Exmouth’s beautiful new sensory garden now officially open

Exmouth’s new ‘sensory garden’ has officially opened, providing a relaxing and colourful outdoor space for local residents and visitors to enjoy.

Philippa Davies exmouth.nub.news 

It’s been created in the sunken seafront gardens next to the Pavilion, in a project led by Exmouth In Bloom and the Exmouth Art Group.

Two years of work has gone into designing and planting the garden, including the painting of a mural wall featuring pictures of animals and plants.

The finished garden has benches for people to sit on and low-level planters so that people in wheelchairs can appreciate the plants. These have been chosen to offer a range of colours, textures and smells, with herbs including bay trees being included.

It was officially opened on Monday, July 12, by Jeff Trail, chairman of Devon County Council and councillor for Exmouth.

How did the sensory garden come about?

The opening ceremony of the new sensory garden. Picture: Marion Drew

The idea was conceived by Gillie Newcombe, president of Exmouth Art Group, and developed with the expertise of Graham Bell, Horticultural Advisor on the committee of Exmouth in Bloom.

They felt that Exmouth had no suitable outdoor spaces for older people, and those with mental or physical health difficulties, to relax in.

They worked with East Devon District Council and Exmouth Town Council, to find a suitable site to develop. The project was also supported by Exmouth Chamber of Commerce and Exmouth Town Council.

Many local businesses supported the project, with donations of materials, special discounts, or advice. They include the Sun Lodge, Jewsons, Kings Garden Centre, Urban Earth and Friends groups. An army of volunteers gave their time and skills – including carpenter Mike Hole – or helped by donating plants or funding.

‘It comes at a time when so many people will appreciate it’

A view of the sensory garden, looking towards the seafront. Picture: Marion Drew

The garden is now ready for use, but the long-term vision is that it will continue to develop, maturing within the landscape. Its creators hope it will be a place to meet friends, or spend time alone in a tranquil natural environment.

Graham Bell of Exmouth In Bloom said: “This area is accessible to everyone at all times of the day and looks out over the beach and views beyond. It will keep on getting better and better.”

Gillie Newcombe, who has a background in health and social care, has been overwhelmed with the amount of support from across the town.

She said: “There have been donations of all types, from small bedding plants all the way through to mature trees and shrubs which can be over £200 each.”

“After what has been an awful 18 months for everyone, the sensory garden comes at a time when so many people will appreciate it.

Picture by Exmouth Art Group and Exmouth In Bloom

“We are also celebrating Exmouth Art Group’s 75th anniversary and Exmouth in Bloom’s 50th anniversary this year, so we are immensely proud to be able to finally unveil the results of another successful project together.”

Average cost of a Barratt Developments home jumps sharply

Surprise, surprise – Owl

Jane Denton www.thisismoney.co.uk 

The average selling price of Barratt Developments homes going to private buyers has jumped by more than £15,000 in a year.

In a trading update, the biggest housebuilder in the country said its average selling price for private sales was around £325,000, against just over £310,000 last year.

Across all its operations, Barratt saw average selling prices rise from just over £280,000 in 2020 to £289,000 in the last 12 months.

The group, which will publish its full results in September, also upped its profit forecast for the year, claiming it looked set to be slightly better than expected. 

Barratt said it was on track to build around 20,000 new homes over the coming year.

During the pandemic, housebuilders have been able to take advantage of surging buyer demand, driven by the stamp duty holiday and relatively cheap mortgage deals.  

In the last few weeks, the housing market has showed signs it is cooling down, but figures from the Office for National Statistics this morning highlight that average prices have jumped by 10 per cent in the past year. 

Boss David Thomas,: ‘Whilst these are still uncertain times, we enter the new financial year in a strong position and remain focussed on our medium-term targets, including delivering 20,000 homes a year.’ 

Barratt said it was well-placed to perform strongly this year, with total forward sales including joint ventures of £3.47billion at 30 June.

The company said it expected pre-tax profit for the year ended 30 June to be slightly above analysts’ forecast range of £761million to £812million. It made a profit of £491.8million in 2019-2020 and £904.3million in 2018-2019.

The FTSE 100-listed company said it completed 17,243 homes in the year, compared with 12,604 a year earlier and 17,856 the year before that.

Barratt said it had built around 324 homes a week in the second half and had seen ‘build cost inflation’ of around 2 per cent, which it said was in line with its guidance. 

It added: ‘Given the continued strength of the market and constraints in parts of our supply chain, we are currently experiencing build cost inflation of 3% to 4%.’

In the past year, Barratt snapped up 18,067 plots of land for around £877million, up from 9,441 plots the year before. 

The group also said it expected to fork out £81million to fix or replace potentially flammable cladding on some of its high-rise sites. It said the costs set aside for such work may have to be increased in future.

The group said: ‘Whilst the charges in respect of cladding and external wall systems reflect our current best estimate of the extent and future costs of work required, as assessments and work progresses or if Government legislation and regulation further evolves, estimates may have to be updated.’

Shares in Barratt are currently up 0.23 per cent or 1.60p to 698.40p. A year ago the share price was 528.20p, meaning it has risen by around 32 per cent in the past year.

On the dividend front, Barratt said: ‘The Board continues to recognise the importance of dividends to all shareholders with a dividend policy based on a full year dividend cover of 2.5 times.’

William Ryder, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘Like its peers, Barratt is doing well out of a strong housing market. 

‘House prices are rising and completions have nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels, which will both be good news to shareholders. 

‘However, Barratt is starting to see build costs rise, which is a common problem in the sector. Cost inflation ran at about 2% for the full year but is currently running at 3-4%. So far, it looks like house price increases are more than swallowing the extra expenses, but if house prices start to cool margins may come under pressure.

‘The burst of build cost inflation may be short lived – the result of pent up demand and pandemic disruption. 

‘If so, it shouldn’t be a problem. But if it’s sustained, or price increases become more widespread, that would be more concerning. The UK’s housing market has surprised us with its stubborn march upwards over the last year or so, but with uncertainty ahead, Barratt isn’t quite out of the woods just yet.’

Value for money? It’s only your money he’s spending

PM’s ‘Brexit jet’ only flown once in promotional role in last five months after £900k paint job

By Dean KirbyNorthern Correspondent inews.co.uk

An RAF plane dubbed Boris Johnson’s “Brexit jet” after being repainted with a £900,000 Union flag has been flown abroad in its promotional role only once in the past five months. 

When the VIP Voyager Vespina aircraft was repainted in “national branding” last summer, officials said it would be used promote the UK around the world while carrying senior royals and ministers on diplomatic and trade missions. 

The RAF Voyager at Brize Norton airbase shortly after it was repainted in 2020

But analysis by i of available flight tracking data suggests the aircraft’s only role in promoting the UK since the end of January has been to take part in a flypast over Athens watched by Prince Charles to mark the bicentenary of Greek independence

When the Trade Secretary Liz Truss landed in Washington earlier this week for trade talks with the US – potentially the Government’s biggest foreign deal since Brexit – she tweeted a picture of herself in front of another RAF aircraft painted in military grey.

The Voyager’s main use has been to refuel RAF fighter planes patrolling the North Sea, where it has been making sorties every few days and could be seen as recently as Wednesday flying at 16,000ft off the coast of Lincolnshire during a five-hour flight. Earlier this month, it joined other RAF planes on a Nato exercise in Europe. 

Andy Netherwood, a former military transport pilot and defence commentator, told i the Voyager has been “rarely used” in its VIP role recently. 

He added: “The £900,000 livery means it wouldn’t be usable on operations requiring an inconspicuous paint scheme. Its usefulness as a troop carrier is also reduced as its economy seats were replaced with fewer business class seats in the front two cabins.” 

The Government says the coronavirus pandemic has meant the plane’s VIP role has been “greatly reduced”. i was unable to verify whether two flights in January, to Athens in Greece and Gander in Canada were RAF operations. 

However, a second jet, a chartered Airbus A321 also emblazoned with a Union flag, leased by the Government earlier this year for an undisclosed sum, has been on frequent visits abroad this year including trips by the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to Singapore, Phnom Penh, Hanoi, Brunei, Jakarta and Tel Aviv.

Boris Johnson has been criticised for using that plane to fly from London to Newquay to meet other world leaders at the G7 summit.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has criticised the cost of the RAF plane’s repainting as a “Tory red, white and blue vanity project” and a “waste of public money”. 

SNP deputy Westminster leader Kirsten Oswald said: “Boris Johnson has been happy to throw taxpayers’ cash at new, unnecessary jets, yachts and Union Jack paint jobs, whilst imposing austerity cuts on the rest of us.” 

The Liberal Democrats‘ deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “Boris Johnson’s ability to waste taxpayer’s money truly knows no bounds.”

She said: “Wasting money on painting planes while refusing to feed hungry children or properly pay hard-working nurses is just another reminder that this failing PM will always put propaganda over people.”

The RAF Voyager was first repurposed for use by the UK Government in 2015 at a cost of £10m and was used to take David Cameron to the Nato summit in Poland the following year. 

At the time, ministers defending the expenditure, saying it was cheaper than chartering flights and would save around £775,000 a year, with chartered planes costing an average of £6,700 an hour in the air. 

On a trip to South America in 2018, the then Foreign Secretary Mr Johnson said the aircraft was not available to him enough and complained about its dull colour scheme. 

“Why does it have to be grey?” he is reported to have said about its RAF camouflage paint scheme. 

Last year, it was revealed that the repainting of the aircraft was costing the UK taxpayer £900,000 – a move that was condemned at the time as wasteful by opposition parties. 

The Government says the repainting means the plane can “better represent” the UK around the world with national branding similar to many other leaders’ planes. 

A Government spokeswoman said: “The VIP Voyager is used by the Prime Minister, senior ministers and members of the Royal Family for long-haul flights. During the global coronavirus pandemic, the number of such flights has been greatly reduced. 

“Since its livery was updated, the VIP Voyager continues to provide its primary military function of air-to-air refuelling support operations and training.”

East Devon: Mixed views on July 19 lifting of Covid restrictions

If only Boris hadn’t dithered on imposing the first lockdown in March 2020. Remember the Cheltenham Festival…..

If only Boris hadn’t overruled scientific advice for a circuit breaker in September 2020. Remember the “Eat out to help out” August accelerator……

If only Boris hadn’t dithered on imposing the second lockdown until November 2020…..

If only Boris hadn’t let the cork out of the bottle over Christmas 2020. Remember the Alpha variant had started spreading in mid-December…..

If only Boris hadn’t dithered for 17 days before imposing travel ban from those travelling from India in May 2021. The Delta variant became the dominant strain in the UK around mid-May…..

Infection prevalence and incidence would be much lower, and we would be in a better position to open up the economy safely than we are right now.

With a history of being too slow to lockdown; too hasty to open up, why is Simon Jupp so convinced Boris has got it right this time? – Owl

Philippa Davies sidmouth.nub.news

Simon Jupp, East Devon MP; Paul Arnott district council leader; Steve Brown, director of public health, Devon

Simon Jupp, East Devon MP; Paul Arnott district council leader; Steve Brown, director of public health, Devon

East Devon MP Simon Jupp has backed the government’s plans to go ahead with the full easing of Covid restrictions set for July 19, despite rising numbers of cases in the constituency.

But the leader of East Devon District Council, Paul Arnott, has warned that it could be ‘an unwelcome infection accelerator’ that is being introduced too soon.

And Devon’s director of public health, Steve Brown, is urging people to remain cautious, and heed the Government’s guidelines on continuing to wear face coverings in some places.

In the seven days to 7 July, cases in East Devon rose by 64 per cent, climbing from 108 to 277. There are now more than 189 cases per 100,000 of the population.

Mr Simon Jupp said: “Cases here are still lower than the average for the UK. I don’t see any reason not to open up, as long as people follow personal and social responsibility and look after themselves.

“That involves getting the vaccine when it’s their turn, including the second dose and, also, if they choose to, wearing face coverings if applicable.”

“That’s what I’ll be doing. I’ll be taking it on a step-by -step, case-by-case basis to decide whether I want to wear a face mask in a certain scenario.”

“I think moving from mandated state intervention to a more personal responsibility – it’s your choice but you’ve got to be mindful of those around you – is exactly the right way to go.”

“I’m happy for the unlocking to take place next week. I don’t think we can call it “freedom day”, I don’t think that’s helpful as a narrative, but I do think that overall it’s a good thing for our area.”

“At some point, we have to open up. At some point, we have to have some semblance of normality.”

Mr Jupp praised the vaccine rollout locally and nationally and emphasised the importance of opening up fully for the economy.

He said: “We could be cautious forever about new variants that come forward and I don’t think our economy could stand it.”

District council leader urges ‘good sense and consideration’

However, the leader of East Devon District Council Paul Arnott (Democratic Alliance, and leader of the East Devon Alliance) is concerned about full reopening.

He said: “July 19 is destined to be an unwelcome infection accelerator unless people have the good sense and consideration for others to continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing, as at present.

“In my view, with so many local people still at only a single jab [stage], this has come two months too soon and looks like a bid for ‘herd-immunity.’

“I suspect Devonians have more common sense than this and will continue to lead productive lives while continuing to exercise great caution.’

Director of public health: ‘We must continue to stop the spread’

Steve Brown, director of Public Health Devon, has urged people to remain cautious. He said: “There’s no question about us sitting back and doing nothing.”

“We need to take personal responsibility, remain cautious, and continue with the efforts we have made so far in helping to stop the spread.”

“I am pleased to hear clarification from our prime minister that the wearing of face coverings in crowded places – which would include public transport and any indoor space where there are other people – is still recommended, despite it no longer being a legal requirement.”

Petition: Get dark money out of UK politics

www.opendemocracy.net

To: Boris Johnson

  • Stop secrecy over political donations by increasing transparency over dark money donor groups, including so-called ‘unincorporated associations’
  • Keep restrictions to stop millionaire non-doms donating to political parties indefinitely
  • Increase fines for donors who break election laws
  • Accept the recommendations on dark money and transparency set out by the Committee on Standards in Public Life

At openDemocracy we’ve worked for years to expose the malign influence of ‘shadowy’ groups funnelling anonymous money into British politics. And now we’ve revealed that £2.6m has been funnelled to the Tory party via secretive campaign finance groups since Boris Johnson became prime minister.

The British government is proposing new election laws, but they have almost nothing to say about donations like these. So-called ‘unincorporated associations’ can be used to secretly channel money from donors who would never normally be eligible. And millionaires who are based in tax havens (so-called ‘non-doms’) will be able to fund British politics indefinitely.

The UK’s Committee on Standards in Public Life has warned that ‘unincorporated associations’ could be used as “a route for foreign money to influence UK elections”. In a hard-hitting report it’s called for major changes to how politics is funded.

If we’re going to protect our democracy we need to stop dodgy donors from buying political influence. We need to make sure a light is shone on ‘unincorporated associations’. And we need fines to be raised high enough to deter funders from breaking election law.

To do all that we need to show the UK government that the public won’t stand for secretive political donations harming our democracy. Will you take a moment to sign the petition telling the government to clean up UK politics [see link above]?