Seven major plans that will transform Devon in 2021

Works to transform Devon’s landscape and skylines have been rocked by the pandemic, like almost everything else.

But 2021 could hopefully be a better year than 2020 – with plenty of landscaping changing developments set to be completed across Devon.

Hmmmm! – Owl

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com 

Devonlive has taken a look into some of the more exciting projects that we can look forward to hopefully opening next year and by the end of 2021.

ST SIDWELL’S POINT

Exeter’s new state-of-the-art new leisure centre is set to open in the Summer of 2021.

Work on the St Sidwell’s Point development continues to take place and the structure rising above the hoarding line and the striking curve of the building is starting to take shape.

CGI image of the new St Sidwell's Point leisure centre

CGI image of the new St Sidwell’s Point leisure centre

The £44m passivhaus leisure centre is set to open in the Summer of 2021, and Exeter City Council have released the video showing what it will look like when construction is complete.

St Sidwell’s Point will replace the city’s aging Pyramids swimming pool, and the water quality in the new pool is expected to be better than at any other swimming pool in the country. A special filtration system will mean there will be minimal chemical content.

Built to healthy building and super energy efficient Passivhaus standards, St Sidwell’s Point will include:

  • Main swimming pool and learner pool with moveable floors
  • Confidence pool for young children
  • Spectator seated area
  • Café
  • Health suite, spin studio and two fitness studios
  • Gym
  • Spa facility
  • Children’s soft play area

EXMOUTH WATERSPORTS CENTRE

Exmouth’s new Sideshore development will be open by the Summer of 2021.

The watersports centre on Exmouth seafront was due to open this summer but has been delayed due to Covid-19. Work has been continuing on the site and a date for when it will all be open is yet to be confirmed.

However, local developer Grenadier has indicated it will be a phased opening which has begun with local operator Edge Watersports opening first. It is being run by four times world champion kitesurfer Steph Bridge.

New aerial pictures of Exmouth’s Sideshore development (Image: TIM PESTRIDGE PHOTOGRAPHY)

As well as offering a watersports centre, the development will include a casual seafront bar, restaurant and café run by Exeter celebrity chef Michael Caines.

The Mickeys Beach Bar and Restaurant alongside Sylvain Peltier and Michael’s Café Patisserie Glacerie – will open in March 2021.

The project will incorporate a casual bar complete with resident weekend DJs, first floor destination restaurant with a glasshouse and outdoor terraces alongside neighbouring Café Patisserie Glacerie which will serve serve artisan pastries and ice-creams.

OKEHAMPTON RAILWAY LINE

Regular Okehampton to Exeter passenger services were withdrawn on June 5, 1972, although since 1997 a limited service has run between Okehampton and Exeter on Sundays during the summer.

But a regular passenger rail service between Okehampton and Exeter is returning, the Government has confirmed.

The reopening of the line between Okehampton and Exeter was included in the Government Comprehensive Spending Review and the National Infrastructure Strategy.

Central Devon MP Mel Stride has said that he hopes to get the service up and running as soon as possible, with a hope being that by the end of 2021, passenger trains will be running.

SANDY PARK HOTEL

Work has begun on the new multi-million pound Sandy Park Hotel in Exeter which when open in December 2021 will be the ‘biggest commercial hotel this side of Bristol’.

The state-of-the-art hotel is the next stage in the development plans of Exeter’s award-winning Sandy Park complex, which is home to Gallagher Premiership Rugby club Exeter Chiefs, and the region’s premier Conference & Banqueting venue.

Once built, the eight-storey, L-shaped, £30m hotel will feature leisure facilities on the ground floor and a restaurant on the top floor, and be a Marriott Courtyard hotel.

In addition to housing 250 bedrooms, the hotel situated off Old Rydon Lane will provide leisure facilities on the ground floor, as well as a rooftop cocktail bar and restaurant that boasts picturesque views along the River Exe Estuary.

Coming under the worldwide Courtyard by Marriott brand, the four-star facility will also boast a glazed bridge link to Sandy Park, as well as an extensive reception area, open plan bar, coffee bar and lounge.

Artist impression of the new Sandy Park Hotel plans

Artist impression of the new Sandy Park Hotel plans

Access to the hotel be via a purpose built footbridge from the existing stadium complex, and it will include a unique, rooftop glazed restaurant for 172 covers on the ninth floor of the hotel.

The rooftop restaurant is described as ‘one of its kind for the area’ and will provide a ‘unique dining experience for guests and visitors’, while the basement of the hotel would provide spa and fitness facilities, including a sauna, steam room and gymnasium.

MARSH BARTON RAILWAY STATION

There is hope that by the end of 2021, trains will finally be stopping at Marsh Barton railway station – five years after they initially should have been.

The planning application for the construction of a new two platform railway station to serve the Marsh Barton Industrial Estate has this week has been approved Devon County Council planners under delegated powers.

As well as the station, the scheme for Clapperbrook Lane East, contains a new cycle way embankment and footbridge, to link the station to, and provide a dedicated pedestrian and cycle way.

Artist impression of the new Marsh Barton railway station

Artist impression of the new Marsh Barton railway station

Funding has been secured to cover the current project estimate cost, excluding contingency, and Devon County Council’s cabinet will now meet early in 2021 to discuss, finalise and sign-off on committing the cash towards the build of the station.

No details yet have been revealed as to when the work will begin and when the station will see trains stop, but when the application was submitted in July, it was hoped that the station will be open by the end of 2021.

The delivery of the station has been a long-term aspiration for Devon County Council and forms part of the Devon Metro project, which encompasses a range of rail infrastructure improvements in the Exeter area, with the scheme for Marsh Barton station aimed to provide sustainable access to employment, retail and leisure opportunities.

The proposed station will have two platforms, with the eastern and western platforms served by trains to Newton Abbot and Exeter, respectively. Each platform will be 124 metres in length, sufficient to accommodate trains formed of up to 5 cars, and will be 4m wide.

Each platform will have a waiting shelter, 10m wide by 1.5m deep, containing 12 stainless steel seats with arm rests, and a perch rail for four passengers, as well as one ticket vending machine on each platform, located inside the waiting shelters.

Two help points will be provided on each platform, one adjacent to the waiting shelter, and one in the emergency refuge area, while in addition to the help points, there will also be ‘next train indicators’ on each platform, providing audio and visual information regarding services.

Vehicular access to the station will be from Clapperbrook Lane East, with a new access road meeting the existing road at a junction on the eastern edge of the side, with access to the station for pedestrians and cyclists will be via paths which connect to the new footway/cycleway.

No parking spaces will be provided for general use, as it is expected the station will primarily serve as a destination, and it is intended to encourage use of sustainable modes of transport.

NORTHAM BURROWS

Plans for improved visitor centre at Northam Burrows have been given the go-ahead and will be completed in time for the 201 season.

Torridge District Council will refurbish the existing centre at the country park and build a new single-storey cafe and toilet block with outdoor seating.

The current centre, built in 1985, will be refurbished, see an ‘enhanced exhibition space’ which can be expanded into an education and meeting room used by schools and groups.

A cafe and toilet block will sit opposite and will be manufactured off-site before being delivered to the burrows in time for the 2021 season.

NORTH DEVON LINK ROAD

While not complete, major construction work will have begun in 2021 for the biggest transport investment in North Devon for a generation” after the Department of Transport has signed off on the major improvements to the North Devon Link Road.

The major project, being led by Devon County Council, will boost the local economy by supporting plans for 6,700 new homes in the region, making it easier for people to access job opportunities, and for businesses to get around.

The works will focus on a 7.5km stretch between South Molton and Barnstaple and the route will be modernised with a wider carriageway, which will greatly improve overtaking opportunities, safety and resilience.

The road’s capacity and eight key junctions will be upgraded – and to boost active travel, facilities for pedestrians and cyclists will be introduced along the route.

The main work is slated to start in November 2020, with major construction work would likely begin in 2021, and last for around two years.

Advance planting along the 10km length of the scheme between Filleigh and Portmore has been already been completed, with the scheme’s planting programme involves the planting of over 20,000 trees and bushes to establish ecological habitats before the start of construction work and further replacement of trees and bushes which will be removed.

North Devon Link Road

North Devon Link Road (Image: Lewis Clarke)

Approximately seven kilometres of “alternating overtaking” lanes to the road between Portmore to Landkey (1km), Landkey to Swimbridge (2km) and Swimbridge to Filleigh Cutting (4km) will be added, with them monitored by average speed cameras, which Devon County Council says will provide “more reliable journey times, less accidents and greater resilience”.

Eight junctions will be improved, while a pedestrian/cycle subway to enable safe passage across the A361 at Bishop’s Tawton, with a spiralling bridge to allow the safe crossing of pedestrians and cyclists from Landkey village and a proposed new housing development at Westacott.

The objectives of the scheme are to reduce journey times, improve highway safety through reducing the rate of fatal and serious accidents and improving network resilience through reducing the effects of accidents and incidents on the road.

Covid vaccine not reaching care homes with 12,000 being ‘failed’ by Government

Hundreds of thousands of care home residents have been left in the lurch by the Government over the life-saving Covid-19 vaccines.

Dan Warburton www.mirror.co.uk 

Politicians and care chiefs last night accused minsters of failing to keep promises after it emerged 80 per cent of the 15,000 care homes in England are not currently being considered for Pfizer/BioNTech inoculations.

Nearly 30,000 residents died in England directly or indirectly from coronavirus in the first wave, according to the latest research.

But the Sunday People can reveal that…

ONLY around 0.3 per cent of the total population given the jab so far are care home residents.

JUST SEVEN care home areas have received the first dose of the jab.

THE MUTANT strain of the virus could wreak havoc in care homes if, as scientists fear, it spreads faster.

The revelations come as the number of cases rose by 34,693, up 7,000 on last week, although deaths fell to 210. Another six million people have also gone into stricter lockdown.

Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Munira Wilson said: “Far from avoiding a wide scale repeat of the earlier tragedy in our care homes, ministers are failing to make homes a safe haven for the most vulnerable.

“People have had enough of the excuses. No ifs and no buts, the Government must prioritise delivering a vaccine to all homes immediately.”

And Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “With a new coronavirus variant spreading with speed we’re now in a race against time to roll out vaccination.

“Ministers have repeatedly been too slow to protect care home residents. They can’t make the same mistakes again. We need vaccination rolled out urgently to our most vulnerable.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has vowed to prioritise larger care homes which had between 50 and 70 beds because there were problems breaking down the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines into smaller batches.

Currently they come in 975 doses which following a trial can be broken into 75 pack doses to take into care homes.

It is understood around 2,900 homes in England which have 50-70 beds are in line for the jabs.

They represent a fifth of the 15,000 homes in England, home to around 400,000 residents in total.

The Department of Health and Social Care revealed that care home residents in seven areas in England have so far been given the coronavirus vaccine.

It suggests that they account for about 0.3 per cent of the 613,000 people who have been inoculated.

Officials insisted this was just a preliminary figure and hundreds more have been given the jab in recent weeks. However they have refused to give an updated breakdown of the number of vaccines handed out to care home residents and staff.

Care chiefs last night blasted Matt Hancock for “overpromising” to ensure care home residents would be prioritised for the vaccine, which has to be stored at ­minus 70degC.

Nadra Ahmed, chairman of the National Care Association, said: “Because of the composition of the vaccine and its transportation challenges we can see why the roll-out is going to be difficult.

“But it’s another case of the massive overpromise on something that just cannot be delivered. It’s constant.

“This whole rhetoric of ‘We’re going to get it in to care homes, we’re going to get this vaccine to the frontline’, certainly in social care is an overpromise.

“We understand why that is but they need to be more upfront about the barriers rather than just keep telling the world this is what they are doing.”

Earlier this month Matt Hancock promised in the Commons that “we’ll vaccinate in care homes by Christmas.”

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation put care home residents at the top of its priority list.

But regulatory concerns about splitting cases of the vaccine have been blamed for the delays.

On Christmas Eve the Government said 616,933 UK people have been given the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine between December 8 and December 20.

Granny Margaret Keenan, 90, was the first person to have it – but the jab took place at Coventry’s university hospital, not a care home.

The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is also being considered for approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, with a decision as early as next week.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Vaccines have been administered to care home residents, those aged 80 and over and health and social care staff, through over 500 vaccination sites.

“The vaccine roll-out in care homes in England began on Wednesday December 16, with hundreds of residents vaccinated across care homes in Slough, Aintree, Herne Bay, Thanet, Chalfont St Peter, Droitwich and Cheltenham, as well as the Chelsea Pensioners.

“We are working hard to vaccinate all care home residents and workers as quickly and safely as possible.”

A doctor with a history of allergies said his heart rate increased, blood pressure dropped, tongue went numb and he broke out in a cold sweat after taking the US-approved Moderna jab in Boston – the first known reaction of its kind with this vaccine.

Give UK pubs extra support from repaid Covid rates relief, Labour urges PM

Pubs face losing out on billions of pounds in income over the Christmas period and many may close as a result of coronavirus restrictions, Labour has claimed.

Rajeev Syal www.theguardian.com 

The party has called on the government to use business rates relief returned by supermarkets to provide extra support for the industry.

Pubs and bars made £3.8bn in sales in November and December last year, but will have lost out on the bulk of that income this year due to the restrictions.

Britain’s 47,200 pubs would usually have one of their most lucrative weeks of the year over Christmas, but 85% are now closed or unable to trade viably because they are outside tier 1, according to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).

On Christmas Day, pubs would usually expect to sell more than 1m dinners but are now forecasting just 200,000, while the number of pints they pull is predicted to decrease from 10m to 630,000.

Sites in tiers 3 and 4 can only operate as takeaways, and in tier 2 alcohol can only be served with food, an option not available in thousands of “wet-led” bars.

From Boxing Day, when more areas enter tier 4, 93% of pubs in England will have been forced to shut, a Labour analysis claims.

The party said the majority of pubs hit by restrictions were receiving less government support than in the March lockdown.

Lucy Powell MP, shadow minister for business and consumers, said: “Pubs are a vital part of Britain’s high streets. They bring people together and help communities thrive.

“They’ve had the toughest of years as a result of the pandemic and, if the government doesn’t step up and put a proper support plan in place to secure their future, it will be last orders for many.

“Boris Johnson is failing our pubs. His glass half-empty approach is a real threat to their future.”

The outlook became even more grim after millions more people were told late on Wednesday they would be plunged into tier 4 from Boxing Day.

Large retailers have paid back about £2bn in business rates relief and Labour has called for the money to support the hospitality industry and high street businesses.

A government spokesperson said: “We understand the pressure pubs and other businesses are under, however the current restrictions are essential so we can control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.

“Businesses can access our unprecedented support package worth £280bn , including the extended furlough scheme, business rates holidays, various loan schemes and VAT deferral in addition to grants of £3,000 a month for businesses required to close.”

Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 14 December

UK’s biggest financial firms have given boards near-80% pay rise since 2009

The UK’s largest listed financial firms have handed their board members a near-80% pay rise since 2009, prompting shareholder advisers and high pay campaigners to call for greater transparency on director fees.

Kalyeena Makortoff www.theguardian.com

Data gathered by the Guardian shows median pay for the three highest earning non-executive directors (NEDs) in each of the FTSE 100’s 17 financial firms surged from £90,700 in 2009 to £162,000 in 2019.

It means board members overseeing the UK’s largest banks, insurance and investment firms are earning 79% more than they did a decade earlier, despite being in part-time roles.

The largest increases have been at Lloyds Banking Group, where top NEDs are earning 257% more than in 2009; the London Stock Exchange Group, where there has been a 219% rise; and investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown, where fees have jumped 170%.

Headhunters said the rise was partly due to strict regulations introduced after the financial crisis, which meant NEDs had to keep closer tabs on operations, and take greater responsibility when things went wrong.

However, there is no precedent for UK NEDs having their pay docked for company misconduct. The insurance company Aviva is considering clawing back director pay after a row over how it announced a plan to cancel its preference shares in 2018, but blame for corporate failures has historically been laid at the feet of company executives.

It is also difficult to confirm directors’ workloads beyond what is disclosed in annual reports. Data suggests the highest-paid NEDs were attending just five more committee and board meetings a year in 2019 than they did in 2009, with the median number of meetings now sitting at 26 compared with 21 a decade earlier. The busiest among them sat through 48 meetings last year.

Reacting to the Guardian research, the High Pay Centre thinktank and influential shareholder adviser PIRC called for more detailed information about top earners like NEDs, whose ballooning fees have flown under the radar over the past decade.

While criticism has been aimed at multimillion-pound pay packages granted to company executives in recent years, the High Pay Centre said some board members were already earning more than 99% of the UK workforce, despite committing just a fraction of the hours.

“On balance, NED pay should require greater scrutiny, expecting the same rigour as executive pay and linked to demonstrable peer-group benchmarking in terms of fees, workload and meetings and items discussed,” said Francesco Navarrini, PIRC’s head of research.

He said companies should consider the pay ratio between NEDs and a company’s rank-and-file employees when considering further pay rises.

NEDs at financial firms could face greater pressure over fee transparency, since they are earning significantly more than their UK peers. On average, NEDs at financial firms are now earning £210,019 a year, which is more than double the average £99,139 earned by NEDs across all of the UK’s 150 largest listed firms, according to separate figures gathered by headhunter Spencer Stuart, which did not include median pay. While the median captures the middle of the range, the mean or average captures the typical figure when dividing fees equally between the entire group.

Luke Hildyard, the director of the High Pay Centre thinktank, said: “Paying out such lucrative sums for part-time work does create a damaging public perception of directorships and the way businesses are run, and potentially attracts people to the roles for the wrong reasons.”

“Pay for high earners, particularly in financial services, amounts to a significant cost for businesses, and there should probably be more detailed disclosure requirements on what companies are spending on those making six figures and upwards,” he added.

Board members are usually paid a so-called base fee but earn extra money for sitting on key committees that help decide executive pay, oversee financial reporting and governance. Both have jumped over the past decade, with base fees rising by nearly 20% to £75,000 on a median basis. Committee membership earned NEDs 55% more in 2019 than a decade earlier, while chairing those committees will mean pocketing 71% more in fees.

While none of the financial company NEDs from 2009 are still in their post – owing to a nine-year-limit – many serving on financial services boards have seen their fees double or triple during their tenure.

Among them are HSBC’s board member Heidi Miller, who has received a 204% pay rise from £206,000 to £627,000 over four years, after she was appointed as non-executive chair of HSBC’s North American operations – earning her an extra £431,000. Meanwhile, NatWest’s Frank Dangeard has seen his pay rise 91% from £138,000 to £264,000 since 2017, having since taken over as chair of the group’s investment bank NatWest Markets. However, NatWest does not break down his fees.

While a handful of NEDs included in the data do hold additional non-executive roles within their businesses like Dangeard and Miller, not all firms will disclose how much they are paid for each position, strengthening the argument for further transparency and more rigorous standards around NED fees.

Jenni Hibbert, a global managing partner at executive search firm Heidrick and Struggles, said directors put in more time than is disclosed in company reports. She estimated that NEDs for complex, FTSE 100 financial firms will usually be putting in about 80 to 100 days a year, including time spent preparing for meetings and getting to know the business.

“We have to remember that being a NED is a huge responsibility – the Companies Act does not differentiate between an executive and a non-executive director when it comes to fiduciary responsibilities,” Hibbert said.

“An NED is therefore required to take the same level of care as an executive, and they cannot do this by just turning up to board meetings – it takes many hours of reading, investigating and getting under the skin of things, to do their job well.”

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But with roughly 250 working days a year, NEDs are still working part-time while earning significantly more than most employees within the business.

“Many financial services firms paying six-figure sums to their NEDs will also have low-paid staff in branches, call centres or administrative roles struggling to make ends meet,” Hildyard said.

“The UK should be debating what we could do more generally to achieve a more even income distribution.”

More on: Five high streets in Devon and Cornwall to share £51m

Five high streets across Devon and Cornwall are set to benefit from millions of pounds in investment, the Government has announced.

Aaron Greenaway www.devonlive.com

Plymouth, Newton Abbot, Barnstaple, Paignton and Penzance will share £51,565,473 in funding from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund which aims to invest in a number of improvements and changes is part of a £1bn package promised by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

The news of the announcements comes after a number of towns and cities received initial funding to develop plans and proposals for the fund earlier in the year and will see them benefit from a number of changes and improvements

Redevelopment of the Civic Centre in Plymouth is among the proposals part of the Plymouth successful funding bid. (Image: Penny Cross / Plymouth Live)

Paignton is set to receive £13,363,248, Plymouth £12,046,873, Penzance £10,403,112, Newton Abbot £9,199,364 and Barnstaple £6,548,876. None of the towns successful in their bids has received the full funding they bid for, meaning the offers are currently listed as provisional. A funding bid for Bideford was unsuccessful.

The schemes promise to bring a number of improvements to the town centre including regenerations and changes to key shopping areas and buildings, with a large-scale redevelopment of the Civic Centre in Plymouth, as well as public wi-fi in Penzance among the proposals.

Robert Jenrick, Communities Secretary said: “The year ahead will be a big one for the high street as it seeks to recover, adapt and evolve as a result of the pandemic, Today’s £830m investment from the Future High Streets Fund is one of many ways the government is working to help our much-loved town centres get through this and prosper into the future.

“The role of the high street has always evolved. We want to support that change and make sure that they are the beating heart of their local community – with high quality housing and leisure in addition to shops and restaurants.”

In Paignton, Councillor Steve Darling, Leader of Torbay Council welcomed the news, saying: “This is a timely and much-needed boost for Paignton. Our towns and our town centres continue to feel the impact of COVID-19 and we are starting to see its full economic impact.

“The Future High Streets Funding is vital for Paignton Town Centre as it provides us with the resources to accelerate the regeneration of these key sites. This will support the recovery and repositioning of the town centre improving the long term sustainability of businesses in Paignton.

“We know that over 75% of businesses in Paignton town centre are independently owned. They employ local people and provide valued local services. Their success is vital to people and families in Torbay.”

72 high streets to share £831m recovery fund, as Sunderland and Swindon get biggest payouts

High street fund worth £830 million shared across England as Sunderland and Swindon get biggest payouts

By Josh Barrie inews.co.uk

The largest sums are to go to Sunderland and Swindon, which will get £25 million each to fund improvements to a railway station and town centre modernisation plan respectively

More than 70 high streets across England will get a share of £830 million to help fund their recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Future High Streets Fund will support areas most in need, with the likes of Swindon, Sunderland, and Tottenham in London all in line to benefit.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said the money would “help our much-loved town centres get through this and prosper into the future”.

The fund was initially announced by the then-Chancellor Philip Hammond in the 2018 Budget and is intended to help local authorities modernise and revitalise their town centres.

High streets in need

It was thought up long before coronavirus wrought havoc to the economy, and was, when first conceived, worth £1 billion.

Now standing at £830m, the largest sums are to go to Sunderland and Swindon, which will get £25 million each to fund improvements to a railway station and town centre modernisation plan respectively.

So far, 15 areas have been awarded a share of £255 million, while a further 57 authorities will be given provisional funding worth a total of £576 million.

Mr Jenrick said: “The year ahead will be a big one for the high street as it seeks to recover, adapt and evolve as a result of the pandemic.

“Today’s £830 million investment from the Future High Streets Fund is one of many ways the government is working to help our much-loved town centres get through this and prosper into the future.

“This investment will help us build back better and make town centres a more attractive place to live, work and visit.”

In August last year, Dudley, Dover, Stockport, and Scarborough were also said to be in line for a cash injection.

Vital investment

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson said previously: “Our high streets are right at the heart of our communities, and I will do everything I can to make sure they remain vibrant places where people want to go, meet and spend their money.

“But with our town centres facing challenges, we’re today expanding the High Streets Fund to support over 100 high streets to regenerate – backed by £1 billion of vital investment.

This scheme is going to re-energise and transform even more of our high streets – helping them to attract new businesses, boost local growth, and create new infrastructure and jobs.”

The 15 places recieving full funding are:

  1. Tamworth £21,652,555
  2. Sunderland £25,000,000
  3. Sutton £11,346,704
  4. Bishop Auckland £19,856,853
  5. Blyth £11,121,059
  6. Kidderminster £20,510,598
  7. Old Kent Road, Southwark, £9,605,854
  8. Swindon £25,000,000
  9. Stockport £14,500,000
  10. Winsford £9,980,000
  11. Sheffield £15,817,001
  12. Blackfriars, Worcester, £17,939,000
  13. Birkenhead, Wirral £24,581,011
  14. Brierley Hill, Dudley £9,985,689
  15. Stretford, Trafford £17,605,674

The 57 places receiving provisional funding offers are:

  1. Leamington Spa– £10,015,121
  2. Nuneaton – £13,362,736
  3. Wolverhampton – £15,760,196
  4. Walsall – £11,439,967
  5. Newcastle-Under-Lyme – £11,048,260
  6. Stafford – £14,377,723
  7. Tottenham – £10,019,648
  8. Woolwich – £17,150,964
  9. Wealdstone – £7,448,583
  10. Putney – £1,058,706
  11. Elland, Calderdale – £6,310,812
  12. Northallerton, Hambleton – £6,085,013
  13. Rotherham – £12,660,708
  14. Halifax – £11,762,823
  15. Barnsley £15,624,456
  16. Scunthorpe – £10,675,323
  17. New Ferry, Wirral – £3,213,523
  18. Wigan – £16,633,691
  19. Crewe – £14,148,128
  20. Rochdale – £17,080,458
  21. Farnworth, Bolton – £13,306,817
  22. Oldham – £10,750,237
  23. Kirkham, Fylde – £6,290,831
  24. Maryport, Allerdale – £11,527,839
  25. Carlisle – £9,129,874
  26. Plymouth – £12,046,873
  27. Barnstable – £6,548,876
  28. Newton Abbot, Teignbridge – £9,199,364
  29. Paignton – £13,363,248
  30. Kingswood – £12,555,464
  31. Salisbury – £9,355,731
  32. Penzance – £10,403, 112
  33. Trowbridge – £16,347,056
  34. Yeovil – £9,756,897
  35. Taunton – £13,962,981
  36. Loftus – £5,833,628
  37. Middlesbrough – £14,170,352
  38. Stockton – £16,543,812
  39. South Shields – £5,959,187
  40. Derby – £15,034,398
  41. Sutton-in-Ashfield – £6,279,872
  42. Grantham – £5,558,818
  43. Grimsby – £17,280,917
  44. Nottingham – £12,523,981
  45. Heanor, Amber Valley – £8,592,837
  46. Northampton – £8,442,730
  47. Buxton – £6,608,223
  48. Dover – £3,202,226
  49. Newhaven – £5,004,939
  50. Chatham – £9,497,720
  51. Ramsgate – £2,704,213
  52. Commercial Road, Portsmouth – £3,122,375
  53. Fratton, Portsmouth – £3,858,489
  54. High Wycombe – £11,886,876
  55. St Neots – £3,748,815
  56. March, Fenland – £6,447,129
  57. Great Yarmouth – £13,774,430

Additional reporting by Press Association

What is next for Axminster? Asks Barrie Hedges

At a time when so many small local traders are struggling to survive, it’s hard to be positive about your high street. But those who love Axminster will agree that something is stirring in a town that has been struggling over recent years. 

Barrie Hedges www.midweekherald.co.uk 

The turning point came a few months ago when the abandoned anchor shop, Trinity House, found a new owner in the shape of Axminster Property whose wider mission is to invest and manage on behalf of pension funds. From the deep gloom that had descended when that pivotal building closed as a department store suddenly came new hope. 

All eyes turned to managing director Ian Styles to see what would emerge from a man recognised for his ideas. Would it be a quick fix followed by a swift re-let to the first available bidder? Fortunately for Axminster, Ian Styles loves his home town and had rather different thoughts washing around – and a very different approach to restoring the fabric of a beautiful old building. 

Within weeks, the skilled carpenter was himself back ‘on the tools’ at the head of a small and talented team who formed a work bubble to enable them to progressively attack years of decay on a building whose origins go back 200 years. 

Fast forward to today and that team has delivered something quite startling with the opening of an inspirational new Community Waffle House stretching right across the first floor. 

Those with an insight will know that ‘the Waffle’ is not just about enjoying a tasty delicacy and drinking excellent coffee. 

Waffling is also about getting people talking, tackling isolation and a host of other social challenges. Its role in the community is truly transformational. 

Ian Styles and his team had already delivered a new home within Trinity House for the rebranded Lou la Belle boutique where owner Louise Wall is reporting a big customer response. 

More recently came the Crafty Hobbit, which serves as a market for a large group of local craft ‘makers’. Two more retail units are in the offing on the ground floor – and there’s also a large basement with great potential. 

But if Trinity House marks a tipping point, don’t for a moment dismiss the underlying strength that surrounds it in a town whose bedrock is small, independent and often unique businesses. 

There are few shops more beautiful in my view than Collate Interiors, the Acorn Gift Shop and Courthouse Makers, and few more embedded long servers than Axminster Printing, the Fabric Shop and Axminster Jewellers. 

Archway Bookshop has true old-style bookshop atmosphere yet has also reinvented itself during lockdown with an online service that punches way beyond its weight. 

The faith in Axminster in the midst of a pandemic is significant. In addition to the Waffle, the town’s eating opportunities have been further boosted by Ric’s Kitchen, the Cow and the Bean and the Corner House Bakery. 

The town centre is undoubtedly ‘on the turn’; but it still desperately needs a longer-term direction that can only come from development of a real vision for the future. 

With its Neighbourhood Plan having stalled in mid-air nearly four years ago, there is a burning need right now for a lead to be taken in setting a direction and, crucially, in winning funding. Issues such as pedestrianisation, heavy traffic and what to do about empty shops are nitty gritty bullets to be bitten. 

Retail experts seem to agree that we can’t turn back the clock – the fundamental structure of high streets has changed and it’s no good being sentimental. 

The feeling is that town centres have to be reshaped to equip them for a new future that draws people for different reasons such as health, beauty, entertainment and education. 

While they are there, they will also hopefully shop. The challenge lies in creating an overall experience, making Axminster’s town centre a go-to destination where people want to dwell a while. 

The Times Diary: Dear Santa, all I want is [next slide]

For this year’s Christmas competition I asked readers to submit letters written to Santa Claus. As ever, I received many more than I could include, and enjoyed reading them all. These are the winners, names at the bottom.

Patrick Kidd www.thetimes.co.uk 

Dear Santa, Because of the fantastic job I did — THE BEST EVER — controlling the China virus I deserve the following: Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia. Yours, Donald J Trump

Dear Santa, All I want is some decent soap. I can’t seem to get my hands clean these days — always one damned spot left. But it needn’t be highly scented; I’ve tried all the perfumes of Arabia to no avail.

Also, my husband needs some new glasses. He keeps seeing things that aren’t there, daggers mostly. I don’t think it’s the drink.

By the time you get to Glamis, you’re nearly home so why not stop over for a rest? I’ll make up the spare room, like I did for Duncan. You’re welcome to stay until tomorrow — and tomorrow and tomorrow. All the best, Lady Macbeth.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons, Lord President of the Council, Member of Parliament for North East Somerset presents his compliments to Saint Nicholas, Holy Hierarch, Bishop of Myra and begs to inform him that during the past twelvemonth his behaviour has been without fault. In consequence of which he humbly requests the Patron of our Yuletide Festival to furnish him with the following:

Item: One monocle

Item: A new pair of spats

Item: A carbon-neutral penny-farthing.

In joyful anticipation, he expresses his profound gratitude.

Dear Santa, Please could I have some tickets for the theatre? After a difficult few years I need a relaxing evening where nothing can go wrong. Yours, Abraham Lincoln

Dear Santa, We haven’t written for many years — I used to sign my letters Lilibet — but write now to ask for a new cabinet for one of our palaces. My husband and I are in disagreement over this. He says we have plenty. We have had plenty, but when I heard him talking about a William Kent yesterday I realised how desperately we need a new one. Please send a Lord Privy Seal, First Lord of the Treasury, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, etc etc, to the Palace of Westminster. Yours affectionately, E To Err

Dear Santa, There’s something we just can’t abide: politicians who cannot decide. [Next slide]

The two of us each eventide with Matt or Boris by our side [Next slide]

(Though neither of them’s qualified to lock down part or nationwide), [Next slide]

And Gavin, who should be certified, or Peston with his diatribe. [Next slide]

So next year please let’s turn the tide and get through this with British pride [Next slide]

If, Santa, will you please provide your sleigh for vaccines countrywide. Yours truly, Chris & Patrick

Listen Santa, When I asked for a cowboy outfit, I expected a profitable business not some Village People schmutter. Anyway, the chaps were too long, the waistcoat too small, and the hat blew over the side of the yacht. This year I expect a peerage. No, not porridge. If you’re looking to sell up, I’ll take the workshop — but I’m not paying the elves’ pensions. SIR Philip Green

Father Christmas, When I sent you my list of presents, I did NOT expect to wait until Christmas Day. I wanted them the same day. You’re a useless idiot. It pains me to say it but civil servants could do a better job. Priti Patel

Dear Mr Claus, Please could I have a plastic skeleton? As Secretary of State for Education I have singlehandedly guided us through these problematic months and confidently expect a promotion to Health in a reshuffle. My plan is to learn all the body parts so I can tell the doctors how to do their jobs. However, I overheard Boris telling someone I don’t know my arse from my elbow, so realised I need help. Your ’umble servant, Gav

Dear Santa, I’ve been a very good boy so please can you bring me an oven (British, of course, or your reindeer will get stuck in the queues from abroad) because my one isn’t working. A deal I recently cooked came out very flat. I was going to ask for some fish as well but I’ll be able to get loads very cheaply soon. Thanks very much, Boris Johnson

Dear Claus, You are, by edict of Parliament, instructed to stay away from our lands. Should you doubt our resolve, I remind you of the late Charles Stuart. With the grace of God, Cromwell, Protector.

Dear Father, I have been good, so far. I was a bit disappointed to get gardening equipment and a fruit tree last year. I’d love some clothes! Eve

Darling Santa, All I want for Christmas is a private island where we can live our simple lives, growing carrots and eggplants far away from PR people and photographers. And could it have a small jet and a landing strip so Harry can pop over to the mainland when we run out of oatmilk? Yours humbly, Meghan.

Dear Santa, Rather than seeking a gift, I offer one. Having observed your lifelong need to please, dress in bizarre costumes and pop down chimneys, I propose you swap your sleigh for my couch. No charge. Yours professionally, Sigmund Freud

Dear Santa, For my first Xmas can I please have a smooth exit for Papa, less vexit for Mama and a lot more bixcits for Dilyn as well as a scalextric for me. Thank you x Wilfred Johnson, aged 7 months

Dear Father Christmas, We feel rather embarrassed about sending a list since you gave us EVERYTHING we asked for last year. War, Poverty and Death are, for us, like socks, boxer shorts and a book token but, oh boy, to get Pestilence too! Wow!

However, our PR dept caution against “catastrophe fatigue” and suggest that this year we ask for a Cliff Richard CD, a pair of slippers, Quality Street and a voucher for an Unconscious Bias Course. Though if you could manage a teeny bit of cataclysmic flooding . . ? Thanks v much, White, Red, Black and Pale

Winning entries sent by Bharat Jashanmal, Vivien McCoubrey, Margaret Attlee, Pete Moore, Nicholas Cranfield, Jeremy Fox, Gerald Gouriet, Jeremy Dore, Steve Larkin, Zilma Watts, Alastair Stewart, Tina Morgan, Joan Salter, Walter Ford, Ian Elliott and Suzie Marwood.

Alas, poor Boris: PM’s go-to word for delivering bad news

It is the word the prime minister turns to when he is about to deliver bad news. And it’s become the signal for the rest of us to brace ourselves.

Nick Hopkins www.theguardian.com

Alas, it seems, is the word poor Boris knows all too well.

And according to the team behind the BBC TV show QI, it has become a staple during parliamentary debate too – it was said more than 80 times in the House of Commons in November 2020, more than any other month since 1800.

A now-unfashionable word, with its origins from Old French in the mid-13th century, “alas” was used by Shakespeare in one of his most famous and misquoted lines. In a graveyard, clutching the skull of the court jester, Hamlet declares: “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio …”

Then, as now, it is word commonly used to express sorrow, grief and concern, and there’s certainly been a lot of that this year.

At his last Downing Street press briefing on 21 December, Boris Johnson used it for the umpteenth time. “As we’ve seen throughout this pandemic, this virus, alas, can move all too swiftly from one nation to another …”

Five days earlier, with coronavirus spreading rapidly across the nation and new tougher restrictions in the offing, the prime minister admitted “the overall situation is, alas, worse and more challenging than we had hoped when we first set the rules”.

In late November, Johnson told the nation that the tiering system wasn’t really working. “I should warn you now that many more places will be in higher tiers than, alas, was previously the case,” he said. Two weeks before that, on 9 November, “alas”, he said, the death figures were rising fast.

And in his statement to the Commons at the beginning of the month, it was double portions. “When I look at what is happening now amongst some of our continental friends and see doctors who have tested positive being ordered, alas, to work on Covid wards … I can reach only one conclusion: I am not prepared to take the risk with the lives of the British people.” Getting the R number down was essential to avoid “more hospital admissions and, alas, more fatalities”.

These aren’t the only occasions the prime minister has used the word in recent weeks. And given the bleak news about the spread of the virus, they are unlikely to be the last.

Alas.