Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 16 August

Protests grow against new council homes on green spaces in London

Protests are growing across London against plans to build thousands of new council homes on green spaces and existing estates.

Harriet Grant 

Local authorities need to build desperately needed homes for social rent but they are facing resistance on the streets and in the courts, as council residents fight the destruction of communal gardens in dense and polluted areas.

Weekly protests have been taking place in Peckham, south London, where on 11 August Southwark council began tearing down mature trees on Joycelyn Street Park.

As they did so, campaigners called out “shame on you”. The trees are being removed to make way for the major Flaxyard development, which will bring 120 new homes, 96 of them for council rent.

The area is officially a brownfield site, one of the council’s arguments for building homes on it. But walking through it looks and feels very much like a small park. The new homes that will replace it sit minutes from one of the borough’s most polluted roads.

Southwark council says it needs to build homes for thousands of families stuck in overcrowded accommodation or bed and breakfasts.

In June Southwark said it would look again at plans to build on a large play area in Bermondsey – but it is facing further opposition on multiple estates.

The Bells Garden estate in Peckham sits in a densely packed corner of south London, ringed by busy roads. The estate has large communal green spaces scattered with mature trees and play areas.

It is at the centre of a standoff over plans to build 97 new homes – 65 for council rent – taking part of the communal green and play spaces.

“These flats were built on top of terrace houses,” said Paul Wright, chair of the tenants and residents association. “And the green spaces were to compensate for the lack of gardens.”

“We have worked it out that given the increase in the number of people living here there is a loss of 40% of green space per head. And they want to swap a football cage used by many children and teenagers for a smaller one aimed at young kids.”

He added that local people felt they were not being listened to.

Local campaigner Janine Below blinks back tears as she walks through the estate. She believes that increasing the density by so many flats can only make the estate worse.

“We pick pears here, this estate has beautiful mature trees, but 37 of them are due to go. This is a working-class community and we need these spaces for our mental and physical health.”

The council says the site will be well provided for, with new play spaces and a “linear walkway” – as well as providing urgently needed homes. It has made a much-publicised promise to build 11,000 new homes for social rent by 2043.

Stephanie Cryan, cabinet member for council homes and homelessness, said: “Southwark is in the grip of a housing crisis with over 15,000 households on the waiting list for a home. We carefully assess the local area when planning new developments, including proximity to the borough’s extensive network of over 215 parks and green spaces.”

However, Tanya Murat, a coordinator for Southwark Defend Council Housing and founder of a new group opposing building homes on green spaces – Yes to Fair Redevelopment, is unconvinced and is angry that she is being accused of standing in the way of new homes.

“I have lived and worked in this area since the 90s and have been part of campaigns over the years to get developers to put more social homes in privately built estates,” she said. “So for the council to then turn round and say we don’t care about the homeless is disgraceful. We are in a climate and a mental health emergency, we need more green spaces not less.”

In Kilburn, north London, 700 people have signed a petition against the scale of development planned for Kilburn Square, where Brent council is consulting on plans for an extra 180 council homes. The plans will involve the removal of mature trees, a playground, a football pitch and open green space.

Keith Anderson, chair of the Kilburn Village Residents Association, says the site faces becoming seriously overcrowded.

“They are looking at increasing the number of people living here by over 80% – without expanding the current site, losing green spaces and mature trees,” he said.

He stresses that campaigners do not oppose new council homes, just the burden being placed on existing tenants. “The council own this land so it is easier for them to build here than if they have to negotiate with private developers. But the wellbeing of the residents here matters. We have been collecting memories and stories from residents and people are really worried about losing their community space, where they played as children and they can watch their children play now.”

The campaign site warns that “development is raising the temperature in cities with the running of buildings adding to heat produced and increasing climate change.”

Brent council has said it is still consulting on the site.

Residents are taking their fight to the courts, with more than one council facing legal action. In January a high court judge permitted the eviction of climate protesters on a site in Islington, north London, where they were trying to stop the destruction of several mature trees. The site, Dixon Clark Court, will be home to a block of private homes which the council says will help fund 25 new social homes nearby.

On the Mais House in Sydenham, one of the highest points in London, Helen Kinsey and her neighbours are in a battle with Lewisham council over plans to build 110 new social homes on the estate, taking part of the communal green and removing 19 mature trees.

“We live in flats so we don’t have gardens,” said Kinsey. “This green space fosters community. Children get to play among the mature trees and we have birthday parties here and Easter egg hunts.”

Kinsey and her neighbours secured an unusual victory in May against Lewisham at the high court, where a judge overturned planning permission for the new homes, ruling that the council had hidden key information about conservation from its own planning officers.

However, within weeks of that verdict the planning committee passed it again, something Kinsey finds incomprehensible. “We are devastated. We are social tenants here as well as private renters and owners. So we know there is an urgent need for council housing, but we don’t agree with the scale they are proposing here.”

Like other local authorities, Lewisham council says it is pressing ahead with what are desperately needed homes for local families. Paul Bell, cabinet member for housing and planning, said the site would not take up the whole communal green area and that some flats would have new private gardens.

Boris Johnson faces disgruntlement from Tory councillors over planning and cuts

Boris Johnson is facing a rising tide of disgruntlement among his own party’s grassroots councillors, amid anger about a decade of cuts and the imposition of planning reforms, which will downgrade town halls’ control over local development. 

A new survey, seen by The Independent, found that more than half of Conservative councillors think their local authority has been treated unfairly financially by central government, and two-thirds think Whitehall undervalues the role of local government.

Just 15 per cent – little over one in seven – of Tory councillors back Mr Johnson’s planning reforms, compared to more than three-fifths (61 per cent) who oppose them.

The findings came in a survey by think tank Unlock Democracy of almost 500 councillors from across England, which found an overwhelming 88 per cent believed the power balance was skewed too much in favour of central government, to the detriment of municipalities, counties, districts and boroughs.

One Tory councillor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that central government “fundamentally dislikes and distrusts local government” and “considers it a necessary evil at best”.

Another complained about “interference and nanny-stating by the central government when they know nothing about local issues”.

And another said that London uses a “one-size fits all approach” and ignores the advice of local councillors.

Deep cuts in central funding for local councils under Conservative-led governments since 2010, coupled with restraints on increases in locally raised council tax, had led to a 17 per cent fall in cash available for services by 2019, even before the additional financial pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A total of 83 per cent of councillors questioned said their authority had been treated unfairly financially, with fewer than 10 per cent of Tory councillors saying that their financial settlements had been “very fair”.

Proposals for a radical revision of the planning system unveiled by the prime minster last year lit the blue touch-paper for an explosion of opposition from town halls across the country. Those proposals have been blamed for contributing to the Tories’ humiliating defeat in the “Blue Wall” seat of Chesham and Amersham, seized by the Liberal Democrats in a June by-election on a remarkable 30 per cent swing.

Mr Johnson has blasted the English planning system as “a relic” which ensures there are “nowhere near enough homes in the right places”.

His radical plans would sweep away core elements of the system, replacing them with a US-style model designed to accelerate and simplify the delivery of housing and infrastructure projects. But critics claim they risk sidelining local councils and clearing the way for poor-quality slum housing.

Unlock Democracy director Tom Brake told The Independent: “It doesn’t matter which party local councillors represent, their disgruntlement with central government is clear. 

“Their efforts to level up their communities are hampered by a lack of powers and insufficient funding. 

“This is why Unlock Democracy is campaigning for a new settlement between national and local government, which would stop the centralisation on steroids experienced in the last four decades and give local councils real powers and real independence.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We’re levelling up all areas of the country by empowering our regions through devolving money, resources and control away from Westminster. Later this year we will publish a Levelling Up white paper, setting out how we will help further improve livelihoods.

“We’ve also increased English councils’ core spending power from £49 billion to £51.3 billion between 2020 and 2022.

“Our much-needed planning reforms will make sure there is more engagement and local democracy, and will simplify and modernise the system – making it quicker and more efficient.”

  • Unlock Democracy questioned 442 councillors on 2 July 2021.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick failed to disclose a meeting set up by Conservative lobbying forum, breaching government-transparency rules

They don’t like transparency, do they! – Owl

  • Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick failed to disclose a meeting with members of the housing industry.
  • The meeting was set up by The Enterprise Forum, a Conservative lobbying forum.
  • Government rules say ministers’ meetings with external organisations must be disclosed.

Henry Dyer

Boris Johnson’s housing secretary failed to disclose a meeting with representatives of the housing industry set up by a top Conservative lobbying forum, Insider can reveal.

Official transparency records published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government contain no detail of such meeting attended by Robert Jenrick, the department’s top minister.

But social media posts by The Enterprise Forum, the lobbying group that set up and attended the meeting, and other attendees show that Jenrick spoke with representatives of the housing industry on March 23 via video call.

Jenrick gave a speech on “the government’s priorities on planning, local infrastructure and housing” before taking questions from attendees.

One attendee said Jenrick set “a new record for how many questions a speaker got through during this roundtable session.” Another attendee said how Jenrick “agreed to engage with our industry” on a matter they had raised in the Q&A.

The Ministerial Code is clear that “Departments will publish quarterly, details of Ministers’ external meetings.”

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by The Enterprise Forum or any other attendees.

Members of the Enterprise Forum can pay more than £2,500 per year for access to meetings set up by the group.

‘Administrative error’

The government say the failure to declare the meeting was an “administrative error.”

A government spokesperson told Insider: “The Secretary of State met with The Enterprise Forum on 23rd March 2021, where he delivered a speech on the Government’s future plans on planning, local infrastructure and housing.

“The transparency return was not declared at the time due to an administrative error by the department, however we are currently working on rectifying this issue and the meeting will be reflected in due course.”

In November 2019, Jenrick had also failed to declare a meeting with a housing-scheme developer, Richard Desmond, who lobbied Jenrick over dinner to fast-track his scheme’s application to save him £50 million.

Other so-called administrative errors by the Department of Health and Social Care saw 27 meetings by a health minister go undeclared for more than a year, Byline Times reported in June.

‘The rules on lobbying are seriously broken’

Susan Hawley, executive director at Spotlight on Corruption, told Insider that there needed to be powers to sanction departments for failing to disclose lobbying meetings.

“There is increasing consensus that the rules on lobbying are seriously broken, and that this is exacerbated by departments abjectly failing to disclose accurate and timely information about who is lobbying who and about what. This is seriously undermining trust and confidence in politicians,” she said.

“Serious consideration needs to be given to an independent regulator to oversee lobbying, with power to impose sanctions on departments for failing to disclose information properly. It should not be left to investigative journalists to ferret out this information, as valuable as that is.”

Rose Whiffen, research officer at Transparency International UK, told Insider that compliance with transparency rules can be “patchy.”

“It is commonplace for government to discuss policy ideas with outside interests, but there should always be full transparency over who gets access to – and potential influence over – decision makers. Ministers are supposed to declare any discussion concerning official business, but compliance can be patchy,” she said.

“There needs to be a comprehensive and consistent approach to transparency declarations across government. The body responsible for ensuring these rules are followed, the Independent Advisor on Ministerial Interests, should be given the power and resources to proactively investigate any failure to comply.”

Devon and Cornwall daily Covid infections still in thousands

More than 2,000 new cases of coronavirus have been reported in the space of two days across Devon and Cornwall, but new infections have started to decrease.

“Enhance your response” (whatever that means) – Owl

Edward Church

In the wake of an unprecedented surge in cases in the two counties which played host to thousands of extra tourists, as well as several festivals, in recent weeks – it remains to be seen if this trend will continue.

Saturday’s figures showed 1,143 new coronavirus cases across the two counties, with 443 in Cornwall, 68 in East Devon, 71 in Exeter, 43 in Mid Devon, 40 in North Devon, 221 in Plymouth, 57 in South Hams, 65 in Teignbridge, 66 in Torbay, 31 in Torridge, 38 in West Devon.

And today (August 29), 1,099 new cases were reported – 369 in Cornwall, 65 in East Devon, 52 in Exeter, 76 in Mid Devon, 82 in North Devon, 190 in Plymouth, 51 in South Hams, 77 in Teignbridge, 89 in Torbay, 34 in Torridge and 14 in West Devon.

While these figures are high, this follows a trend of the week-on-week total of infections beginning to fall.

For five days in a row, the total has decreased across Devon and Cornwall. For Devon alone, this has happened six days in a row now.

Cluster data published on Saturday (August 28) showed seven-day infections still at their worst in Newquay for the week up to August 23, which you can read about here. Having hosted of some 50,000 extra people from Boardmasters Festival, the town remains the Covid hotspot of the UK.

The effect of Boardmasters on the figures is expected to fall in the coming days and weeks.

However, both Devon and Cornwall – including busy tourist town Newquay – have been visited by thousands of extra tourists this bank holiday weekend. The effect of this will be seen in the next week or so.

The majority of new infections have been in the younger age groups – possibly skewed by Boardmasters.

Despite the fall in infections, Devon and Cornwall are still being handed ‘enhanced’ measures to combat Covid. You can read more about what that means here.

As well as this, tourists bosses in Cornwall have told visitors to put off their stay in the county unless they’ve tested negative for the virus.

The vaccine has helped keep hospitalisations and Covid-related deaths low.

Accurate to Friday (August 27), of the adult population, 78.8% in Cornwall, 83.2% in East Devon, 67.9% in Exeter, 81.6% in Mid Devon, 81.3% in North Devon, 73.8% in Plymouth, 80.2% in South Hams, 82.8% in Teignbridge, 78.3% in Torbay, 81.9% in Torridge and 83.4% in West Devon, have had a second dose of a vaccine.

However, while the numbers have come down – some people are still dying with the virus.

As Friday, there had been Devon 12 deaths with Covid in the past seven days, as well as seven in Cornwall, six in Plymouth, and five in Torbay.

Boris Johnson is warning Devon and Cornwall to ‘act responsibility’, but his policies left us in this mess

Wealthy London townies think they are so clever. Stick a Devon or Kernow bumper sticker on their shiny new Range Rovers and us bumpkins on the peninsula will not have a clue you’re a grockle.

By David Parsley

We’re wise to that one in these parts. See a flash car with a local green and white or black and white flag on the back, and we know that’s almost certainly a second homeowner bringing Covid down with them.

We may be the playground for the rich, but the region feels entirely neglected by those politicians that love to frolic among their loaded business friends down here. 

On Friday night health minister Nadine Dorries told local MPs the counties would become an “enhanced response area”. She instructed locals to wear masks and socially distance, while at the same time claiming this did not constitute Covid restrictions. School pupils are likely to be forced to wear masks at school from this week. The hospitals are limiting visiting times and allowing just one relative in at a time. Those sound like restrictions to me, minister.

Before the summer the south-west peninsula had done a remarkable job containing Covid, consistently showing the lowest rates of anywhere in England. Now it’s been put in special measures.

The feeling down here is that we were doing just fine before Boris Johnson insisted on bringing world leaders and 20,000 hangers-on down to Carbis Bay in Cornwall. Following the G7 Summit in June, rates around the areas where Johnson enjoyed a non-socially distanced barbecue with the likes of Presidents Biden, Marcon and Chancellor Merkel rocketed by more than 4,000 per cent. 

Downing Street ordered a Covid risk assessment before that summit, but for some reason it is not keen to share it. I know as I have asked No 10 to produce it on three occasions. Each request has been refused. 

Of course, we will never be sure unless No 10 is forced to publish it, but many may believe its reluctance to do so is because it contained a warning of a sharp rise in Covid cases as a result of the global leaders’ shindig. 

G7 was part one of what is turning out to be a miserable summer for both Devon and Cornwall.

Instead of sticking to the mask wearing and social distancing advice, Johnson went in the opposite direction. He permitted 53,000 largely unvaccinated young adults to mosh together at the Boardmasters music and surfing festival in Newquay earlier this month. 

Not only has this event been linked directly to at least 5,000 Covid cases in Cornwall alone, Public Health England is understood to be investigating whether it has led to a new strain of the more potent Delta variant. Just in time to infect the half a million or so young revellers at this weekend’s festivals such as those at Leeds and Reading. 

As Professor John Drury – one of the Government’s most senior scientific advisors – has told i: “The Government has basically said ‘it’s safe now, it’s fine, you’re not going to die’. The problem is of course that 100 people a day are dying.” 

There’s little doubt down here that Johnson’s determination to unlock has led to Devon and Cornwall’s under resourced health services being stretched to such a level that the army has been called in to help the ambulance service cope. 

Of the mere four main hospitals serving the 1.3 million residents – you can double that in the summer – Cornwall’s only A&E department in Truro is on black alert and people are being begged to call 999 only if we believe it’s a genuine emergency.

In her letter to local MPs on Friday – via which the additional Covid measures were announced rather than to directly to local people – Dorries wrote that Johnson was giving us five weeks to “act responsibly” or face “further restrictions”.

We have been acting responsibly, Prime Minister. We aren’t the ones who gave permission for 20,000 people from all over the world to descend on Carbis Bay for the G7 Summit or thought it was a good idea to infect as many unvaccinated young people as we possibly could in Newquay.

We didn’t unlock the entire country, end all Covid-precautions, or push our health services beyond breaking point. We didn’t do that Mr Johnson. You did.

‘Merry’ Michael Gove seen dancing ‘alone’ in Aberdeen nightclub

Arms aloft, suit jacket on, Michael Gove has been filmed giving it his all in an Aberdeen nightclub after reportedly trying to avoid a £5 entrance fee by stating that he was the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Rajeev Syal 

Footage of the recently separated former Vote Leave supremo throwing shapes at 1.15am at Bohemia nightclub circulated on the internet on Sunday. His hands flailed wildly, and occasionally swung in time to the music, in the clip filmed by a fellow clubber. Friends of Gove denied that he had attempted to avoid paying.

The 54-year-old cabinet minister, who grew up in Aberdeen, was on a trip to see family when he apparently walked into O’Neill’s bar at 1.15am. After last orders were called, Gove was urged by drinkers to join them upstairs at the club Bohemia, where he reportedly stayed until at least 2.30am.

The club night, called Pipe, was described as “an unpredictable mix of the most high-energy UK and global club music scenes”. Adam Taylor, the manager of Pipe, told the Daily Record newspaper that Gove, who had been drinking downstairs, tried to walk past him without paying the entry fee.

“He was saying he shouldn’t have to pay because he is the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I told him that my co-manager, Nina Stanger, was upstairs playing Jungle and going hard. Michael said, ‘I love dancing’ – and did he ever.”

One witness claimed Gove was there by himself. Singer Emma Lament, 30, who had performed an acoustic set earlier in the night, said she “couldn’t believe what she was seeing” when the “merry” MP “rocked up” just before closing time.

She told the Record: “I’m almost sure he was by himself. I heard people saying, ‘He’s a Tory MP.’ Others asked ‘Who’s Michael Gove?’ and were Googling him.” She said Gove was still there at 2.30am, adding: “He really was enjoying himself, I don’t think he left the dance floor the whole time I was there.”

The footage emerged just as the cabinet minister was being tipped to replace Dominic Raab as foreign secretary in a reshuffle later this year or in early 2022.

Gove and the journalist Sarah Vine announced their separation two months ago after 20 years of marriage and are in the process of getting divorced. The pair said they remained close friends and would continue supporting their two children.

A friend of Gove’s confirmed that he had been to the nightclub, but said claims he attempted to avoid paying were not recognised. “He loves Aberdeen and its nightlife,” the friend said.

A statement from the Pipe club said: “Thanks to all the amazing people, and Michael Gove, who made it out for the first Pipe last night. We had a great time going in for four hours straight. Definitely blew some cobwebs away.”

(Address in East Devon) – 2019 election mystery

Parliamentary candidates, on their nomination form, must supply a home address to the Returning Officer. It doesn’t have to be within the constituency. Candidates have an option to ask for this not to be disclosed publicly.

Simon Jupp, unusually, chose not to have his address during the campaign disclosed as can be seen below. None of the other candidates withheld their addresses and Owl cannot recall seeing another example.

Simon Jupp was parachuted into the constituency as the Conservative candidate in the December 2019 general election, following Hugo Swire’s decision not to stand again.

Plymouth born and educated, Simon Jupp, in 2019, was a Special Advisor (SPAD) to Dominc Raab at the time which would have meant needing to live within striking distance of the “Westminster Bubble”.

With Claire Wright tipped to win the constituency as an Independent, having come close second in the previous two elections, one can understand that he mightn’t want to commit to permanent residence whilst campaigning.

The SPAD in him must have thought a “Westminster” address had the wrong look, especially for one with little experience and none as an elected representative.Though not having an East Devon address didn’t seem to hamper his predecessor, Hugo Swire, who had decamped to his manor in mid-Devon years ago.

So, what did he do to gain local residence credibility? Rent a property, an Airbnb perhaps? Or  was he offered the use of the house of one of the many Conservative activists as a “pied-à-terre”?

Whatever it was, either his or his constituency advisors’ political antennae thought it best to keep this East Devon address “secret”.

DCC Leader: Looking forward to the “certainty” of penury?

Devon County Council hopeful for funding settlement

Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter 

Devon County Council bosses are hopeful of a three-year funding settlement from the government to help give them ‘certainty’ for the county’s finances.

Council leader John Hart (Conservative, Bickleigh & Wembury), said this financial year’s budget had been one of the “toughest” to set as they only knew in December how much was being provided by Whitehall.

The last two years have seen local authorities only given one-year settlements, with ministers stating Brexit and covid as reasons.

Cllr Hart said: “I would hope the government this time are promising a three-year plan for us, and if they can, then we have a better idea of where we’re going.”

He added: “It would give us a degree of certainty for the next two years after the year that you’re setting your budget. You’ve got a fair idea what the government’s going to give you – that’ll be a minimum figure. So you’ve got something settled, whereas at the present moment you haven’t got anything.

The comments echo those made last month by the county’s cabinet member for finance, Councillor Phil Twiss (Conservative, Feniton & Honiton), who said it was “incredibly hard to plan for one year, whereas previously they’d provide us with a three-year settlement” and revealed the council were lobbying for a return to that arrangement.

Last year, when the government announced another one-year deal for councils, James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “Next year we need a three-year settlement and meaningful progress towards a long-term, sustainable solution to the funding crisis our adult social care services continue to face.”

In response, a spokesperson for the ministry of housing, communities and local government said: “The government believes a stable funding environment is pivotal to ensure local councils can effectively plan with early certainty.

“The last two years have had a one-year spending review, prioritising stability and financial certainty so we could focus on delivering EU Exit in 2020-21 and on tackling the pandemic in 2020-2022.

“How government determines its final approach for 2022/23 onwards will be informed by the upcoming spending review, which will be an opportunity to consider local government’s funding needs in the round.”

The leaders of the opposition Liberal Democrat and Labour groups on Devon County Council did not respond to requests for comment.

Breaking News: Hit the brakes, reverse the irreversible, enhance your response!

Devon and Cornwall set for ‘enhanced response measures’ as Covid rates soar

(But do carry on with the pub crawl Simon)

Alex Green

Enhanced response measures are set to be put in place across the South West due to high rates of Covid-19.

As the August Bank Holiday – one of the South West’s busiest times – gets underway, due to high prevalence of the virus in the area, Devon and Cornwall are to receive ‘an enhanced response package’ – subject to sign-off by Number 10.

While no extra restrictions will be put in place, from Friday, measures will be rolled out which will help with support measures for education settings and increased national communications support, clearly outlining the continued risks of Covid-19 and the need to take personal action, such as the wearing of face masks and social distancing.

The response will last for five weeks – but a review will be conducted at week four to determine whether the automatic roll off at week five is appropriate, or if there is a case for re-escalation of further measures.

A letter written by Nadine Dorries and sent to the regions MPs states that following discussions with officials in the relevant South West local authorities they will be identifying the appropriate interventions and will start deploying the enhanced response area measures.

And it states that while the Prime Minister has said we want the whole country to move out of and remain out of these restrictions together, they are trusting people to be responsible and to act with caution and common sense, as they have done throughout this pandemic, and to make decisions about how best to protect themselves and their loved ones, informed by the risks – with a warning that if it doesn’t happen, measures could be ‘re-escalated’.

For the week ending August 22, Cornwall has the highest infection rate in England, with West Devon 3rd, Teignbridge 4th, Torbay 5th, Mid Devon 6th, Torridge 7th, East Devon 9th, Exeter 10th, South Hams 11th, North Devon 12th and Plymouth 13th. Only Sedgemoor (2nd) and Mansfield (8th) are not in Devon and Cornwall.

Luke Pollard, MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said: “What this basically means is our rates are the highest in the country, and as a result they are kicking in new measures, which is basically a response to those high rates of infection.

“It also allows more communications, community testing, and a bigger push on some the advice such as wearing face masks in schools for instance.”

He added: “This affects all of the South West, but especially the peninsula, because the peninsula has the highest rates. So that’s Devon and Cornwall, Plymouth, South Hams and all the districts.

“It’s partly a reflection on the fact that we’re a tourist destination, partly a reflection on the fact that we didn’t have high levels of Covid during the main outbreak, because we had lower levels, and so there’s less natural immunity built up by people having Covid.

“We do have a good take up of people having the vaccine, so three quarters of the population are fully vaccinate, and despite there being challenges about vaccinating young people, there’s still lots of capacity for young people to come forward and have their vaccine.

“This happens at the point of Bank Holiday weekend, so one of our most important tourist seasons, and I think many tourist businesses will be concerned about this announcement. From my point of view, I want to see everyone follow the guidance and look after themselves.

“Our rate is too high at the moment, and what we mustn’t do is allow the virus to continue to spread at this level, because that puts pressure on our NHS and we’ve already seen at Derriford how we’re effectively on Black Alert.

“It might not feel like the peaks of the pandemic previously, but that doesn’t mean our NHS professionals aren’t being worked into the ground at this moment, and I think it’s a good reminder to say to people ‘please keep yourself safe, please keep others safe, please make sure you’re testing yourself twice a week, make sure you’re getting the vaccine’.”

Kevin Foster, MP for Torbay, added: “Over recent weeks cases have increased in our bay and region, although thanks to the high levels of vaccination across our region the impact is being mitigated. These latest measures are a proportionate response to the situation, including their reminders of what we can all do to help protect our neighbours.”

Full letter from Nadine Dorries

A letter written by Nadine Dorries, and seen by Reach’s titles in Devon and Cornwall, reads: “I am writing to you to inform you of plans, to be announced today, to add all the following South West local authorities to a list of areas receiving an enhanced response package due to high prevalence of COVID -19 in the area: Torbay Council, Plymouth City Council, Devon County Council, East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council, Mid Devon District Council, North Devon District Council, South Hams District Council, Teignbridge District Council, Torridge District Council, West Devon Borough Council, Cornwall Council, Council of the Isles of Scilly.

“In response to Delta now being the dominant strain and the move to Step 4 of the Roadmap, we have reviewed our approach to enhanced response areas, with simplified short-term support to areas where case rates and wider indicators suggest we will see the greatest pressure on the NHS.

“These modifications to enhanced response packages took effect from the 19 July. Guidance regarding extra support deployed in areas receiving an enhanced response to Covid-19 can be found on

As of 18 August, case rates for all ages in the South West were 441 per 100,000 which is above the national case rate of 324 per 100,000. Case rates are increasing across the whole of the South West region with case rates in the 11-16 and 17-21 years age ranges seeing the greatest increases.

“As of 18 August, case rates in the South West for those aged 17-21 was the highest across the country at 1,878 per 100,000 and almost double the national figure of 878 per 100,000. With regards to vaccination, 76% of the total population has been fully vaccinated, receiving two doses.

“As a region, the South West has the highest case rates nationally, with only a handful of areas below the national average. The proposed UTLAs of Devon, Cornwall, Plymouth, Torbay and Isles of Scilly have some of the highest case rates rises above the national average.

“The 7-day case rate per 100,000 population increases for West Devon is 157%, for South Hams it is 122% and for Isles of Scilly it is 400%.

“The enhanced response area package will help with support measures for education settings and increased national communications support, clearly outlining the continued risks of Covid-19 and the need to take personal action, such as the wearing of face masks and social distancing.

“Additionally, prioritised access to Wastewater testing, sequencing, national contact tracing capacity and national support with messaging will also be supported. I recognise the excellent work that Local Authorities have been doing, for a sustained period of time to manage the pandemic in their area. The enhanced response package is a short-term measure.

“Areas designated as enhanced response will automatically roll off after five weeks of receiving the enhanced support, a review will be conducted at week four to determine whether the automatic roll off at week five is appropriate, or if there is a case for re-escalation.

“Following discussions with officials in the relevant South West local authorities we will be identifying the appropriate interventions and will start deploying the enhanced response area measures from Friday 27 August 2021.

“As the Prime Minister has said we want the whole country to move out of and remain out of these restrictions together. We are trusting people to be responsible and to act with caution and common sense, as they have done throughout this pandemic, and to make decisions about how best to protect themselves and their loved ones, informed by the risks.

“I’m sure you will continue to reinforce that message locally and would like to again thank you and the efforts of residents locally.

“Thank you for your support in stopping the spread of COVID-19 – including concerning variants – to protect the NHS, and save lives.”