From another correspondent “I’m sure Burrington Estates are doing this (lol) …”

… but each block should have a lift.  It’s very expensive to put them in and raises service charges a lot with maintenance, etc.

Service charges raise an interesting issue – who will manage the blocks and grounds?  Is there ground rent?  How will refuse be dealt with?  Will DCC adopt roads?  What about estate management (grass cutting, etc)?  Remember Cranbrook had to buy up developers’ estate management charges and absorb them into council levy … raising total council tax for everyone.

I am sure planners are on top of it …..!

With the highest cases in Europe, UK should trigger Plan B now

According to ZOE COVID Study incidence figures, in total there are currently 47,276 new daily symptomatic cases of COVID in the UK on average, based on PCR and LFT test data from up to five days ago [*]. This is down 9% from 51,876 new daily cases last week.

In the fully vaccinated population, it’s estimated there are currently 15,493 new daily symptomatic cases in the UK. Cases in this group have now started falling with last week’s figure being 17,674 (Graph 1). 

Across the different age groups, daily new cases in the 18-35 age group have fallen sharply over the past few weeks, but unsurprisingly, given the return of schools, the cases in 0-18 year olds are back on the rise (Graph 2) and rates in the over 50s are still steady or rising. 

Across the regions, many of the English regions are either falling or stable and in Scotland cases have stopped rising (Graph 3), although hospitalisations are still increasing. In terms of prevalence, on average 1 in 95 people in the UK currently have symptomatic COVID (Table 1). 

The UK R value is estimated to be around 0.9 and regional R values are; England, 0.9, Wales, 1.0, Scotland, 1.0 (Table 1) as cases continue to slowly decline. Prevalence in the regions shows that all regions are either falling or stable, apart from Wales, where prevalence is rising. 

According to the latest analysis from ZOE, it’s estimated that, at current rates, 781 people a day will go on to experience symptoms for longer than 12 weeks. This is the predicted Long COVID incidence rate (Graph 4). As the number of cases decline, so do the expected number of new Long COVID cases each day.

Graph 5 plots the ZOE prevalence figures alongside confirmed cases, which shows that the confirmed cases data is also showing the number of cases starting to fall. 

The ZOE COVID Study incidence figures (new symptomatic cases) are based on reports from around one million weekly contributors and the proportion of newly symptomatic users who have received positive swab tests. The latest survey figures were based on data from 32,409 recent swab tests done between 28th August and 11th September 2021. 

Professor Tim Spector, lead scientist on the ZOE COVID Study app, comments on the latest data:

“After calling for a plan for several weeks I’m pleased to see the government has launched a booster vaccine programme. However, the blanket approach to give boosters to everyone over 50 ignores data from the ZOE COVID Study and analysis by King’s College London outlining the groups most at risk like frail adults, and those with complex health conditions or living in deprived areas. Even more importantly, the winter plan fails to introduce the current symptoms to the list. Sticking to the classic three ignores the fact that now most people experience symptoms like sore throat, headache and sneezing rather than fever or cough. I also don’t understand why we are waiting for the situation to get worse and the NHS is pressured further before implementing simple measures that would help to bring down the number of new cases and save lives. With such high levels of virus in the population we should also still be wearing masks and keeping our distance in crowded public places, as in major European cities where cases are much lower than ours.” 

Graph 1. The ZOE COVID Study UK incidence figures results over time; total number of new cases and new cases in fully vaccinated

Graph 2. Incidence by age group 

Graph 3. Prevalence by region

Graph 4. Predicted Long COVID incidence over time

Please refer to the publication by Thompson at al. (2021) for details on how long covid rates in the population are modelled

Graph 5. A comparison of prevalence figures; ZOE COVID Study, and confirmed cases

Table 1. Incidence (daily new symptomatic cases)[*], R values and prevalence regional breakdown table 

Map of UK prevalence figures

England’s right-to-build laws are tokenistic and feeble – just ask the people of Totnes


Among the most important democratic questions is how the land surrounding us is used. Is it providing homes we can afford, public services and green spaces, or is it being used by a few to impose damaging schemes on the rest of us and extract profits at our expense?

George Monbiot

In a lively democracy, we would be allowed to design our own communities to meet our own needs. But while we are invited to participate in the planning system, this often means little more than approving or objecting to plans put forward by property developers, whose interests seldom align with ours. Instead of democracy, there’s a veneer of public consent.

David Cameron’s government promised to put this right. The 2011 Localism Act would allow communities to take back control. It included a Community Right to Build Order, through which local people would automatically obtain planning permission for a project if they won a referendum.

People in the town of Totnes in Devon took him at his word. Since 2007, they had been working to transform a big derelict site, previously a milk-processing factory run by Dairy Crest, into a community project called Atmos. They turned their plans into England’s most advanced and ambitious use of a right to build order. They sought to build 62 genuinely affordable homes, 37 retirement homes, workspaces providing employment for at least 160 people, a hotel, community and youth facilities, and an arts centre.

It was a massive undertaking. Derelict factory sites are notoriously hard to develop. But while Totnes has a reputation for harbouring woolly hippies, it’s also home to some determined and very well-organised people. They put in thousands of unpaid hours, canvassing opinion, developing their plans with the community, architects and other professionals, and raising money.

In 2014 they formed the Totnes Community Development Society (TCDS). It secured an agreement with Dairy Crest for the sale of the site. This gave it the same protection that any developer would enjoy. In 2016, TCDS held a local referendum on the Atmos plans, in which 86% of voters supported the scheme, giving it planning permission. Given the difficulties of working with such a site, pulling this off in just two years was a remarkable achievement.

In 2019, Dairy Crest was bought by the Canadian company Saputo Inc. This didn’t seem to affect the sale. TCDS and Saputo had the site independently valued. After negotiations between their lawyers, Saputo UK confirmed that it would accept £460,000 for the site, and “overage” agreements for the developments TCDS would build, taking the total to almost £5m. This enabled TCDS to secure £2.5m from the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

In late 2019, Saputo’s lawyers told TCDS that the firm was considering another offer for part of the site. Then Saputo UK terminated two of its agreements with TCDS, citing technicalities. However, the negotiations continued. Then, in January last year, just as TCDS expected to exchange contracts with Saputo, the president of Saputo UK, Tom Atherton, phoned to say that the company had decided to sell the site to someone else. On the same day, Saputo’s lawyers confirmed that it had exchanged contracts with what appeared to be a mastics firm based in Essex, called FastGlobe Ltd.

The community members, who had worked so hard for 13 years, were dumbfounded. They were even more surprised when they later discovered the site had been sold for a total of £1.35m, considerably less than the £5m that they would have paid.

The sale had been brokered by a land agent called Patrick Gillies. In March this year, local people had a meeting with him, which they recorded with his permission. He told them something extraordinary. FastGlobe Ltd was, for the purposes of the deal, “a purchase vehicle. That’s all. It’s like a bank.” Gillies explained that he was the coordinator, project manager and partner of the site. Now the community has discovered something else. Patrick Gillies was, until Atherton got divorced, Tom Atherton’s brother-in-law.

There is nothing illegal in this arrangement, though Saputo, which prides itself on its ethical standards and publishes a code of conduct covering such matters, might ask itself whether in this case those standards have been met. None of my questions – directly to Gillies and, through Saputo UK to Atherton – have yet been answered, but Saputo Inc, the parent company, told me: “TCDS has made us aware of these allegations. We are taking the matter very seriously and are looking into them.”

TCDS is appealing to Saputo Inc to buy back the land and honour the original agreement. Because Saputo is a reputable company, and the founding family’s charitable foundations support community groups, it has hopes of being heard.

What this story shows is that the famous Community Right to Build is feeble and tokenistic. It gives communities no protection against having the ground sold from under them, and therefore gives them no real rights. The thousands of hours and £800,000 that the community has spent developing its bid might have been entirely wasted. The rest of the UK needs the kind of right-to-buy legislation that Scotland has: strong legal rights that cannot be suddenly rescinded by landowners and developers.

They said we could take back control. It’s time to honour the promise.

  • This piece was updated on 15 September 2021 to clarify that it was Atherton, rather than Gillies, who later divorced.

PPE worth £2.8bn is not fit for purpose, health minister admits

Personal protective equipment (PPE) worth £2.8 billion is not fit for purpose and cannot be used by the NHS a health minister has revealed.

Jane Kirby 

Lord Bethell said 1.9 billion items of stock are currently in the “do not supply” to the NHS category.

He was answering a Parliamentary question from crossbencher Lord Alton of Liverpool around “faulty PPE” that has not met the required level of protection.

“As of June 10, 1.9 billion items of stock were in the ‘do not supply’ category,” Lord Bethell said.

“This is equivalent to 6.2% of purchased volume with an estimated value of £2.8 billion.

“We are considering options to repurpose and recycle items in this category which ensures safety and value for money.

“Discussions with suppliers are ongoing.”

Earlier this month, it emerged the Government is in dispute with several companies over £1.2 billion of PPE that has been deemed “sub-standard” or was undelivered.

At that time, Lord Bethell provided a written response to Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lee who had asked how much had been reclaimed from firms providing equipment found to be “not fit for purpose”.

The health minister replied: “The department is working through all its personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts to identify instances where products have not been delivered or failed quality tests and will seek to recover the costs for undelivered or sub-standard PPE.

“As of July 27 2021, the department was engaged in commercial discussions – potentially leading to litigation – in respect to 40 PPE contracts with a combined value of £1.2 billion covering 1.7 billion items of PPE.”

In July, it was reported that a million masks supplied to the NHS as high grade did not meet the correct level of protection.

The masks were assumed to be FFP3 type, which can be worn by staff in intensive care or when certain procedures are carried out that can generate aerosols, thereby risking the spread of Covid.

Tests carried out in February found that the masks failed FFP3 requirements.

Regarding these masks, Lord Bethell said in his latest written answer: “For all personal protective equipment (PPE), certification is checked through a technical assurance process before the products are released for distribution.

“Following information received from the National Health Service in February, we quarantined and recalled the affected products and reviewed the technical certification.

“As part of our investigation, we commissioned the British Standards Institution to test the masks.

“While the findings stated the affected masks failed to meet to FFP3 requirements, they passed all the testing requirements for an FFP2 respirator.

“The World Health Organisation recommends the use of N95 or FFP2 respirators for health workers performing aerosol-generating procedures – wearers should have been afforded protection.

“These masks are not recommended to be worn by patients. We have commissioned an independent root cause analysis investigation and we await the outcome.”

Helen Donovan, professional lead for public health at the Royal College of Nursing, said of the £2.8 billion worth of PPE: “Nursing staff who were put in harm’s way early in the pandemic because they could not access proper protective equipment will find this admission deeply insulting.

“Ministers have had repeated warnings about the quality of the equipment nurses are provided with and we have had repeated assurances that staff will be protected.

“With tens of thousands of nursing vacancies in England alone and staff already off sick because they have not been protected, this must be fixed as a priority.”

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “This glaring admission by health minister Lord Bethell is a searing indictment of the secretive fast-track fashion that many of the PPE contracts were awarded to ‘friends’ of the Tory establishment, something we have suspected for a long time.

“The Government should now use every tool as its disposal to ensure that the money is reclaimed for the hard-pressed taxpayer from the suppliers of this shoddy equipment.

“It is a national disgrace that NHS workers trying to care for us should be given equipment that has not protected them.

“This should not have been allowed to happen during a global pandemic and reinforces the need for the greatest transparency in the Government’s public procurement policy.”

Building Back Better in Clyst St Mary!

From a correspondent:

The Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission advised the Government to promote and increase the use of high-quality styles and designs for new build homes and neighbourhoods to reflect what communities want by building on the knowledge and tradition of what works for their area.

However, the newly submitted Reserved Matters Application ((Ref: 21/2217/MRES) by Burrington Estates to East Devon District Council Planners to build 40 four-storey blocks of flats on an existing car park at Winslade Park, doesn’t appear to adhere to that vision!

This is, surely, an opportunity for Burringtons to create a truly outstanding build back better brownfield design standard that could be revered as an esteemed design guide for future admiration that will stand the test of time – but Burrington Estates’ current proposals for 40 four-storey blocks of flats fail to follow such aspirations.

Winslade Manor (image below) has recently been very sensitively re-developed by Burringtons to now include Winslade Manor Restaurant and Bar, Number 6 personal training and wellness studio and office accommodation.

The architecture of the Manor continues to evoke an admiration and appreciation today, around 220 years after it was built (in 1800) by Edward Cotsford, the High Sheriff of Devon and, it is fair to say, that Burringtons have successfully returned this Grade II* Listed Georgian Manor to its former glory and consequently this renovation deserves accolades and commendation.

So, it is surprising, having gone to such great lengths to safeguard and preserve the Grade II* Listed Manor House, that Burringtons are now submitting three, inappropriately towering, blocks of 40 four-storey flats directly opposite the Georgian Manor and historic St Mary’s Church and the design of these new apartments has been likened to an urban car park!

Although architectural designs are creative and vulnerable to personal, differing opinions – surely this historic site requires a conscientious discernment and a more imaginative, high-quality style of design to compliment the valued Georgian Manor? Developers and decision-makers have an ethical responsibility to improve areas. Many people believe that these proposed designs appear far too utilitarian and fail to achieve aesthetic, quality, harmonious standards because these proposals overpower, clash and are incompatible with the historic Manor and its surroundings.

Such tall, design structures are considered to be an overdevelopment and incongruous in this rural, village setting because they fail to reflect distinguished, prestigious standards in architecture in the immediate setting of a valued, historic asset by conflicting with Government recommendations to enhance our communities.

Burringtons’ original proposals for this brownfield area included only 14 traditional houses, which were displayed for viewing to the entire community at Burrington’s first Public Consultation in February 2020. These 14 homes were supported by the majority of the community – but when the outline hybrid Planning Application was submitted to East Devon Planners, 14 houses on this brownfield car park had morphed into almost 60 flats (which after objections) have now been reduced to 40 – but 40 flats are still considered outrageously excessive, especially as 39 more homes have also received outline approval on a green field site nearby at the entrance to Winslade Park.

This amounts to a housing overkill in this village and Clyst St Mary residents’ views cannot be described as myopic, provincial NIMBYism because what this community was originally shown and found acceptable at a Public Consultation bears no resemblance to what is now being proposed!

In 2021, shouldn’t we be designing new homes in this small community that reflect the existing low-density, rural village environment and do not degrade the significance of a valued, elegant Georgian Manor House?

The proposed designs for these 40 four-storey high flats and a service road are directly adjacent to existing homes in Clyst Valley Road and will create an extreme intensity of development, which will cause ramifications resulting in detrimental visual issues and noise problems for existing residents by the sheer magnitude of such development in this confined location.

Although in the 1960s/1970s, deciduous woodland screening was planted between the Manor House and the now established Clyst Valley Road homes to protect The Manor’s visual amenities, surprisingly, these towering 40 four-storey flats are planned on the same side of the woodland as the Manor, in the direct sight-line of the northern façade of the historic building! Furthermore this woodland will provide little or no screening in the winter for existing residents to three multi-storey blocks containing 40 flats.

So, not only will these towering blocks obtrude on the distinguished Manor – but also on the established homes in Clyst Valley Road, who will be overlooked by such high structures and susceptible to all noise and light pollution from the flats and the service road running directly alongside their boundaries.

Although the principle of outline development was approved by EDDC Planners in December 2020, surely in 2021 we can expect a build back better from homebuilders and planners to achieve a quality development that this historic, rural village deserves and one that can be acknowledged with pride.

We must surely not create ‘eyesores’ that will scar a small, rural village by building multi-storey structures which are more appropriate in an urban environment similar to Exeter City – but are so inappropriate in a rural East Devon village setting.

Whatever East Devon Planners approve, opposite a 200 year old, stylish, Manor House, adjoining and overlooking existing homes in Clyst Valley Road, the Planners’ combined decision must surely be one that evokes pride and results in building back better with the correct quantity, density and design choices.

East Devon District Council Planners must ensure that whatever they choose to approve will be what each and every one of them, as individuals, would wish to see in their own communities and back gardens and that their combined planning judgment will result in a development that will stand the test of time for another 200 years!