Plans approved for glamping pods at holiday park

Planning permission has been granted for 12 new gleaming [glamping?] pods and three new holiday lodges in the Otter Valley in East Devon.

Against the local plan and within the Blackdown Hills AONB. When are we going to focus on building a sustainable economy supporting high paid jobs? Because tourism doesn’t do it. – Owl

Joe Ives

The new facilities will expand Otter Falls, a holiday park in that already offers cottages and luxury lodges.

The accommodation will be built along with parking – including two electric vehicle charging points- landscaping, access and drainage improvements.

The development technically goes against the local plan as it is within the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which prohibits new developments there.

However, East Devon District councillors argued that any downsides of the new pods and lodges could be mitigated.

An artist impression of how the glamping pods will look

An artist impression of how the glamping pods will look (Image: : Living Outside LTD)

They granted planning permission on the condition that no light pollution arises and that the new pods and lodges will be be short enough to be mostly hidden by surrounding trees,

Cllr Philip Skinner said: “Although it looks like it could fly in the face of some of our policies, in actual fact when you look at it in the grand scale of things it really doesn’t.”

“What we’re trying to create in the AONB is an environment people can enjoy.”

Cllr David Key added that some local residents were concerned by the new holiday accommodation but said he did not think the area would be too affected by the extra traffic.

The planning committee, like all EDDC meetings, was held online as a ‘consultative’ meeting.

As the law allowing councils to meet virtually ended on 7 May, official decisions now can’t be made virtually, but once an ‘indicative’ decision is made by the council on Zoom, it passes to the chief executive or senior officers to make the final decision, although they are assumed to back whatever the committee decides.

COVID not showing signs of dropping

According to ZOE COVID Study incidence figures, in total there are currently 58,126 new daily symptomatic cases of COVID in the UK on average, based on PCR and LFT test data from up to five days ago [*]. An increase of 22% from 45,081 new daily cases last week. 

In the fully vaccinated population, it’s estimated there are currently 14,352 new daily symptomatic cases in the UK. Cases in this group have slightly increased from 13,118 cases last week (Graph 1). 

In terms of prevalence, on average 1 in 93 people in the UK currently have symptomatic COVID (Table 1). 

Across the different age groups, there has been an  uptick in the number of active cases in people aged 20-50, but cases continue to increase most in the under 19s.  Cases remain low and stable in contributors over the age of 50 (Graph 2).

The UK R value is estimated to be around 1.1 and regional R values are; England, 1.1, Wales, 1.1, Scotland, 1.0 (Table 1). Prevalence figures in the regions show that all regions are currently seeing an uptick in new cases, particularly in Wales, which after having some of the lowest levels, now has the highest number of cases (Graph 3). 

ZOE’s predicted Long COVID incidence rate currently estimates, at current case rates, 804 people a day will go on to experience symptoms for longer than 12 weeks (Graph 4). 

The ZOE COVID Study incidence figures (new symptomatic cases) are based on reports from around 750,000 thousand weekly contributors and the proportion of newly symptomatic users who have received positive swab tests. The latest survey figures were based on data from 39,742 recent swab tests done between 11th and 25th September 2021. 

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

“While the latest ZOE data shows new cases are up on last week, it’s encouraging to see national hospitalisation rates falling as we approach winter. While most cases are still in the young, we’re seeing infections being passed up the generational ladder, likely from school children to their parents. Most of these new adult infections are in the under 50s, who still have a relatively low risk of being admitted to hospital, especially if they’ve been fully vaccinated.

As the winter approaches, it’s important parents of school-aged children and students don’t pass the virus on to more vulnerable grandparents by not recognising simple cold-like symptoms as a possible COVID infection. This is a critical time and a little caution could make all the difference in avoiding a winter crisis for hospitals.” 

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. Prevalence 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

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

Map of UK prevalence figures

Metro mayor idea for Devon and Cornwall slammed

A leading Labour mayor has suggested that Devon and Cornwall should be next to get an elected regional leader, but the idea has been rejected by people from the counties.

Edward Oldfield 

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester who challenged the Government over lockdown funding, made the suggestion during a discussion on devolution at the Labour conference in Brighton.

The idea for a metro mayor covering the peninsula was greeted with big cheers in the hall, according to political journalist Jennifer Williams.

But replies to her tweet about the proposal were less enthusiastic, with one asking: “A single mayor? How would they decide how to correctly add jam and cream when the mayor had scones?”

And the suggestion was rejected outright by Dick Cole, councillor for St Enoder on Cornwall Council and the leader of Mebyon Kernow, the left-of-centre Cornish nationalist party.

Mr Cole said: “Andy Burnham is completely wrong to suggest that there should be a metro mayor for Cornwall, linked on a geographical basis with the English county of Devon.

“Cornwall needs proper devolution, we need a national assembly or parliament like the other Celtic parts of the UK, like Scotland and Wales. I would remind Andy Burnham that 20 years ago 50,000 signed declarations calling for a Cornish Assembly, which were totally ignored by the Labour Party at that time.

“It is a terrible shame that Cornwall has not achieved devolution, not least through their lack of interest, and perhaps now is the time for them to back serious calls for proper Cornish devolution.”

The issue of central government handing over more power to local authorities is likely to form part of the ‘levelling up’ agenda, now in the hands of Communities Secretary Michael Gove who took on responsibility in the prime minister’s recent cabinet reshuffle.

The Government is expected to publish a white paper setting out its plans before Christmas, but it is unclear whether they will include creating more regional combined authorities, led by ‘metro mayors’.

Cornwall already has some devolved responsibilities granted in 2015, giving its single-tier council more control over areas including health and social care, transport, employment and skills, and business support.

Devon has a mixture of top-tier councils for Plymouth and Torbay, and a two-tier system of the county council and eight districts covering the rest of the area.

In Torbay, voters scrapped the post of elected mayor after a decade in 2016, and opted instead for a leader and cabinet system.

On economic development, Devon is lumped together with Somerset in the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, one of 38 in England set up to lead economic growth.

Its role includes handing out government cash to support road building across the region.

Plymouth Labour MP Luke Pollard, the Shadow Environment Secretary, said mayors like Andy Burnham had shown how they could stand up for their region, but he was unsure whether adding another politician into the mix was the answer for Devon and Cornwall.

The MP for Sutton and Devonport called for a debate about securing more funding for the region, and added: “Instead of creating a new politician, let’s get the current politicians that we have to stop voting for cuts and start campaigning for us to get our fair share of funding.”

He said children in the South West received £300 per pupil less than the national average and the region was “bottom of the national league” for transport investment.

East Devon Labour councillor Paul Millar has called for the Greater Exeter region to get a metro mayor, to take strategic decisions on issues such as public transport in the wider area.

His proposal followed the collapse of talks to create a Greater Exeter Strategic Plan for the city and the area covered Teignbridge, Mid and East Devon.

The two-tier system of local government in Devon is believed to be next in line for reorganisation, following the streamlining of councils in Dorset and Somerset.

The closest regional mayor is Labour’s Dan Norris, elected in May as the Metro Mayor for the West of England Combined Authority, covering Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

The authority was set up in 2017 and says it has secured a total of £1.15billion of new funding for the region to deliver decisions using devolved powers on homes, transport, skills and the economy.

An influential report by the UK’s infrastructure advisers has urged ministers to overhaul the current funding system and give local authorities five-year infrastructure budgets instead of having to compete for funding.

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) report said: “Failure to empower local authorities to deliver local infrastructure will lead the Government to fail in its levelling up goals.”

It recommended streamlining around 15 sources of funding into two, creating five-year flexible budgets based on population and network size, plus a targeted scheme for areas with poor transport connections or the potential for new industries.

It suggested around £6billion a year could be made available for local transport investment outside London in the next five years, up by 40 per cent compared to last year.

Commissioner Bridget Rosewell said: “Levelling up cannot be done from Whitehall.

“Every English town faces a different set of challenges and opportunities and local leaders are best placed to develop strategies to address these.

“Competing against other councils for multiple pots of cash creates a focus on the short term, continual uncertainty, and burns up staff time.

“Local councils need to be empowered to deliver transformational plans for the future and held accountable for doing so.”

Councillor David Renard, economy spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: “Reducing and simplifying the number of funding streams available to councils and providing long-term certainty will help councils plan and deliver better transport and connectivity across the country.”