Cornwall rages as outsiders cash in on second homes

Second-home owners in Cornwall accessed funds to the tune of £170 million intended to help businesses weather the Covid crisis — and almost 62 per cent of the cash went to people who live outside the county.

Plus the Council and local community miss out on council tax and business rates.

Also don’t forget the lack of accommodation for long-term rent and the whole question of affordability. – Owl

Will Humphries, Southwest Correspondent

Tensions between Cornish locals and wealthy out-of-towners who own second homes in the county have been steadily rising — and the influx of tourists this summer has not helped relations.

The row has intensified after it emerged yesterday that second-home owners in Cornwall accessed funds to the tune of £170 million intended to help businesses weather the Covid crisis — and almost 62 per cent of the cash went to people who live outside the county.

Second-home ownership has resulted in many locals being priced out of the area and at a council meeting yesterday Andrew George, a Liberal Democrat councillor, demanded that £100 million of Covid grants that went to those living outside the county should be paid back.

He said the money should be returned by those who use their second homes in Cornwall as an “investment or leisure toy” and instead be used to tackle the “housing emergency” in Cornwall.

“It is time the government sought to recover these monies and ensured they are deployed to address the shocking circumstances of local families suffering the housing emergency,” he added.

Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, said he was “not happy with it … a minority did return their money but it’s such a minority it’s not worth commenting about.”

To further ruffle feathers, second-home owners who put their properties up for rent as registered holiday lets can separately apply for small business rates relief and as a result do not end up paying business rates or council tax.

David Harris, deputy leader of Cornwall council, said yesterday that this benefit was “just wrong and unfair”.

During the meeting it was revealed that there are 13,255 second homes recorded on its council tax database with 11,081 holiday lets registered for business rates and 8,953 getting business rates relief.

It was also revealed that 61.8 per cent of the holiday lets in Cornwall that claim small business rates relief and received Covid grants were registered to people living outside Cornwall.

Harris told the meeting he had made “very strong representations” to the government that the Covid grants should not “just be paid out automatically to these holiday let businesses”.

But, he added: “Unfortunately civil servants in London didn’t agree with me and I got nowhere.”

It has previously been claimed that Cornwall misses out on as much as £10 million a year as a result of holiday homes not paying council tax or business rates.

The government announced this year that it would close a loophole that enables second-home and holiday let owners to avoid paying council tax and business rates.

The growth in popularity of homes in Cornwall shows no signs of abating. Among the celebrities to own property are Dame Judi Dench, who owns a house near St Ives.

The seaside town of Fowey this month voted to ban people buying new-build homes as second properties.

Jo Ashby, a director at estate agent John Bray and Partners, said at the time there has been an “explosion” in interest in the past 18 months.

Rebecca Hemingway, from Fowey Folk Museum, added: “There’s nobody with a view of the sea that’s local — maybe one.

“It’s too late to do anything about the second homes situation now — it would be nice for the community if there were more affordable homes.

“There’s a handful at the top, but not enough.”

Carry on and Cover up

Don’t say ‘panic’ amid fuel crisis, Cabinet Office warns councils

By Ben Weisz

The government has advised councils not to use the phrases “panic” or “panic buying” about fuel supply problems, documents seen by the BBC reveal.

Slides prepared by the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Science Team also advised against using language that morally judges people buying petrol.

A Green Party council leader called the recommendations “nonsensical”.

The government said it worked “closely with councils… on communications to encourage a co-ordinated response.”

The advice sent to local authorities from central government comes after days of long queues at petrol stations which began after fears a lorry driver shortage would hit fuel supplies triggered a surge in demand.

On Wednesday the government deployed a reserve tanker feet to boost deliveries and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng insisted the situation was “stabilising”.

In a power point presentation marked “official sensitive” the Cabinet Office warns against using the terms “panic”, “panic buying” and “stockpiling”.

The document – labelled “considerations for local authorities” – explains that people don’t recognise their own behaviour as “panic buying” and that the use of such phrases can cause panic which can become contagious.

Instead it recommends using phrases like “filling up earlier than usual” or “changed patterns in demand”.

Other tips include avoiding language that morally judges those queuing for petrol as “framing all individuals who stock up as ‘selfish’ or ‘irrational’ is likely to receive some backlash”.

“Framing people buying excess fuel as ‘taking away from those who need it/ the NHS etc.’ is likely to lead to them feeling like their freedom has been threatened, leading them to more readily engage in ‘panic buying’ behaviour,” the document says.

The advice also says councils could encourage petrol stations to take down signs saying “abuse will not be tolerated” – which could lead customers to expect confrontation on arrival.

Speaking to BBC Radio Sussex, Phélim Mac Cafferty, the Green Party leader of Brighton and Hove City Council said the recommendations amounted to asking councils to “help the government cover up the fuel crisis”.

“Instead of guidance to help us, help our communities navigate the fuel crisis, we have been given platitudes.

“This is beyond not good enough. It’s a disgrace.”

Devon covid starts to rise again

Covid cases have risen in some parts of Devon, ending weeks of gradual falls in infections.

Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter

In the week to Thursday 23 September, infecitons increased by 20 per cent in both the Devon County Council area and Plymouth, but fell slightly in Torbay.

Devon’s number of cases per 100,000 people now stands at 258, while the respective figures for Torquay and Plymouth are 275 and 319. By comparison, the UK average is now 351.

Whilst that means at ‘top tier’ level, all three parts of Devon are below the national average, it masks the picture at district council level. Of the county’s eight district areas, South Hams recorded the biggest rise of 75 per cent, putting the area’s infection rate above the national average at 378 cases per 100,000.

Teignbridge and West Devon also had increases of around 35 per cent, but their infection rates remain below the UK-wide figure. East Devon mirrored the county with cases here going up by a fifth.

Elsewhere, Torridge and Mid Devon registered the only falls in Devon, and even these were modest drops of 13 and five per cent respectively. Mid Devon’s infection rate of 169 is now the lowest in the county and around half that of the national average.

Last week, Devon’s director of public health said there had been an increase in infections in educational settings, which was being replicated across the country. Secondary school and college students are being instructed to wear face coverings in communal areas for a further two weeks.

However, Steve Brown added there is unlikely to be an extension to the current covid enhanced response area for Devon and Cornwall, which ends this Friday [1 October].


Prior to this update there had been a steady drop in infections, leading to a slight reduction in the number of people being treated for covid in Devon’s hospitals. That number is again down on last week – by 31.

Latest figures for Tuesday 21 September show 97 covid patients in the county’s hospitals, 41 of which are at Derriford in Plymouth, 28 at the RD&E, 16 in Torbay and 12 in North Devon. Of the total number of patients, ten are on mechanical ventilation beds.


Fourteen more people died in the county within 28 days of testing positive for covid in the latest complete weekly period (up to Wednesday 22 September). Eleven were in the Devon County Council area, two in Plymouth and one in Torbay.

A total of 1,210 people in Devon (including Plymouth and Torbay) have died within 28 days of a positive test since the pandemic began.


Government figures for vaccinations now include people aged 16 and over.

The number of people who have received at least one dose of a 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 82 per cent in Devon, 79 per cent in Torbay and 77 per cent in Plymouth.

Concerns expressed over reserved matter proposals for Zone A and D Winslade Park

Owl has received these considered observations on the latest planning details submitted on the reserved matters on the Winslade Park development: 

We have carefully worked through the detailed planning applications for Zone A (old Plymouth Brethren field) and Zone D (the 3 x blocks of flats).

Having been part of the campaign team for seven years, this was far from what we fought for and was contrary to the Local Plan, Neighbourhood Plan and Strategy 26B of East Devon’s Plan.

However, as we know, the Councillors that make up the Planning Committee voted to accept the outline planning application for Winslade Park on the economic and employment benefits that it will bring to the area. So far we haven’t heard or seen too much evidence of this, however the Manor House has been beautifully refurbished, although a little pricey.

We remain concerned for residents that have houses that back onto Zone A. Should the proposals get the go ahead the roofs of the new houses will tower above the bungalows, with the chimneys above the ridge lines. The backs of the proposed houses will overlook the properties in Clyst Valley Road. These proposed houses don’t meet and are contrary to the Bishops Clyst Neighbourhood Plan.

Some of the proposed gardens appear to encroach into and beyond the tree line. We believe these areas need amending or at least objecting to.

Zone D appears to totally contradict the Bishops Clyst Neighbourhood Plan. There appears that little design has gone into these apartments and they still appear to resemble Lego blocks, far from the quality development that should be adjacent to a Grade II* listed Manor. The apartment blocks are planned to be four storeys tall and will significantly tower over the backs of the houses in Clyst Valley Road, resulting in loss of privacy for a number of residents within our estate. This cannot be claimed to be, in any way, appropriate for a village in the countryside and more akin to the likes of Exeter City centre.

The Parish Council have arranged a meeting on Wednesday 6 th October at 19.30 for any residents that want to attend. It’s going to be held in Clyst St Mary Church (due to Covid we can’t use the school hall and the village hall is unavailable.) Please come along and give your views to the Parish Council.

Formal comments to by 14 th October quoting reference 21/2235/MRES for Zone A, and 21/2217/MRES for Zone D. It is always important that you state clearly whether your comment is in support, an objection or neutral.

Torbay Council’s verbal punch-up leaves clerk in tears

It’s all kicking off in Torbay

Fierce row about who should be on committee

[If anyone can track down the Zoom recording, please drop Owl a link].

Joe Ives, local democracy reporter 

A Torbay Council meeting desended into disarray this week as councillors took an hour to decide not to have a vote.

Along the way, they created a procedural row that left one clerk too upset to continue with their duties.

In a meeting which had echoes of the famous ‘Jackie Weaver’ incident at Handforth Parish Council that went viral earlier this year, Torbay members engaged in a fierce hour-long debate over who could or could not be a member of a new group set up to scrutinise the council’s efforts at addressing its housing crisis. 

The argument arose over a disagreement over how politically balanced the committee should be.

Councillors had been sent an email inviting them to join the committee, but problems began when the response turned out better than expected.  Normally, scrutiny panels struggle to attract enough councillors to join up, but with housing being such a key issue in the Bay, many councillors were eager to take part. 

This meant that an agenda listed three Liberal Democrats, two independents and seven Conservative councillors as members. 

Fearing that the panel would be politically unbalanced (the overall council is run by a coalition of Lib Dems and independents, although the Conservatives have the largest number of councillors), Lib Dem overview and scrutiny co-ordinator Margaret Douglas-Dunbar (Clifton with Maidenway) held discussions and told group leaders to put forward a limited number of candidates of their choosing. 

The measure was meant to create a political balance reflecting the makeup of the council with three Liberal Democrat nominees, three Conservative nominees and two independents. The move was rejected by the Conservatives, who felt it was an unfair attempt to move the goalposts and that it would give their members too little input into the scrutiny process. Leader of the Conservative group councillor David Thomas (Preston), said the request was sent too late and did not put forward any nominees. 

Panel chairwoman Councillor Hazel Foster (Conservative) attempted to start the meeting with a vote to ratify the membership as printed on the agenda. Liberal Democrats were up in arms, arguing that such a move should not go ahead, given the request to form a politically balanced council.

A vote was started by Cllr Foster but was quickly interrupted when Councillor Mandy Darling (Liberal Democrat, Tormohun) questioned the democratic process saying: “I don’t recognise this and I will not be a part of this.”

It was to set the tone of a fierce back-and-forth between councillors which quickly spiralled out of control.  Chris Lewis (Conservative, Preston) said: “If this went public people would be amazed that we’re arguing about this. All members want to do the best for our community in Torbay.”

At one point, a council clerk, who is not allowed to be involved in political debates, was put in the crossfire when she was asked to weigh in. After being placed in an impossible position, the clerk became visibly distressed and was granted permission to step out of the meeting. 

The moment sparked even more bitterness. When Councillor Foster attempted again to proceed with the vote, Cllr Karen Kennedy (Independent Group, Churston with Galmpton), who wanted the meeting to be reconvened, was furious. She said: “I think it’s totally and utterly unacceptable to put a member of the council staff in a situation like this where they clearly are very very upset.

“This is out of order and it’s close to bullying and harassment. I don’t agree with what’s going on at all. It’s unfair, it’s unkind.”

Council chief executive Anne-Marie Bond was eventually drafted into the meeting, held over Zoom, to help councillors reach a consensus.

As the hour mark approached it was decided the meeting could carry on without a panel and that group leaders would agree on the make-up of the scrutiny panel before the next meeting.

Only then did invited guests finally get to discuss the housing crisis, but by then the subject had been largely overshadowed.

It’s thought more than 1,400 households are awaiting affordable accommodation in the Bay, with demand quickly outstripping any new supply. Earlier this month, the council rented all 47 rooms of The Richmond Hotel in Torquay to provide a ‘circuit breaker’ for some of its housing pressures. 

In August, the council’s leadership split opinion in its coalition when said it would not directly provide housing to Afghan refugees because of the Bay’s accommodation shortage. It subsequently launched a campaign trying to encourage landlords to provide homes but still says it won’t provide council homes to refugees fleeing the Taliban.

Torbay Council has yet to release the footage of the Zoom meeting, but is expected to do so as it generally publishes all public meetings after a few days.

30,000 Devon households to be hit by end of Universal Credit uplift

The end of the temporary £20 a week uplift in universal credit payments is expected to affect 30,000 households in Devon. 

Ollie Heptinstall

The figure, which excludes Torbay and Plymouth, was revealed at a virtual meeting of the Team Devon local outbreak engagement board this week, made up of local authorities including the county council, police and NHS. 

Presenting the economy briefing compiled in August, Keri Denton, the council’s head of economy, enterprise and skills, told members the end of the uplift would amount to a reduction of £31 million in support to families. 

“Obviously the greater impact will be on the lowest income households, and obviously they tend to be in our areas of deprivation. And that will have consequences for the health and the social wellbeing of our residents, some of the demand we’re seeing appear in the health system,” she said. 

However, Ms Denton described the number of universal credit claimants in the county as ‘rapidly reducing,’ going down from five per cent in May 2020 to 3.6 per cent in June 2021. 

The briefing adds there is “anecdotal evidence (so far) of highly significant increases (doubling in some instances) in food bank usage in Devon during the pandemic lockdown periods and more widely worry about food insecurity, especially among those with children.” 

Following the meeting, Councillor Alistair Dewhirst said the number of households impacted by the end of the £20 uplift was “absolutely terrible.” He describes poverty as a major issue. 

“At the Devon County Council scrutiny committee I chair, we decided to put poverty on our list of urgent actions to look at. 

He added: “I think it’s very interesting that [on Thursday] I understand the prime minister was put on the spot and asked if he could live on universal credit and he refused to answer that.” 

Speaking to reporters on a visit to the United States, Mr Johnson said: “I have every sympathy with people who are finding it tough and I really really do, but I think we have to recognise that in order to maintain the covid uplift you‘ve got to find another five or six billion in tax, that would have to come out of people’s pockets.”

Cathy Gardner: Our final hearing is October 19th 

The final hearing is now only a few weeks away, beginning on the 19th October for 4 days. This is a momentous occasion. The Court is the only forum which has the power to rule that the actions of the Government were unlawful and breached the human rights of vulnerable care home residents. We believe that the Government have violated the most fundamental of rights – the right to life – and discriminated against the elderly and disabled residents of care homes, with devastating consequences. The evidence shows that the health and wellbeing of care home residents were simply not considered when the Government decided to clear the hospitals to “Protect the NHS”. Testing capacity was not utilised and basic advice on wearing PPE and isolating new admissions was not given. Even worse, it seems that care home operators were given misleading and downright dangerous advice by Government so that they would be persuaded to take in new residents who could spread Covid to other vulnerable people within the home.

What is truly shameful is the Government’s ongoing refusal to acknowledge the serious errors of judgement they made. Unbelievably, they still maintain that there was a “protective ring around care homes” when it is plain and obvious that the very opposite is true.  Equally shameful has been their ongoing refusal to disclose key documents that explain why they made the decisions they did. We appealed to the Court of Appeal for disclosure of these documents but were unsuccessful. The Court of Appeal was concerned to keep the final hearing date and one of the factors which worked against us was that the extra time and work involved in the Government undertaking more disclosure would risk losing that date. We therefore press on for the trial on 19th October.

My legal team have been hard at work and have now filed our Skeleton Argument with the Court. This document is the last formal document we send to the Court before the final hearing. It explains why we believe the Government, and the NHS, have acted unlawfully, in endangering the lives of care home residents. It can be found here.

I am very grateful to everyone who has given financially to help us bring this case. We still have a deficit of £35,000 and I would be grateful if you could consider giving one last time and sharing this crowdfunding page with others. Thank you for your support in seeking to hold the Government to account for their truly shocking failures.

‘Openness, Transparency and Democracy’

From Stephen Pemberton, letter published in the Sidmouth Herald: 

EDDC Licensing Committee Agree Sidmouth Town Council and Jazz and Blues Festival Arrangements. 

It’s sad to see that the EDDC Licensing Committee would agree the Application by the proposed Jazz and Blues Festival for 2022, with the backing of Sidmouth Town Council, on the basis of no information and no consultation with the necessary Statutory Bodies, with only the promises and assurances that they will act in the best interests of Sidmouth. 

This is against a background  of the STC Town Clerk and Chairman’s ill-conceived Plans which they have forced through, having informed the Organiser that it was all agreed, done and dusted, even before a full Town Council meeting. 

STC meetings have prevented STC Cllrs from raising concerns about the Proposals. 

There is a lack of Scrutiny and Challenge by STC Cllrs, which is their role to do. 

STC have not consulted Sidmouth Town residents on the Town Clerk and Chairman’s proposals, alerted, or informed Sidmouth Town residents of the details of their Plan. 

The EDDC Licensing Committee has now taken on responsibility and accountability from STC through the Organiser for the proposed Event. 

The concerns relate to: 

– Planned excessive numbers of 2,750 attendees at each of the (2/3?) Events for each Event of each day 

– Full Closure of The Ham and The Ham pathway and Cycleway for 14 full days and nights  

– Disruption for all members of the Public and visitors to the Town and esplanade 

– Unsafe, congested funnelling of people at all times of the day and evening down Mill Street and York Street, and around and over the small bridge and along the riverside path to the esplanade 

We shall have to wait to see if the Organiser and their Event Manager have heeded concerns that STC have fully known and proposed, and drastically adjust their arrangements. 

Stephen Pemberton, 

House prices: Young and low paid ‘priced out’ of tourist areas

Young and low paid workers in tourist hotspots are increasingly being priced out of homes, new analysis has shown.

House prices rose up to three times faster in some rural and coastal areas compared to the national average in July, Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures have revealed.

North Devon has seen a rise of 22.5%, while the UK average rose by 8%.

A lack of affordable homes could be contributing to hospitality struggling to fill vacancies, the ONS said.

The average cost of rent in the south-west of England rose by 2.6% in the year leading to August, more than double the 1.2% increase for the UK as a whole.

The ONS said the growth in demand for rental properties “appears to be exceeding supply”.

It added the fall in supply of letting was most widespread in the South West, East and West Midlands.

‘Immense anxiety’

The ONS said: “Rising house prices and private rents mean that some workers are at risk of being priced out of living in rural and coastal areas, contributing to skill shortages in the tourism and hospitality industries that their local economies rely on.”

One couple from Barnstaple say they have been looking for a new home for five months with no success.

Sarah-Jane and Lauren Tolley have three weeks to find somewhere to live after being asked to leave by their current landlady through a no-fault eviction.

Section 21 notices allow landlords to evict renters without a reason after their fixed-term tenancy period ends.

Sarah-Jane explained two years ago they “genuinely had a choice” of where to live, but now are “in a position where we have to take whatever we can get”.

She said the “anxiety is immense” for them both and they were struggling to sleep over fear of being made homeless.

“The pressure that you feel in your chest is just heart-wrenching to think that you potentially might not have a home,” Mrs Tolley added.

The average UK house price was £256,000 in July 2021 – £19,000 higher than a year earlier.

Other rural and coastal areas with house prices rising much above the UK average are Conwy in North Wales (25.0%) and Richmondshire in the Yorkshire Dales (21.4%), the ONS figures show.

ONS house prices statistics

By contrast, house prices in the City of London borough fell by just over 10%.

Nathan Emerson, CEO of estate agent body Propertymark, said the coronavirus pandemic had created a “perfect storm” of housing problems in coastal and rural areas.

He cited the movement of people from urban centres to the countryside, shortage of housing stock, high demand for homes and increases in prices caused by a lack of supply.

“More importantly, we are in a position where that vein will continue for a period of time,” Mr Emerson added.

‘Losing our community’

Emma Hookaway, from Braunton in Devon, launched a Facebook group and campaign for the local community’s access to housing, after also being told she must leave her rental home.

She explained it was “nearly impossible” to find somewhere to rent, with people being increasingly priced out of the market.

Ms Hookaway also described the situation as a perfect storm caused by Covid, with more and more people moving to north Devon.

She argued the area was “losing our real sense of community” with locals unable to compete with the prices those moving in could afford.

“I don’t at the moment feel like my children will be able to afford to come back and move into the area,” Ms Hookaway added.

An open letter to Michael Gove

An open letter to Michael Gove, Secretary of State  for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, from a Correspondent:

Dear Secretary of State, 

Amongst your many new responsibilities you have been given the unenviable task of building 300,000 homes a year with the remit that voters in Tory constituencies continue to vote Tory and not liberal democrat. Also, are you aware that in my part of the world it was an independent who was runner-up twice to the conservative in the last national elections and my local council Independent led?

 This is in response to the previous local Tory regime who “built, built, built”.

You will never reconcile your goals until we, who live in these constituencies, trust that there is democracy and openness in planning, the planning system itself, those who administer it and then those who vote on the planning applications. An Englishman’s home is his castle, large sums of money are invested. There must be a democratic process if any development occurs nearby. The answer is not to seriously curtail local input. 

I am very pleased that the government now is considering that the 1.1 million homes awarded planning permission, but not yet built, may be subject to a land tax. This will ease the housebuilding problem. I believe that this issue was the main cause of the shortage of housing, not the present planning system. The present system is by no means perfect but the suggested changes of Robert Jenrick were not the answer. 

To add to your problems we in Devon and Cornwall have the added difficulty of seeing many of our permanent dwellings bought as second homes and holiday lets. This results in a lack of affordable homes for our local youngsters, inflated house prices, no long term rentals available and serious loss of community. No widow should have to buy a flat for her daughter who can afford to rent but there are no long term rentals available. As she said “I can’t have my daughter homeless”. 

I cannot understand why a dwelling built as a Holiday Let needs planning permission to become a permanent dwelling and yet a permanent dwelling can become a second home without any planning restrictions. Surely this is now the time to change this.

To many of us it is immoral that “The Times” could report that in the last decade more homes became second homes than were built. Grade 1 agricultural land has been sacrificed for a new town in our district which is unacceptable. To add insult to injury the town of circa 5,000 population which was started 10 years ago still lacks a viable town centre with shops.

Why don’t we  trust the planning system? 

Is it that the National Planning Framework is fundamentally flawed? I accept that sustainable development is at the heart of the NPPF but there are safeguards in place to improve the environment and our heritage. The problem relates to the many ambiguous words in the NPPF such as:

“significant; in the best interests; give weight to; harm; conserve and enhance”

This gives tremendous powers to the planners and councillors. A balance has to be struck and weight given between the different policies by the planners but the experience in East Devon is that the deciding factor is always “economic benefit” or “housing need” (in spite of a 5 year land supply).

 For example there was an application for 2 houses in the conservation area of a saxon village, adjacent to 10 listed buildings and 45 metres from the Grade 1 listed church.  This site of great heritage significance was validated with no Historic Impact Assessment as required in the NPPF. The officers were repeatedly made aware of the extreme importance of the site by Historic England’s three comments on the planning portal. Of particular concern was that the orientation of the proposed buildings were at right angles to the historic landscape. These comments were simply brushed aside. The application was contrary to many of the newly adopted local neighbourhood plan policies -number of bedrooms specified in NP; materials; density; design; respecting heritage assets. This contentious application was decided by officers under delegated power and approved. The reason given was the need for housing although East Devon at that time had a 5 year land supply.

So, what about democracy and the planning process? Many towns and villages in East Devon have an adopted Neighbourhood Plan which is a very democratic way of finding locals’ views on issues in their neighbourhood and then voting on them. Some councils and developers also consult on proposed planning matters.

Why then is it widely thought to be a charade? Following a consultation regarding the proposed location of a school it is amazing that Devon County Council still put forward a planning application for a 150 housing development and school in Ottery St. Mary which was contrary to a) the Ottery St Mary Neighbourhood Plan and b) contrary to the result of their own DCC consultation. But of course their reasoning was:

“this needs to be balanced against the benefits of the solution proposed” 


“however, in general planning is concerned with land use in the public interest. “

Developers are encouraged to consult. This is exactly what Burrington Estates did in Clyst St. Mary. The first public consultation included, amongst many other dwellings,  14 traditional houses adjoining the houses next to the site. This was supported by the majority of the community.

When the outline hybrid Planning Application was submitted to East Devon Planners these had increased to almost 60 flats which, after objections, have now been reduced to four blocks of 40 flats. Quite an increase as these flats will now overlook the pre-existing houses. In addition 39 more homes have received outline planning permission since the consultation.  

As another correspondent wrote:

“ What this community was originally shown and found acceptable at a Public Consultation bears no resemblance to what is now being proposed!”

Yes, the developers think the present planning system needs revision. Yes, the public also thinks the planning system needs revision. But you must remember that if you wish people to vote conservative you must provide convincing arguments. The 300,000 houses a year target has been question many times. Please tell us in detail where this number comes from. Do something about second homes. Make sure the land is released which has planning permission and developers are sitting on. Make sure our environment and heritage is not sacrificed for the nebulous “economic benefit”, “public interest” or “exceptional circumstances”.

A change in the electoral system is needed

Last week I found myself citing Confucius’s famous curse, “May you live in interesting times”. This week I have been struck by a more modern saying: “I don’t mind the despair, it’s the hope that kills me”.

Paul Arnott

Its origin has been attributed to any number of sources, from John Cleese to Nick Hornby, and I have heard it said many times at football matches, especially ones involving England penalty shoot outs. In that context its meaning couldn’t be clearer – in essence, can’t we just take the defeat, ref, and not bother with pretending we can win one of these.

Wherever it came from, this was an expression that haunted my day only this Monday. Along the south coast in Brighton at the Labour party conference, a motion had been put forward by the membership to direct the party towards enacting electoral reform, eg proportional representation.

My naïve heart fluttered with hope. Could this be it at last? Could the centre/centre-left (ie non-Johnson) sector of British politics be about to get its act together? Because ever since I left school in 1979, and the divisive Conservative hegemony all the way from then till 1997, I have only ever longed for one thing in politics – government from the centre.

Of course, old cynics say that those who stand in the middle of the road are bound to get run over, but that’s where I am, and I believe the vast majority of British people are too. We want people to make a success of their lives, to have the freedom to make wealth if they wish, but we also want a kind state which supports education, our environment and our health. Not too much to ask really.

Yet at the moment in the blue corner we have a Conservative party bent on the covert privatisation of the NHS and in the red corner, or at least that represented by the ongoing Momentum influence, we have unelectable fantasy fiscal policies.

So how does the centre get the representation it wants and the country needs? The answer, as ever, lies in our broken electoral system of first past the post (FPP). Even in the polarised Brexit election of 2019, Boris Johnson, on a 67.3% turnout, only won 43.6% of the popular vote, yet governs with a thumping majority. More than 56% did not want to see him in Downing Street at all.

Now this is not his fault; he had to fight on the rules set out for him by our daft unwritten constitution, but as we look around the looming chaos this week, it is clear that he is not up to the job. (FPP has previously favoured Labour too).

To their immense credit, the vast majority of Labour constituencies finally realised that the current system is now little more than a recipe for eternal Conservative rule. One modernising speaker in favour of the motion on Monday was Jake Bonetta from Honiton, who sits within our Democratic Alliance group at East Devon District Council.

So there I was, on Monday afternoon, allowing hope to seep into this battered, nearly sixty-year-old heart. There was a real chance this time. The motion, calling for a Labour government to replace first past the post with a form of PR, had come from more than 150 constituency Labour parties (CLPs). It was also the second most popular issue for the conference.

The drama heightened when a show of hands in the conference hall was not conclusive and it went to a card vote. This showed that very nearly 80% of the CLP votes backed the motion. But all hope was dashed when the votes from affiliates – almost entirely comprising unions – came in. 95% opposed the motion, and this meant that by Labour maths nearly 58% were against.

Hope United 0 Dinosaur Union Leaders 1. A tragedy, but champagne all round in Downing Street.

The Sun Says it!

From petrol panic to M25 protests there’s a sense of utter shambles across Boris Johnson’s Government…

IS anyone actually in charge in Downing Street?

Is there a proper strategy for quelling the petrol panic? For ending the insane queues, the forecourt fist-fights, the siphoning of fuel from parked cars? For getting stranded key workers to their hospitals, care homes or schools?……………..

Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 13 September

East Devon reports rise in Covid cases

Covid figures continue to fall throughout most of Devon and remain well below the national average – although East Devon has reported an increase in cases. 

In the week up to Sunday 19 September, the average rate of infection across all of Devon’s councils was 265 per 100,000 people, down from 295 the week before.

In the Devon County Council area, which excludes Plymouth and Torbay, the most recent stats show an infection rate of 233 per 100,000 a fall of 20 from the previous week.

In contrast, the average infection rate across the country is 313 per 100,000 of the population. However, this, too, has dropped from 337 the previous week.

The only council areas to report a rise in cases in the county were East Devon and West Devon. 

The former recorded 356 cases, 14 [or four per cent] more than the previous week. The infection rate in East Devon is now 240 per 100,000 people.

West Devon’s cases spiked, with 152 new infections, 42 [or 38 per cent] more than the previous week. The case rate in the district is now 271 per 100,000 of the population.

Mid Devon now has the lowest infection rate in the county, with 168 per 100,000 of the population infected. Cases in the district dropped by almost a third (30 per cent) – 55 cases – in the most recent weekly data. The area recorded 152 new cases.

Plymouth registered 747 new cases, 77 [or nine per cent] fewer than in the previous week. The rate of infection in the city is now 284 per 100,000 of the population.

It was similar in Torbay. Its 392 new cases (288 per 100,000 of the population) is a nine per cent drop on the previous week. 

High infection rates in August meant both Devon and Cornwall were given extra support – called ‘enhanced status’ for five weeks. It means extra testing and measures such as making children at secondary school or college continuing to have to wear face coverings in communal areas. 

However, it was announced this week that special measures to combat rising numbers of covid cases in Devon are unlikely to be extended. Devon County Council’s director of public health says it is unlikely Devon’s status as a coronavirus enhanced response area will continue into October.

Nevertheless, fears remain that cases could rise this winter, with the potential of some restrictions being reimposed. 

The decline in infection rates in Devon has continued to translate into a reduction in people being admitted to hospital with covid. The latest figures [to Tuesday 21 September] show that across Devon, 98 people are in hospital as a result of covid, 30 fewer than the previous week.

Of these, 12 patients are at Derriford, 28 are at the RD&E, 16 in Torbay, while 12 are being cared for at North Devon District Hospital.

Ten of the patients in hospital with covid are on mechanical ventilation beds, down from 14.

Deaths have fallen in Devon in the most recent seven-day period (up to and including Sunday 19 September). Fifteen people died within 28 days of a positive covid test, 14 fewer than the previous week.

Eleven people died in the Devon County Council area, which excludes Plymouth and Torbay.  In Plymouth, three people lost their lives with covid, whilst one death was recorded in Torbay.

The total number of people in Devon who have died of covid since the pandemic began is now 1,198.

Eighty-seven per cent of people aged 16 and above have had their first dose of a vaccine in the Devon County Council area, which excludes Plymouth and Torbay, with 82 per cent receiving both doses.

In Plymouth, 84 percent have had one dose, while 77 per cent have had both.

In Torbay, 86 per cent have received one dose, while 79 per cent have had both jabs.

This means that vaccination rates in Devon are slightly behind the rest of the UK.  Ninety per cent of people aged 16 and above have had one dose, while 82 per cent have had both jabs.

The UK’s vaccination drive will continue this autumn winter as the NHS starts rolling out booster shots to the over-50s, younger adults with health conditions and frontline health and care workers.

There was yet another big moment for Margaret Keenan, 91, from Coventry this week as she received her first vaccine booster shot. Ms Keenan became the first person in the world to have a Pfizer jab when she received the vaccine in December of last year. The first man to receive a covid jab, William Shakespeare, has since died, but did not have covid.

Seaside towns in Cornwall and Devon decimated by rent shortage

Seaside resorts in Cornwall and Devon have been hit the hardest by the property shortage this year, data has shown.

Tianna Corbin

Compared to the summer of 2019, the number of properties by the sea available for long-term rent has fallen by more than 75%, while competition has increased 345%.

Property website Rightmove compared the available rental stock in June and July 2021 with June and July 2019.

Their analysis showed that in Cornwall, the number of available properties by the sea fell by 72%, with competition up 345%.

In North Devon the number of available properties fell by 80%, with demand up 292%.

In West Devon, the demand had risen 264%, while the amount of properties available had fallen by 76%.

Rightmove’s Director of Property Data, Tim Bannister said: ” Landlords in the typical tourist destinations around Britain have been chasing the huge surge in demand for holiday lets this summer, which has led to a temporary drop in the stock available for permanent tenants.”

He continued: “As the summer holidays are coming to an end, agents are now reporting more landlords turning their attention to longer-term tenants as a more secure and stable option for the rest of the year and into 2022.

“The value of a good tenant should not be underestimated, and with the competition for rental properties in these areas so high right now, it could be a good time for landlords to take stock and consider their best longer-term option.”

Don’t panic Captain Mainwaring

Could Boris Johnson’s government pass the “able to run a whelk stall” test?

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, sparked anger when he claimed industry leaders were responsible for the chaos, despite the government having admitted to a lack of lorry drivers.

Army could be called in as half of local petrol stations out of fuel

More than half of all non-motorway petrol stations have run dry after a weekend of panic-buying by spooked motorists, forcing ministers to consider putting the army on notice to drive tankers to forecourts.

The government has suspended competition laws to allow fuel companies to co-ordinate deliveries, and Boris Johnson is set to decide on Monday whether to send in soldiers to ease the crisis.

The Petrol Retailers Association reported alarming shortages among its independent members as oil giant BP warned that almost a third of its sites had no supplies.

Government pleas for drivers to stop filling their cars “when they don’t need it” fell on deaf ears as long queues formed at forecourts, operators rationed supplies – and police were called to one scuffle in London.

With Christmas just three months away, shoppers were also warned of turkey shortages, while toy sellers report delays and higher prices shipping goods into Brexit Britain.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced at 9pm on Sunday that petrol firms are temporarily exempt from the Competition Act 1998. Officials said the “Downstream Oil Protocol” would make it easier for firms to share information and prioritise delivery of fuel to parts of the country most in need.

Brian Madderson, the PRA’s chairman, revealed a survey of its members, who make up the majority of the UK’s 8,000-odd petrol stations.

“They serve the main roads, the rural areas, the urban roads, and anywhere between 50 per cent and 90 per cent of their forecourts are currently dry – and those that aren’t dry are partly dry and running out soon,” he told the BBC.

“One of them mentioned to me that yesterday they had a 500 per cent increase in demand compared to a week ago, which is quite extraordinary.”

BP, which operates 1,200 petrol stations, said: “With the intense demand seen over the past two days, we estimate that around 30 per cent of sites in this network do not currently have either of the main grades of fuel.”

Earlier, Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, sparked anger when he claimed industy leaders were responsible for the chaos, despite the government having admitted to a lack of lorry drivers. He was accused of a “disgraceful attack” on hard-pressed hauliers and of “shamefully passing the buck” for the queues.

The row blew up after The Mail on Sunday quoted a government source claiming the Road Haulage Association (RHA) is “entirely responsible for this panic and chaos”.

The transport secretary backed the claim, saying: “There was a meeting which took place about 10 days ago, a private meeting, in which one of the haulage associations decided to leak the details to media.

“And that has created, as we have seen, quite a large degree of concern as people naturally react to those things.”

Calling the leak “irresponsible”, Mr Shapps told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “The good news is there is plenty of fuel. The bad news is, if everyone carries on buying it when they don’t need it, then we will continue to have queues.”

But the RHA hit back quickly, pointing out its managing director Rod McKenzie had not even been at the meeting where a BP executive had discussed stock levels.

“He was not, as the government source claimed, “aware of the comments” and certainly did not “weaponise” them in subsequent TV interviews,” a statement said.

“Indeed he repeatedly stressed the need not to panic buy and that there were adequate fuel stocks.

“The RHA believes this disgraceful attack on a member of its staff is an attempt to divert attention away from their recent handling of the driver shortage crisis.”

Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat business spokesperson, said: “Grant Shapps is shamefully passing the buck for the government’s own failures.

“The Conservatives have repeatedly ignored calls from businesses to address the shortage of drivers. It is a bit rich for ministers to now blame the public and the road haulage industry for the mess we find ourselves in.”

Mr Shapps’s comments came after the announcement of emergency visas for foreign lorry drivers to come to the UK to ease the crisis was dismissed as a damp squib.

As expected, the offer will be made to 5,000 HGV drivers – plus 5,500 poultry workers – but the visas will run out on Christmas Eve, triggering criticism they are too little, too late.

Keir Starmer suggested 100,000 foreign drivers are needed – the RHA estimate of the shortfall – saying: “We are going to have to do that. We have to issue enough visas to cover the number of drivers that we need.”

The Labour leader said: I’m astonished the government, knowing the situation, is not acting today. The prime minister needs to say today what he is going to do.”

Meanwhile, a poultry association said big firms have already scaled back production of turkeys for the festive season, because they would not have enough staff to for more orders.

Kate Martin, chairwoman of the Traditional Farm Fresh Turkey Association, said: “It’s looking like there is a national shortage of turkeys when we’re talking about supermarket shelves, rather than buying direct from your farm.”

Footage circulated on social media showed two men in helmets tussling with each other at a petrol station in north London, before the police were called to the scene.

A man was arrested on suspicion of assault and taken into custody, but no injuries were reported.

Cladding crisis: ten builders have made more money since Grenfell than their companies pledged for safety works

Ten top executives and shareholders at Britain’s biggest housebuilders have personally pocketed more money since Grenfell than their firms have set aside to fix the cladding crisis. The bosses and owners have made a total of £708 million in dividends, share sales and pay over three years, £65 million more than their companies have allocated to fix dangerous homes they have built.

Martina Lees 

Barratt, Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey, Berkeley, Bellway, Redrow and Vistry have set aside £643 million for fire safety over the past three years. The figure is about 4 per cent of their profits over that period and a fraction of the estimated £15 billion — and counting — that it will cost to make all flats in the UK safe. The seven construction giants have posted £15.1 billion in profits since 2017, when the Grenfell fire in west London fire killed 72 people and exposed a nationwide building safety scandal.

The findings will add pressure on the government — and the newly appointed housing secretary Michael Gove — to increase industry levies and make companies pay for repairs where homes breached safety rules at the time.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” said Stephen McPartland, a Conservative MP leading a backbench rebellion to protect flat owners from fire-safety costs. “It shows the big developers are not taking the issue seriously. It’s imperative that those responsible actually pay to resolve this. Leaseholders don’t have the funds and never will have the funds to make their buildings safe.”

Clive Betts, chairman of the housing, communities and local government select committee, said he was “shocked” at the figures. “This makes the case absolutely for a significant tax and/or levy on companies who ought to be collectively made to pay for the failings of the industry over the years. If they have built flawed, dangerous buildings, they should simply put them right.”

To those who have been living with flammable cladding on their building for the past three years, who are struggling with the soaring costs of waking watches, insurance and life-changing bills for repair works, the figures are incendiary.

This month about a thousand leaseholders, who are among an estimated 700,000 people who are still trapped in unsafe flats and up to three million people who are struggling to sell, marched on parliament to protest about the quality of their homes and the bills they have received to fix defects. The sun was shining, but the mood was bleak.

“Michael Gove, we want justice,” they chanted. “The system isn’t broken, it was built this way,” said Karim Mussilhy, who lost his uncle in the Grenfell Tower fire, and criticised the “cosy relationships [of] our leaders . . . with those responsible for killing our families.”

Hayley Tillotson, the first-known leaseholder to go bankrupt because of the crisis, waved the placard “Bankrupt and broke, leasehold is a joke”. Other signs said “Paid for a home, got a nightmare Taylor Wimpey”; “How many Grenfells will it take?”; “Lives before profits”; and “Make those responsible pay, not the victims”.

One of those victims, Ritu Saha, who co-founded the UK Cladding Action Group after flammable cladding was found on her Taylor Wimpey flat, said: “To now find that they value the lives of thousands of the innocent victims far less than the bank balances of their CEOs and shareholders makes us feel incredibly angry, and even more determined than ever to make sure they are held to account.”

The construction industry is paying for a fraction of repairs, leaving owners and taxpayers to foot the bill. In February the government announced two levies for fire safety. A blanket levy on housebuilders with profits of over £25 million is expected to raise up to £200 million a year over the next decade, while a gateway levy will tax developers that apply for building regulations approval on some new high-rise schemes. Ministers have allocated £5.1 billion in taxpayers’ grants to reclad unsafe tall blocks.

It is not enough, according to Sir Peter Bottomley, the longest-serving MP. “There is thought to be an estimated gap of £10 billion where leaseholders would in theory have to pay. They haven’t got the money. Some will lose their homes and they will look to those who have made money from housebuilding with anger,” he said.

A landmark House of Lords report in 2016 described the housebuilding industry as having “all the characteristics of an oligopoly”. Since then housebuilder profits have been boosted by the taxpayer-funded Help to Buy scheme, which accounted for a third of total sales at the seven housebuilders since 2017. And over the past year a strong stock market rally — fuelled by the pandemic stamp duty holiday — dramatically inflated the value of bosses’ shares. At Taylor Wimpey and Bellway share prices are up about 70 per cent since last September. Redrow’s stock price is up more than 90 per cent — increasing the value of founder Steve Morgan’s stake by nearly £200 million in a year.

Their second windfall was an explosion in dividends. Ten years ago the seven giants paid £38.1 million in dividends. Their latest results show dividends of £846 million — and over the past three years they made total payouts of more than £5.3 billion.

Earlier this year Sajid Javid, the health secretary and former chancellor, called on the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate an industry “dominated by just a few large operators” with a “stranglehold on supply”. The seven companies we analysed built 257,636 homes since 2017 — 41 per cent per cent of the total supply since 2017.

The housing ministry said: “We are making sure industry is held to account for the wrongs of the past by contributing to the cost of safety works — so far half the private sector high-rise buildings with unsafe [Grenfell-type] ACM cladding have been remediated without passing costs on to leaseholders or taxpayers. The Building Safety Bill will legally require building owners to prove they have tried all routes to cover the cost of essential safety works, while our new levy and tax will apply to developers.”

Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, wants to go further and has called for a “proper levy”. “Developers racking up huge profits, for their companies and themselves, while innocent leaseholders are trapped in unsafe, unsellable homes should be ashamed,” she said.

Steve Day, 40, who faces a £40,000 bill for fire risks at his Barratt flat in east London, was “disgusted” by the figures. Day has drawn up a law with experts that would make companies pay for building homes that breached regulations at the time, a proposal that the government is now seriously considering.

‘A bit of a mystery’: why hospital admissions for Covid in England are going down

In early September, outbreak modelling for the government’s Sage advisers showed Covid hospitalisations had the potential to soar. If people rushed back to work and resumed all the socialising they had put on hold, the number of daily admissions in England could peak at 7,000 within six weeks. It was, in effect, a worst-case scenario, barring a dramatic waning of immunity or a troublesome new variant.

Ian Sample 

The optimistic scenario looked very different. Assuming a more gradual return to normality, the modelling had daily Covid hospitalisations rising slowly and slightly, topping out at nearly 2,000, before falling again in November. Now, even that looks overly gloomy. Over the past fortnight, hospitalisations have fallen in England, even as schools and offices reopened.

Mismatches between the modelling and the true course of the epidemic have caused confusion throughout the Covid crisis. The models are not predictions of what will happen. They are what the computers churn out when presented with a “what if?”. In this case, what if R (the reproduction number of the epidemic) reaches 1.1? And what if – as Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, would say – people “tear the pants out of it” and push R to 1.5? That would mean, on average, every two people infected go on to infect three more.

Sage expected hospitalisations in England to peak somewhere near the lower range, namely 2,000 a day, but no sooner was the modelling complete than hospitalisations began to fall. The decline was unexpected. What it suggests is that – for now – the effect of unlocking on fuelling the epidemic is more than offset by the combination of people’s behaviour and immunity, whether from vaccination or infection.

“Those are two very powerful forces. Each by itself is perfectly capable of making the number of cases or hospitalisations go up or down, and they are basically fighting each other right now,” said Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Edinburgh University.

On Friday, the Office for National Statistics reported a fall in infection rates in England for the second week running, with one in 90 now estimated to test positive for Covid. Elsewhere in the UK, rates remain stable but high.

According to Prof Graham Medley, chair of the Sage modelling subgroup, Spi-M, while infections and admissions have drifted down in the past couple of weeks, little has changed over the larger timeframe of the past 10 weeks. “This is unexpected,” he said. “There must be a balance between the increasing immunity from infection and vaccination, and the amount of contact, but how they exactly balance to keep R roughly at 1 is a bit of a mystery.”

It may be that vaccines are more effective at preventing transmission than studies – often based on symptomatic patients – suggest. If that is the case, Woolhouse said, immunity may be playing a larger role in suppressing the epidemic than thought. After a sharp rise in Scotland, cases appear to be falling back down, without any obvious change in behaviour, he added. “It’s a watershed moment. This is the first time in the history of the UK’s epidemic that we’ve had a sustained decline in cases in the absence of a lockdown or not far short of it,” he said. “We’ve never seen that before, so clearly something is fundamentally different, and the fundamental difference for me is the buildup of herd immunity.”

That would be excellent news, particularly if the rest of the UK follows suit. On Friday, the R number for England was revised to 0.8 to 1, with the number of new infections estimated to be shrinking at 1% to 3% a day. The difficulty is that, with a lot of virus still around, a manageable situation could become challenging very fast. “If there is an uptick then we need to react to that quickly. If this does go wrong, the NHS will be in trouble very quickly,” Woolhouse warned.

As Medley pointed out, the country has not rushed back to “life-before-Covid”. What happens next is still as murky as ever. “We are still a long way from normal levels of contact, so there is still the possibility of an increase in transmission and hospitalisations, but the past couple of months gives a lot of hope,” he said.

We may have reached another turning point

Tim Spector’s symptom tracker app, which has a track record of identifying turning points in the evolution of the pandemic across UK a couple of weeks in advance of confirmed cases, is now showing a slow down in the rate at which the infection is falling.

More on Lib Dems hold Exe Valley 

Some observations to make.

In 2019 turnout was 36% in this by-election it dropped to 26%.

In 2019 the Conservatives got 43% of the vote in a two way contest, this time it dropped to 32%. 

In 2015 general District Council elections, the turnout was 77% and the Conservatives won the ward with 52% of the vote in a two way contest.

So the Conservative proportion of the vote has consistently fallen from 52% through 32% to 26% since 2015. 

Not exactly a vote of confidence in the Tory “build, build, build” policies for East Devon. – Owl

Lib Dems hold Exe Valley ward in East Devon District Council by-election

Philippa Davies

The Liberal Democrats have held on to a seat on East Devon District Council after a closely fought by-election for the Exe Valley ward.

Jamie Kemp received 190 votes, seeing off Conservative Kevin Wraight who won 164 and Labour’s candidate, Mike Daniell, who earned 161. One voter made their opinion well known by spoiling their ballot paper, drawing sad faces next to each candidate’s’ name.

The turnout was 26 per cent.

Mr Kemp is expected to join the council’s ruling coalition known as the Democratic Alliance, a combination of the East Devon Alliance, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Labour and some, but not all, Independents.

He picks up the reins from fellow Liberal Democrat Fabian King who stepped down as a councillor in July to focus on his business, which he said had been affected by Covid.

Speaking after the result Mr Kemp said: “I’m over the moon. It’s been a fantastic campaign, the other candidates have worked really hard. It’s a win really for everybody in the Exe Valley and I look forward to representing them.

“And, yes, now my wife probably won’t moan at me quite so much – and the children won’t be as annoyed with me!

“I look forward to starting work with the other councillors and getting the job done.”

‘A good campaign with three strong candidates’

Conservative candidate Kevin Wraight said: “I’m disappointed, obviously. I wanted to win but it’s a fair fight – it’s been a good campaign and three extremely good, strong candidates.

“I think the Exe Valley has been very well served by an election that’s been so close.”

Labour candidate Mike Daniell was also pleased with the result: “I’m more than chuffed with it.

“We’ve given everyone a run for their money to the point that this has become a very well-fought campaign.

“I think Labour’s given everyone such a good kick up the arse as it were that they’ve gone out and really campaigned hard, so I congratulate Jamie on a very hard-fought success.”

The defeated candidates might not have to wait too long for another attempt with the next full district council elections expected to go ahead in 18 months.

What’s the political make-up of East Devon District Council?

For now, the make-up of the council is now as follows:

Conservatives – 22

East Devon Alliance – 13

Independents – 14

Liberal Democrats – 7

Green Party – 2

Labour – 2

The Exe Valley vote was the district council’s third by-election in recent months, with polls held in May and July this year.

The July by-elections returned some surprises as Conservative Alasdair Bruce took Feniton, previously held by an Independent, and teenager Jake Bonetta won Honiton St Michael’s.

The 19-year old took the seat previously held by the Liberal Democrats to become the first Labour councillor on the district council in more than 20 years. Since his election formerly independent councillor Paul Millar (Exmouth Halsdon) has joined Labour, giving the party two seats.