Police warn party crowds

In the light of the Dart’s Farm inaction wonder what Devon & Cornwall Police attitude is this week end?

Fariha Karim print edition The Times 2 April

Britons have been urged to behave over the Easter weekend after police broke up parties in the first week of the loosened lockdown.

Forces urged people to remain within coronavirus rules as families prepare to meet for the first time in months. Greater Manchester police issued a 48-hour dispersal order for the city centre after a party attended by hundreds of people at the Castlefield Bowl.

Merseyside police said that officers would patrol popular destinations across the region after receiving reports of large groups of youths travelling to Formby beach. In Sheffield a war memorial was vandalised on Tuesday when warm weather brought people out to Endcliffe Park. US flags were torn down from the memorial dedicated to ten American soldiers who died when a B-17 Flying Fortress crashed there on February 22, 1944.

The Metropolitan Police has written an open letter to people organising or participating in public gatherings, saying “we are still in the middle of a global pandemic”.

However, Easter weekend is set to be chillier than the past few days, the Met Office said, as a cold front moves down from the north.

Do my eyes deceive me … or is that a statue of Dominic Cummings?

Best April Fool – Owl?

Barnard Castle plans life-sized bronze of Boris Johnson’s former adviser after infamous trip ‘to test eyesight’ put town on map

By Gordon Rayner 1 April 2021www.telegraph.co.uk 

In the list of Britain’s top tourist attractions, it might struggle to rival the likes of Buckingham Palace or the Eden Project.

But Dominic Cummings’ notorious lockdown-busting visit to Barnard Castle could soon be commemorated with a statue in the historic market town, The Telegraph has learned.

Plans have been submitted to the local council for a life-sized bronze of Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, who drove to the beauty spot last April in what he claimed was a bid to test his eyesight.

Local tourist chiefs argue that the town should capitalise on the infamy Mr Cummings brought it, having seen visitor numbers increase once lockdown was lifted last summer.

Shopkeepers in the town say the question they are most commonly asked by visitors is “where is the place that Dominic Cummings tested his eyesight?” and many would like to be able to point tourists to a plaque or statue marking the exact spot by the town’s riverside.

What the proposed Barnard Castle statue of Dominic Cummings could look like, complete with carrier bag

What the proposed Barnard Castle statue of Dominic Cummings could look like, complete with carrier bag Credit: Paul Grover/for the Telegraph

A planning application submitted by Olaf Priol, a member of the local historic society, requests permission for a 5ft 11in bronze on a pyrite plinth, depicting Mr Cummings wearing a trademark hoodie and jeans, carrying a set of car keys and “squinting into the distance, adjusting his spectacles with his right hand”.

The plans are likely to prove controversial as a local by-law states that statues in the town can only depict “deceased historic figures” who have “contributed to the common good”.

However, the council has the power to set aside the by-law if someone has made an “exceptional contribution” to the national and international profile of Barnard Castle.

Supporters of the plan are likely to point out that Mr Cummings’ visit led to Barnard Castle being name-checked in newspapers around the world.

Last summer, the then mayor of the town, which is 30 miles from Mr Cummings’ parents’ home in Durham, said the huge media coverage of the visit had “done us good in the sense that it has put us on the map”.

Beer firm BrewDog even made a special IPA called Barnard Castle Eye Test, which sold more than 800,000 cans.

Barnard Castle received another boost this week when Boris Johnson announced a new facility to “fill and finish” Covid-19 vaccines will be opened in the town. He later joked to MPs that Mr Cummings had been “scouting out the complex” during his Easter Saturday visit last year.

No action taken against Darts Farm after investigation

Attending a football match or a vigil on Clapham Common, different kettles of fishes? – Owl


An investigation into a controversial outdoor carol service held at Darts Farm has resulted in no action being taken.

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com

Concerns and criticisms were raised on social media after images shared of the event on December 16, 2020, appeared to show significant numbers of people apparently not socially distancing or wearing face coverings.

The carol service was held on the grounds of Darts Farm, in Topsham, and police say it received no calls prompting officers to investigate on the night.

Following the event, East Devon District Council announced they were looking into the ‘planning and control measures’ to work out if rules were broken.

A screen shot of the outdoor Christmas carol evening at Darts Farm

However, Darts Farm insisted it had followed the suggestions from the Government’s ‘Covid-19: suggested principles of safer singing’ guidelines.

A spokesperson for East Devon District Council said: “The East Devon District Council legal team have concluded that the actual event, being a gathering, was the responsibility of the police to make any decisions on enforcement of the situation.

“The council have contacted the business to require information under the Health and Safety at work Act 1974 on the risk assessments for the event, and the company provided information sufficient to satisfy us that further action was not appropriate under our enforcement policy.”

A spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police said: “We are aware of an event that was held within the grounds of Darts Farm on December 16 2020.

“As this related to an event at a business premises this was left in the hands of the relevant local authority to investigate.

“This matter was not reported to police at the time and therefore officers did not attend the location while this incident was taking place.

“Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, we have only issued fines when supported by evidence captured at the scene by our officers, therefore no retrospective action is being considered in relation to Darts Farm in relation to this event.”

Darts Farm is a nationally award-winning farm and food-hub located on the outskirts of Exeter.

Following its carol event last year, a spokesperson for the farm said: “With unlimited outdoor space and using closed off car parking, everyone was able to social distance and stand where they wanted. You could say that it was more organised than most busy high streets on a Saturday.

“The actual programme for the evening, including all of the carols, was on our website so that everyone could follow and sing using their phones – reducing any contact with no one gathered around a screen with projected words.

“From all those that attended, we have had nothing but positive feedback and interestingly the only criticism has come from those that didn’t actually attend the evening.

“The comments we have received include, ‘really moving hearing people singing together again even at a distance’, and ‘a big thank you for the organised carol service this evening. You do not know how much we needed that. God bless and merry Christmas’.

“It was brilliant to be able to see our local community come together in festive spirits in what has been a very challenging year. Outdoor carol singing is something that has been encouraged by the government in their recent guidance to help lift our spirits this Christmas.”

Water firms discharged raw sewage into English waters 400,000 times last year

Water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers and coastal waters in England more than 400,000 times last year, Environment Agency (EA) data has revealed.

Sandra Laville www.theguardian.com 

Untreated human effluent poured into rivers and seas for a total of 3.1m hours via storm overflow pipes that are supposed to be used only in extreme weather to relieve pressure in the sewage system.

The data is being published for the first time as a result of pressure on the EA, water companies and the government over the scale of sewage pollution in rivers.

Data for 2019 published by the Guardian last year showed raw sewage was discharged for 1.5m hours into rivers alone.

Countries are legally obliged to treat sewage before it is released into waterways. Discharges of untreated human waste are permitted only in exceptional circumstances, for example after extreme rainfall, the European court of justice has ruled.

The new figures show the scale of sewage discharges in England into rivers and seas. They have increased from 292,864 incidents in 2019 to 403,171 in 2020 – a 37% rise.

This is partly because more monitoring of storm overflows by water companies has this year provided a much clearer picture of the scale of the pollution. In 2020, monitoring was placed on 12,092 storm overflows, compared with 8,276 in 2019, a 46% increase. The EA said average spill numbers remained similar to last year.

Sir James Bevan, the EA’s chief executive, said: “Storm overflows are designed to discharge sewage to rivers or the sea at times of heavy rainfall to prevent it backing up into homes and streets. But higher population and climate change means they will discharge more often.

“The Environment Agency is working actively with the water companies to ensure overflows are properly controlled and the harm they do to the environment stopped. Increased monitoring and reporting of storm overflows is part of the solution. It means everyone can see exactly what is happening, and will help drive the improvements and future investment that we all want to see, with £1.1bn of investment already planned for the next four years.”

The Rivers Trust said the scale of discharges by water companies was shocking and that real-time monitoring of sewage discharges into rivers was needed.

Michelle Walker, the trust’s deputy technical director, said: “It’s good to finally see this data in the public domain, and in particular the significant increase in the number of overflows being monitored over the last four years.

“While we know we can’t make a direct comparison to last year’s … data due to the 50% increase in the number of overflows being monitored, the data raises alarm bells.

“If storm overflows work as designed, they will discharge less than 20 times per year, when there has been extreme rainfall … The 2020 data indicates that, appallingly, almost one in five overflows across England are discharging more than 60 times per year, a number which is supposed to trigger an EA investigation. This is a staggering statistic.”

Walker said there had been an increase in the recreational use of rivers during the pandemic, which was likely to continue. Real-time data for more rivers, not just the one river in Ilkley for which bathing water status has been granted, was needed, she said.

Hugo Tagholm, of Surfers Against Sewage, said: “Water companies making rampant profits at the expense the health of our rivers, ocean and people has to stop.

“Whilst the government is proposing new laws to be agreed for 2022, the sewage pollution crisis is here today and needs swift, decisive and enforced action. “We will not allow government and water companies to just kick this issue into the long grass … what we need now is radical action.”

A spokesperson for the industry body, Water UK, said: “Water companies are committed to playing their part in reducing any harm from storm overflows. As the data shows, we have massively increased monitoring, with the aim of getting 100% of the 14,630 overflows in England monitored by the end of 2023. This data is invaluable and allows investment to be targeted where it’s needed most.”

Water companies would be investing £1.1bn to improve storm overflows over the next five years as part of a wider £5bn programme of environmental improvements and the industry was playing a leading role in the government’s storm overflow taskforce that was looking at long-term alternatives, the spokesperson said.

The government announced on Monday that it was putting the reduction of sewage discharges by storm overflows into a legal framework. Ministers will have to come up with a plan to reduce them by 2022 – a timeline that was criticised by campaigners as too slow.

Raw sewage discharges into seas and rivers by water companies

Anglian Water – spill events: 17,428; duration in hours: 170,547

Welsh Water – spill events: 3,969; duration in hours: 21,300

Northumbrian – spill events: 32,497; duration in hours: 178,229

Severn Trent – spill events: 60,982; duration in hours: 558,699

Southwest Water – spill events: 42,053; duration in hours: 375,37

Southern Water – spill events: 19,782; duration in hours: 197,213

Thames Water – spill events: 18,443; duration in hours: 215,886

United Utilities – spill events: 113,940; duration in hours: 726,450

Wessex Water – spill events: 28,994; duration in hours: 237,035

Yorkshire Water – spill events: 65,083; duration in hours: 420,419

Data provided by the Environment Agency

Westpoint vaccination centre to move

Westpoint has been dishing out vaccines since January. It’s going three miles up the road

Radio Exe News www.radioexe.co.uk 

The large covid vaccination centre in Exeter is to move from Westpoint to nearby Greendale at the end of April, as the vaccination programme enters its next phase.

The move coincides with the beginning of a return to more normal commercial operations for Westpoint which is home to the Devon County Show. The show is due to go ahead a little later than usual this year, after being cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Everyone with appointments at Westpoint in April should attend as normal. There is no change to those appointments.

From the end of April, all existing appointments for second doses will move to Greendale but will take place on the same day and at the same time. People whose appointments are affected around the transition date will be contacted directly. There is no need to contact the NHS regarding your appointment.

A section of the Greendale site is being turned into a large vaccination centre by the NHS, with the centre meeting the same stringent safety requirements. It will offer plentiful parking and is only three miles and under five minutes’ drive from Westpoint. Signage will be in place to guide patients to the new venue from all directions.

Leigh Mansfield, the vaccination centre operations manager for the RD&E said: “The Westpoint vaccination centre has been an outstanding success in rolling out the covid vaccine to the people of Devon, and we’d like to thank the Devon County Agricultural Society for all they’ve done in helping us achieve this and making us so welcome.

“We’d also like to thank all the staff and volunteers who have supported us at Westpoint – they have been tremendous – and we look forward to welcoming them to our new base at Greendale.” 

Sam Kirkness, group head of property at Greendale said: “We are looking forward to welcoming the vaccination centre to Greendale. It is great to be part of the national effort against Covid-19 and we will continue to work very closely with the RD&E to ensure that the sites operate smoothly and efficiently once established.

As a business, we will remain open as normal whilst the vaccination centre is here and the sites have been designed to ensure as little disruption as possible to existing businesses and customers over the coming months.

Alongside our huge thanks to the RD&E and the NHS for their incredible efforts over the last year, we would also like to thank East Devon District Council for their helpful advice and guidance thus far.”