A correspondent says write to MP about second homes

From a correspondent:

Following  Simon Jupp’s and Anthony Mangnall’s welcome views on the effect of holiday uses on our housing stock I urge everyone interested in this important topic to write to their MP as I have done (see below).

It is a disgrace that a widow of my acquaintance has had to raid her small nest egg to buy her working daughter a flat as she said:

“I cant have my daughter homeless. There are no rental properties for long-term rent.”

You could ask them why a holiday let has to have planning permission to change into permanent housing stock. Why does change of use of permanent housing stock not need planning permission to holiday lets?

simon.jupp.mp@parliament.uk

“Dear Simon,  

I was very interested in your article in the Exmouth Journal and pleased that you are taking an interest.

A resident of…………, I find myself living next to a house divided into 2 flats which are now second homes. I am lost as to why planning permission is needed to change a dwelling from a holiday home to a permanent dwelling but not the other way.

This next door dwelling has resulted in 2 of East Devon’s precious housing stock being lost to the community. In effect I now live next door to a rotating number of visitors, akin to a “small hotel”. This has resulted in loss of privacy and uncertainty as to the behaviour of visitors.

For many years I had neighbours. I was the first responder to a neighbour’s emergency button. Other neighbours helped in local societies.

Now ……………. Is finding it difficult to maintain local societies and elderly people can be isolated with no permanent next door neighbours. Community life is starting to crumble here like it is in so many Devon towns and villages.

My great worry is that my London acquaintances cannot see the problem and think that they have a “god given right” to a second home. This is likely to include many of those that control the legislature and media influencers.

I find it very upsetting that this change of use can take place with no prior permission and no consultation and ask that you consider that this could be an additional way forward.”

Record-breaking weekly Covid case numbers reported

The highest number of new coronavirus cases confirmed across Devon and Cornwall has been recorded in the last week – with big rises everywhere.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com 

A total of 10,005 new Covid-19 cases were confirmed across the two counties – with the total since the start of the pandemic at 102,770 – with everywhere seeing a rise and the total up 40% – and a huge proportion of the new cases in those aged 15-19.

It is the highest weekly total in terms of the number of new cases, with Thursday and Friday both seeing more than 2,000 new cases confirmed, with Cornwall seeing 953 new cases on Friday alone.

Government stats show that 10,005 new cases have been confirmed across the region in the past seven days, to 6,642 new cases confirmed last week.

Since August 14, of the 10,005 new cases confirmed, 3,603 were in Cornwall, 750 in East Devon, 742 in Exeter, 431 in Mid Devon, 496 in North Devon, 1,222 in Plymouth, 487 in South Hams, 755 in Teignbridge, 868 in Torbay, 345 in Torridge and 306 in West Devon.

This compares to the 6,642 new cases confirmed between August 7-13, of which 2,250 were in Cornwall, 388 in East Devon, 582 in Exeter, 295 in Mid Devon, 409 in North Devon, 897 in Plymouth, 244 in South Hams, 535 in Teignbridge, 681 in Torbay, 207 in Torridge and 154 in West Devon.

Infection rates across Devon and Cornwall are currently highest in the 20-39s, but are falling, followed by the 0-19s, where rates are rising, and then by the 40-59s, 60-79s and 80+ in every region.

In Exeter though, the 40-59s have higher rates than the 0-19s, while West Devon has higher rates in the 80+s than the 60-79s.

For the week ending August 15, Torbay has England fourth highest infection rate, with Exeter sixth, with Teignbridge also inside the top 20.

Cornwall is just outside the top 20, but as data shown are cases by specimen date and because these are incomplete for the most recent dates and the period represented is the seven days ending five days prior, the huge spike which began with specimens from August 16 is not included yet in the data.

The latest Government figures, which give the position as of Tuesday, August 17, show that across hospital trusts in the two counties, there are 164 patients currently in hospital in the two counties – up from 107 as of August 10.

Numbers at Derriford Hospital have risen from 42 to 48 and to the highest level since February 15.

At the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, numbers are up from 28 to 34, and to the highest level since February 10.

In Torbay, the numbers at Torbay Hospital have more than doubled from 11 to 24, and to the highest number since February 15.

And at North Devon District Hospital, numbers have leapt from eight to 14, and to the highest number since January 6.

In Cornwall, there are currently 24 patients, up from 18 as of last Tuesday.

The figures show how many patients are in hospital following a positive test for Covid-19, but not whether they were admitted for Covid-related reasons, whether they were infected inside the hospital, or whether their admission was entirely unrelated but they happened to have Covid at the same time – figures for the South West show on August 10, around 25 per cent of beds were occupied by ‘non-Covid’ patients – up from 15 per cent a fortnight ago.

In the last week, there has been six deaths in Devon, one in Cornwall, and two in Plymouth, but none in Torbay.

In terms of the latest MSOA cluster maps, that cover the period of specimen dates between August 9-15, all 230 areas of Devon and Cornwall reported three or more cases, with only nine areas reporting ten cases or fewer, including three on the Isles of Scilly.

Newquay East reported 122 cases, and has the highest infection rate of any of the MSOAs in England, while Cranbrook, Broadclyst & Stoke Canon (82), Middlemoor & Sowton (76), Chelston, Cockington & Livermead (74), Blatchcombe & Blagdon (73), St Columb Minor & Porth (73), Shiphay & the Willows (67), Newquay West (61) and Pinhoe & Whipton North (60) all saw 60 or more.

Highest areas for each of the other districts were Crediton (50), Braunton (45), Millbay & Stonehouse (50), Ivybridge (46), Teignmouth South (58), Bideford South & East (55), and Hatherleigh, Exbourne & North Tawton (36).

Of the adult population, 86.5% in Cornwall, 90.2% in East Devon, 78.8% in Exeter, 89% in Mid Devon, 87.7% in North Devon, 83.6% in Plymouth, 88.2% in South Hams, 89.3% in Teignbridge, 85.7% in Torbay, 89.1% in Torridge, and 89.7% in West Devon, have had one dose.

And of the adult population, 76.8% in Cornwall, 81% in East Devon, 64.2% in Exeter, 78.7% in Mid Devon, 78.5% in North Devon, 71,6% in Plymouth, 78.9% in South Hams, 80.6% in Teignbridge, 77.3% in Torbay, 80.1% in Torridge and 81.5% in West Devon, have had a second dose.

The record number of cases comes just days after the Boardmasters festival in Newquay – and following reports that a growing number of young people who attended the festival at Watergate Bay have contracted the virus.

A statement issued by Devon County Council on Thursday added: “Festivals, and any such large gatherings where there are a lot of people crowded together, are environments that bring with them heightened risk of transmission.

“And when audiences to those gatherings include younger people, who are not all vaccinated, then the risk of transmission again is greater.

“The same is true though of any event or setting where there’s socialising. It’s not just festivals.

“So perhaps it should not surprise us that the majority of positive cases in Devon now – holiday, events and festival time – are in the 15 to 19 year old age group, and that socialising is the main driver of that trend.

“The largest proportion of positive cases continue to be in the younger age groups including those working in hospitality and other sectors.

“Vaccination levels are increasing rapidly in the younger age groups, and that’s important to stop the spread of the virus and serious illness.”

A spokesperson from Cornwall Council said: “We will be monitoring the data closely as we have done throughout the pandemic.

“Our advice to residents and anyone visiting Cornwall remains the same – if you have Covid symptoms then isolate immediately and book a PCR test.

“If you have no symptoms, please continue to test twice a week with rapid Lateral Flow Tests which are available for free from pharmacies or can be delivered to your home.”

FULL LIST OF MSOA CLUSTER AREAS here

Councillor: censured for ‘dispectful comments’ to mayor – 2014

Owl recalls one of the early posts in the then emerging “East Devon Watch” at the end of April 2014. The post went under the heading “Some councillors get away with Blue Murder, some don’t”.

It pointed out that this was the second time Councillor Wragg (Lib Dem) had been brought before EDDC’s Standards Board for comments that seem to be the sort of thing that councillors of another colour call “robust debate” when they make similar remarks and have no action taken against them.

Eileen Wragg was unrepentant then, Owl hopes she is unrepentant now.

Dave Beasley www.exmouthjournal.co.uk 

A standards watchdog has ordered Councillor Eileen Wragg to publically ‘apologise’ to Exmouth’s mayor John Humphreys for ‘discourteous’ and ‘disrespectful’ behaviour.

But an unrepentant Councillor Wragg has refused – and has denounced the investigation as a ‘waste of tax payer’s money’ as well as criticising the year it has taken to resolve the complaint.

The complaint centres on comments Cllr Wragg made to Cllr Humphreys last May when he was inaugurated for a second term as town mayor.

The report of the standards hearing at East Devon District Council says that Councillor Wragg interrupted Councillor Humphreys during his acceptance speech in which he was giving a review of the previous year and what had been achieved.

Later in the meeting Councillor Humphreys then attempted to stop comments Cllr Wragg was making on the membership of the council’s committees.

The investigating officer Inspector Tim Darsley stated that Cllr Wragg said to the mayor: “We don’t want to hear what you have done in the past year.

She also said: “I don’t respect you as chairman and I never will. You don’t represent the people of Exmouth.”

Mr Darsley said the comments broke the town council’s councillors’ code of conduct which states that ‘you must treat others with courtesy and respect.’

However Councillor Wragg wrote to standards committee and said that ‘accumulated animosity’ between the two had lead to her comments.

The report reads: “The sub committee did not accept the excuse for accumulated animosity (between the two councillors) as justification for the breaches of the code of conduct.”

The standards committee added that Councillor Wragg must apologise to Councillor Humphreys at a meeting of the town council, while the town council would receive ‘guidance and training’ on the code of conduct.

Councillor Eileen Wragg told the Journal: “East Devon has decided to contact the press before having the courtesy to inform me first.

“I’m certainly not going to apologise.

“This is all part of the rough and tumble of political life, and I feel if you can’t take it you should get out of politics.

“I didn’t turn up to the hearing because I considered it a waste of thousands of pounds of taxpayer’s money.”

The Humphreys case – should EDDC seek an inquiry?

A correspondent writes:

I can understand why Humphreys was able to get away with his crimes AND still be a councillor.  Everyone is presumed innocent until proved guilty.  There was no such proof in the public domain until this month and no justice for the boys until  today.

What I CANNOT understand is why police dropped their first investigation in 2005.  And why it has taken from 2015, when the cases of the two boys were linked,  to 2021 to get justice for them.  6 lost years.  I accept it takes time to make a case – but 6 years?

If I were a councillor today at EDDC I would be asking for an inquiry – preferably public- into the case.  Who decided to drop these cases?   And what links they might have had – or still have –  and what roles did they have in common with other people who may also have had council roles or links during that time? Who during this long period of time was made aware of decisions taken by the police? 

Maybe EDDC Budleigh councillor and ex-policeman Tom Wright, who was for many years EDDC police liaison person when Tories were in control, can give us some insight from his experience, into how these things can happen?

Former mayor jailed over schoolboy abuse

A former mayor of Exmouth who abused two schoolboys in the 1990s and 2000s has been jailed for 21 years.

Ted Davenport www.devonlive.com

John Humphreys groomed and assaulted the first victim when he was aged about 13 and had three sexual encounters culminating in a violent sexual attack on Woodbury Common.

He went on to abuse the second boy when he was aged about 15 and met Humphreys while doing a work experience placement from school.

Humphreys was jailed after being found guilty at a trial at Exeter Crown Court earlier this week.

He was brought to justice by a long and complicated police investigation which started when the second victim told his girlfriend and mother of the abuse in 2005, some four years after it happened.

Police took a statement but did not prosecute at the time.

In a victim impact statement, he said he had bad feeling against the police at the time and felt Humphreys ‘had been favoured because of his political connections’.

The case was reopened in 2015, when the first victim came forward, telling officers that he was making his disclosures after 25 years of psychological trauma and sleepless nights.

Judge Timothy Rose told Humphreys he had done lasting damage to the victims and said many of his assaults would now be classified as male rape.

Humphreys was Mayor of Exmouth from 2012 to 2014 and served for 12 years as a Conservative councillor on East Devon District Council.

He was also a governor of a primary school in Exmouth.

He was appointed as an alderman by East Devon District Council in 2019 and accepted the honour despite knowing that he was under investigation by the police.

Humphreys ran his own gardening business in Exmouth and was considered to be a pillar of the community until the first allegations came to light in 2015.

He has been openly gay since coming out at the age of 21 and became one of the first people in Britain to take part in a same sex wedding when he married his partner in March 2014, 12 hours after the new law came into effect.

He denied having any sexual contact with either boy and said he was shocked and flabbergasted at the allegations.

He accused the first victim of being “wicked and vindictive” and making up his allegations to claim compensation.

Humphreys, aged 59, of Hartley Road, Exmouth, denied but was found guilty of three counts of a serious sexual assault (buggery) and two of indecent assault on the younger boy and five counts of indecent assault against older one.

He was jailed for 21 years by Judge Rose, who also put him on the sex offenders’ register for life.

Former mayor of Exmouth John Humphreys has been jailed for 21 years for sexually abusing two schoolboys (Image: Devon and Cornwall Police)

Judge Rose told Humphreys: “Six of these offences have to be assessed against the modern guideline for rape.

“These were shocking acts of sexual violence. You targeted a particularly vulnerable victim.

“It is clear you caused severe psychological harm which has damaged and blighted the life of your victims.

“You provided positive service to the community in your political career and as Mayor of Exmouth but your pursuit of a respectable life was undertaken while the dark and awful secret of your sexual offending remained unknown.

“These sentences must be consecutive. These incidents were entirely separate and 10 years apart against two children who did not know each other.”

Miss Fiona Elder, defending, said Humphreys should be given credit for the good work he has done in the community in the past and the punishment he has already suffered from the loss of his good name and the stress of the five-year investigation.

She said the offences were all opportunistic and there was no significant planning.

During the trial, the first victim said he was aged about 13 when he was picked up by Humphreys in public toilets in Manor Gardens in Exmouth, which was a well-known gay meeting spot, or cottage, at the time.

He said Humphreys took him to a friend’s flat after their first meeting and had sex with him.

He said they met again in the same way a second time and Humphreys took him back to his former home in Salterton Road where they had sex again.

The victim said he was taken to Woodbury Common on the third meeting where he was subjected to a brutal sexual assault he described as rape.

He said he was wearing a school shirt and was pushed up against the wall of an abandoned military blockhouse and raped.

The second victim said he met Humphreys when he was aged 14 or 15 in 2001 and off school on work experience.

He said he was assaulted for the first time after being taken back to his home during a lunch break and was so confused that he froze.

Humphreys later offered him holiday jobs and went on to abuse him on other occasions, telling him “this doesn’t mean you are gay”.

Following Humphreys’ sentencing, police have praised the two victims who came forward and gave evidence.

The officer who led the inquiry into his historic abuse of the boys 20 and 30 years ago said the verdict and sentence show that nobody is above the law.

Police Sergeant Angela Galasso said: “This has been a long and protracted investigation involving historic sexual offences that occurred more than 30 years ago during the early and late 1990s.

“The sentencing today shows that nobody is above the law, regardless of their standing in the community.

“I can only thank the complainants in this case for their tenacity, patience and the trust that they have continued to place in myself and colleagues investigating these matters.

“Both victims have voiced separately that they feared they would never be believed or that their complaints would be taken seriously.

“I sincerely hope that this guilty verdict will now provide this validation and allow them to feel that they can move on with their lives.”

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said the force takes offences such as these very seriously and encourages any victims to come forward.

Anyone who may have been affected by anything raised in this article can contact police in their local area by emailing 101@dc.police.uk or calling 101.

The freephone NSPCC helpline 0808 800 5000 is available for anyone to report or seek advice about non-recent abuse. Calls can be made anonymously.