The statistics and arguments behind vaccine roll out priorities

Two analyses of the numbers and arguments behind the prioritisation for vaccine roll out. The second puts these in the context of the pressures to include a wider range of “key workers”.

Behind the numbers: how the recipients of the Covid vaccine are prioritised 

David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters www.theguardian.com 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) makes recommendations about priorities for vaccination rollout and its primary aim in the first phase has been to minimise death and severe illness from Covid-19. Its analysis found that this was best achieved by protecting the vulnerable rather than reducing the spread of the virus, particularly as it remains uncertain how much current vaccines prevent transmission.

The question then becomes statistical: who is most at risk of catching and then dying from Covid? Two major independent studies, QCovid and OpenSafely, have analysed millions of general practice records and concluded that someone’s age is the key risk factor, with the risk of death from Covid roughly doubling for each six-seven years of additional age. For registrations in England and Wales to 15 January, 74% of Covid deaths were in people aged 75 and over. Even if the aim were to save the most years of life, JCVI found that it would be best to focus on the elderly first: older people’s increased risk is sufficient to dominate their shorter life expectancy.

The JCVI has defined nine priority groups down to people aged 50, which together comprise 99% of Covid deaths. These start with vaccinating older ages and those with serious health conditions, such as kidney disease, who had been advised to shield. People who provide health and social care are both at extra risk themselves and key in transmission and have been put among urgent groups. Although male sex, ethnicity and deprivation are independent risk factors even after allowing for age and medical conditions, OpenSafely found that each at most doubles the risk, so age is still the dominant factor in the prioritisation.

The UK’s vaccine development, procurement and rollout have been extremely effective. YouGov surveys estimate about 80% of UK adults are willing to get a Covid-19 vaccine, but early data shows some groups are more reluctant: take-up in black people over 80 may be around half that of white people over 80. It is unknown whether targeted campaigns can counter such hesitancy.

• David Spiegelhalter is chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge. Anthony Masters is statistical ambassador for the Royal Statistical Society

Older age groups in UK ‘will die’ if Covid vaccine priority goes to younger key workers

Michael Savage www.theguardian.com

Prioritising vaccinations for key workers such as teachers and police over the next few weeks would inevitably lead to more deaths among older people, government vaccination advisers have warned.

There have been various demands for certain groups to be given greater priority in the vaccine programme. Labour has called for key workers such as teachers and police to be vaccinated alongside older groups when extra capacity becomes available and after the over 70s have received a jab, while some doctors have called for healthcare workers to be given their second dose sooner than planned.

However, figures from the expert committee warned that lives would be lost unnecessarily if current plans to prioritise people by age and underlying health conditions were altered.

Adam Finn, a professor of paediatrics who sits on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises ministers on vaccine distribution, said it would be “politically, socially and ethically unacceptable” to prioritise younger groups over older ones at greater risk.

“We worked out that if you give 20 people in a care home a dose of vaccine, you’ll save a life,” he said. “If you give 160 people in their 80s a dose of vaccine, you’ll save a life. But once you get down to people in their 60s, you’re up to more than 1,000. If you go down to teachers or policemen, you’re approaching one in 50,000. It’s an extraordinarily inefficient way in the crisis to use vaccines – to start going out to these other lobbying groups who are perceiving themselves to be at enhanced risk of exposure, but who are not actually and demonstrably at enhanced risk of getting sick and dying.

“If in the next month you immunised 200,000 teachers, there will be 200,000 people in their 70s who won’t get that vaccine. You’ll save a few teachers’ lives, and you’ll waste the lives of a lot of people in their 70s. It is politically, socially and ethically unacceptable that we turn our back on older people and say, ‘It’s too bad, just stay home and die.’”

He said that there will come a time when ministers may want to switch away from the JCVI’s focus on hospitalisation and deaths, and target certain key workers in the next phase of the vaccine programme.

All those aged 50 and over have been placed in groups 1 to 9 of the first phase of the distribution effort, as well as those most vulnerable to the disease. Maggie Wearmouth, another member of the JCVI, said: “Our duty is to protect the most vulnerable members of society as quickly and efficiently as possible. Every time you vaccinate one person, you are denying that opportunity to someone else. The vaccine rollout for priority groups 1-4 is going really well at the moment. Proceeding swiftly with groups 5-9 is the best way to ensure the protection of most of the groups asking for priority consideration.”

The latest Opinium poll for the Observer found that almost 94% of the public think there must be some workers that qualify for vaccine priority, either alongside or above some older age groups. More than half (54%) backed prioritisation for teachers, and a similar proportion (53%) backed the move for police.

Theory underpins Tory “Dick Barton” gambit

“With one bound he was free….”

From the last two paragraphs of:

The bad taste question about Covid that everyone in Westminster is asking 

Andrew Rawnsley www.theguardian.com 

There’s suddenly a lot of interest in Tory circles in the work of Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel prize-winning psychologist and behaviouralist. They are attracted to the professor’s thesis about how people recall difficult periods in their lives: they disproportionately remember, and therefore place the greatest weight, on how a harrowing episode came to an end. The contention is that even a deeply grim crisis can be thought of positively if the conclusion to it is an uplifting one.

Tory strategists are calculating that this is a trait of human nature that can be exploited to their party’s benefit. They reckon that a successful vaccination programme will induce voters to forget the government’s contribution to all the distress and death that came before it. The challenge for the Tories’ opponents will be stopping Boris Johnson from getting away with this.

UK experts defend 12-week delay for second vaccine dose

In all the brouhaha surrounding the decision to delay the second dose it is clear to Owl that there is really nothing very “scientific” in the choice of dose interval chosen during the vaccine trials. (See the last two paragraphs). The Government also has drawn up plans to mix vaccines in event that first dose becomes unavailable.

Clive Cookson www.ft.com 

A month after the UK government decided to extend the gap between first and second jabs of the Covid-19 vaccines from three to 12 weeks to ensure maximum inoculation as soon as possible, Britain’s “first doses first” policy remains an outlier in global terms.

The UK’s decision prompted widespread concern that it might weaken the immune response to the two marketed vaccines that use groundbreaking mRNA technology made by BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna. Most other countries are sticking with the manufacturers’ recommendations that specify no more than a three or four-week interval, though some are shifting policy toward permitting a six-week gap.

But almost every independent expert on vaccinology and virology in the UK contacted by the Financial Times has supported the 12-week interval policy formulated by the government’s medical advisers and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

Much less concern exists about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which uses a different technology to the BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna jabs. Its clinical trials also included longer intervals between doses. “I think the UK strategy is absolutely the right way to go, at least for our vaccine . . . We have data for patients who received the vaccine in one month [and] two or three-month intervals,” Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca chief executive, said this week.

The British Society for Immunology, a professional body for scientists and clinicians, said its support for an extended interval for the mRNA vaccines was based on clinical evidence of the good protection given by the first dose and expert opinion that delaying the second booster dose would not harm the long-term immune response. There was also a recognition that vaccinating the maximum number of people at top speed “has by far the largest chance of reducing the disease burden and death rate compared with other measures”.

“I feel even more sure that it is right to do ‘first doses first’ now than I did a month ago,” said Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Given the combination of a shortage of vaccine and high levels of infection caused by the highly transmissible new variant of the virus, he said many more lives would be saved in the UK by sticking with a 12-week dosing interval.

In different circumstances — for example, in Israel, which has plentiful stocks of BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine or New Zealand, which has very few Covid-19 cases — it made sense to stick with the manufacturer’s recommendations, he added.

The strongest voice of clinical dissent in the UK is the British Medical Association, which has called on Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, to review urgently the 12 week policy. It supports a six week gap between doses.

The BMA said one concern among doctors was that the unpredictability of supplies did not guarantee second doses of the Pfizer vaccine would be available in 12 weeks’ time. Supporters of the “first doses first” policy have insisted that, despite short-term fluctuations in supply, vaccines will become more plentiful over time.

Another argument of those opposing a longer delay in the second dose is that there is little data to support a 12-week interval. With antivax campaigners waiting to exploit any failures, particularly with the new mRNA technology previously untested in a mass vaccination campaign, companies and regulators are keen to stick to a regimen proven to be safe and effective in clinical trials.

France on Tuesday decided to stick to the timing that the companies had studied in their clinical trials. “We are . . . facing a period of the unknown and uncertain, and I have therefore made the decision based on the security of the validated data,” said health minister Olivier Veran. “There is an absence of scientific consensus on this question.”

A panel of outside experts advising the French government, the Haute Autorité de Santé, had earlier called six weeks “an option to consider” as it would permit “an acceleration of administering the first dose to the most vulnerable groups.”

The World Health Organization recommended sticking to manufacturers’ three-week spacing for BioNTech/Pfizer doses when possible but added: “The interval between doses may be extended up to six weeks, on the basis of currently available clinical trial data.”

In the US, the new Biden administration’s vaccination policy is still bedding down. The Centres for Disease Control’s updated policy is close to the WHO’s. “The second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible,” CDC said. “However, if it is not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval, the second dose . . . may be scheduled for administration up to six weeks after the first dose.”

Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief Covid-19 adviser, was asked about the UK’s interval-extending policy at the Davos World Economic Forum conference this week. “I would be concerned about that,” he said. “I can understand why that is being done but I would be concerned because you don’t get full efficacy until you get that second dose.”

But Peter Hale, executive director of the Foundation for Vaccine Research in Washington DC, said critics sceptical of delaying the second dose overlooked the fact that the three and four week interval for the two mRNA vaccines were deliberately chosen by their manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna to optimise the chances of getting an emergency use authorisation “as rapidly as possible”.

Without the urgency of a pandemic, Mr Hale said the two drug companies would probably have opted for a longer interval. “There are members of our group who actually consider that a longer interval between doses is beneficial in terms of building a broader and longer-lasting immune response,” he said.

Additional reporting by Leila Abboud in Paris

Government’s own climate advisors slam ministers for allowing UK’s first deep coal mine in 30 years

Top advisors with the government’s Climate Change Committee have slammed ministers in a fast-escalating controversy over a new £165 million coal mine set to be dug in Cumbria.

“The promise of 500 direct jobs and 2,000 more in the supply chain in an area desperately in need of employment have won Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem support on both Copeland Borough and Cumbria County councils.” – we have to do better than this, Owl 

www.independent.co.uk

The group said the proposed Woodhouse Colliery near Whitehaven would spew more emissions than any other such facility currently running in the UK.

In a dramatic intervention, it also said the site would compromise the country’s aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2050 and undermine leadership of the vital COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.

The development looks set to become the UK’s first new coal mine in 30 years after ministers effectively waved through permission for it to go ahead earlier this month by declining to review the plans.

But in a letter published on Saturday, Lord Deben, chair of the CCC, said the decision not to call in the proposals for further scrutiny gave a “negative impression of the UK’s climate priorities”.

He wrote: “The opening of a new deep coking coal mine in Cumbria will increase global emissions and have an appreciable impact on the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets.

“The mine is projected to increase UK emissions by 0.4Mt (megatonnes) of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per year.

“This is greater than the level of annual emissions we have projected from all open UK coal mines to 2050.”

The vast scheme – which would extract 2.78 million tonnes of coal a year up to 2049 – was approved by the Cumbria County Council in October. The government declined to call in the decision saying it was a local matter for local people.

But opponents to the plans – including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and a number of Cumbrian campaign groups – have questioned how something that will increase global pollution can possibly be considered a local issue.

John Sauven, from Greenpeace, said it was “extraordinary that anyone still believes burning coal is only a local issue and has no global impacts”.

Yet the government shows no signs of backing down – not least because support for the mine remains huge in Cumbria itself.

The promise of 500 direct jobs and 2,000 more in the supply chain in an area desperately in need of employment have won Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem support on both Copeland Borough and Cumbria County councils.  

Advocates point out that only coking coal – entirely essential in the production of steel – will be mined; not thermal coal for fuelling power stations.

They argue that, if the UK wants to keep producing steel – needed in pretty much any infrastructure project imaginable – it still need such coal.

“Let’s get it out the ground here instead of importing it halfway around the world from China or Russia,” Mike Starkie, the directly elected Conservatove mayor of Copeland told The Independent. “Let’s have those jobs in the UK.”

Low carbon methods of producing steel are being developed but are not expected to be able to develop quantities until well into the middle of the next decade.

Devon and Cornwall Covidiots who broke lockdown rules this week

Several people across Devon and Cornwall have been stopped and fined by the police in the last few days for breaking Covid rules.

“This weekend, stop the spread, stick to the rules.”

Charlotte Becquart www.devonlive.com

During the national lockdown, people must not leave, or be outside of their home except where necessary. Travel restrictions are equally as strict and people must not meet anyone outside their household or support bubble inside. Outside, meeting one other person is permitted, as long as social distancing (two metres apart) is maintained. You can click here for a list of everything you can and cannot do this weekend.

But some people are still ignoring the rules, despite the serious consequences breaches can have on coronavirus transmission and public health.

In Plymouth, 16 people attended an illegal ‘lockdown house party’ last night.

Two people were arrested and 16 fined £800 each after the illegal gathering on Spindle Crescent, Plympton..

Officers were called to the address after receiving several reports about a potential breach of coronavirus rules in the area.

They discovered the group, who do not live together, inside the front room of a property socialising and “drinking, smoking cannabis and doing NOS [nitrous oxide] canisters”.

Among the excuses party-goers gave police for breaking the law, one individual told police: “I get tested every week anyway, I’m a dental nurse,” Plymouth B Section Response Officer, PC Adam Bell recalled.

PC Bell was one of the first police officers to attend the illegal social gathering last night and has dubbed the party-goers “Covidiots”.

He told PlymouthLive two double-crewed units were initially called to the address, but due to the “volume of people and drugs” they found, a further two units were soon called to the scene.

He said he was “lost for words” when he opened the door to all 16 people partying in the living room, and was shocked that most party-goers came up with excuses for their socialising.

Among them, many party-goers gave officers “the usual spiel that their lives are being ruined by the government and the virus won’t affect them,” he said.

You can read the full story here.

Another illegal party took place earlier this week, this time on the Isles of Scilly. The late gathering took place on Wednesday night, which one police sergeant has described as “a selfish act.”

Sgt Darren White, of Devon and Cornwall Police’s Isles of Scilly policing team, took to Twitter to vent his frustrations at the lockdown flouters who he said put their “fragile” community at risk.

He went on to explain that next day apologies do not come close to justifying such a selfish act.

The tweet said: “9 Covid Fixed Penalty Notices issued today for a late night party last night.

“There are no excuses, and next day apologies do not come close to justifying the risk this single selfish act exposes our fragile community to!”

In Cornwall, on Wednesday, a man faced receiving a fine for driving to a beauty spot for a walk – after sparking a major search operation when he got lost in the mist.

The man, from Bodmin, was walking his dog on Bodmin Moor when he had to contact the emergency services to report that he had got lost.

The matter was complicated when his phone battery died, meaning his exact location could not be determined.

It sparked a major search operation involving multiple teams from East Cornwall Search and Rescue with further assistance later called from West Cornwall Search and Rescue and Dartmoor Rescue Group, as fading light and difficult conditions made the search harder.

Just over 45 minutes after the additional teams were requested, emergency services received a call from the missing man, who informed them that he had found his way to St Breward and was safe and well.

Bodmin Police revealed that the man lived thirteen miles away from the location where he was, having made the journey to the moors to walk his pet, in spite of alternatives being closer.

Police considered issuing a fixed penalty ticket for the breach of coronavirus regulations, however after he offered to donate the amount to the volunteers who rescued him, he was issued with advice by officers.

Bodmin Police said: “On the morning of Wednesday 27th January emergency services were contacted by a male who reported he had been walking his dog on Bodmin moor and was now lost due to the thick mist and poor visibility before his location could be ascertained his phone run out of power and he could not be contacted.

“The initial investigation identified two possible locations on Bodmin Moor, which were a significant distance apart and Police officers were deployed to both areas to try to find the male’s car.

One of the search and rescue dog team's dogs assisting with the search

One of the search and rescue dog team’s dogs assisting with the search (Image: Devon and Cornwall Police/Cornwall Search and Rescue)

“The car was located and the search then focused in the Rough Tor area of Bodmin Moor, East Cornwall Search & Rescue team were deployed to the moor and commenced searching in very difficult conditions.

“At 1500 with fading light and the male not having been located, assistance was requested from West Cornwall Search & Rescue and Dartmoor Rescue Group, who also started to deploy teams to the incident to assist with searching.

“At 1548 a call was received from the male stating he had found his way to St Breward and was safe and well.

“The male lives in the Bodmin area and he stated he was taking his daily exercise. He had made a journey of 13 miles to do so despite there being plenty of alternatives that were closer. The male involved has since spoken with Police and consideration was given to the issue of a fixed penalty ticket for breaching the coronavirus regulations.

“He has, however, kindly paid the equivalent amount as a donation towards the invaluable work of the volunteers from Cornwall Search & Rescue to whom he is very appreciative (along with everyone else who attended).”

The spokesperson also added that the incident highlights another reason by people should stay local as per coronavirus guidance, saying: “This highlights another reason why the advice is to stay local. You may inadvertently become involved in an incident that places others at risk. In this case, numerous responders had to attend to search for him.

“We would also advise that if you are venturing onto any moorland you take suitable precautions: check the weather – don’t go if it’s poor and you are inexperienced. ensure you have a means of navigation and know how to use it, have a backup means of navigation, have a fully charged phone and stay where you have a signal, Have spare warm & waterproof clothing and let someone know where you are going, the route you are taking and when you are due back.”

Police officers in Devon also had to remind people to stay in their local area and stop travelling unnecessarily – even if driving just 15 minutes away to go for a walk.

It comes just a week after officers stopped a motorist in Churston who had driven for around 20 minutes from Totnes to go for a walk, and just a few days after officers stopped another driver who had travelled from Newton Abbot to Brixham Breakwater.

A statement from Brixham Police, issued on Saturday morning, reads: “Please remember why we are all in a national lockdown – to protect the NHS.

“Last weekend, we had to speak to a driver who had come from Totnes to walk around Churston. The journey from Totnes would have taken approx. 21 minutes.

“During the week, we had to speak to someone who travelled from Newton Abbot to walk along the Brixham Breakwater, a journey of 32 minutes.

“Travelling from Paignton to Dartmoor takes approx. 26 minutes, Goodrington to the Coleton area takes 19 minutes, Paignton to Berry Head takes 15 minutes, Paignton to Babbacombe takes 15 minutes.

“I would suggest none of these journeys could be deemed essential or local for exercise when there are walks closer to people’s front doors.

“The lockdown is designed to minimise contact between communities as the NHS is under extreme pressure at this time.

“Please think about the distances you travel to exercise and whether it is justified and consider whether it is worth a £200 fine if you decide to drive further afield.

“This weekend, stop the spread, stick to the rules.”

The lockdown rules:

Government rules currently in place during the third lockdown in England state that people must only leave their home for the following reasons:

  • Shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person.
  • Go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home.
  • Exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person (in which case you should stay 2m apart). Exercise should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
  • Meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one.
  • Seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse).
  • Attend education or childcare – for those eligible.

A message on the Government’s website says: “You must stay at home. The single most important action we can all take is to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

“You should follow this guidance immediately. This is the law.”

Devon’s care workers deserve to be ‘recognised and better paid’

Labour’s Cllr Marina Asvachin (Wonford and St Loyes), responding to Devon County Council’s (DCC) Cabinet Member for Adult Health and Social Care’s statement Devon’s care workers deserve to be ‘recognised and better paid’ – News centre (devonnewscentre.info), said ” The Labour Group on the Council has been pressing for recognition and better pay for care workers consistently over the last 4 years. Labour has always recognised that care workers in this Country are underpaid, overworked and undervalued. This job is still seen by many as unimportant and even beneath them. The Covid-19 Pandemic has made everyone (even the Tories), sit up and realise, that without the hard work and dedication of these workers, our society would be a much worse place. I’m really pleased that the Conservative cabinet of the council has finally listened.” Cllr Asvachin, a Senior Medical Technologist at the Exeter RD&E, is a member of DCC’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee.

Padstow to ban second home owners from buying new builds in Neighbourhood Plan

Like St Ives, which pioneered the move in 2016, Padstow is looking to limit the number of second home owners in the town as a way to stop local residents being priced out of their own town by wealthy outsiders.

Olivier Vergnault www.cornwalllive.com

Padstow Town Council is getting ready to submit its Parish Neighbourhood Plan.

Neighbourhood plans allow communities to have a say on what they want to see in their towns from skateparks to green spaces, and more importantly where and how many houses can be built and crucially who can buy them.

Padstow has been working on its own NP since 2018 and is about to send its latest iteration to the planning authority – Cornwall Council.

Like St Ives, which pioneered the move in 2016, Padstow is looking to limit the number of second home owners in the town as a way to stop local residents being priced out of their own town by wealthy outsiders.

The planning restriction comes as while about 2,500 people live in Padstow all year round, that figure more than doubles during the tourist season. Padstow also receives more than 500,000 day-visitors every year.

In 2017, Padstow was rated by the Halifax Building Society as the fifth least affordable seaside place for properties in England, with an average house price of £423,000. House prices have since gone through the roof with some houses in the historic heart of the town far exceeding £500,000.

A recent survey of residents also revealed that not many local people can actually afford a home over £200,000.

A spokesman for the town council said: “There must be little doubt that Padstow has been one of the primary areas for second-home seekers for many years.

“When we started our neighbourhood plan three years ago more than two thirds of all houses purchased in the PL28 postcode area were for second homes.

“Our own residents have told us that they feel it is very depressing to have so many houses in the town empty for most of the year and have highlighted the very negative effect it has on the community, especially in the winter months.

“St Ives Neighbourhood Plan pioneered the way in which the coastal communities of Cornwall can place a legally enforceable restriction on the sale of new open market dwellings in the interests of sustainability.

“As a result, our proposal for open market housing will only be supported where first and future occupancy occupation is restricted by a legal agreement to ensure that each new dwelling is occupied only as a principal residence.”

It means that newcomers to the parish will have to prove the new build property they are trying to purchase is their main residence. Proof needed will include registering to vote in the area or putting children in local schools.

The condition that new homes should be for local residents will also include resale – which means that even when people sell their home, only buyers who want to make it their primary residence will be able to buy.

The town also wants affordable homes to blend in with market value homes on new developments to avoid any ghetto effect.

The NP adds: “While we have no statutory obligation to meet all the local housing needs within the neighbourhood area, we have concluded that it would be wrong not to ensure that all larger housing developments provide as high a proportion of affordable homes as is achievable.

“We continue to favour developments that provide a mix of market housing and housing that is affordable and accessible to local people. Different housing tenures on the same development should be integrated and relatively indistinguishable from each other. In this way we will achieve more balanced communities.”

As Padstow also attracts its fair share of retirees, the town council is asking that new developments must include homes designed to accommodate older households.

The town council spokesman added: “Due to the impact upon the local housing market of the continued uncontrolled growth of dwellings used for holiday accommodation (as second or holiday homes), our plan will support the provision of a principal residence condition to be applied on all new build housing, other than one-for-one replacement.

“It will bring greater balance and mixture to the local housing market and create new opportunities for people to live and work here, thereby strengthening the community and local economy.”

Comments on the neighbourhood plan are being invited from 9am on Monday February 8 for an extended 10-week period closing at midnight on Sunday April 18.

Hard copies of the plan and comment forms are available by post upon request for those without online access. To request a hard copy please contact the Padstow Town Council Offices by leaving a voicemail message on 01841 532296. Alternatively, by email to ndp@padstow-tc.gov.uk

People may comment on the plan by completing a comment form online at https://padstow-tc.gov.uk/regulation-14-consultation/ and emailing it to ndp@padstow-tc.gov.uk or by completing a paper form and delivering or posting it to NDP, Padstow Town Council, Station House, Station Road, Padstow, PL28 8DA.

Planning reforms mean beauty will be in the eye of the council

Owl recalls that one-time Chief Planning Officer Kate Little is reported as having had an aesthetic mission which included “dragging Budleigh Salterton into the 21th century with contemporary architecture” (and further afield). A mission which seems to have had its apotheosis in the Exmouth “Albotross”.

So who will be the EDDC’s aesthetics Tzar or Tzarina? 

Oliver Wright, Policy Editor www.thetimes.co.uk

Local communities will be given the power to set design standards for all new developments under plans to improve the look and quality of housing.

Any planning proposal that does not meet the new criteria will be automatically rejected by local councils as part of efforts to eliminate “identikit” housing estates.

Symbolically, the word “beauty” is to be included in planning rules for the first time since the system was created in 1947.

The measures come in response to the Building Beautiful Commission that reported last year. It called for local people to be given much more say in setting standards for new homes in their areas and emphasising the importance of ensuring that new developments had adequate green space.

The proposals are also designed to offset criticism of the government’s wider proposals for planning reform.

A white paper published last year proposed designating areas across the country where planning permission would be automatically granted to meet housing targets. As part of the plan, local planning committees would lose the power to reject developments in zones set out for housing as long as they met set criteria.

The move, however, is facing strong opposition from Tory MPs after it emerged that the algorithm for deciding where homes should be built was skewed towards shire councils in the southeast, while recommending lower numbers in northern cities.

In the hope of seeing off some criticism, the government is publishing a draft national design code that provides a checklist of design principles that councils should consider for new developments. These will include such things as street character, building type, façade and requirements that address wellbeing and environmental impact.

Each local council will then be expected to draw up their own individual design codes in consultation with local residents. They will be supported by a new national Office for Place that will advise councils developing their plans.

Nicholas Boys Smith, who will lead the new body, said the plan was to make it easier to refuse ugly new developments. “There is no fundamental reason that prevents the creation of streets and squares, homes as places where we can lead happy, healthy, and connected lives,” he said. “As a society we have not done this, and we are paying the consequences.

“Our ultimate purpose will be to make it easier for neighbourhood communities to ask for what they find beautiful and to refuse what they find ugly.”

Mr Jenrick said too much recent development had been inappropriate. “We should aspire to pass on our heritage and our unique built environment, not depleted but enhanced. To do that, we need to bring about a lasting change in the buildings and places we build.

“In recent decades some development has acquired a bad name due to shoddy workmanship, at times outright unsafe, and the development of ‘anywhere’ places, which have little relevance or connection to local character.

“Local people [should] set the rules for what developments in their area should look like, ensuring that they reflect and enhance their surroundings and preserve our local character and identity.

“Instead of developers forcing plans on locals, they will need to adapt to proposals from local people, ensuring that current and new residents alike will benefit from beautiful homes in well-designed neighbourhoods.”

Cyber attack forces council to ask voters to reapply for postal votes

Consequences of what happens when things go seriously wrong – Owl

www.markpack.org.uk

The Hackney Citizen reports:

Another consequence of the serious cyber attack on Hackney Council has emerged today, with the Town Hall asking registered postal voters to submit new applications ahead of local and regional elections in May.

Organised criminals hacked into the council’s systems last October, causing extensive disruption that even affected the local property market…

Now, the Town Hall has revealed that the damage extends to parts of its elections computer system, forcing it to ask postal voters to resubmit their applications…

According to the council, there is no evidence that any postal voting data was stolen in the cyber attack.

The council has written to those affected. The next elections due in Hackney are this May.

Covid cases fall in number across Devon and Cornwall

The number of coronavirus cases confirmed across Devon and Cornwall has fallen by a third in the previous seven days.

The online article contains a lot more detailed data, this is just an extract. – Owl

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

A total of 2,327 new cases were confirmed across the two counties in the last week as the total for the two counties now stands at 41,388 – the lowest total for five weeks – and with Exeter and Plymouth seeing cases more than halve.

Government statistics show that 2,327 new cases have been confirmed across the region in the past seven days in both pillar 1 data from tests carried out by the NHS and pillar 2 data from commercial partners, compared to 3,521 new cases confirmed last week.

Of the 2,327 cases confirmed since January 22, 1,005 were in Cornwall, with 152 in East Devon, 110 in Exeter, 107 in Mid Devon, 51 in North Devon, 382 in Plymouth, 80 in South Hams, 137 in Teignbridge, 211 in Torbay, 30 in Torridge and 62 in West Devon

This compared to the 3,521 cases confirmed between January 16 and 22, of which 1,229 were in Cornwall, with 221 in East Devon, 258 in Exeter, 127 in Mid Devon, 72 in North Devon, 794 in Plymouth, 147 in South Hams, 245 in Teignbridge, 278 in Torbay, 39 in Torridge and 111 in West Devon

By specimen date, everywhere is seeing cases fall, with a total of 1,811 of the cases in the past week having a specimen date between January 22 and 28, with 814 in Cornwall, 116 in East Devon, 90 in Exeter, 70 in Mid Devon, 34 in North Devon, 272 in Plymouth, 62 in South Hams, 105 in Teignbridge, 211 in Torbay, 26 in Torridge and 44 in West Devon.

The latest positivity rates for tests carried out at 5.7% in Cornwall, 3.9% in East Devon, 4.9% in Exeter, 5.4% in Mid Devon, 2.3% in North Devon, 6.2% in Plymouth, 4.2% in South Hams, 4.7% in Teignbridge, 4.3% in Torbay, 1.5% in Torridge and 4.2% in West Devon. Every single area has seen positivity rates fall since last Friday.