“Madcap” Exmouth development approved

The legacy of the Conservative “Old Guard” still comes to haunt the “New Guard”

The road layout of a “madcap” 300 home development on the edge of Exmouth is to be changed following a vote by East Devon District Council (EDDC).

The 16 affordable homes promised by the developers described as “scandalously low.” 

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

New homes going here (courtesy: Google Maps)

300 new homes, but councillors not happy.

The corner at Goodmores Farm housing development at Hulham Road will now have a simplified road layout. 

Instead of the southwestern portion having two looping roads, it will now just have one, to reduce the risk of flooding through surface water runoff. As a result of the changes the number of homes planned has been reduced by one, to 298.

The Goodmores Farm scheme, put forward by 3West Developments Ltd, a Woodbury-based developer, has divisided opinion for years. 

The principle of the development was granted planning permission in 2014 – a decision that has since tied the council’s hands.  As a result, despite concerns over the small number of affordable homes proposed by developers, full outline permission was given for plans in 2018. 

Although nothing can be done to stop the project now, many councillors feel it is a major mistake in the making.

When first proposed, the development was meant to have 350 houses, a school, open green space, a communal commercial area, and employment land.  A viability assessment submitted by the developer argued that in order to provide some of these facilities it could only afford to make five per cent of the new buildings affordable – a far cry from the council’s normal 25 per cent requirement.

There are concerns too about future residents having to rely on cars, and its alleged poor public transport and cycle links.

In comments submitted before the latest planning meeting, Councillor Paul Millar (Labour, Exmouth Halsden) said: “I continue to object to this planning application along the same lines as Exmouth Town Council, and will do everything I can to delay and frustrate this intellectually incoherent and madcap scheme which ought never have been approved at outline”

Speaking at the planning committee, Cllr Paul Millar described the 16 affordable homes promised by the developers as “scandalously low.” 

Previous road layout for Goodmores Farm, Exmouth (courtesy: ARA Architects)

East Devon is facing an affordable housing crisis. A report by Devon Home Choice says more than 2,700 households in the district are in housing need. 

Nevertheless, with outline approval granted by a previous EDDC administration, there is little that can be done to significantly alter the plans now. 

Commenting on the ‘reserved matters’ application for the road layout changes, Councillor Bruce De Saram (Conservative, Exmouth Littleham) said: “With great reluctance – and I stress with great reluctance – I will have to support approval.”

Councillor Olly Davey (Green, Exmouth Town) welcomed the reduction in the amount of tarmac that will be laid as a result of the road changes. However, he reiterated arguments made previously about the plans, saying: “This is a twentieth-century development and not really fit for the twenty-first century.” 

The reserved matters application was passed unanimously by EDDC’s planning committee. 

Australia trade deal to cause £94m hit to UK farming, forestry and fishing, Government study reveals

The post-Brexit trade deal signed with Australia last week will see British agriculture, forestry and fishing take a £94m hit, the Government’s own impact assessment shows.

By Arj SinghDeputy Political Editor inews.co.uk 

There is also an expected £225m hit to the semi-processed food sector, which includes tinned products, as part of a “reallocation of resources within the economy”.

The impact assessment refers to Australia as a “large, competitive producer of agricultural products”, making clear the “potential for the deal to result in lower output for some agricultural sectors [in the UK] as a result”.

It goes on to warn that the sector is expected “to contract” as a result of increased competition as tariffs are lifted on Australian imports to the UK, compared to if the deal had not been struck.

It comes after then-trade secretary Liz Truss won a Cabinet row with George Eustice over the deal in spring, with the Environment Secretary reportedly concerned about the damage cheap Ausralian lamb and beef imports could do to domestic farmers.

Manufacturing sectors, in particular the manufacture of motor vehicles and the manufacfture of machinery and equipment will benefit from the deal, the impact assessment published alongside the final trade deal on Friday showed.

The Liberal Democrats warned farmers were being “sold down the river” by the Conservatives as a result of the deal.

It came after Boris Johnson’s party suffered a humiliating by-election defeat to the Lib Dems in the largely rural seat of North Shropshire.

Lib Dem environment spokesman Tim Farron said: “This impact assessment proves what so many feared.

“Buried in the small print is a £100m hit to our farming and fishing sectors that will hit rural communities hardest.

“Boris Johnson has sold farmers down the river to make a quick buck in a misguided trade deal with Australia.

“Now the reality of what’s on the table is clear, it’s vital that Parliament is given a vote on the deal.

“Last week’s political earthquake in North Shropshire shows that Boris Johnson’s Conservatives can’t afford to take farmers for granted any longer.”

The Department for Intenraitonal Trade said it had secured safeguards to protect the most sensitive farmers, including tariffs on imports above a certain quota in the first decade of the deal.

From years 11 to 15, 20 per cent tariffs will apply on beef and sheepmeat above a certain quota level.

And a general safeguard will provide a safety net for industries that face “serious injury” from increased imports.

A DIT spokesman said: “The deal is expected to increase trade with Australia by 53 per cent, boost the economy by £2.3bn and add £900m to household wages each year in the long-run. It will also play an important role in levelling up the UK, delivering benefits for towns, cities and rural areas throughout the country.

“Maintaining our high standards is a red line in all our trade negotiations. That is why this deal contains safeguards to support the most sensitive parts of the UK farming community, including a gradual removal of tariffs over 10 years and a safety net that allows tariffs or restrictions to be reimposed if the industry faces serious harm.”

Exposing the Immensa testing scandal: update – Good Law Project


The Omicron variant is creating another season of Christmas chaos and a country-wide shortage of PCR testing has once again revealed shortcomings in the Government’s Covid-19 response.

Amid this, our work to address the failings at the Immensa lab in Wolverhampton is more important than ever. An estimated 43,000 people with Covid-19 were mistakenly given negative PCR results by the lab. They thought they were in the clear, but were actually positive for Covid-19. This contributed to soaring rates of infection across the South West and Wales.

Amber Marshall told the BBC that she believes her grandmother Pam died in October as a result of Immensa’s errors, having caught Covid-19 from a member of staff at Stinchcombe Manor Care Home. The staff member had been given a false negative result and thought it was safe for her to go to work.

Without a proper account of what happened, how can people trust the system won’t fail to protect them and their families and friends again?

We posed a series of questions to the Government, to try and get justice for the families involved and assurances that the situation is now under control, but their responses were vague and wholly inadequate.

We’ve now filed Judicial Review proceedings to ensure the Government reckons with the multiple failures in their oversight of the Immensa lab.

We believe their failure to set up and enforce a proper system to monitor and supervise the accuracy of PCR testing at private labs like Immensa breaches both their duty to protect life under the NHS Act 2006 and the human rights of the thousands of people affected.

It took the Government almost a month to identify the issue and to stop sending PCR tests there. And they didn’t even announce what had happened or start contacting affected individuals until three days after that.

It’s hard to say just how much further the virus spread in that time, but the effects of this mismanagement are potentially huge. As far as we know the Government hasn’t actually investigated or confirmed the true number. Professor Deepti Gurdasani, a senior lecturer in epidemiology at Queen Mary University, estimates that the false negatives may have caused up to 200,000 further Covid-19 infections, and more than 1,000 avoidable deaths.

Many of the people given false negative PCR results have been left deeply distressed. One woman told us that, without a positive PCR result, she missed out on support that she’d otherwise have been entitled to: “I couldn’t believe it when I got the message from Test and Trace. I was so angry. I am 71 years old, and I was completely on my own. I could have died in my flat and no one would have known.”

We’re asking the Court to compel the Government to put in place proper safety checks at private labs to prevent this ever happening again and to acknowledge that people’s human rights were breached. We will keep you updated.

You can learn more about the facts and grounds of this case here. And read the Government’s response to our questions here.

Good Law Project only exists thanks to donations from people across the UK. If you’re in a position to support our work, you can do so here.

Covid restrictions unlikely before Christmas but PM watching data ‘hour by hour’

Boris Johnson has lost control, and potential successors such as Rishi Sunak are looking over their shoulders at the “bonkers” recovery and research groups. 

How to crash the economy and wreck the NHS without really trying  – Owl 

Aubrey Allegretti www.theguardian.com 

New Covid restrictions are unlikely to be imposed before Christmas amid deep cabinet divisions but Boris Johnson warned further measures remain on the table, with data on the threat of Omicron monitored “hour by hour”.

The prime minister was accused of failing to follow scientists’ advice on the need for immediate restrictions while leaving millions of people and businesses in limbo after a two-hour cabinet meeting ended with no decision on Monday.

During the meeting, scientific advisers briefed ministers on the latest data including a steep rise in hospitalisations in London, with the UK’s highest number of Omicron cases, while 91,743 people tested positive for Covid on Monday across the UK.

Afterwards, the prime minister said the arguments for and against stricter measures were “finely balanced” and the situation was “extremely difficult”.

With some people having already departed on Christmas breaks, government sources told the Guardian that fresh curbs were unlikely to be imposed before 25 December – though an announcement could be made in coming days on rules to be brought in before New Year’s Eve.

Measures under consideration include limits on households mixing indoors, social distancing and curfews for the hospitality sector. Parliamentary authorities are preparing for a possible request for the Commons to be recalled on Tuesday 28 December for a vote on any new measures.

Among cabinet ministers pushing for swift action were Sajid Javid, the health secretary, and Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary. However, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, and the education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, were said to be holding out for “incontrovertible evidence” that a plan C for tackling Omicron was needed.

Among the plans considered by cabinet on Monday was a return to “stage two” of England’s roadmap out of lockdown, which came into effect on 12 April. People were only allowed to socialise indoors with members of their own household or support bubble, while outdoor socialising was limited to the rule of six or two households.

Johnson said hospitalisations were rising “quite steeply” in London, where Omicron has hit hardest so far, adding that while he understood the strain on hospitality firms, the current plan B restrictions “can be very helpful to us and the country” at slowing the spread of the variant.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced the cancellation of the capital’s New Year’s Eve celebration in Trafalgar Square “in the interests of public safety” on Monday. The event had been due to be attended by 6,500 people.

The number of UK vaccines administered within 24 hours broke 1m for the first time this weekend, it was confirmed. Just over 50% of over-12s have now also received a booster dose.

Prof Christina Pagel, the director of University College London’s clinical operational research unit, said that waiting for more definitive evidence of Omicron’s spread could cause the NHS to be overwhelmed and may mean it is too late to avert a crisis.

She urged ministers to “follow Sage advice and return to step two of the roadmap immediately to prevent thousands of infections over the coming days and then monitor the situation hour by hour so that measures can be lifted as quickly as possible, hopefully even in time to enable limited household mixing over Christmas weekend”.

A Department of Health source stressed that while Javid believed responding as early as possible to threats like Omicron was still the best way forward, the possibility of new restrictions remained unclear.

They said: “We want to be as open with people as we can, but it’s not easy. There is new data coming in all the time that we have to look at, from several places. We’re basically scouring for a signal within the noise.”

A former minister said Johnson appeared to be hamstrung by some of his top team. They said: “I don’t really see how it is scientifically defensible [not to act immediately] but it also feels about right in political and publicly-possible terms. The data about transmission points inexorably towards an approach that says ‘better safe than sorry for the sake of the NHS’. But it would also be unforgivable to be too cautious.”

A Tory MP resistant to new restrictions vowed to go ahead with their Christmas and New Year plans regardless of any new rules. They said: “If he tries to push ahead with new restrictions without convincing evidence, Boris is a dead man walking.” Another backbencher, Esther McVey, said ministers had “for once pushed back on the scaremongering by the lockdown fanatics”.

After the cabinet meeting ended with no certainty on restrictions, Labour accused Johnson of being “too weak” to stand up to his own MPs. Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said: “While businesses across the country wonder if they can continue to trade, and families make frantic calls about whether they will see each other this Christmas, true to form the prime minister has put his party before the public.

“Rather than set out a clear plan for the country, he has chosen to protect himself from his own MPs by simply not saying anything. Boris Johnson is unfit to lead.”

Kate Nicholls, the head of UKHospitality, said the industry needed notice of any restrictions that were to be placed on it next week, with financial support crucial. She said firms were in limbo, having lost up to 60% of their trade while still having big rent and rate bills as well as staff wages.

Greg Parmley, the chief executive of Live, which represents live music companies, said the government’s stance was “merely an excuse to withhold desperately needed financial support as sectors like live music and entertainment buckle under the weight of the latest Covid wave”.

Dehenna Davison, the Conservative MP for Bishop Auckland, said: “In the last two days, I’ve had pubs and restaurants contact me asking if they should place food and drinks orders. I’ve had emails from people asking if they should postpone their wedding for the fifth time, or if they can see their mum on Christmas. We really need some certainty.”