“Super Boris” V the “Delta Variant”

The World Health Organization, in an attempt to simplify labels for COVID-19 variants – and to avoid stigmatizing certain countries – has renamed the various variants of the virus.

Instead of referring to them by the name of the country in which they were first discovered, such as the Indian, Brazilian or British variants, the WHO wants them to be known by letters of the Greek alphabet.

So the so-called Indian variant (B.1.617.2), the cause of much alarm around the world, is to be known as Delta, the Brazilian (P.1) variant as Gamma, and the British one (B.1.1.7) as Alpha.

These are “easy-to-pronounce and non-stigmatising labels” according to the organisation, which will be “easier and more practical to be discussed by non-scientific audiences”.

UK ranked last in Europe for bathing water quality in 2020

Despite the recent “awards” for our local bathing beaches, the reality is that their water quality was not tested in 2020. See interactive maps referenced below. – Owl

Fiona Harvey www.theguardian.com

Swimmers in the UK hoping to enjoy waters certified clean and healthy this summer have been let down again. Only 110 coastal and inland sites were judged excellent in the latest bathing water quality data from Europe’s environmental watchdog.

Most of the UK’s bathing sites were not classified in 2020, however, because Covid-19 restrictions prevented sampling. This meant that out of 640 sites, 457 received no verdict in the rankings, compiled annually by the European Environment Agency and published on Tuesday.

Twelve sites where a verdict could be delivered were found to be poor, 29 of sufficient quality and 32 good.

The lack of data pushed the UK to the bottom of the European league table, rivalled only by Poland, where just 22% of sites were rated excellent, in the 31-country rankings of EU member states plus Albania and Switzerland. The other 29 countries all had at least 50% of the monitored bathing sites classified as excellent quality, and for the vast majority – 24 countries – the figure was at least 70%.

Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Croatia and Austria led the pack with 95% or more of their sites qualifying as excellent. All of Cyprus’s sites received top marks.

The 2020 data will be the last to include the UK. The EEA includes EU member states and non-members such as Turkey, Iceland and Switzerland, but the UK has chosen to opt out of EEA membership post-Brexit, meaning no such comparisons will be possible in future.

The UK has performed poorly in bathing water quality for years, regularly appearing near the bottom of the table while other countries, including eastern European states, have made marked improvements.

A Guardian investigation last year found that water companies had poured raw sewage into rivers on more than 20,000 occasions in 2019, and dumped thousands of tonnes of raw sewage on beaches.

A government spokesperson said: “The quality of bathing waters in England has improved significantly in the last 20 years. The latest data from 2019 shows that that 72% achieved the highest standard of Excellent, while 98.3% passed the minimum standard.

“Visitors to coastal and inland swimming spots have over 400 bathing waters to choose from and can find out more information of the Environment Agency’s ‘Swimfo’ website.”

Overall, the EEA said 83% of coastal and inland sites around Europe were found to be excellent in 2020, broadly in line with recent years. Only 1.3% of the sites tested, or 296 across the continent, were judged to be of poor quality, down from about 2% in 2013. Coastal sites fared better than inland sites, with 85% and 78% respectively classified as excellent.

About 6% of the sites normally monitored across Europe could not be reached because of Covid-19 restrictions. Countries also tend to leave out many bathing sites that are used in practice, so the true picture could be different, especially for inland sites, and people could be put at risk if the bathing places they use are not monitored.

Lidija Globevnik, a project leader for bathing water at the European Topics Centre and an author of the report, said: “There are many sites that are not identified as bathing waters, but people still swim there. There should be higher attention paid by the authorities to observe these sites, and act if there is a problem.”

She said the climate crisis was also having an impact on bathing water and on inland sites especially, because dry spells reduce the amount of water in rivers and lakes, which could concentrate pollutants from agricultural runoff and other sources.

“There is not enough water in some places, which means a proliferation of bacteria in inland waters and higher risks,” she said. “This can be managed better through looking at agriculture, hydrology and water extraction. These all need to be carefully managed.”

The European Commission has recently launched a review of the bathing water directive as part of its zero-pollution action plan. The current rules could be updated, and an online public consultation is planned for suggestions on the improvements needed.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, the European commissioner for the environment, fisheries and oceans, said: “Bathing water quality in Europe remains high and it’s good news for Europeans who will be heading to beaches and bathing sites this summer. This is the result of more than 40 years of the bathing water directive, hard work by dedicated professionals and cooperation. The zero pollution action plan adopted in May will help to keep the waters healthy and safe, and our seas and rivers clean.”

The Covid-19 pandemic had no impact on the quality of water, but led to many bathing sites being closed or access limited because of social distancing requirements, although many people were driven to take up wild swimming.

Hans Bruyninckx, the executive director of the EEA, said: “The quality of European bathing water remains high after four decades of action aimed at preventing and reducing pollution. EU law has not only helped raise the overall quality, but also helped identify areas where specific action is needed.”

Plans for up to 80 homes refused

Exeter City has refused plans for significant development just outside the built up area of Exwick. This is a site on the other side of the Exe, on the western boundary of the city. The reasons for refusal are the harmful impact they would have on the landscape character of the area. However, Exeter doesn’t have a five year land supply, the pressure is on to find land. 

The EDDC “New Guard’s” bold decision last year to pull out of GESP (Greater Exeter Strategic Plan) has removed the soft option of simply expanding east of the Exe.

Think how Topsham has now effectively become an Exeter suburb and how much Grade I agricultural land was sacrificed for Cranbrook.

Exeter will have to confront the implications of their expansionary plans – Owl

Plans to build homes on the edge of Exeter have been refused because of the harmful impact they would have on the landscape character of the area they were built in.

Daniel Clark, Local Democracy Reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

The proposals would’ve seen the dwellings located beyond the built-up area of Exwick on the land to the east of Redhills. 

The application included 80 homes, with 35% being affordable housing, as well as two play areas.

Officers’ planning assessment concluded that the benefits of the proposed housing do not outweigh the harmful impact the development would have on the landscape character of the area, and councillors agreed with that at Thursday night’s planning committee meeting.

There had been 281 objections from local residents to the plans, on the grounds of the impact on landscape character, the impact on wildlife and biodiversity, concerns about flooding, the need to follow Liveable Exeter’s vision and build on brownfield sites, and that with the plans for development on the Teignbridge site, it would be overdevelopment of the area.

Cllr Rachel Sutton said that the scheme on the site would have a detrimental impact and that it will be visually intrusive, adding: “We need to be looking at brownfield sites for development before green field sites. We are keen to encourage people to walk and cycle but looking at that footpath, the idea that anyone with a shopping trolley or a small child will go up or down the hill is frankly ludicrous, and the bus stops are miles away.”

Cllr Rob Hannaford added: “This is a huge concern given the location and the challenging topography of the site. At our last meeting, we were discussing a car-free development, but this is the opposite to that, and the way it has been developed with sustainability, this would be a car essential development if you are not careful. It would be isolating if you didn’t have your own transport.”

The report read: “The fact that housing on-site is visible within an area of land does not necessarily make a development unacceptable and as the application is in outline and therefore the appearance of the proposed dwellings is not for consideration. However, it is the impact the built development would have on the overall landscape character of the area, which remains the fundamental consideration as to whether the scheme is acceptable.

“The fundamental consideration, therefore, is whether the provision of 80 dwellings (including 28 affordable units), provision of onsite open space/play areas and the associated highway improvement and mitigation measures put forward in support of the application take precedence against the detrimental impact the development would have on the landscape character of the area both locally and from a wider landscape setting.

“The assessment is clearly a balanced one, however, it is considered that the landscape quality of this valued site and the harmful visual impact intrusive created by the housing development should be afforded greater weight, in this instance.

“It is considered that the adverse impacts of granting planning permission would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the proposal, and accordingly the application is recommended for refusal.”