Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 18 October

Devon covid up for fifth successive week

Any fire break effect from half term not yet showing up. – Owl

Joe Ives, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

Covid figures have risen in Devon for the fifth week in a row with infection rates once again higher than the UK average.

In the week to Sunday 24 October, 6,154 new infections were recorded across the county, seven per cent more than the previous week. The infection rate is now 507 per 100,000 of the population, higher than the UK average of 466.

The only council area in Devon with a rate lower than the national average is Exeter. The city currently has an infection rate of 417 per 100,000, but cases are rising, with 556 people in Exeter testing positive last week, 119 [27 per cent] more than the week before.

Overall, 4,115 infections were recorded across the Devon County Council area, which excludes Plymouth and Torbay, up by 215 (five per cent) and bringing the infection rate to 508 per 100,000.

Plymouth had 137 more infections than the previous week, recording 1,368 new cases. The 11 per cent increase takes the city’s infection rate to 521 per 100,000.

In Torbay, 671 people tested positive, up by 85 (15 per cent) and making the infection rate of 493 per 100,000.

The only district council area in the county with a drop in infections was Mid Devon, recording 468 cases, 58 [11 per cent] fewer than the previous week. However, this drop resembles somewhat of a false dawn. It was only last week that Mid Devon’s cases skyrocketed more than 72 per cent. At 562 cases per 100,000 of the population, the district’s current infection rate is the second-highest in the county, second only to West Devon, which has an infection rate of 606 per 100,000.

Hospitalisations 

As reported on Tuesday 26 October, the recent rise in case numbers across the county has led to an increase – of 10 – in the number of people being treated for covid in Devon’s hospitals.

Latest figures [on Tuesday 19 October] show 118 covid patients in the county’s hospitals, 49 of whom are at Derriford in Plymouth, 28 at the RD&E, 24 in Torbay and 17 in North Devon. Of those patients, nine are in mechanical ventilation beds.

Deaths

People dying with covid in Devon fell this week – one of the few pieces of good news.

Four more people died within 28 days of receiving a positive covid test across Devon. Two died in the Devon County Council area. Torbay and Plymouth each recorded a single death. Last week, 14 people died across Devon.

Across the county, a total of 1,273 people have now died within 28 days of a positive covid test.

Vaccinations

Eighty-four per cent of people aged 12 and above have had their first dose of a vaccine in the Devon County Council area, which excludes Plymouth and Torbay, with 79 per cent receiving both doses.

In Plymouth, 81 per cent have had one dose, while 74 per cent have had both.

In Torbay, 82 per cent have received one dose, while 77 per cent have had both jabs.

This means that vaccination rates in Devon remain slightly behind the rest of the UK. Across the country, 87 per cent of people aged 12 and over have had one dose, while 79 per cent have had both jabs.

Only wild beaver colony threatened by sewage spills

Simon and Neil, these beavers live in your constituencies and have a beneficial impact on pollution and the environment. To drive them away with raw sewage discharges would be a spectacular “own goal”.

Tom Ball www.thetimes.co.uk

England’s only colony of wild beavers is being threatened by pollution flowing downstream from one of the worst sewage overflow sites in the country.

The beavers were only reintroduced to the English countryside six years ago and are now at risk

Since their reintroduction by the Devon Wildlife Trust six years ago, beavers have begun to thrive on the River Otter. However, sewage being discharged weekly from a storm overflow site upstream has the potential to cause the colony of about 20 families serious health problems, wildlife experts say.

The overflow site at Honiton, Devon, spilt 137 times last year, totalling 2,442 hours of spillage. The spill site, operated by South West Water, flows directly into the Otter. The water company was approached for comment.

Mark Elliott, who oversees the beaver project, said that the discharges were a massive concern. He added: “There is a whole range of nasties contained in sewage that could potentially impact them, like viruses and bacteria.”

Overflows usually occur during heavy rainfall as a “release valve” to prevent sewers from flooding. Effluent is diluted with rainwater but remains untreated, introducing contaminants and pathogens into the water that can cause toxic blue-green algal blooms.

Beavers became extinct in England in the 1500s. Their proposed reintroduction, which is out to consultation, forms part of the government’s 25-year environment plan, published in 2018.

Beavers’ dams can reduce pollution and boost wildlife populations, a study from Exeter University shows. Dams mitigate the impact of flooding.

The Lower Otter valley is undergoing a £15 million project to restore natural floodplains and create 55 hectares of mudflats, saltmarsh and other habitats. The project is funded by the EU and the Environment Agency.

Dr Nicola Daniel, former chairwoman of the Otter Valley Association, said: “I find it quite extraordinary that we have had £15 million spent on the estuary and no work being done on the pollution levels.”

Raw sewage spills were a key reason why 84 per cent of rivers and lakes in England failed to meet the government’s target of good ecological status last year. Threatened with a backbench revolt, ministers have tabled an amendment to the Environment Bill, which will force water firms to ensure a “progressive reduction in adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows”.

Christmas just got smaller in Bojo’s Britain

Heinz releases limited edition tins of Christmas Dinner Soup (but buy now while stocks last – Owl)

Aidan Milan metro.co.uk

promotional pictures of heinz's christmas dinner soup

Intriguing (Picture: Heinz)

Obsessed with Christmas dinner to an almost worrying degree? Well, Heinz could be dropping the soup of your dreams.

The food giant is releasing a limited edition Christmas Dinner Soup, and it looks… intriguing.

Chunks of turkey, pigs in blankets, stuffing balls, and potatoes will be all mixed up all one can with a gravy and cranberry sauce. 

All that could be yours for just £1.50, plus postage and packaging.

Yes, you’ll have to order your tins of Christmas Dinner Soup online via the Heinz website if you want to get in on the action.

You’ll also have to move fast, as there will be just 500 of these tins up for grabs.

promotional pictures of heinz's christmas dinner soup

Would you give it a go? (Picture: Jonathan Kennedy/Heinz)

Anke von Hanstein, brand manager at Heinz Soups, said: ‘We are so excited for the lucky 500 people to try this sensational seasonal addition to Heinz’s Big Soup family.

‘It is made for those with a big love for hearty festive flavours and tastes just perfect with a slice of warm crusty bread. Any soup that includes pigs in blankets and roasties is a winner in our eyes – go big or go hungry is what we always say.

‘Christmas dinner is one of our favourite meals too, which is why we’re bringing some additional festive magic to the nation this Christmas with this limited edition, enabling everyone to indulge in those delicious Christmas flavours anytime anywhere with a minuscule fraction of the time and effort

‘And if these lucky few who managed to get their hands on it love it as much as we do, Heinz Christmas Dinner Big Soup might be back next year, bigger and better. Watch this space.’

‘Bomb site’ Woodbury car parks to get makeover

Owl was under the impression that these car parks were “owned” by the Pebblebed Heaths Trust. In 2018 the Trust published a pebblebed Heaths car park strategy.

The car parks are now being described as “four council-owned car parks”. When did that happen?

The design and access statement (para 2.1) indicates that this is in response  to the plans of East Devon, Exeter and Teignbridge to build over 40,000 new homes by 2030.

Looks like the change happened soon after Jan 2020. Old Guard decision?

So the costs fall on the Council Tax Payer – Owl

Joe Ives, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk 

Joney’s Cross – and you can see why (courtesy South East Devon Habitat Regulations)

East Devon District Council (EDDC) has approved its own planning application to redevelop four of its car parks at Pebblebed Heath near East Budleigh,  which one councillor said were currently “little better than a bomb site.”

The heath is a 1,400sq hectare Site of Special Scientific Interest and a special area of conservation for southern damselflies, nightjars and Dartford warblers.

Now four council-owned car parks surrounding the heath are to be resurfaced and will undergo drainage works and have improved signage following a decision by EDDC’s planning committee. The council hopes to improve safety and reduce parking pressure elsewhere around the beauty spot.

The works will be at Joney’s Criss, Hawkerland; Stowfood Woods, Colaton Raleigh; Four Furs, Woodbury and the Frying Pans,  Woodbury Common. Though the car parks will be improved, no new spaces will be added.

Councillor Geoff Jung (Democratic Alliance Group, Woodbury and Lympstone), portfolio holder for coast, countryside and environment, told the planning committee: “I think everyone would agree that the car parks on the common look little better than a bomb site: muddy puddles, ruts and no logic on where to park.”

Cllr Jung said there had been some misinformation on social media on the purpose of the improvements. He said the works would improve safety and movement around the car parks, increase their visibility from the road and “reduce the opportunity for theft and anti-social behaviour which is fairly common on the heath.”

The council says there has been increased use of Pebblebed Heath because of new housing developments in East Devon.

In a report on the application, officers argued:  “Increasing the capacity at the larger car parks means there would be an increased focus on these areas with less harm likely to arise in other satellite parking areas, thereby reducing the harm to the wider Pebblebed Heaths.”

There were worries that a footpath to the car park at Joney’s Cross would be removed, but the council said it will be keeping it open.

Councillor Olly Davey (Democratic Alliance Group, Exmouth Town) welcomed the improvements but wants cycle parking to be considered in future developments.

Councillor Paul Hayward (Democratic Alliance Group, Yarty) read a statement on behalf of Newton Poppleford & Harpford Parish Council which expressed “slight frustration” that it was not consulted on the application when it was first validated in the summer.

A planning officer apologised and said the EDDC would make sure it consults them in the future.

Toughen up rules on ministers’ conduct, says standards watchdog

The rules governing the conduct of ministers and senior civil servants need to be toughened up, according to a new report.

www.bbc.co.uk

The Committee on Standards in Public Life – which advises the PM on ethical standards – has been carrying out a review into processes in Westminster.

It concluded transparency around lobbying was “poor” and the current guidance relied too much on convention.

The watchdog has recommended to Boris Johnson that rules be strengthened.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said the government would “carefully consider” the report.

The committee’s review began in September last year – shortly before a row broke out over the publishing of a report into allegations of bullying against Home Secretary Priti Patel, and the Greensill lobbying scandal involving former PM David Cameron hit Westminster.

It released its interim findings in July, calling for more transparency around lobbying ministers and for improvements to the rules about when ministers can take up private sector roles after leaving government.

Releasing the report’s full findings, the committee’s chairman and former director of MI5, Lord Evans, said social media, political polarisation and what he described as the “coarsening of public debate” had increased the risks to public standards, along with additional pressure from the pandemic and Brexit.

He added: “High standards of conduct support our democracy, economy, and foreign policy.

“The UK’s success in advocating against corruption abroad depends on its reputation for ethical conduct at home.”

‘Vigilance and leadership’

The report found the effectiveness of ethics regulators in Whitehall had “not kept pace with wider changes” and said there was a “particular need for reform in central government”.

The committee recommended strengthening the restrictions and guidance on lobbying – particularly when carried out through informal channels.

And it called for more power to be given to the independent adviser on ministerial standards, which advises the PM on the rules governing his cabinet’s conduct, the ministerial code.

Lord Evans also wanted to see that code include a list of possible sanctions the prime minister could impose on those who break it – including apologies, fines and asking for a resignation.

And he said he wanted these stronger rules to be written into law.

“The arrangements to uphold ethical standards in government have come under close scrutiny and significant criticism in recent months,” said Lord Evans. “Maintaining high standards requires vigilance and leadership.

“We believe our recommendations outline a necessary programme of reform to restore public confidence in the regulation of ethical standards in government.”

The report was welcomed by Labour, with its deputy leader Angela Rayner accusing Mr Johnson and his party of “repeatedly undermining standards in our public life”.

She added: “The system that is supposed to uphold the ministerial code, lobbying rules, business appointments, public appointments and transparency is clearly unfit for purpose.

“Ministers have disregarded the rules and it is about time for a radical overhaul of the system.”

Campaign organisation Transparency International UK also welcomed the report and said the recommendations should be implemented in full.

Chief executive Daniel Bruce said: “It is incumbent on the PM to enact these significant but sensible reforms without delay.

“Failing to do so would constitute a deliberate choice to leave the door wide open to abuses of public office for private gain.”