared approval for emergency use in the US last night.

The two-injection Moderna vaccine cleared a committee of experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration with six million doses on standby for distribution in the US next week. The FDA is expected to pass it for emergency use today, and the US will then become the first country to use it.

Trickle down doesn’t trickle

50 years of tax cuts for the rich failed to trickle down, economics study says.

Aimee Picchi 

Tax cuts for the wealthy have long drawn support from conservative lawmakers and economists who argue that such measures will “trickle down” and eventually boost jobs and incomes for everyone else. But a new study from the London School of Economics says 50 years of such tax cuts have only helped one group — the rich.

The new paper, by David Hope of the London School of Economics and Julian Limberg of King’s College London, examines 18 developed countries — from Australia to the United States — over a 50-year period from 1965 to 2015. The study compared countries that passed tax cuts in a specific year, such as the U.S. in 1982 when President Ronald Reagan slashed taxes on the wealthy, with those that didn’t, and then examined their economic outcomes. 

Per capita gross domestic product and unemployment rates were nearly identical after five years in countries that slashed taxes on the rich and in those that didn’t, the study found. 

But the analysis discovered one major change: The incomes of the rich grew much faster in countries where tax rates were lowered. Instead of trickling down to the middle class, tax cuts for the rich may not accomplish much more than help the rich keep more of their riches and exacerbate income inequality, the research indicates.

“Based on our research, we would argue that the economic rationale for keeping taxes on the rich low is weak,” Julian Limberg, a co-author of the study and a lecturer in public policy at King’s College London, said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. “In fact, if we look back into history, the period with the highest taxes on the rich — the postwar period — was also a period with high economic growth and low unemployment.”

Because the analysis ends in 2015, the research doesn’t include President Donald Trump’s massive tax overhaul, which he signed into law in late 2017 and which slashed taxes for the rich and corporations while providing a moderate cut for the middle class. But Limberg, who co-authored the study with David Hope, a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics’ International Inequalities Institute, said that he wouldn’t expect the results of that tax cut to be much different.

Already, Mr. Trump’s tax cuts have lifted the fortunes of the ultra-rich, according to 2019 research from two prominent economists, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California at Berkeley. For the first time in a century, the 400 richest American families paid lower taxes in 2018 than people in the middle class, the economists found. 

 The “careful” new research from the London School Economics “suggests indeed that tax increases on the wealthy should be considered post-COVID,” Berkeley’s Zucman said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch.

Engine for stronger economic growth?

To be sure, the economy was humming along before the pandemic struck the nation in March, with an unemployment rate that was at its lowest in about half a century. Conservative think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute pointed to Mr. Trump’s tax cuts as an engine for stronger economic growth.

Yet even so, millions of American families struggled to find jobs that paid living wages, while the cost of essentials such as health care, housing and education increased at far faster rates than the typical income. Even before the pandemic, income inequality had reached its highest point in 50 years, according to Census data.

In 2020, the pandemic has worsened inequities across all spectrums, touching racial, gender and educational divides. When the economy shut down in March, workers who couldn’t transition to remote work — typically lower-paid employees involved in retail, service and hospitality jobs — were hit the hardest.

At the same time, white-collar workers generally fared better as they were more likely to maintain their jobs as they shifted to remote work. Investors also benefited as the stock market rallied on hopes for an economic recovery — a development that doesn’t help most low- and middle-class workers. Only about half the U.S. population is invested in the stock market through their retirement and savings accounts, and even then more than 80% of all stocks are owned by the richest 10%.

Since the pandemic began, the combined wealth of America’s 651 billionaires has jumped by more than $1 trillion, reaching $4 trillion in early December, Americans for Tax Fairness said earlier this month. 

Meanwhile, almost 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty since the start of the pandemic through November, according to new data released by the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame.

Rebuilding the economy and household wealth for low- and middle-class families are among the issues facing President-elect Joe Biden after he’s inaugurated next month. Raising taxes on the rich and corporations could provide trillions of dollars in resources for helping the economic recovery, Zucman told CBS MoneyWatch.

“This is not only a viable option, but also a fair option, because some of the wealthiest taxpayers have benefited from the pandemic — for instance large corporations such as Amazon and their shareholders,” he noted. “These taxpayers could reasonably be asked to pay more to make up for pandemic losses.”

Why Sasha Swire regrets nothing about Diary of an MP’s Wife

“Regrets, I have a few, but nothing major. I regret that my husband comes across as a bit hapless, which he isn’t at all in his professional life. It was much more a case of a husband coming home from his grand job in the capital and his wife telling him to take out the rubbish and the whole of the bottom of the sack spills out over the kitchen floor. ….”

Susan de Soissons, SS’s publisher, says that, since the original article is copyright Owl may only publish an extract.

(Owl had another word in mind “useless” considering he was so “in” with Dave but didn’t “do” anything for his constituency. Christmas sales of the book need a bit of a puff?)

Read the full article here

Sasha Swire

‘Heavy and intense’ rainfall sparks flood alerts for parts of East Devon

The Environment Agency has warned of possible flooding in areas of East Devon as a result of heavy rainfall expected to start on Friday afternoon (December 18).

Becca Gliddon 

Flood alerts have been issued for the areas of the River Axe, Lower Exe, Rivers Clyst, Culm and their tributaries, plus the Rivers Otter, Sid and the Exmouth area.

The Environment Agency (EA) said ‘heavy and intense’ rainfall of up to seven centimetres could fall in localised areas within a 15-hour period, beginning on Friday afternoon and continuing until the early hours of Saturday morning.

It is warning of possible flooding of low-lying land and roads near to rivers, plus blocked drains.

The EA said further heavy rainfall was expected for Monday into Tuesday across East Devon.

An EA spokesperson said: “Widespread totals of up to 35mm, with localised totals up to 70mm are forecast within a 15-hour period from Friday afternoon.

“Areas of higher ground such as Dartmoor may see isolated totals of up to 100mm in fifteen hours.

“Rivers are expected to respond quickly to this rainfall.

“Flooding of low-lying land and roads close to rivers is possible.

“Surface water may be deep, especially where leaves have blocked the drains.”

The EA said it would monitor river levels and staff would check and clear any blockages.

A flood warning for the South Devon coast, from Dawlish Warren to Seaton, was removed on Friday lunchtime.

The EA said: “Coastal conditions have now improved and this flood alert is now below criteria.”