What is happening with Covid infection rates?

As the ONS publishes its latest COVID – 19 insights Owl tries to make sense of what, superficially, appear to be conflicting data from: the ONS; daily published case rates from the government dashboard and the Zoe symptom app.

From the ONS:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continued to increase in England and have increased in Wales and Northern Ireland in the week ending 24 July 2021, but decreased in Scotland.

The estimated percentage of the community population (those not in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings) that had COVID-19 was:

  • 1.57% (1 in 65 people) in England, up from 1.36% (1 in 75 people) last week
  • 0.62% (1 in 160 people) in Wales, up from 0.47% (1 in 210 people) last week
  • 1.48% (1 in 65 people) in Northern Ireland, up from 0.59% (1 in 170 people) last week
  • 0.94% (1 in 110 people) in Scotland, down from 1.24% (1 in 80 people) last week

From daily case rates:

Since the end of April, daily case rates (the data given most publicity via the government dashboard) have been volatile, swinging up and then down, best illustrated graphically:

From the Zoe symptom tracker app:

This is now showing, as with the ONS data, much higher prevalence than the current reported case rates but in the past few days has indicated a turning point, again best illustrated graphically:

How might we interpret all this?

The first point to make is that there is no perfect measure of the extent of infection in the population. All  these are good data sources but each has its strengths and limitations.

For example, the ONS data come from a randomised sample i.e. includes those who are showing no symptoms but it is a lagging indicator in that it takes time to collect the samples and collate the information. So it is a week or so behind. 

Case rate reporting has a shorter time lag but is a record of those coming forward for testing i.e it misses asymptomatic and mild cases. The government list of symptoms is also regarded by many experts as being too restrictive. With all the publicity given to the “pingdemic” it is possible that some may be less likely to present for testing. It is worth pointing out that both the ONS and Zoe data indicate much higher rates (about twice for the Zoe data). 

The Zoe data has the advantage of daily reporting from a very large sample, about a million contributors, but it uses symptoms as proxy measures and the sample, although large, is self-selecting.

Pandemic data doesn’t usually move in such dramatic fashion as shown by the case rate data without an underlying intervention or event such as a lockdown. As a community moves towards herd immunity, one would expect infection rates gradually to plateau, then gradually to fall.

Big swings most likely reflect some sort of behavioural change. The problem with interpretation is that we have had a number of these, some positive, some negative: school closure; a heat wave; people gathering to watch Euro 2021 etc. There are other changes stemming from “Freedom Day” which may only just be beginning to affect the data: opening up of enclosed spaces to large gatherings such as nightclubs, pubs and cinemas.


Owl’s interpretation, for what it’s worth, is that, despite the publicity given to case rates, there is a high level of Covid in circulation. The implication of this is that incautious behaviour could trigger a rapid surge in cases, a superspreading event. However, there now seems to be evidence that, all else being equal, we may be on the threshold of some sort of herd immunity and could see a sustained gradual decline. The ONS shows numbers declining in Scotland.

More on the impact of second homes – Hope Cove where hope is fading

The Devon village where 80% of properties are second homes

Will Humphries, Southwest Correspondent www.thetimes.co.uk

In the picturesque seaside village of Hope Cove, second home ownership is running at an alarming 80 per cent.

The ageing residents who remain in the south Devon parish, close to Salcombe, fear the march of the holiday home is increasing after their objections to two hotels being converted into holiday homes and apartments have been dismissed by the local council.

“Out of 400 homes only about 80 have permanent residents and the rest are second homes,” said Tom Windle, a retired oil exploration geologist from London who moved to the parish in 2009.

In winter the dark streets are often only punctuated by lights in the windows of every third or fourth house in a row.

Windle, who at 70 describes himself as “one of the younger ones”, said: “There has been no attempt to bring in young families or anything that is affordable. It has always been a question of ‘let’s knock down and build holiday homes’.”

South Hams district council has granted planning permission in recent years for the demolition or conversion of two local hotels in favour of holiday apartments and residential flats which locals believe will quickly become yet more second homes.

The parish council opposed both projects.

Lantern Lodge Hotel, which had 14 guest bedrooms, is being demolished to make way for nine holiday apartments, five residential homes and a staff residence in a £3.3 million redevelopment project.

In 2016, the council refused planning permission for the demolition of the hotel and construction of five homes because it would cause the “loss of a valued tourist facility in a prime location” and didn’t “provide affordable housing provision in an area with an exceptional and demonstrable local need”.

Trinity Square Developments said the approved holiday apartment, with uninterrupted views over the English Channel, would be aimed at the UK’s growing “staycation” market.

Further up the hill from the Lantern Lodge is the ten-bedroom Sand Pebbles Hotel, which was sold earlier this year with planning permission for conversion into five holiday cottages, plus owners’ accommodation.

Paul Green, 79, a parish councillor and former aircraft technician who retired to the parish from Coventry 16 years ago, said the present owners of the Sand Pebbles “wanted to do something different than is in the plans”.

“They called a meeting of the parish council and asked us what we wanted to see there and we said we wanted it back as a hotel again because we are losing so many in the area,” Green said.

“The two hotels we have left in Hope Cove are fully booked and so they are clearly viable businesses. It appears, as far as money making goes, that developers think it’s easier to make money from holiday flats than from hotels.”

Green said second homes were vital for the local economy, with those who spend about six months a year in the village helping to raise funds for the local lifeboat station from their permanent homes in places like Bournemouth.

But he said the sheer number of second homes had left too few residents to run village organisations and associations.

“Locals don’t think the hotels should be converted unless they can be proven to be operating at a loss and they haven’t done that,” Green said.

The South Huish neighbourhood plan, passed in May this year, states that a hotel or tourism-related site should only be deemed no longer viable and granted permission for a change of use if it can be determined through an independent assessment that the vacant unit has been actively marketed and offered at a reasonable sale price for at least two years.

The Sand Pebbles Hotel said in its planning application that there had been a steady fall in turnover from £208,000 in 2015 to £150,000 in 2019.

“It is clear that the demand for the hotel has been falling over several years,” its agent said in a report.

The South Hams planning officer agreed, adding in his final report: “It is also relevant that trends in this sector are changing, with a shift towards family accommodation that cannot be met through single hotel rooms which often do not cater for families of four and more.”

Green said he believes it is now “too late” for government legislation to save villages such as Hope Cove from being swallowed by second homes and holiday apartments.

Labour calls for PM to explain ‘advisory board’ for wealthy Tory donors

Labour has called for Boris Johnson to explain the existence of a secretive “advisory board” for wealthy Conservative donors who have received regular access to the prime minister and Rishi Sunak.

Heather Stewart www.theguardian.com 

The Financial Times reported that party chair Ben Elliot, charged with beefing up Tory fundraising efforts, had created the club for some of the party’s most generous donors, some giving £250,000 a year or more.

The Conservative party confirmed the existence of the board, and the fact that its members meet with senior party figures for “political updates”.

News that the chancellor and prime minister have been holding discussions with super-rich donors comes as the government is facing a series of key decisions on tax and spending, including how to pay for rebuilding the creaking social care system.

Elliot founded Quintessentially, a concierge service for the rich, as well as PR firm Hawthorn. The FT reported he had hosted a drinks party at one donor’s home, at which Johnson was present.

Mohamed Amersi, a businessman and Tory donor, told the paper the club was “like the very elite Quintessentially clients membership: one needs to cough up £250,000 per annum or be a friend of Ben”.

Labour party chair Anneliese Dodds said: “This appears to be less of an advisory board than a means for a select group of elite donors to gain privileged access to the prime minister and the chancellor.

“The Conservative party needs to explain what access this group had, what they have used that access to lobby for, and why they think it’s OK for there to be one rule for high-ranking Conservatives and another rule for everyone else.”

A Conservative party spokesperson said: “Donations are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with the law.

“Fundraising is a legitimate part of the democratic process. The alternative is more taxpayer-funding of political campaigning, which would mean less money for frontline services like schools, police and hospitals.”

Johnson was recently criticised for defying the House of Lords appointments commission by giving a peerage to Peter Cruddas, a former Conservative co-treasurer involved in a previous cash-for-access scandal.

Cruddas resigned as Conservative co-treasurer in 2012 after the Sunday Times claimed he was offering access to the prime minister for up to £250,000. A year later Cruddas won £180,000 in damages in a libel action, although that was subsequently reduced to £50,000 after aspects of the original allegations were upheld when the paper appealed.

Boris Johnson ‘regularly complains he can’t afford to do his job’

Claims have again surfaced that Boris Johnson often moans his £157,000 salary is not enough to get by on.

Sam Courtney-Guy metro.co.uk 

The PM had to give up several lucrative gigs when he took office including £275,000 a year to write a weekly column for the Daily Telegraph, slashing his total earnings from a reported £830,000.

Meanwhile his expenses have ramped up, including a divorce settlement with ex-wife Marina Wheeler which is rumoured to have left him ‘cleaned out’.

It is now commonplace to hear Boris complain about money problems, according to Downing Street insiders interviewed for a new investigation into the PM’s personal finances.

Mr Johnson is said to occasionally come out with tear-jerkers such as: ‘I just can’t afford to do this job’.

Rumours of his financial difficulties crystallised around the ‘Wallpapergate’ scandal earlier this year, when it emerged that a refurbishment of the Downing Street had been paid for by Tory donors and that tens of thousands of pounds of costs had not been declared – though the party insists it was registered ‘correctly’.

Although the PM eventually picked up the tab, the report, by the Financial Times, now indicates was initially advised to pay for the work with a loan.

One Downing Street staffer told the newspaper: ‘Boris would come down and complain about how much it was all going to cost.’

The recommendation is said to have come from the Conservative party’s co-chair, Ben Elliot, who, in contrast to his close friend Boris, is known in Tory circles as a fundraising virtuoso who is never short of cash or wealthy connections.

Mr Johnson then briefly explored setting up a charitable trust to make the works more financially efficient, but the idea collapsed as the flat was a private space.

The PM’s property portfolio also appears to have shrunk in recent years.

While divorce proceedings with Ms Wheeler, his second wife, were underway in 2019, the pair sold their Islington townhouse for £3.35 million.

Mr Johnson then bought a house with his future wife Carrie Symonds in Camberwell, south London, for £1.2 million.

His other properties are his Grade II cottage in Oxfordshire, which is now rented out for £4,250 a month, and a 20 per cent share of the Johnson family home in Exmoor.

Property donors provide one-quarter of funds given to Tory party

The Conservative party has received almost £18m in donations from 154 donors with property interests since Boris Johnson became UK prime minister two years ago, according to Financial Times analysis.

“Build, build, build” – Owl

Kadhim Shubber, Jim Pickard and Max Harlow www.ft.com 

The donations made by individuals and companies in the property sector — which account for a quarter of total donations made to the Tory party since July 2019 — come as Johnson pushes ahead with a contentious liberalisation of England’s planning system which critics say could benefit housing developers.

An FT analysis of data published by the Electoral Commission, the UK watchdog for election and party finance, found that at least £17.9m has been given to the Conservative party from property sector donors since July 24, 2019 — when Johnson entered Downing Street. The analysis includes all company donors and those who have given over £100,000 but excludes hundreds of individuals who gave smaller amounts, meaning the true figure could be higher.

Annual property sector donations to the Conservative party under Johnson’s predecessors — Theresa May and David Cameron — ranged from 4 per cent to 12 per cent of the party’s income in the years 2010 to 2018, according to Transparency International UK. The majority of the party’s income comes from donations.

The new FT analysis of donations includes property developers, financiers and investors, as well as hotel tycoons and residential care home developers and operators.

The most generous property donor since Johnson took power in 2019 was Sir Tony Gallagher, the billionaire property developer, who has given £1.5m through his company Countywide Developments. Gallagher was knighted in 2020 for services to land development and property. Gallagher Developments did not respond to a request for comment.

Steve Morgan, former chair of Redrow, one of the UK’s biggest housebuilders, gave £1.25m through Bridgemere UK PLC, his development and investment group. The group is controlled by a Morgan family trust.

On its website Bridgemere says it owns the single biggest stake in Redrow but does not itself do any “direct residential development in the UK”.

Ashley Lewis, Bridgemere’s finance director, said: “The Bridgemere donation to the Conservative party has nothing whatsoever to do with any possible changes to the planning system or any government policy.” He added that any suggestion to the contrary would be false.

The third biggest donor was John Stuart Bloor — owner of Bloor Homes, one of the biggest private housebuilders in the UK — who has donated £1.1m through his JS Bloor Services and Bloor Holdings entities.

A £150,000 donation in March this year by Bloor Holdings was made just 48 hours after a government minister approved a controversial housing scheme for his company, the Sunday Times recently revealed.

Bloor said: “I have never met Boris Johnson, or spoken to him or his ministers, neither have I employed lobbyists. We donate money to the Conservative party and charities because we agree with their ethos of aspiration and hope for individuals and children and expect nothing in return for these donations.”

Many Tory MPs want Boris Johnson to reconsider planning reforms, which many of them see as being to blame for their by-election defeat by the Liberal Democrats in Chesham & Amersham in June © Charlie Bibby/FT

Johnson has said he wants to “transform the sclerotic planning system” by forcing all councils to rewrite their local development plans, changes he hopes will encourage the development of 300,000 new homes every year.

However, many Tory MPs want him to reconsider the reforms, which they blame for the dramatic by-election defeat by the Liberal Democrats in Chesham & Amersham in June. Tory MP Roger Gale has called the planning bill a “developer’s charter”. 

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said: “It will come as a shock to nobody that the very same developers who have the most to gain out of these reforms are piling money into the Tory party.”

Daniel Bruce, chief executive of Transparency International, added that the government needed to show “no favours in policymaking” to those who make political donations. 

“It is clear that the current party of government increasingly relies on a relatively small number of wealthy backers often with substantial interests in the property market. This unhealthy dependence . . . increases the risk of policy becoming captured — putting the interests of donors ahead of the public.”

A Conservative party spokesman said: “Government policy is in no way influenced by donations the party receives. They are entirely separate.”

One senior Tory went further, suggesting that some of the government’s policies were unlikely to be welcomed by the property sector. “If you look at what the Tory party is doing at the moment the property industry are not exactly fans of them, stuff like not allowing you to turn out tenants if they’re not paying rent during the pandemic,” the senior Tory said.

Dominic Cummings pushed through award of £580k Covid deal to Vote Leave ally

Covid “gravy train” keeps growing – Owl

David Conn www.theguardian.com 

Dominic Cummings personally called a former colleague on the Vote Leave Brexit campaign and asked if his company would work for the government on its response to the Covid pandemic, leading to the award of a £580,000 Cabinet Office contract with no competitive process.

In an email on 20 March 2020, Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser asked the most senior civil servant responsible for contracts to sign off the budget immediately, and that if “anybody in CABOFF [the Cabinet Office] whines”, to tell them Cummings had “ordered it” from the prime minister.

The company, Hanbury Strategy, was founded by Paul Stephenson shortly after the 2016 Brexit referendum, during which he worked alongside Cummings as the Vote Leave director of communications. Hanbury also worked for the Conservative party on the 2019 general election campaign, with Cummings and Ben Warner, a data specialist who worked for Vote Leave before becoming an adviser at No 10.

The contract with Hanbury, to conduct opinion polls on the public’s view of the government’s Covid response, is subject to a legal challenge by the Good Law Project (GLP), which argues that it shows “apparent bias”, particularly given the company’s close connection to Cummings and the Conservative party.

A witness statement by Cummings and other documents including internal Cabinet Office emails were made public at a court hearing last Friday. They show that concerns were expressed among civil servants that some work Hanbury did with public money, such as polling opinion on opposition politicians, including the Labour party leader, Keir Starmer, and Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London, was carried out for the political advantage of the Conservative party.

On 26 May 2020, a Cabinet Office official emailed a colleague saying: “Hanbury measures attitudes towards political figures, which they shouldn’t do using government money, but they’ve been asked to and it’s a battle that I think is hard to fight.”

Cummings said in his witness statement that “my expert opinion” was that Hanbury would provide world-class polling work, and was the only firm who could do what was needed, start immediately and “we can trust to give their all and be honest”.

Cummings said that, on Sunday 15 March 2020, “I called many people to ask for help – epidemiologists, project managers etc. I also asked Paul Stephenson, a partner at Hanbury, if he would help with polling, data collection and modelling.”

Stephenson said they could start straight away. Cummings said in his statement: “Following my call to Paul Stephenson … I requested that Hanbury be engaged urgently to start conducting frequent large-scale polls immediately.”

On 20 March, Cummings emailed Alex Aiken, the head of government communications at the Cabinet Office, saying: “URGENT: Alex pls sign off immediately budget so Paul S can get out our large scale polls into field TODAY. Anybody in CABOFF whines tell them I ordered it from PM [OFFICIAL].”

Normal legal requirements for government contracts to be opened out to a full competitive tender were suspended due to the emergency of the pandemic, and the contract was directly awarded to Hanbury.

In a similar judicial review challenge to a direct contract – awarded to Public First, a research company with longstanding connections to Cummings – Mrs Justice O’Farrell ruled in GLP’s favour in June, saying that even in the pandemic the government should have conducted an exercise to consider other potential companies.

Aiken said in his witness statement that Cummings’ email was not “an instruction to me or my team to appoint Hanbury … this was purely an idea we were being asked to consider and I have pushed back on such requests before”. Aiken said he decided to hire Hanbury after it provided a good proposal for opinion polling, and its work was of high quality which had “left a legacy” for Cabinet Office opinion polling.

He said he would have preferred the questions about Starmer and Khan not to have been asked, but explained it was not to seek political advantage; they were testing an idea for joint press conferences with government ministers, and to “benchmark” the credibility of government spokespeople. It was “well-intentioned but ill-considered”, Aiken said. Cummings also said that polling was to see if the politicians “could help public health communication, it had no political purpose of any kind”.

A Hanbury spokesperson said the company agreed to do the work “at extremely short notice” although it involved reputational risk.

They said: “Our work contributed to what was a hugely successful public health communications campaign which undoubtedly prevented many deaths. For that reason, if we had to make the choice again we would still agree to step up and help in this time of crisis.”

The Cabinet Office has appealed against the judgment in the Public First case, and is also defending the GLP’s challenge to the Hanbury contract, arguing it was awarded lawfully.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “In response to an unprecedented global pandemic, the government acted with urgency to undertake vital research into public attitudes and behaviours. This research shaped crucial public health messages, helping us to protect the NHS and save lives.”

NHS Covid-19 app pings rise by over 70,000 to new record

One has to conclude that there must still be a high level of Covid in circulation. – Owl

The number of self-isolation alerts sent by the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales has risen to a new record of 689,313 in the week up to 21 July.

BBC News www.bbc.co.uk

The figures represent an increase of over 70,000 compared with the previous week.

But the rate of increase was lower than the previous week, rising by 11% compared to 17%.

If you are “pinged” by the app you are advised – but not legally obliged – to self-isolate for 10 days.

However the government has said it is crucial for people to do so.

Number of check ins to venues on the app is down

In recent weeks, there has been widespread criticism that the app has been sending out so many alerts that hundreds of thousands of people are self-isolating and missing work, causing widespread disruption.

It led to the government allowing some key workers – such as those working in food distribution – to be exempt from having to self-isolate if pinged. Instead they have to take daily tests.

There are currently 260 testing sites open for these workers, Downing Street said on Thursday – and they are working to set up another 800. After that, 1,200 more sites will be opened “over the coming days”.

From 16 August, all fully-vaccinated people will not need to self-isolate if pinged by the app, although they will be encouraged to book a Covid PCR test.

The impact on businesses has resulted in calls for the 16 August deadline to be brought forward.

Number of pings rising

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders is asking for urgent assistance to exempt staff pinged by the NHS Covid app saying pings are affecting production.

Many in the hospitality industry also complained of shortages as staff had to self-isolate. Some bar staff have told the BBC that they’ve lost a lot of money by missing shifts, while others say they have been told to delete the app by their manager.

The app alert is advisory only and not enforceable by law, unlike a phone call from the NHS Test and Trace team.

Latest data from Test and Trace shows that 14% of cases transferred to contact-tracers in the week to 21 July were not reached and so were unable to provide details of close contacts.

This is the highest proportion of people not reached since October last year.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van Tam said separate figures from Public Health England showed the vaccines have now prevented 22 million Covid cases and 60,000 deaths. He added it was “truly massive”.

Analysis box by Rory Cellan-Jones, technology correspondent

If you were looking for evidence that the “pingdemic” is over you will struggle to find it in these statistics. The figure of nearly 690,000 contact tracing alerts – or pings – is a new record, up 11% on the previous week. They were triggered by nearly 148,000 positive test results entered in the app, up 25%.

Despite the anecdotal evidence of people switching off or getting rid of the app, there is no sign yet of mass deletions.

But there are a few straws in the wind suggesting things might be changing. The rate of increase in pings slowed, and the number of alerts triggered by each positive test result was down. That suggests that people who later became infected had fewer close contacts – either because they were socialising less or because those they encountered did not have the app.

In the week when restrictions in England were relaxed so that venues did not need to record visitors’ details, check-ins via the app were sharply lower.

As they find they don’t need it to check in, more people may decide the app is more trouble than it’s worth.

But the team which designed it believes the NHS Covid-19 app is changing behaviour in useful ways – even if someone ignores a ping’s instruction to self isolate they may become more cautious, and anyone who has a holiday planned may be nudged into staying at home for a few days beforehand rather than having their plans spoiled by an alert.

At first, it was criticised for being ineffective, in recent weeks it’s been accused of disrupting thousands of businesses, but its designers believe this experimental technology is finally proving that it can be a useful weapon in controlling the pandemic.

Breakdown of where the self isolation alerts come from

After a week of falling cases the number of people testing positive for coronavirus rose on Wednesday, when 27,734 new daily cases were reported.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The truth is, when it comes to case numbers no one really knows where they are going to go next”.

Science Park creates 100 new jobs with huge new building

This must be in addition to the 150 jobs expected for the Ada Lovelace building started in February 2020 (100 jobs). Yet there is still room for the 300 space car park. – Owl

Chloe Parkman http://www.devonlive.com

Exeter Science Park’s new £5m ‘Grow-Out’ building is set to house up to 100 jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine sectors (STEMM), helping to drive the South West’s economic recovery post-Covid.

Funding for the £5m project, which is due to for completion in November, was secured in August 2020, from the Government’s ‘Getting Building Fund’ and allocated to Exeter Science Park by the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP) from their £35.4 million share of the national pot.

The 14,000 sq ft building has been designed to provide flexible office and laboratory space for up to 11 firms. It will be net-zero carbon for operational energy and BREEAM Excellent, a method used to assess its sustainability.

Construction work began at the Park just five months ago and the project has seen the fastest turnaround of any building scheme undertaken there.

Dr Sally Basker, CEO of Exeter Science Park, said: “Getting to this point has required outstanding collaboration.

“Everyone has played their part and the hard work of colleagues at Exeter Science Park, Morgan Sindall, NPS South West Limited and the Southern Construction Framework, has really made this happen.

“This quick turnaround has seen us save up to 33% of the time involved, compared to a conventional build programme.

“Exeter Science Park helps innovative STEMM companies to deliver extraordinary growth and these are exactly the kinds of businesses that will help accelerate economic recovery and drive the economy forward as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.

It was one of the first Getting Building Fund projects to begin construction in the area and this was made possible thanks to collaboration between client, consultants, contractors and designers.

Within a few months of funding being secured, detailed designs were drawn up, a planning application submitted and contractor Morgan Sindall procured through the Southern Construction Framework and appointed in October 2020.

Nearly three quarters of the men and women involved during the construction phase are from the Greater Exeter area.

Brian Rice, Morgan Sindall Construction Area Director, said: “The Grow-Out Space will provide a place for innovation-led businesses to thrive. Its design and unerring focus on sustainability sets a new precedent for the standards fast-growing companies can expect.

“As with all of our schemes, we have looked to boost the regional economy by routing work through the local supply chain wherever possible.

“Our team and project partners have worked collaboratively and tirelessly to ensure this project is delivered quickly. The Southern Construction Framework has been a key enabler; working with Exeter Science Park to reduce lead times significantly.

“We’re excited to see this key asset for the region’s knowledge economy coming to life and to mark this topping out milestone on schedule.”

David Ralph, Chief Executive of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “It’s fantastic to see this innovative new facility preparing to open at Exeter Science Park.

“It will provide valuable innovation space for STEMM businesses, supporting them to grow and boosting employment for the city and region.

“We’re delighted to support it with funding from HotSW LEP’s Getting Building Fund. Exeter Science Park is a thriving business location and has an important role to play as we look to rebuild local economies and build back better with a cleaner and more inclusive economy.”

Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Luke Hall MP, said : “I’m delighted that £5 million Government investment has helped the construction of the Exeter Science Park Grow-out Building.

“By creating up to 100 new jobs and helping to attract further investment, this project will support the long-term prosperity of Devon and bring many opportunities to the community.”

You can stay up to date on the top news near you with DevonLive’s FREE newsletters – enter your email address at the top of the page or go here.

The Grow-out Building 3 has been designed by architects LHC Design, working for NPS South West Property Consultants, and procured using the Southern Construction Framework.

Morgan Sindall Construction’s supply chain includes own design team includes Grainge Architects, SDS mechanical & engineering consultants, and structural engineer Clarke Bond.

Exeter Science Park Limited is the Park developer and has four shareholders: Devon County Council, the University of Exeter, East Devon District Council and Exeter City Council.

Small East Devon houses could harm athletes

East Devon District Council (EDDC) could be preventing rugby stars of the future from achieving their potential because new houses in the area are too small.

Joe Ives, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

A councillor leading a campaign to make East Devon homes larger, Councillor Peter Faithful, also fears for the future of basketball players.

The independent councillor for Ottery St Mary told a council meeting: “With younger residents getting taller by the year I feel it is our duty to build residential units large enough for the next generation to live in. 

“If we want to support our rugby players and our basketball players the least we can offer is rooms large enough for them to live in.”

So he’s proposed a motion so that will stop housebuilders cramming as many dwellings as possible on new developments, leading to homes too small for comfort.

Cllr Faithfull said that because of a lack of a policy, the council can’t reject residential planning applications based on size. And he argued that landlords take advantage by building more homes than there is space for, in the interests of profitability.

Cllr Faithful said: “Within my own ward I know of three applications which should have been rejected due to them being under the nationally recognised size.”

In 2015 the government published space standards but left it to councils to enforce them through policies in their local plans.

Despite attempts by some members of the council, no action has yet been taken in East Devon to put these standards in place.

With 41 votes in favour, the motion was recommended for approval to officers. This temporary decision-making framework was launched on Monday after the council decided to make its meetings virtual again because of fears over current covid risks. For the time being,  senior East Devon Council officers now have to rubber-stamp councillor’s recommendations.

Councillor Mike Allen (Conservative, Honiton St. Michael’s), who supported the motion, said lack of action had resulted in some houses being built to substandard sizes, something, he argues, “should never have happened.” 

Seconding the motion, Councillor Vicky Johns (Independent Progressive Group, Ottery St Mary)  said: “It’s a shame that developers do get away with doing this kind of thing and hopefully if we do put the policy place it will nip in the bud.”

But Councillor Faithfull’s worries for the future of British sport if East Devon District Council keeps allowing small homes may be mitigated now that the motion is agreed. The council will seek to implement the national space standards as part of its updated local plan (2021-2040) which is currently being drafted.

Beach-goers spotted lounging under crumbling cliffs

A number of beach-goers have been pictured sitting directly under East Devon’s crumbling cliffs, despite an enormous sign warning them of the potential dangers.

Chloe Parkman www.devonlive.com (see online article for photo)

The photograph was taken last week near Sandy Bay as many people across the county raced to the coast in order to take advantage of the heatwave.

Beaches across the county were packed full as temperatures hit highs of around 30C in some areas of Devon.

The image which shows the beach-goers located right next to a yellow sign which reads: “DANGER – beware of falling rocks” has sparked upset in local residents to the area.

Following the scene, eye-witness Raymond Loades, said: “[This happened] at Sandy Bay Wednesday (July, 21).]

“Having seen this every time we go there for the last five or six years I felt it was time to try and get something done as when I usually point out what the notice says, the majority of the replies are unprintable.”

Raymond says that he posted the image on a local community Facebook page, raising awareness regarding the unstable cliffs.

In response to the photograph, one person wrote: “If people can’t read a simple notice surely we should leave them to the consequences. Maybe a lucky day.”

Another said: “That buggy right near the danger sign is a shocker too!”

Over the course of the year there have been a number of cliff falls along along East Devon’s coastline, particularly in Sidmouth.

DevonLive has reported on numerous cliff falls in Sidmouth, with four taking place last month alone.

A spokesperson for East Devon District Council said: “Cliff falls are a natural and unpredictable occurrence along the East Devon coast, this is because the rock from which the cliffs are formed is soft and therefore prone to rock falls and landslides, which can happen at any time, although heavy rainfall can trigger incidences.

“East Devon’s cliffs are a key part of the scenery that attracts visitors to the area, however the cliffs pose a very real danger and caution must be exercised when visiting them.

“Rock falls and landslides are unpredictable events, occurring without warning, and can cause serious injury or death.

“Warning signs can be found in areas managed by us.

“The absence of a sign does not indicate there is no risk and you should always take care around the cliffs of East Devon as all are made of soft rock and pose a cliff fall danger.

“Heavy rainfall can trigger cliff falls – but cliff falls are a normal occurrence along the East Devon coastline.

“It is good practice when on the beach to stay well clear of the cliff base and to keep an eye out for fresh fall material or water running down the cliffs, which may indicate an area that is weakened and loose. If in doubt, don’t walk under or near the cliffs.

“The Coastguard advises that beach users stay at least the height of the cliff away. For example, if a cliff is 20 metres high, a distance of 20 metres should be kept.

“If a cliff fall does occur and you suspect that someone has been injured, call 999 immediately.

“Do not explore recent cliff falls as there is a risk of further falls. A comprehensive guide to staying safe around beaches and cliffs is available from the Coastguard.

“We complete annual cliff inspections at sites we believe pose a risk in our land ownership/area of responsibility.

“This includes sites at Beer, Budleigh Salterton, Seaton and Sidmouth, as well as an inland cliff site in Exmouth at Plantation Walk.

“These inspections include removing loose material and additional safety works such as installation of rock netting.

“If you notice a recent cliff fall or any issues with our stabilisation interventions at any of the above locations, please get in touch with our Customer Service Centre.

“While this work aims to reduce the risk of incidents, we cannot guarantee incidents will not occur at these locations.

“We therefore recommend that where possible, you enjoy the cliffs from a distance and do not climb or sit directly beneath them.”

[Owl received eyewitness reports of a cliff fall in Budleigh a week ago towards Sandy Bay]

Return to online meetings thanks to progressive alliance

(Which has become even more progressive, see below – Owl)

A view from East Devon Council Leader Paul Arnott (Exmouth Journal and sister publications)

It seems to happen every year, a period of scorchingly hot weather followed by a roof-leak-causing deluge. So often, August then turns out to be an absolute bust until, just as all hope is almost lost, September proves itself yet again to be the greatest month.

So keep the faith, East Devonian. I suspect we’ll all need our brollies in the coming weeks, but it is far from over. Revival is always just around the corner. Which brings me, with an inelegant crashing of the gears, to the politics of East Devon.

Now, despite being Leader of the council, I do try to spare this newspaper’s readers from too much of the hard stuff politically. Any local, or indeed national politician, with a decent nose is aware that most people mainly want to pay their taxes and see the services they have been promised being delivered. Local politics can be alienating.

However, East Devonian, you are a more interesting lot than that. A few months ago after the county council elections I bored you with the fact that the Conservatives had taken something over 22,000 votes across our district (yet took 10 seats at county) while the non-Conservatives managed around 29,000 votes (for two seats as it happens. Something awry there.)

What this suggests is that the old adage that you could put a blue rosette on a donkey in East Devon and it would get elected is not the sure proposition of yore. However, to turn what is clearly an interesting and probably centrist electorate – with a strong inclination to support social housing/the NHS/progressive social attitudes – the non-Tories need to get their act together. Now, I am not claiming that the cavalry is coming over the hill, but perhaps I can hear the sound of distant hooves. Because a few weeks ago at a by-election in Honiton a highly capable and serious young Labour councillor was elected to district, joining up with an existing Labour councillor to make two on the district council – historic.

After some friendly discussions in the following weeks, this Labour twosome decided – with permission of their party – to become part of the Democratic Alliance, the political group I lead at the council. In plain terms, their party allegiance is and will always be Labour, but their group is the Democratic Alliance.

There they now share an umbrella with my own party, the Independent East Devon Alliance, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and an excellent Independent from Exmouth.

I want to be cautious here: one swallow does not make a spring. Yes, there is a cry across the country for the non-Tory interest to show leadership rather than navel-gazing, and perhaps this example of genial co-operation presages that. People talk of “progressive alliances”, but you have to be careful there.

I can already imagine the twitching, Twitter fingers of some of the more febrile local Tories barking out that “I always said Arnott was worse than Corbyn”. I fully expect the accusation that because we have embraced two highly talented young councillors wearing the Labour badge then we are rolling out the bright red carpet to Russian tanks and Chinese cyber-warriors.

However, on Monday this week progressive thought bore its first fruit. The Tories reflexively opposed the eminently sensible proposal – their own government having betrayed their promise to legislate for this – to return to Zoom meetings, just until January. Despite the Tories’ Johnsonian rhetoric on behalf of the Me First party, all the other councillors present voted in the interest of staff and member safety to return to Zoom. This calm decision is greatly to the credit of our new council chair, Ian Thomas, and the officers who helped him with the legalities. Parish and Town Councils of East Devon, take note … could you do the same?

A sensible solution to a huge problem – that’s what a progressive alliance can enable.

[Owl notes from the EDDC website that Cllr Paul Millar is now the other Labour councillor referred to above.] 

Second homes – an idea from France

“A council surcharge of up to 60 per cent is being imposed on second homeowners in some areas in an attempt to prompt them to sell up.”

Tax shock for Britons with second homes in cities and resorts in France

Adam Sage, Paris www.thetimes.co.uk 

Britons with second homes in cities and resorts in France are facing local tax rises after becoming caught up in a drive to lower property prices in holiday destinations.

A council surcharge of up to 60 per cent is being imposed on second homeowners in some areas in an attempt to prompt them to sell up.

Mayors hope it will increase the number of houses and flats on the market and reverse price rises. Critics accuse them of using second homeowners to top up budgets with tax increases of several hundred euros a year.

A total of 86,000 Britons have second homes in France, according to the French National Institute for Economic Studies and Statistics.

Those with properties in rural France will be unaffected by the surcharge, which can only be imposed in areas with housing “tensions” under a 2015 French law.

But the 8,600 with second homes in Alpine ski resorts are likely to be hit, as are those with properties in Biarritz and other parts of the southwest coast, Nice, Lyons and Bordeaux.

Anne Hidalgo, Paris’s Socialist party mayor, put a 60 per cent surcharge on the tax paid by owners of the 126,000 second homes in the city in 2017. The average council tax bill in France is about €1,000 a year.

She claims the measure has forced 5 per cent of second homeowners to sell. Other councils have adopted similar policies, such as Lyons, Bordeaux and resorts on the Atlantic coast.

The move is more aimed at Parisians, who have been buying second homes in record numbers since last year’s lockdowns. They are accused of making housing unaffordable for locals. In the French Basque country several estate agents have been vandalised with graffiti that says: “Parisians, go home.”

County council leader re-elected as voice for South West

All talk and no action? – Owl


Devon County Council leader John Hart has been re-elected as the voice of the South West.

He was voted in unopposed as the chairman of South West Councils for a fifth two-year term.

The organisation represents 33 county, unitary and district councils stretching from Cornwall to Gloucestershire and Wiltshire as well as police, fire and rescue services, national parks and town and parish councils.

Mr Hart said: “It’s a tremendous privilege to have been re-elected to chair South West Councils.

“This region has many issues in common, with the economic recovery from the pandemic as our most urgent task alongside support for our vulnerable residents and our vital tourism, hospitality and food and farming sectors.

“We must also stimulate our economy by improving communications with the rest of the country, ensuring fast broadband coverage for our rural areas at an affordable price and promoting greater skills and employment for our young people.

“We need to present a united front to the Government to ensure we do not remain the poor relation when it comes to funding and that we get a fair share of cash for levelling-up.

Backing for West Hill councillor’s bid to save East Devon trees

East Devon District Council (EDDC)  looks set to take a tougher stand against ‘unscrupulous’ developers cutting down trees before planning applications are submitted.


The authority has asked for an outline report on a new tree strategy to inform discussions an ‘overview’ committee will hold in October, writes Local Democracy Reporter Joe Ives.

A motion by West Hill and Aylesbeare representative Councillor Jess Bailey said East Devon’s trees are important for wildlife, capturing carbon, enhancing wellbeing and preventing flooding and erosion.

And a full council meeting on Tuesday, July 27, was broadly in favour of the motion – passed with 38 votes in favour –  but some members had different ideas on how to approach the problem of tree felling.

Cllr Bailey’s motion called for EDDC to recognise the ‘immense contribution’ trees make to the area.

She called for the council to agree a ‘robust’ policy which proactively makes protection orders in a bid to tackle ‘unscrupulous’ developers removing trees ahead of submitting planning applications.

Cllr Bailey also requested a  detailed, district-wide report identifying ways of enhancing and improving the existing treescape be commissioned.

She called on EDDC to implement a community engagement scheme to support town and parish councils in protecting and enhancing trees ‘at the most local level’.

“This council acknowledges that these proposals will increase the workload of the tree officers and additional tree officer capacity will be required in order to give effect to this motion,” added the motion.

“The council will use its general fund balance in the current year and will commit to ongoing costs being met in the 2022/23 budget round.”

Exmouth Brixington ward member Cllr Maddy Chapman argued that EDDC should take a firmer hand in protecting trees – issuing preservation orders in ‘no man’s land’ areas.

She added that, right now, people are cutting down trees ‘and just getting away with it’.

Cllr Fabian King, who represents the Exe Valley and personally looks after trees on his land, agreed with the motion’s sentiment.

But he warned of the dangers of red tape if the same regulations for towns were to be deployed in rural areas where farmers have more work to do with tree husbandry.

Cllr King said: “I understand the fervour that’s going on with those who are bothered about trees being cut down in town.

“Please think about the rural communities and farmers doing their good work as they have to.”

Sidmouth Town representative Cllr Denise Bickley, the authority’s assistant portfolio holder for climate action and emergency response agreed with the motion’s emphasis on a rapid plan.

She said: “This is something that cannot be put off now. It does need to be pulled together very quickly but I would also suggest that we want the best policy possible.”

Cllr Geoff Jung, ward member for Woodbury and Lympstone and portfolio holder for coast, country and environment, added: “We’re going the right direction. It’s not going as fast as a lot of people would like, but it’s a massive issue.”

Winslade Park: When Is a Public Consultation Not a Public Consultation?

From a Correspondent:

Is This How Community Involvement in Planning Development Should Work in East Devon? 

The principle guiding community engagement is to ensure that those who will be affected by a development have a genuine opportunity to have their constructive ideas, as well as their opinions taken on board – but the reality is something quite different!

A very few number of Clyst St Mary residents (actually only 21 people) are in the process of being invited by Avalon Planners (acting on behalf of Burrington Estates) to view the Reserved Matters detailed plans for the Winslade Park 79 new homes (39 on green field space historically protected by the Local and Neighbourhood Plans and 40 x four-storey apartments opposite a Grade II* Listed Manor House).

However, this Public Consultation has been significantly limited by Avalon (allegedly due to Covid) to only three one-hour sessions tomorrow afternoon, on 29th July 2021, from 14.00 hrs –18.00 hrs with a restricted allowance of only 7 residents able to attend at each one hour session, resulting in the grand total of 21 residents being selected by Avalon (on a first come first serve basis), with the chosen few only having 19 hours’ notice to apply for one of the sessions!

Those lucky enough to play this lottery had previously been earmarked by a very specific Burringtons’ leaflet drop that included only those existing homes that are directly adjacent to the 79 proposed new housing developments. Personal names and addresses were mandatory for Avalon’s future selection of attendees to view these detailed plans.

Furthermore, residents have been told to only apply for one person per household to attend a session, leaving many working couples/families unable to attend (no evening sessions are provided!) and, of course, this is the first week of the school holidays – so many residents have opted this week for a holiday away from their homes, which further limits the numbers able to attend!

Since there were around 200 objections to the Outline Application for these homes -only 21 attendees for a Reserved Matters Consultation seems a miniscule proportion of the resident numbers who would wish to view and comment on these plans! 

In December 2020, EDDC Planning Committee approved the entire Hybrid Outline Application (20/1001/MOUT), specifically praising the Developers’ offers of substantial economic benefits within their sizeable commercial/employment proposals also contained in the overall masterplan. 

These economic offers resulted in the Committee ignoring the protection policies in both their own Local and this village’s Neighbourhood Plans – but post-Covid will these economic proposals ever reach such high expectations

Hopefully the detailed plans should be displayed online at a later date for residents to view – so that ‘ticks the transparency box’ doesn’t it?  Well….No…. unfortunately it doesn’t   – because many people cannot negotiate ‘the minefield’ that is the EDDC Planning website, and many online images of plans are often indistinct, vague, complicated and confusing for laypeople, who wish to be confident that they fully comprehend the scale, massing and height of the buildings that will overlook them! 

As the entire Winslade Park masterplan proposals result in a very large-scale development in this historic, rural village – the Planning Committee recommended that Burringtons should keep the local community fully informed of their future plans by issuing an Informative Condition on the Outline Approval – but with such restrictions being imposed on the number of attendees at this Public Consultation – Is the local authority steering this development or is this another Developer-led scheme?  

Perhaps, these Developers are trying to severely restrict the numbers of attendees at a Public Consultation to limit public comments on their proposals that could result in them needing to make modifications to their plans before submission to EDDC – or perhaps they are so concerned with our health and wellbeing that they are going to such great lengths to protect us from Covid and keep us all safe in this village?

You can make up your own minds! 

The Guardian view on the future of high streets: let communities decide

“From 1 August, changed rules on commercial-to-residential conversions will allow landlords and developers to swiftly turn vacant shops and businesses into houses and flats. This deregulatory move will make it far more difficult for local authorities to plan for the precarious post-Covid future of town centres, and for communities to hold them to account.”

Editorial www.theguardian.com

One of the pleasures of post-lockdown life has been the chance to go back to familiar businesses and high street shops, putting some much-needed cash into tills. Though often hit by the long-term shift to online retail – which the pandemic, of course, accelerated – such places continue to knit the social fabric together in vital ways. But despite all the local goodwill and the revival of trade, for some much-loved ports of call it may be a case of too little, too late. According to a review published this month, Britain’s high streets are threatened by a “tsunami of closures”, thanks to the debt taken on by small business owners during the past year-and-a-half.

The report concludes that “urgent support is required” if a trail of destruction is not to unfold, when loans are called in and tax breaks end. Unfortunately, the government is about to make matters worse, not better. Next week, Whitehall plans to unleash a developers’ free-for-all that threatens to irrevocably change the character and texture of town centres and high streets across the country.

From 1 August, changed rules on commercial-to-residential conversions will allow landlords and developers to swiftly turn vacant shops and businesses into houses and flats. This deregulatory move will make it far more difficult for local authorities to plan for the precarious post-Covid future of town centres, and for communities to hold them to account. In an exasperated submission to the housing, communities and local government committee, London councils warned MPs of “a disruptive free-for-all, with short-term financial considerations deciding the future use of vacant high street buildings, damaging the fabric and coherence of our town centres”. As the value of property continues to boom, particularly in the south, there are insidious implications for those outlets managing to cling on. The Association of Town and City Management told the MPs that the new rules could, in effect, “create a licence for the eviction of businesses in favour of residential”.

The government claims that commercial-to-residential conversions can allow developers to respond to changing times. It is also suggested that an influx of new locals will boost footfall for those businesses able to withstand the triple whammy of online retail, Covid debt and Whitehall deregulation. The likelier dynamic, in too many places, is terminal decline as high streets and urban hubs are “pepper-potted” with residential property, losing their identity and ceasing to attract people in viable numbers.

Imaginative plans for our high streets and town centres are undoubtedly needed. Indeed, some of that thinking is taking place. Armed with cash from the government’s Future High Streets Fund, the local council in Stockton on Tees is planning a spectacular reconfiguration of the town centre, including a riverside park, leisure centre and library. High Wycombe council, the recipient of an £11.7m grant from the same source, plans to acquire vacant shops and make them available at affordable rents to independent businesses. But handing virtual carte blanche to developers to replace commercial premises with residential property undermines strategic thinking and empowers the market at the expense of local communities. In the words of the MP Clive Betts, chair of the housing committee, it will “fatally undermine the role of local authorities in shaping their … public spaces and buildings”.

Mr Betts has called on Robert Jenrick, the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, to think again. He should do so.

Science Park space set to become a car park

Does this mean that planned car parking spaces on the Science Park now exceed expected demand?

With no dedicated bus service, obvious difficulties for disabled users and potential problems over who has priority to park, this looks very much like a hastily thought through “Plan B”.

Is this what we sacrificed good agricultural land for? – Owl

Exeter’s new ‘park and change’ centre opens

Radio Exe News www.radioexe.co.uk

The £2.24 million facility on the eastern edge of the city has 300 parking bays, enabling people to park up and travel the final part of their journey into Exeter or the Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone by bus, car sharing or switching to cycle.

A shared footpath and cyclepath connects to the growing E4 cycle route, which, when complete, will link the east of Exeter with the city centre.

The first 2.5 miles of the route towards the city is in place, keeping walkers and cyclists separate from traffic on a level route with minimal crossings. The route also extends east as a shared use path towards Cranbrook, linking to major employment sites such as SkyPark, Amazon, Lidl and Exeter Airport.

High-security cycle lockers are available to rent and a Co-Bikes electric bike hire dock will be installed later this year.

Although the site itself won’t offer a dedicated bus service, people will be able to use local bus services passing the site. These options are:

  • CONNexIONS 56 service to the city centre and St David’s Station via Heavitree Road from the bus stop on south side of Honiton Road. Services to Exeter Airport and Exmouth use the bus stop on the same side of the road as the Park and Change site
  • 4/4A/4B to the city centre via Heavitree Road from the bus stop on south side of Honiton Road, as well as to Cranbrook, Honiton and Axminster from the bus stop on the same side of the road as the Park and Change site
  • K bus service to the city centre via Pinhoe Road from the stop on Anning Drive

Electric vehicle chargepoints are also planned to be installed at the site from September as part of the County Council’s DELETTI project, which aims to expand the network of chargepoints across Devon to incentivise uptake of electric vehicles.

Councillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council cabinet member for climate change, environment and transport, said: “We need to reduce car journeys across the county and particularly into Exeter, and the park and change site will help relieve congestion on the Moor Lane roundabout and the A30 Honiton Road approach to junction 29 of the M5.”

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council cabinet member with responsibility for cycling, said: “We’re continuing to invest in establishing a network of high-quality walking and cycling routes to achieve our ambitious target of 50% of all Exeter journeys to work and education to be made by foot or bicycle by 2030.”

The project is funded through National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF), Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone and developer contributions.

It will open from 6:30am to 8pm Mondays to Saturdays and is closed on Sundays and bank holidays, and will be locked out of hours.

Killer road white lines botched – Four Elms

One Conservative councillor calls it a “cock up” over claims that the minutes don’t seem to correspond to recollections that Four Elms would get double white lines and a 40 mph speed limit. If so, would it be Councillor Stuart Hughes’s cock up? He is Devon County Council cabinet member for highway management and chair of East Devon Highways and Traffic Orders Committee. Will there now have to be more consultations?

But could it simply be that double white lines cost more? – Owl

Philip Churm, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

A number of councillors in East Devon have asked the committee responsible for roads to take urgent action in order to improve safety at an accident black spot near Newton Poppleford. 

Repainted – but not well. Four Elms Hill markings suggest overtaking allowed

Members of East Devon Highways and Traffic Orders Committee (HATOC) were discussing Four Elms Hill, the A3052 Exeter to Sidmouth road, after it was suggested that the county council had failed to act on a decision made in July 2019 to paint double white lines along the Four Elms stretch. 

The move would have prevented vehicles from overtaking.  

Earlier this month lines were repainted, but the lining included stretches of broken white lines instead, indicating overtaking with caution is allowed.  

Chair of Newton Poppleford and Harpford Parish Council, Cllr Chris Burhop (Newton Popp. Ward) expressed his concern at the HATOC meeting.  

“The road was duly closed for four nights and the public were told it was going to be repainted with double white lines. 

“The expectation was double white lines and what do we get? We actually get a scheme that doesn’t – believe it or not – even reflect this because they’ve made short dashed lines with overtaking advisable instead of the long dashed lines that were there previously.

“So they’ve actually made the situation worse not better. And the people of Newton Poppleford are, at best, confused and at worst furious.”

An accident occurred on the stretch of road on 21 July but exact details are not available and it is unclear whether it was caused by the concerns outlined by the councillors.

Vice-chair of East Devon Council Cllr Val Ranger (Independent East Devon Alliance, Newton Poppleford and Harpford Ward) also expressed her worries about the road markings.   

She said: “So there’s great frustration on the part of residents, parish councillors, district councillors, Devon county councillors and me about the poor job done on Four Elms Hill.

“There are accidents along the entire length of the hill not just certain hotspots.”

Cllr Ranger suggested that Devon County Council may not know the extent of the dangers because only serious injuries or ‘at fault’ incidents are recorded.  However, she said local police were more likely to understand the true number of accidents.  

“Whatever happened to doing what matters? Why would you shut a major road and only do a half-baked job?” Cllr Ranger added. 

“What is required is a proper survey of all road markings from the base of the hill including the red warning lines and the slow signs which are in dire need of refreshing.  

“It needs double white lines up the entire hill because all drivers understand what they mean.”

During the 25-minute discussion, officers suggested a further report would be needed to consider the issues involved.

Cllr Christine Channon (Conservative, Exmouth & Budleigh Salterton Coastal Division) suggested more urgent action was required. “We can’t wait for any reports of this, that and the other. This was wrong,” she said. “They’ve not followed up what we recommended. And so consequently somebody needs to get down and sort it out PDQ.”

Other councillors reminded the committee of the meeting in July 2019 in which, they said, specific demands were made. 

Cllr Phillip Twiss (Conservative, Feniton & Honiton Division) said:  “I am under no confusion whatsoever that I voted to support a 40 mph speed limit on that stretch of hill. 

“I don’t have any illusion whatsoever about what I voted for and what that meeting was voting for – as far as I recall unanimously – which was 40 mph speed limit and double white lines. 

“To my mind – put simply – this is a cock up it’s a mistake and it needs to be rectified now.”

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council cabinet member for highway management and chair of East Devon HATOC, said: “The 40 mph speed limit was implemented as agreed by the HATOC committee in 2019/20, and although the new lining has been installed in accordance with the minutes of the July 2019 HATOC, unfortunately it doesn’t reflect the committee’s understanding of what had been agreed.

“The committee would prefer double white lines where both lines are solid, to remove overtaking manoeuvres from this section of road. A safety audit still has to be carried out on the new lining scheme and we will have to consult again with police before a ‘double solid’ white line system can be introduced.”

Stop Cranbrook expansion plans. Enough is enough!

Two years ago, a group of residents in Whimple set up an action group called POWR (Protect Our Whimple & Rockbeare) to help local communities to push back on proposed plans to expand Cranbrook ever closer to their village boundaries. POWR has now lunched a petition asking EDDC to finish the development they started and stop over-development of Cranbrook.


Cranbrook new town is growing at an alarming rate. Proposals are currently under consultation to extend Cranbrook into four new expansion areas – Bluehayes, Treasbeare, Cobdens and The Grange. It is proposed that the four areas will accommodate over 4,000 new homes, three primary schools, two neighbourhood centres, employment land, two gypsy and traveller sites and open space and sports provision. Whilst we understand the requirement to provide housing for people, it does not need to be all in this one area. This additional development will see significant changes to around 1200 acres of land that will change the landscape in this area of East Devon beyond all recognition, at a time when we are already witnessing a very real shortage of land for food production and trees to help fight climate change globally. 

Cranbrook is already a large and growing development with a vibrant community, but residents have been badly let down by East Devon District Council leaving the roll-out of the Town Centre to the Developers who have failed to provide the thriving Town Centre with a supermarket, shops, amenities and work spaces that was promised from the outset. Now that EDDC has accepted the latest offer from East Devon New Community Partners and taken control of some of this next phase of development for Cranbrook, the Council must step up and make this a reality for the many residents living there. It is a crying shame that it has taken this long and that the ambitious plans have been scaled back compared to what they were.

A Governance Review has recently been called for that will look at boundary changes to our local parishes so that more land comes under the control of Cranbrook Town Council, eating away at our village borders. Whilst the plans for the expansion of Cranbrook are still under review, it is rather premature and presumptive to be looking at expanding the boundaries of Cranbrook further and into neighbouring parishes. 

We, the people of East Devon, have the right to make ourselves heard and the power to effect change if we come together as one voice. We demand that Mark Williams, Chief Executive of East Devon District Council and his colleagues, oppose any expansion of Cranbrook beyond the existing town boundary until it has been properly consulted on by appointed representatives of Cranbrook, Clyst Valley, Broadclyst, Whimple and Rockbeare. Any Governance Review should be shelved whilst the expansion plans are still under consultation.

Enough is enough!

Please sign and share this petition and demand that East Devon District Council listen to the many voices crying out for the mass over-development of our local area to stop!

Increase in East Devon Covid cases, no further deaths, and cases rising across Devon

These case rates relate to the seven days to July 18. Last night, BBC Spotlight indicated that rates for the following week show a mixed picture with some South West counties continuing to rise some starting to level off. The message is: there is a lot of Covid circulating.

Joe Ives, Local Democracy Reporter exmouth.nub.news  27 July

Covid cases have increased in every part of Devon, with figures almost doubling in the last week in Plymouth, rising by 1126.

The case rate in the area is now 188 per cent higher than the UK average. The rise means almost one in 1,000 people in Plymouth currently have the virus.

There were also huge spikes in some of Devon’s districts, with cases going up by 125 per cent in Torridge (189 new cases) and 125 per cent in North Devon (547 new cases).

Teignbridge saw the smallest increase in rates of infection, with numbers going up by around 16 per cent (77 new cases).

Overall in Devon, including Plymouth and Torbay, 6,740 people caught the virus in the seven-day period.

Case rates rose by 1245 (60 per cent) in the Devon County Council area and by 382 (65 per cent) in Torbay.


Thirty-five patients were admitted to Derriford hospital in Plymouth the week of the latest data (to Sunday 18 July)

Seventeen patients were admitted to the RD&E, while 15 patients were admitted to Torbay Hospital. Two more are being cared for in North Devon.


No new deaths within 28 days of a positive covid test were recorded in Devon in the past week.

The total number of people who have died within 28 days of positive covid test remains at 1,046 in Devon, including 206 in Plymouth and 156 in Torbay.

129,044 people have now died within 28 days of a positive covid test in the UK, that number rising by 306 in the last seven days.


86 per cent of adults in the Devon County Council area have now had their first dose of a vaccine, while 70 per cent have had both.

85 per cent of adults have had their first jab in Torbay, while 72 per cent have had both doses.

There’s a big gap in the number of adults who have had both their first and second doses in Plymouth, with the numbers sitting at 82 per cent and 63 per cent respectively.

The UK average is currently at 88 per cent for one dose and just under 70 per cent for both doses.