Cornish hotel ordered to demolish rooms built for G7 summit

A rare example where development without planning permission has not got through the “retrospective approval” route much exploited in East Devon – Owl

Steven Morris http://www.theguardian.com 

A Cornish beachside hotel that built nine meeting rooms without planning permission claiming they were needed for the G7 summit has been ordered to demolish them because they have caused “very significant harm” to the landscape.

The Carbis Bay hotel built the rooms in three single-storey buildings before hosting last summer’s meeting of world leaders. It said it had pressed ahead without planning permission because of the urgency of the project.

The development led to protest marches on the beach with objectors pointing out that precious habitats and views had been ruined.

There was also anger that the hotel claimed the rooms were needed to provide space to host bilateral G7 talks when the UK government said it had not asked for extra work to be carried out.

The planning inspector Peter Jarratt highlighted objectors’ argument that the development “flew in the face” of the G7’s claimed green credentials.

He said: “There has been a significant public response to the unauthorised development and to the submitted retrospective planning application for reasons including the inappropriateness of the development and to the failure of the applicant to follow the due planning process. Many representations – some 350 to 400 – were received by the council.”

The National Trust, the South West Coast Path Association, the Cornwall branch of the Countryside Charity (CPRE) and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust all submitted objections.

“The construction of the meeting rooms in three single-storey buildings … has significantly and adversely affected the character and appearance of the area,” Jarratt said.

“I have found very significant harm to the character and appearance of the landscape. Although it is to the hotel’s considerable credit that it has hosted the G7 summit and now wishes to adapt the meeting rooms to holiday accommodation, the economic benefits arising from the development, despite attracting significant weight, are insufficient to outweigh the harm to the landscape.”

He upheld an enforcement notice from Cornwall council ordering the development to be removed. It is expected that the bill for the demolition work and restoration of the landscape will cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The hotel declined to comment.

Sales of beer in pubs go down the pan

Half- term verdict on Simon Jupp: “Simon needs to try harder” ? – Owl

Steve Houghton www.devonlive.com 

Almost one-and-a-half billion fewer pints were sold in British pubs in 2021 than in 2019, according to data from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).

The BBPA said pub beer sales were down 38 per cent in 2021 and there was an on-trade loss of £5.7 billion from beer sales alone – equivalent to 1.4 billion pints.

In 2020, trading was down 55 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels.

BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “Every unsold pint is a stark reminder of the dislocating effect Covid restrictions had on our sector and the communities our pubs sit at the heart of.”

The BBPA also said there had been a shift in consumer consumption patterns. Between March 2020 and October 2021, beer receipts dropped 11 per cent while receipts for wine and spirits rose eight per cent and 13 per cent.

The BBPA attributes the shift to long periods of restriction pub trading, where beer is the most popular drink, and a rise in at-home drinking.

Ms McClarkin said the BBPA backed planned reforms to the alcohol duty system to “incentivise lower-strength products” and “differentiate beer from stronger wine and spirits”.

Climate activists buy environment secretary’s Cornwall constituency office

“I invested because I am sick and tired of [the environment secretary’s] complete refusal to make any decisions which deviate from ‘business as usual’ when we are facing a devastating climate crisis that will lead to the death of millions if we don’t take immediate action.”

[George Eustice survived the reshuffle – Owl]

Helena Horton www.theguardian.com 

The constituency office of the environment secretary, George Eustice, has been bought by supporters of Insulate Britain, who have donated his rent to a legal fund for activists.

Supporters of the group, which made headlines last year by obstructing major roads and calling on the government to retrofit all British homes to make them energy efficient, formed a coalition of investors.

They acquired the property at 13 Commercial Street, Camborne, Cornwall, last October for £51,000. Since then their company, Cawton Ltd, has received £2,820 in rent from the House of Commons, which has been donated to help pay the legal costs of Insulate Britain defendants in court cases.

Cawton Ltd is an anagram of Act Now – one of the Extinction Rebellion protest group’s three key demands.

Sally Wright, from St Day, in the MP’s Camborne, Redruth and Hayle constituency, said: “I invested because I am sick and tired of [the environment secretary’s] complete refusal to make any decisions which deviate from ‘business as usual’ when we are facing a devastating climate crisis that will lead to the death of millions if we don’t take immediate action.

“I’m glad we are using his rent to pay the fines of the people who are risking their livelihoods, reputations and personal safety to give the rest of us hope that change is possible.”

Insulate Britain said Eustice had taken many actions recently that they disagreed with, including authorising the use of a bee-killing pesticide, and encouraging MPs to vote against an amendment to the environment bill that would have forced water companies to end the practice of dumping untreated sewage into rivers and seas. The government was later forced to U-turn on this after public outrage.

Eustice has previously spoken out against the activists, calling them “highly irresponsible”, and welcomed the powers sought by the Home Office to allow police to act pre-emptively to stop the protests happening.

Since November last year, Insulate Britain says, 28 supporters have been charged with contempt of court for defying injunctions banning their protest blockades during a campaign of civil disobedience last autumn, according to the campaign group. Of these, 25 have been found guilty and 13 have been jailed, with 12 receiving suspended prison sentences. So far, they say, the courts have awarded costs of £84,000 against Insulate Britain defendants, with a further claim of £159,216 from lawyers acting for the government due to be decided next week.

Another investor, Brenda Shrewsbury, 65, from Budock Water, Cornwall, said: “The rent from George’s gaff is tiny compared with the costs faced by the individuals that have been persecuted by the government for demanding action on home insulation, but I hope that this move will inspire others to do what they can. We need to come together and act now on the climate emergency.”

The group has decided to donate future rent money to local food banks and community initiatives to help people hit by the cost of living crisis and facing the choice of whether to heat their homes or eat.

A spokesperson for Eustice said: “We live in a free country and investors are free to invest in property irrespective of their political views. There is no law that requires a landlord and tenant to share the same political opinions.”

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Teignbridge tax support scheme to stay

They’re the only ones to offer it in Devon

Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

Teignbridge’s council tax support scheme, in which those in greatest hardship pay nothing, is set to continue next year.

The district council is one of only 20 per cent of local authorities in the country to offer eligible residents a full discount on their bill, and the only one in Devon.

Councillor Richard Keeling (Lib Dem, Chudleigh), member for corporate resources, this week told a meeting of the council’s ruling executive that it was “not the time to consider cutting support or making other changes to the scheme.”

“Our residents need some stability, and certainly as we emerge from the covid crisis we need the time and a more sustainable baseline to carry out a review of our scheme’s performance, before determining whether we need to make any changes for the future.”

In approving the policy, which will need to be ratified by full council, the executive also agreed to adjust the thresholds to ensure those on the lowest levels of benefits don’t lose out because of an upcoming rise in welfare payments.

A council report explaining the policy stated there were 5,716 working age council tax reduction claimants in December, a slight drop from a peak of almost 6,000 last April.

The cost of the scheme – around £10 million per year – is shared between Teignbridge and the three other major recipients of the council tax: Devon County Council, police and the fire service. Teignbridge contributes just under nine per cent.

It was changed in 2020, introducing an income-based scheme, with overall household income and size used to determine how much discount they are eligible for.

Cllr Keeling said it is “easier for our customers to understand, quicker for our council tax team to administer and better able to cope with minor fluctuations in universal credit entitlement.”

Council leader Alan Connett (Lib Dem, Starcross & Kenton) said he hadn’t realised Teignbridge were “unique in Devon” in still offering the full discount to some households.

He added: “Looking ahead, with the bills that are going to come into people with power, utilities and all rest of it, [the scheme] is going to be a real help.”

When asked how it is promoted to people, an officer said there was more information online and those who phone up the council struggling to pay their bill are also made aware of the help on offer.

Midas boss scooped £500,000 as firm was collapsing

In total, directors were paid £1,869,000 during the 18 months to the end of October 2020, with £53,000 paid in pension contributions. Steve Hindley, Midas Chairman, is also Chairman of The Great South West, the “powerhouse” brand which promotes the local enterprise partnership (LEP) areas of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Heart of the South West and Dorset. In 2019, he stepped down as chair of the Heart of the South West LEP, after holding the position since November 2013. 

William Telford www.devonlive.com

A boss at collapsed South West construction giant Midas Group Plc was paid more than half a million pounds while the company was making huge losses, it has emerged.

Accounts for the stricken firm, which is now in administration with the loss of 303 jobs, show the highest-paid director trousered £504,000 in the 18 months to the end of October 2020.

This sum does not include pension contributions so it is likely the director benefited further.

The payment was made in the same 18 months when the company made an after-tax loss of more than £2m.

The highest paid director also pocketed £443,000 in 2019, the group’s annual report and financial statements reveal.

In total, directors were paid £1,869,000 during the 18 months to the end of October 2020, with £53,000 paid in pension contributions.

At the time the directors were chairman Steve Hindley, chief executive Alan Hope, Mike Hocking, and chief commercial officer Scott Poulter, plus finance director Duncan Rogerson, who resigned in July 2019 and was replaced by Michael Ready.

Mr Ready left the company in March 2021 to move to Australia and was replaced by Peter Skoulding.)

Mr Poulter left the company on December 21, 2021, the same day another former finance director, Mr Hocking, also left.

Mr Hocking had been a key figure at Midas since 1998 when he and Mr Hindley, now aged 72, purchased the company in a management buy-in.

Mr Hindley, who led that buy-in, was chairman of the Midas Group up until its administration and is among the most high-profile business figures in the South West.

He is a chartered civil engineer, a fellow of both the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Chartered Institute of Building and a member of RICS.

He was awarded the CBE in the 2006 New Years Honours List for services to the construction industry and appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Devon in 2009.

Mr Hindley graduated from Salford University in 1971, but also received an honorary doctorate of engineering from the University of Exeter in 2011 and an honorary doctorate in business from the University of Plymouth in 2015.

He is the chairman of The Great South West, the “powerhouse” brand which promotes the local enterprise partnership (LEP) areas of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Heart of the South West and Dorset.

The organisation, led by an alliance of business leaders, LEPs, universities, colleges and local government, aims to deliver £45bn of economic benefit and become the leading region for the green and blue economy.

Mr Hindley, who has blamed the Covid pandemic for Midas’ collapse, is also a member of and former chairman of the CBI Construction Council and the SW Regional Council.

In 2019, he stepped down as chair of the Heart of the South West LEP, after holding the position since November 2013.

Mr Hindley, an aficionado of classic cars, has served as a trustee and chairman for the Devon Community Foundation, a trustee of Children’s Hospice South West and was formally on the board of governors at the City of Bristol College.

Midas Group’s chief executive Alan Hope was credited on the firm’s website, before it was shut down by administrators, as having “led Midas’ growth to a £250m-plus pa revenue business” since joining in 2004.

The company said he had driven the group’s restructuring into five “customer facing companies” – Midas Construction Ltd, Midas Retail Ltd, Mi-Space (UK) Ltd, Mi-Space Property Services Ltd, Midas Commercial Developments Ltd, all now in administration – overseen a brand refresh, and launched the new company vision “Leaders in Customer Service and Performance.”

Peter Skoulding, chief finance officer at the time of the firm’s administration, is chartered accountant and was described on the Midas website as having “a track record of sustained strategic, commercial and technical success across diverse sectors”.

Mr Skoulding spent 15 years at Mitie from 2003, holding a variety of finance positions. He left as director of finance planning in early 2018 and held a range of senior finance roles at the publicly listed Smiths News before joining Midas.

Revealed, Nadine Dorries’ Red Line

Apparently she has one – Owl

HOLD the front pages. It turns out there is something which Boris Johnson could do to make even his most voracious defender turn against him.

The Jouker www.thenational.scot 

But what could possibly be so bad as to make even Nadine Dorries turn on her benevolent leader?

What infraction could be so beyond the pale as to make even the over-promoted beyond belief Dorries throw away her ministerial career for good?

Could it be attending a “bring your own booze” party mid-lockdown?

Could it be lying to parliament about it, as reports have claimed Johnson did?

Could it be having the police investigate the Prime Minister while in office for breaking his own laws?

Could it be breaking manifesto pledge after manifesto pledge, leaving pensioners, nurses, and the world’s most vulnerable people to pick up the pieces?

No. Dorries has stood by Johnson through all of that.

What’s more, Dorries said she would support Johnson even if police found he had been “criminally negligent”.

But what she would not stand for is kicking a dog. That would be a step too far. That would be enough to see even Dorries hang up her ministerial boots.

At least that’s what the Culture Secretary told CNN.

Should that actually come to pass, it seems more likely Dorries would deny there ever was a dog.

Look at her track record. In that same CNN interview Dorries was confronted with the Sue Gray update (the full report is still due).

The host highlighted how Gray had “condemned a failure of leadership in Boris Johnson’s government”.

Dorries replied: “No, she didn’t. She didn’t express a failure of leadership in Boris Johnson’s government at all.”

Mmmmm.

To quote the Sue Gray report: “There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office.”

Which way is up? Dorries will have to check with the Prime Minister before answering that.