Police called to Travellers at Sidford rugby pitch – live updates

A large group from the Traveller community has arrived at a rugby pitch in Sidford this afternoon, and police are in attendance.

Alex Green www.devonlive.com (also features in the print edition of The Times)

Photos show a large number of vehicles, including cars and caravans, with a police car in attendance as people look on at the pitch from the edge.

Peter O’Brien, Honorary Secretary at Sidmouth Rugby Club – which uses the Sidford pitch – said that the club is aware of the situation, and informed us that the authorities had been informed.

He said that the most worrying part was the potential that the pitch, which has seen money invested in it to get it into top-quality condition, could be damaged.

Peter said: “The club is aware of it, and has informed the authorities. It’s not our pitch, it belongs to the East Devon Council.

“Obviously it’s not good for us because of the amount of money we’ve spent. Hopefully they won’t be damaging it, but I heard about some damage caused at Topsham recently, so it may well be.

“We would have the council repair them if they were damaged, but we’ve spent a lot of money to get the pitches to the quality they’re at. As I said, we’ve informed the authorities, but there’s not much we can do.”

We have approached Devon and Cornwall Police for more information on this matter.

We’ll keep you updated on this with all the latest developments and photos from the scene via the live news blog below.

Key Events

16:43Alex Green

Sidmouth Rugby Club is ‘aware’ and has informed the authorities

Peter O’Brien, Honorary Secretary at Sidmouth Rugby Club – which uses the Sidford pitch – said that the club is aware of the situation, and informed us that the authorities had been informed.

He said that the most worrying part was the potential that the pitch, which has seen money invested in it to get it into top-quality condition, could be damaged.

Peter said: “The club is aware of it, and has informed the authorities. It’s not our pitch, it belongs to the East Devon Council.

“Obviously it’s not good for us because of the amount of money we’ve spent. Hopefully they won’t be damaging it, but I heard about some damage caused at Topsham recently, so it may well be.

“We would have the council repair them if they were damaged, but we’ve spent a lot of money to get the pitches to the quality they’re at. As I said, we’ve informed the authorities, but there’s not much we can do.”

15:58KEY EVENT

More photos of the Travellers pitched up in Sidford

Travellers arriving at a rugby pitch in Sidford (Image: Submitted)

Paramedics declare critical incident due to extreme pressure

South Western Ambulance Service has declared a critical incident due to “extreme pressures” currently on paramedics in the region.

Sam Beamish www.devonlive.com

The NHS Foundation Trust has tweeted that some patients may need to wait longer for an ambulance while others might need to seek help elsewhere.

Patients are also being urged to only dial 999 if they’re in a life-threatening emergency.

The statement on Twitter does not give an explanation as to what the extreme pressures are that the service is dealing with, but people are being urged to “make the right call”.

A spokesman for South Western Ambulance Service said: “We have declared a critical incident due to extreme pressures on our service.

“As a result, some patients may wait longer for an ambulance while others could be advised to access alternative services if their call is not life-threatening.

“We need you to only call 999 in a genuine, life-threatening emergency so we can help those most in need.”

South Western Ambulance Service responds to around 2,650 emergency incidents a day.

The service is encouraging people to contact NHS 111 if you have a non-life threatening but urgent medical problem, for example, broken or fractured bones, sprains or burns.

There are also a number of other NHS services available.

South Western Ambulance Service has been approached for further comment on the situation.

Staycation boom forces tenants out of seaside resort homes

The lockdown shackles are off. The great half-term getaway began with predictable traffic chaos on Friday night as Britons finally got the chance to escape to the seaside.

James Tapper www.theguardian.com

But some people living in the resorts are being forced to head in the opposite direction along the clogged-up roads, priced out of their homes by a coastal housing crisis that has been turbocharged by the pandemic.

Landlords in popular seaside destinations are favouring holidaymakers over long-term tenants, leading to a catastrophic shortage of homes. Cornwall currently has more than 10,290 active Airbnb listings. Yet, in comparison, the housing website Rightmove had only 62 properties available to rent across the whole county on Friday evening. Renters in seaside towns are facing unprecedented competition, with some landlords in Cornwall, Kent and Norfolk given the choice between up to 80 prospective tenants chasing a dwindling number of properties.

People who kept their jobs and accumulated some of the estimated £192bn that Britons have saved since March 2020 have been spending it on second homes. Others have moved away from cities, taking advantage of the stamp duty holiday to find a place large enough to make working from home a comfortable option.

Airbnbs are also booming, with the number of active listings on the website up by 43% in Great Yarmouth, 34% in Scarborough and 40% in Bridlington in April compared with the same time last year, according to AirDNA.

Louise, a 42-year-old deputy headteacher, moved from Leicester to Newquay in Cornwall with her husband, a delivery driver, and two daughters in December to take up a job at a primary school. “We started looking in September last year,” she said. “

We sold two properties – I had one and my partner had his. We’ve got a decent deposit, but there was nowhere to buy and nowhere to rent. Estate agents told us that hundreds of people were fighting for the same properties.”

They settled for an off-season Airbnb at a cost of £1,300 a month – just about manageable on her salary of more than £40,000. “I was sure we’d find somewhere but it hasn’t happened. We had to be out last week because the owner would double her money in holiday season.”

On Saturday, Louise and her family packed up and drove back to Leicester to stay with her parents over half-term, with nowhere to live when they return.

The crisis has forced even those who would normally be considered comfortably off to resort to food banks to feed their families. DISC Newquay, a charity for homeless people, was handing out 60 meals on a Monday evening before the pandemic. That has risen to 4,000, according to its manager, Monique Collins. “I think there are over 500 people in the Newquay area who don’t have a home,” Collins said. “I’ve got a pregnant woman who is sofa-surfing. A hospital porter and his wife. I’ve had a girl text me today saying she has to leave by the weekend. People are being turned out because their landlord wants to turn the property into an Airbnb.

“There are no homes. If they don’t stop this second-home ownership, it’s going to turn Newquay into a ghost town.”

Cornwall’s reputation and climate have made it a favoured location for second homes for many years, but Collins said lockdown had turned the situation into a crisis.

House prices have risen by 15% across the county since April last year, but the buying frenzy has seen extraordinary situations – a bungalow sold for £315,000 five minutes after it was listed, according to local reports.

That mirrors a nationwide trend. Rob Love, co-founder of Crowdfunder, which is based in Cornwall, said they had seen nine times as many food bank projects registering for help between 2019 and the pandemic hitting in 2020.

He said: “Cornwall has been badly hit, but food bank use is rising everywhere. It’s a terrible indictment on the UK in 2021 that so many people are struggling to put food on their tables.”

In north Norfolk, Theo Wakeman said he had only been able to view three flats since he started hunting in the Cromer area a year ago. “The estate agents will say, ‘We’ll take your number but we’ve had 80 other applicants’. It’s never less than 20. It’s horrible. I feel trapped.”

The Norfolk coastline from Blakeney to Burnham is known as Chelsea-on-Sea to locals. “The village shop shut down, and now it’s reopened as a hat shop,” Wakeman said. “You can’t buy a loaf of bread, but you can buy a hat.”

Kent’s seaside towns are showing similar scarcity for renters, according to Rightmove. Margate (population: 61,000) and Whitstable ( 32,000) both had 11 properties to rent, and Herne Bay (39,000) had six. Inland, Canterbury (135,000) had 893.

Dan Thompson has lived in Margate in Kent for nine years after being priced out of Worthing in Sussex, but the 47-year-old artist and writer says he is being forced out again.

“I don’t want to go but there’s nowhere to rent here,” he said. “My landlord is selling and there is literally nothing to rent here. I just don’t have a choice.”

Tory plan to turn town hall blue ‘sets a dangerous precedent’

Plans to turn a town hall blue in Darlington to match the council’s ruling Tory group’s colours set a “dangerous precedent” opponents have claimed.

A “Rainbow” Blackdown House? – Owl

BBC News www.bbc.co.uk 

Darlington Town Hall

Plans to turn Darlington Town Hall blue have not been universally popular among councillors: image Google

They said Darlington Borough Council’s £20,000 rebranding would undermine the position of non-political staff.

Conservative deputy leader Jonathan Dulston said the changes reflected an overhaul of the council’s identity.

The town hall’s concrete exterior has not changed since it was opened in 1970 by the Princess Royal.

Labour shadow portfolio holder Nick Wallis said the “botched rebranding” could lead to long-term damage to the council’s reputation.

“They are fixated with PR and the promotion of themselves at all costs,” he said.

“They don’t care about wasting public money if they believe it advances their political interests.”

‘Palette of colours’

The rebranding plans include painting the concrete outside wall of the town hall and changing the authority’s logo to reflect what the council called a “progressive agenda”, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

Assets featuring the council’s logo, such as bins, would only be updated during scheduled works or when they needed replacing, Mr Dulston said.

In-house skills and resources had been used, keeping costs to a minimum, he added.

Green Party leader Matthew Snedker said council building paintwork and coronavirus publicity had already changed to blue and further works set “a very dangerous precedent”.

Publicising it on social media before it had been approved by cabinet appeared “to do away with the political process”, he said.

Liberal Democrat group leader Anne Marie Curry said the town hall needed to remain a politically neutral colour and there was a “massive palette of colours they could choose from”.