Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 9 August

Wish you were here with a heavy-duty strimmer: Brighton hit by war of weeds

A ban on herbicides by one of Britain’s most eco-conscious councils has triggered a war of weeds.

Madeleine Spence www.thetimes.co.uk 

Residents of Brighton and Hove claim their pavements are becoming trip hazards and eyesores after a decision to eradicate the use of chemical-laden weedkillers. Two elderly women are said to have ended up in hospital after slipping.

Critics say the problem is getting out of control after a team of eight staff employed to pull out daisies, dandelions and moss was hit by Covid-19 and self-isolation rules.

Officials are being urged to find a more efficient way to remove the weeds and rethink other rewilding policies, such as the less frequent trimming of verges and hedges.

“It’s all very well for a trendy city-dweller to say, ‘Let’s rewild our pavements’ after hearing about the cause for the first time,” said Robert Nemeth, a councillor for Wish ward, on the seafront. “They probably haven’t got any friends who are elderly or disabled, who are most likely to be seriously injured under the current unsatisfactory situation.”

The issue has its roots in a decision by the council two years ago to phase out the use of herbicides by next year.

Hundreds of residents of Brighton — which has the country’s only Green MP — signed a petition in support of a ban to prevent chemicals such as glyphosate, a key ingredient in many weedkillers, from polluting the environment. Nemeth, a commercial beekeeper, is himself against the use of glyphosate.

Two elderly women are understood to have suffered head injuries when they tripped over weeds

Two elderly women are understood to have suffered head injuries when they tripped over weeds NAMMIE MATTHEWS

Alistair McNair, another councillor, says he has been inundated with complaints from residents who have ended up in hospital after tripping on uneven or cracked pavements, where invasive plants such as sycamore, nettles, buddleia and ragwort are bursting through the concrete.

In the well-heeled Rottingdean ward two women in their eighties are understood to have suffered head injuries when they tripped over weeds.

Some people have started taking matters into their own hands. Ian Cox, a long-time resident, has not only been buying and squirting weedkiller outside his home, but has also taken to mowing nearby verges.

Sprouting pavements are not the only problem. “Overgrown hedgerows left untended are certainly more dangerous to the blind or partially impaired because white sticks don’t navigate them well,” said Natasha Spearhil, 48, who is partially sighted. “Speaking from experience, I certainly get sick and tired of injuries that would otherwise not be sustained because of overhanging bushes.”

In recent years concerns about glyphosate have been subsumed by a rising tide of broader environmentalism, reflecting a new trend in urban rewilding in the UK.

Overgrown areas can prove hazardous to disabled people who may not be able to negotiate a clear path

Overgrown areas can prove hazardous to disabled people who may not be able to negotiate a clear path

NAMMIE MATTHEWS

More than a quarter of councils in England have embraced or are considering rewilding, according to an investigation by Inkcap Journal, a nature and conservation magazine.

Some residents of Brighton have suggested that the environmental cause has become a convenient cover for a council unable or unwilling to keep up with the sprouting problem.

Joy Flowers, 68, who lives in Hollingbury, said: “We did have the hand-weeding team around, but you wouldn’t know it. I think the ‘rewilding’ is a bit of an excuse. The pavements should be kept clear.”

The council said that many residents “have welcomed the weeds as habitats for insects and bees, and complain when we remove them”.

It added that the weed problem had been exacerbated by staff shortages during the pandemic and that the weather had also contributed to “a growth spurt”. It will hire an external contractor to help speed up removal.

For Colin Pow, 74, a Rottingdean resident, weeds are simply wild flowers, and he is all in favour. “I think it’s a great idea. I have nothing against wild flowers and it’s a good way for the council to save money.”

PCR Covid test firm with links to former minister accused of multiple failures

A Covid-19 testing company co-owned by a former Labour justice minister and a Labour councillor has been accused of failing to deliver kits and test results and not refunding customers, forcing them to fall back on the NHS.

Rob Davies www.theguardian.com 

RT Diagnostics is one of hundreds of firms that won government approval to sell PCR tests to travellers planning to enter England, after ministers decided to leave provision to the private sector, under a system that has drawn criticism over allegations of poor service against several companies.

Travellers to the UK have spent at least £500m on PCR tests from private companies since mid-May. But evidence is mounting that the taxpayer-funded NHS testing service, which itself has been outsourced to contractors, is in effect being left to bear the costs when private companies fail.

Customers who paid RT Diagnostics for tests said kits had arrived late or not at all, or that they had never received results. Several said they had been forced to call the NHS, which can offer testing for travellers free of charge in exceptional circumstances.

The company denied the claims, saying in cases of lost kits it absorbed all the costs and refunded individuals 100% of the time.

The former justice minister Shahid Malik and Calderdale councillor Faisal Shoukat are listed as shareholders in RT Diagnostics and Real Time Diagnostics.

Malik has a majority stake in RT Diagnostics, according to Companies House filings, held via a company of which he is the sole shareholder called Premier UK Life Sciences. The company was set up in February 2021, a month before RT Diagnostics was incorporated.

Fred Molin, a university worker based in Hampshire, said he paid £81 for day two and day eight tests in mid-June, before a flight from Sweden to the UK, but has never received them and has yet to be refunded six weeks later.

“They’ve sent me an email saying the refund has been sent but there’s been no money,” he said. “I’ve called them three or four times, whereupon they tell me that their operations are down and they’ll be back up in the next week and a half.”

Molin said he had resorted to calling the NHS, which sent him a test for free.

Khadija Podd said she had found she was unable to register her test on the company’s website and had ended up calling the NHS 119 helpline for advice.

“It wasn’t just the money, I wanted to know if I was committing an offence. But I really couldn’t afford to buy another test. It cost me £168 on top of everything else.”

In an email seen by the Guardian, RT Diagnostics told her it might take “several weeks” for a refund to be processed. After she told them she had spoken to her MP and to the Guardian, Podd received a refund the next day.

“I’m fuming because of the whole system, not just RT Diagnostics, but the whole thing has been so badly done when you compare it to Europe.

“It’s a business here. The UK is using Covid as a business and countries in Europe are not doing the same thing. It has to be called out.”

Rob Crisp, a drum teacher, said the results of tests he bought in June had arrived late and that he had not received a refund, despite requesting one.

He said: “Why should the NHS have to pick up the tab for the failings of a private company who are making a small fortune?”

Paul Myers, the managing director of e-bike company Cooler King, said he still hadn’t received a refund after the company failed to send him test results for a day five “test to release” service purchased in June.

He said the company had promised to refund him in late June but had not done so. “I email them every couple of days and they don’t respond,” he said.

Multiple reviewers on TrustPilot, Google and Twitter said they had received test kits late or not at all – and had not received refunds.

When the Guardian called a customer services number for RT Diagnostics on Wednesday, the person who answered said: “We are out of operations for the moment but we will definitely be back in operations very soon.”

They said customers who had not received tests would “definitely” receive refunds.

They added: “It will be very soon but I can’t commit when it is, but it will be in the next few days.”

A spokesperson for the company denied the claims on Thursday.

“It is a totally preposterous and 100% defamatory accusation that we would not refund anyone whose kit did not arrive,” the spokesperson said.

“For the record, we have a no-quibble 100% refund policy for any kits that get lost via our courier Royal Mail – in these cases we absorb the costs for the lost kit and refund the individual 100%.

“If you are aware of any cases where anyone has not received a refund due to lost kits, please forward us the details immediately.”

RT Diagnostics said Malik was no longer a director of the company and had no managerial responsibility. It also said it was no longer selling test kits and has not been since mid-June. Its website states that tests are out of stock. The company no longer appears on the list of government-approved test providers.

Private PCR testing companies have left a trail of unhappy holidaymakers complaining that test kits, or their results, failed to arrive as promised.

The firms typically charge £80-£200 for pre-bought PCR tests that are mandatory for people arriving in the UK, almost twice the price that passengers pay in Europe.

Covid-19 cases rise in East Devon but drop in Exeter in latest weekly stats

Recorded new Covid-19 cases in East Devon have risen by seven per cent in a week, but have dropped in Exeter by 18 per cent. 

Local Democracy Reporter eastdevonnews.co.uk 

Some 512 cases were logged in the district, with 626 in the city, in the seven days up to August 15.

This is a rise of 34 in East Devon, where the infection rate is 345.8 per 100,000 people, when compared to the previous week.

But there was a decrease of 139 in Exeter where the infection rate is 469.5 – the second highest in Devon.

Both areas are still well above the national average rate of 304 cases per 100,000 residents.

Torbay once again has the highest Covid rate in the county after cases rose by 20 per cent.

Exeter East Devon Upper tier local authorities in the week up to August 15.

Lower tier local authorities in the week up to August 15.

The biggest weekly rise was in West Devon, which has seen cases rise by more than 41 per cent.

There was also a significant increase in Teignbridge, which now has the third highest infection rate in Devon.

Exeter East Devon Upper tier local authorities in the week up to August 15.

Upper tier local authorities in the week up to August 15.

HOSPITALISATIONS

The number of people in hospital with Covid in Devon has risen.

The latest figures, up to Tuesday, August 17, show 120 patients with the virus in the county’s hospitals – a rise of 31 on the previous week.

Of the 120 patients, 34 are at the Royal Devon and Exeter, 48 are at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, 24 are in Torbay and 14 are being cared for in North Devon. Eighteen people are on mechanical ventilation beds.

DEATHS

Eight people died in Devon within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 in the seven-day period up to and including Sunday, August.15

Six were in the Devon County Council area, one in Plymouth and one in Torbay.

A total of 1,079 people in Devon have died within 28 days of a positive test since the pandemic began.

This includes 216 in Plymouth and 165 in Torbay. Across the UK, 131,487 people have died within four weeks of testing positive.

VACCINATIONS

The number of adults aged 18 or over who have received at least one dose of a Cover vaccine is now 87 per cent in the Devon County Council area, 86 per cent in Torbay, and 84 per cent in Plymouth.

The proportion of people who are now fully vaccinated with both jabs is now 77 per cent in Devon, 77 per cent in Torbay and 72 per cent in Plymouth.

Beautiful Days, “horrendous” loos, crowded spaces

Could the Beautiful Days festival at Escot Park become our very own local superspreading event?

Festival Goers disgusted by state of toilets

Molly Dowrick www.devonlive.com 

People attending Devon’s long-awaited Beautiful Days music festival have slammed its less-than-beautiful toilet facilities at the site.

Whilst the music and atmosphere has been praised, attendees say they’ve been “let down” by the “horrendous” portable toilets that are “totally unsanitary”.

Staff at the festival say they are aware of people’s complaints and are currently working their way around the site to empty and clean the toilets – while bringing in extra loos to help improve the situation.

But some festival-goers, say there has been “no improvement” since they initially complained hours ago.

One festival-goer told DevonLive: “It’s such a great festival but this year it’s being let down by horrendous toilet facilities.

“The condition of nearly all the toilets is totally unsanitary but festival goers on Twitter and Facebook are constantly being told the sanitation teams are working on it, but there is little to no improvement!

“I fear this situation could jeopardise any licence for future events.”

Another said: “It’s such a shame because this festival is always known for having nicer loos. It’s been pretty disgusting this year!”

DevonLive understands extra toilets have been delivered this evening – but some people say there is still a “strong smell” from the loos.

A spokesperson for Beautiful Days Festival said: “We are responding to complaints and feedback on site as quickly as we can about the toilets.

“Our team, and the contractor, have brought in extra resources to ensure all toilets are emptied and cleaned and can be maintained throughout the rest of the weekend.

“They are actively working their way around site and will continue to do so – cleaning and emptying the toilets. The situation is very frustrating and we can only apologise for any delays reaching certain areas of site.”

Festival goers say the state of the loos at Beautiful Days festival is 'horrendous'

Festival goers say the state of the loos at Beautiful Days festival is ‘horrendous’ (Image: submitted)

The news comes amid festival-goers being asked to prove they do not have Covid-19 in order to be let into the site.

Last month, organisers confirmed people would be asked to proof they have had a recent negative NHS lateral flow test if they want to attend the festival.

A spokesperson for the festival said: “Everyone – working, performing or attending – will be required to prove their Covid-19 status to gain access to the festival site to reduce risk to you and others around you.

“This is not a Covid passport. If you have not had the vaccine then you can take a free test.”

Acts confirmed for this year’s sold out festival include Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls, James, The Orb, Gary Numan and, of course, festival founders the Levellers.

Five thundering cliff falls in one day

A notorious stretch of cliffs on the East Devon coast has seen five massive falls in one morning.

Ami Wyllie www.devonlive.com

Crumbling clay tumbled from the cliffs between Sidmouth and Salcombe Mouth on Sunday morning.

Local resident Katy Hancock managed to capture huge plumes of red dust kicked up by the landslides.

Beer Coastguard Rescue Team shared a photo from Jurassic Paddle Sports and posted a warning on Facebook.

They wrote: “Cliff falls this morning, please stay away from the base of cliffs and take note of the signs, they are there for a reason.”

(Image: Katy Hancock)

While it was supposed to serve as a caution about the dangers of the location, some Facebook users were excited at the prospect of finding fossils.

In 1823 renowned fossil hunter, Mary Anning, discovered the Plesiosaurus at a nearby beach further along the Jurassic Coast.

Since then, the area has become a hotspot for dinosaur enthusiasts.

One person commented: “Time to go fossil hunting!!!”

Another said: “Fossil hunters will be out in force!”

Others were concerned at the accessibility of the location and the lack of knowledge for tourists visiting the area.

One person said: “Sadly people will always think they know better or are immune to the dangers, especially if the are not local to the area and have knowledge of the falls.”

Another was worried people will use it as a vantage point for upcoming air shows.

They said: “Hope too many people don’t go up on the cliffs to watch the air show this week!”

The area is infamous for dangerous cliff falls and signage at along the edge and on the beach advise visitors to keep well away from the area.

In three weeks at the end of May and into June, there were four separate cliff falls prompting safety warnings from the local coastguard.