Warning to stay away from East Devon seafronts as Storm Eunice blows in

East Devon residents have been warned to stay away from seafronts with winds of up to 100mph expected when Storm Eunice blows in on Friday, February 18. [Plus advice on recycling]

eastdevonnews.co.uk 

A number of schools across the district and in Exeter have also announced they will shut for the day due to the conditions.

They currently include Exmouth Community College and St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in the town, along with primary schools in Sidmouth, Ottery St Mary, Honiton, and Axminster. A full list can be found here.

The South West is set to be battered by gale-force gusts – the worst of them happening between 3am and 9pm.

Met Office chiefs have escalated a wind warning for the area to Amber.

A Red warning has been issued for northern Devon and its coastline.

Flood gates have been closed as a precautionary measure in Exmouth at Morton Crescent, Mamhead Slipway and by the Clock Tower.

East Devon District Council has today issued the following advice:

What to expect

There is a good chance that flying debris could result in a danger to life. It is likely there will be falling branches and some uprooted trees.

People are being advised to stay away from coastal paths and coastal areas where there will be large waves and beach debris is likely to be thrown onto sea fronts, coastal roads and properties.

There is a good chance that power cuts, which could occur and possibly affect other services, such as mobile phone coverage.

Roads, bridges and railway lines are likely to close, with delays and cancellations to public transport.

The Met Office says that Eunice may cause ‘significant disruption’ on the county’s roads, and that there is a good chance that flying debris could result in ‘a danger to life.’

Recycling

Devon’s recycling centres will likely be closed tomorrow (Friday, February 17).

Recycling crews have asked residents to ensure their recycling bins have their lids on, are weighed down so they cannot blow away and are tucked against walls and fences where possible. Residents have also been asked to wait until 7am to put them at the kerbside.

Travel

Devon County Council (DCC) is advising people to only travel if absolutely necessary. Wind speeds are being constantly monitored, so please check before you travel. If you must travel please plan your journey and leave extra time.

Teams of tree surgeons will also be on stand-by to clear any fallen trees on the county’s roads.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, DCC cabinet member for highway management, said: “The Met Office has increased its alert level and Storm Eunice will make travelling conditions quite perilous for much of Friday morning and we are advising if you can avoid travelling, please do so.

“The forecast of such strong winds may well lead to fallen trees or branches, and other debris.

“If you must travel, please take extra care, particularly when its dark when it’s more difficult to see debris on the road.

“To prepare for this, extra people are being drafted to staff our Network Operations Control Centre and highways teams and tree surgeons will be on standby.

“If possible, postpone your journey until conditions improve and if you do have to travel, slow down, allow extra time for your journey and drive according to the conditions. Keep an eye on travel updates and weather forecasts and please plan your journey.”

DCC is reminding people of the following advice:

  • Avoid overnight travel unless absolutely essential as roads will always be more hazardous at night with poorer visibility;
  • Be alert to fallen trees and branches, particularly on minor roads where they may not have been reported;
  • Consider if your journey is essential and be alert to weather warnings;
  • Never drive through floodwater or swollen flowing water, you don’t know how deep it is. Find an alternative route;
  • Allow additional time for your journey;
  • Reduce your speed and leave more space between you and the vehicle in front and leave plenty of room if you’re overtaking;
  • Drive with care and according to the conditions.

Homeless given shelter during Storm Eunice

Torbay Council has brought in emergency measures as the resort prepares for gale force winds gusting up to 80mph in the resort.

Colleen Smith www.devonlive.com

The Met Office has issued an amber weather warning and Storm Eunice is forecast to hit the coastal resort from 3am tomorrow (February 18), with a rare Red weather warning issued for North Devon.

The council is closing some harbouside piers and docks and warning people to stay away from seafront areas where debris is likely to cause “significant injury”.

For the first time this winter, the council is activating its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol, guaranteeing overnight accommodation for the homeless for two nights from tonight (Thursday, February 17).

Members of the public who have concerns for people sleeping rough can report their location via Streetlink.

Cllr Steve Darling, leader of Torbay Council, said: “The welfare and safety of all residents is a priority of ours, particularly during periods of extreme weather.

“By activating our Severe Weather Emergency Protocol today, we are guaranteeing overnight accommodation for anyone who is street homeless.”

Cllr Darren Cowell, deputy leader of Torbay Council, added: “I’d like to strongly urge residents to stay away from coastal areas, particularly at times of high tide.

“Large waves are incredibly dangerous and bring with them a lot of debris.

“Our emergency services are likely to be dealing with a variety of emergencies so we need to do all we can to keep ourselves safe.”

A spokesman for the council said: “We’re advising people to take note of the warning, think before they travel and to stay away from coastal areas.

“Our Emergency Planning Team are liaising with council teams and emergency agencies to ensure arrangements are in place to be able to respond to damage and/or disruption caused by the strong winds.

“Gale force winds caused by Storm Eunice are expected to be their strongest in coastal areas between 3am and 9pm on Friday, with gusts of up to 80mph possible. Strong winds are also expected to continue over the weekend.

“Large waves are likely along the seafronts with residents urged not to head out and take photographs as beach debris is likely to be thrown which can cause significant injury.

“Tor Bay Harbour Authority have also made a number of preparations to ensure the safety of the public, this includes closing some piers and docks.

The Covid-19 vaccine clinic at St Boniface Church in Paignton on Friday 18 February has been cancelled but testing sites are due to operate as normal.

Flood gates closed as Exmouth braces itself for Storm Eunice

Exmouth’s new tidal defence scheme is being brought into partial operation as Storm Eunice threatens to send huge waves crashing over the seafront. 

Philippa Davies www.exmouthjournal.co.uk 

East Devon District Council is closing all the Morton Crescent flood gates, along with Mamhead Slipway and the gate by the clock tower. 

The improved road drainage should mean the other road gates will not need to be closed, but the council is urging everyone to keep away from the seafront during the storm. 

The £13 million tidal defence scheme is designed to reduce the risk of tidal flooding to more than 1,400 residential and 400 commercial properties. 

It includes 27 new flood gates, which are usually kept open, but can be closed in minutes when flooding is imminent, creating a barrier to protect the town. 

Warning from Devon County Council

Storm Eunice: ‘extremely strong winds’ to peak on Friday and continue over weekend

www.devon.gov.uk

Devon County Council is advising people to only travel if absolutely necessary with ‘extremely strong winds’ expected over the next few days and reaching a peak on Friday morning.

The Met Office has escalated its Yellow Wind Warning for the region , issued on Tuesday, to Amber. And now a Red warning has been issued for northern Devon and it’s coastline. The warning will revert back to ‘yellow’ for the duration of Saturday afternoon.

The south west is expected to be battered by gale force winds caused by Storm Eunice – they will be at their strongest in coastal areas between 7am to 12pm on Friday morning, with gusts of 90-100mph possible.

There is an increasing likelihood of widespread inland wind gusts of 60-70 mph and up to 80 mph in a few places. Strong winds are also expected to continue over the weekend.

The Met Office says that Eunice may cause ‘significant disruption’ on the county’s roads, and that there is a good chance that flying debris could result in ‘a danger to life.’

The high winds will also affect some other services and all of Devon’s recycling centres will be closed tomorrow (Friday, February 18).

Schools will also be affected – Devon County Council is supporting any school that decides it needs to close. A list of school closures can be found on Schools Information webpage.

Meanwhile, the County Council’s school transport service will be operating if it is safe to do so.  Parents and carers are asked to visit the school transport route closure website, to check if their child’s routes have been closed due to safety concerns.

If students use public transport to get to school we also recommend that they check with the operator to determine if services will be disrupted.

Additionally mobile libraries and the Public Health mobile coronavirus testing and vaccination vans will not be running on Friday.

Damage to buildings and homes is likely, with roofs blown off and power lines brought down. Roads, bridges and railway lines are likely to close, with delays and cancellations to bus, train, ferry services and flights.

The high winds are likely to result in the temporary closure of Taw Bridge, Barnstaple. Other bridges may also be affected. Wind speeds are being constantly monitored, so please check before you travel. If you must travel during a bridge closure please plan your journey, find a safer alternative route, and leave extra time.

And on the coast, flooding and large waves are likely. During these times people are advised to stay away from coastal paths and coastal areas as beach debris is likely to be thrown onto sea fronts, coastal roads and properties.

In preparation extra staff are being drafted into Devon County Council’s Network Operations Control Centre and extra highways teams will be ready to respond. Teams of tree-surgeons will also be on stand-by to clear any fallen trees on the county’s roads.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highway Management, said:

“The Met Office has increased its alert level and Storm Eunice will make travelling conditions quite perilous for much of Friday morning and we are advising if you can avoid travelling, please do so.

“The forecast of such strong winds may well lead to fallen trees or branches, and other debris. If you must travel, please take extra care, particularly when its dark when its more difficult to see debris on the road.

“To prepare for this, extra people are being drafted to staff our Network Operations Control Centre and highways teams and tree surgeons will be on standby.

“If possible, postpone your journey until conditions improve and if you do have to travel, slow down, allow extra time for your journey and drive according to the conditions. Keep an eye on travel updates and weather forecasts and please plan your journey.”

Devon County Council is reminding people of the following advice:

• Avoid overnight travel unless absolutely essential as roads will always be more hazardous at night with poorer visibility;

• Be alert to fallen trees and branches, particularly on minor roads where they may not have been reported;

• Consider if your journey is essential and be alert to weather warnings;

• Never drive through floodwater or swollen flowing water, you don’t know how deep it is. Find an alternative route;

• Allow additional time for your journey;

• Reduce your speed and leave more space between you and the vehicle in front and leave plenty of room if you’re overtaking;

• Drive with care and according to the conditions.

For more information and winter travel advice visit the County Council’s winter travel webpages or for updates on Twitter follow @DevonAlert

Mid Devon meeting ‘like Stalin’s Russia’

A Mid Devon council meeting has been compared to Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship of the Soviet Union.

Chairperson “followed Politburo’s playbook”

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

Autocrat Bob Deed (left) is accused of following Joseph Stalin’s playbook

The surprising claim was made after a group of councillors complained about the running of the district council’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday 1 February, which contained a packed agenda of over 20 items, including the new budget.

The group submitted a motion to the authority’s scrutiny committee held this week, claiming the agenda was too long and that several items “could and should have been placed on the agenda of another meeting.”

“This gave very little time for discussion and questioning of important items of business, especially by non-cabinet members,” wrote Councillors Graeme Barnell, Simon Clist, Elizabeth Lloyd and Ashley Wilce.

The motion claimed some questions were not answered and that the meeting was chaired by council leader Bob Deed (New Independent, Cadbury) in a way “that was perceived to be extremely disrespectful towards non-cabinet members, bordering on hostile and autocratic.”

“With one notable exception, non-cabinet members felt as though they were routinely and aggressively interrupted by the chair and prevented from making valid points or from entering into any discussion about key items,” it added.

During the debate on the motion, Cllr Barnell (Lib Dem, Newbrooke) said the management of the meeting “seemed to follow the Joseph Stalin playbook of Politburo management,” a reference to the former Soviet dictator and his all-powerful executive committee.

This was evidenced in how the agenda was “unmanageably long,” Cllr Barnell said, as well as by allowing “cabinet members to expand at length about the wisdom of their proposals, thereby limiting the time available for anybody else to suggest alternatives.”

He also suggested it was chaired in a way that tried to prevent questions being asked and non-cabinet members who had managed to “ask a question or, god forbid, express a point of view” were interrupted.

“This is a clear mismanagement of decision-making and is fundamentally wrong. It is completely out of step with the Nolan principles and with the council’s own principles of good decision-making,” Cllr Barnell claimed.

He added that it “brings the council into disrepute and corrodes trust and confidence in the executive.”

He asked the cabinet to review the management of the meeting and requested better collaboration with non-cabinet members.

Another of the motion’s signatories, Cllr Wilce (Ungrouped, Cullompton North) said: “I have to say from listening to that meeting, I was appalled by the way that it was conducted and I can only think that any member of the public that listened to it would feel the same way.”

He and Cllr Clist (Lib Dem, Upper Culm) both claimed their pre-submitted questions were not answered during the meeting. Cllr Wilce called it “totally wrong” not to discuss his, and “an abuse” of the chairman’s discretion.

In response, Cllr Deed defended his handling of events.

“As has been acknowledged, there was a very long agenda,” he said.  “I did take the view that in order that the meeting only took as long as it needed to take, I didn’t think it would be appropriate to allow any members to speak in a way that perhaps took us slightly away from the agenda.”

As a result, Cllr Deed said he decided to “only allow members to ask questions,” adding he was “perfectly entitled to do that” due to being in charge of the meeting and that, by definition, a chair is autocratic.

“Yes, there were three members where I did try to stop them talking and it took a while. There were two members who wanted to argue with me.

“Well, that was sad because there seems to be a lack of understanding that a chair is a chair, and one therefore needs to abide by the time-honoured rules.”

He added: “I wasn’t trying to be offensive to anybody. I wasn’t trying to cut down any subsequent discussion, but I though it appropriate to ask that only questions be asked. If it has offended people because they didn’t understand the process or the role of the chair, I’m sorry.”

Cllr Deed concluded: “Everybody knows that I did not take that stance in any previous meeting while I’ve been on this council. It was because of the very heavy workload on that particular meeting that I took the attitude that I did.”

The deputy leader, Councillor Bob Evans (Conservative, Lower Culm), said it was “a little bit unbecoming” and “an insult” to be associated with Joseph Stalin – “a dictator who was responsible for the deaths of millions of citizens.”

“We can all have an opinion, and we call all think what’s right and what’s wrong, and what could have been done a little bit better … however to come out with a pre-conceived, pre-written, pre-notified comment such as that I think is slightly wrong.”

He suggested the remark be withdrawn and reminded councillors that they operate under an agreed constitution and cabinet system, but Cllr Barnell said he made the Stalin reference in relation to his style of meetings, not “to compare character or dictatorial tendencies.”

Councillor Barry Warren (Lower Culm), chairman of the scrutiny committee said Cllr Deed was “faced with a very, very heavy agenda” and suggested future such meetings could be split into two.

The committee agreed to note the motion and for other groups of the council to review the issues raised.

How No 10 is testing out excuses to enable the PM to escape the Partygate scandal

If the “gatherings” that Boris Johnson “dropped in on” were just “part of his normal working life” and business, for him, continued as usual afterwards; are we meant to assume that this was also common, and acceptable, behaviour amongst senior staff  during lockdown restriction in, for example, our NHS hospitals? Are knees ups, boozy leaving dos and quizzes in between a spot of intensive care, a necessary part of the working day?

It was the government, led by none other than Boris Johnson, who devised and imposed the restrictions on the rest of us. Are they now taking us for fools? – Owl

Elsewhere it has been reported that the number of people contacted by the police is now nearer 90 than 50.

www.independent.co.uk 

Boris Johnson insists he can’t “say anything” about his defence in the Partygate scandal while the police investigate him – but, behind the scenes, his aides are singing like canaries.

As the clock ticks down to what looks like an inevitable fixed penalty notice – and enormous pressure for the prime minister to resign – we are being given a fascinating insight into the fightback to come.

Friendly newspapers are being briefed about what are either, depending on your point of view, the clever arguments his lawyers will employ – or their increasingly desperate excuses.

The motive is clear: this is a softening up exercise to try to shift public opinion about what was acceptable behaviour for Mr Johnson, during the lockdowns he imposed, with a none-too-subtle threat to the police tossed in.

So, it has been briefed that Mr Johnson will acknowledge he attended up to 6 rule-busting gatherings the Met is investigating, but will argue they were “part of his working life”.

“For each event, the prime minister will use details in his diary and call logs to highlight that he was present only briefly and that he continued with other work-related events afterwards,” The Times was told.

This defence will apparently cover not just staff leaving parties, but even the ‘ABBA party’ his fiancée Carrie and her mates reportedly held in his own flat, to celebrate Dominic Cummings’ demise.

The sound of ‘The Winner Takes It All’ is said to have boomed through the building, but Mr Johnson – who has, publicly, refused to say if he was in his flat – will tell the police he was there but “working”, we learn.

Most extraordinary is a briefing that his lawyer will argue that – even if he attended illegal parties – he broke no rules if he went back to work immediately afterwards and did not drink excessively.

If Mr Johnson can “prove that he didn’t get drunk and incapacitated” and “has proof” that he then resumed his tasks, there “is a chance” he can mount an effective defence, ITV’s Robert Peston was told.

Meanwhile, slavishly loyal Tory MPs are sent out to argue a fine for breaking Covid rules is no more serious than a speeding ticket, or parking on a red line.

To understand what a seismic shift this is, we need to remember both what Mr Johnson originally told parliament and what broke the rules he brought in.

As a former Tory attorney-general has reminded us, MPs were told there were no parties and that no rules were reached – so, not only the goalposts, but the entire pitch is being uprooted by No 10.

And, as lawyers have repeatedly pointed out, no such thing as a “work event” existed in the lockdown laws. What matters is whether gatherings were “reasonably necessary for work”.

It is clearly hard to argue an event was necessary for work when those attending have been told to “bring your own booze” or ABBA songs are blasting out – so that effort needs to start now.

It is called “rolling the pitch” – preparing people for a message that will otherwise fall on stony ground – and there are still several weeks ahead for more of it.

Pompey Power – another coalition takes control of the budget from Tories

Tories ‘gobsmacked’ as Lib Dems and Labour join forces in city budget meeting

www.portsmouth.co.uk 

The deal, which was only finalised hours before the start of Tuesday’s meeting, will see a new family support worker employed, grants for voluntary groups – including Portsmouth Pride – and funding for two benefits advisors kept.

Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said the agreement showed ‘a willingness to work together’ with other political groups in a council in no overall control.

‘We offered every group on this council a chance to work with us to put together a budget that works for the people of this city,’ he said. ‘Unfortunately the Conservatives didn’t take up that offer but what we have reached is a good budget.’

Labour had hoped to secure £1.6m to roll-out the living wage to all council-contracted carers in the city.

Group deputy leader Cal Corkery said they had played a ‘fundamental’ role in the pandemic and deserved the pay increase, accusing the Lib Dems of not prioritising the issue.

‘The Living Wage would represent an increase of over £1,200-a-year for the lowest paid social care workers in Portsmouth, at a time when we are enduring a cost of living crisis.’

But Cllr Vernon-Jackson said this would have put the future of plans for a new fire station and health centre in Cosham at risk. He said he ‘hoped’ to secure funding for it next year.

A budget amendment was also put forward by the Conservatives in a bid to keep funding for two school crossing patrol positions, to fund two new community safety wardens, grants for voluntary organisations.

It also would have scrapped controversial plans to charge a 10 per cent commission on the sale of mobile homes at Henderson Road and Cliffdale Gardens.

The tax was first introduced by the council in 2007 before being scrapped two years later in the face of widespread public pressure and 116 affected people repaid.

Former Conservative group leader Matt Atkins described the charge as ‘absolutely egregious’.

‘They want to charge the owners of homes there – the people who have fought the hardest for their little slice of England – 10 per cent of the value of their home,’ he said. ‘That is absolutely disgraceful.

‘You are taking money from the least well-off in the city to use it for your vanity schemes.’

The joint Labour-Lib Dem budget amendment was proposed half way through the meeting, a move which prompted consternation from the Conservatives.

‘I’m gobsmacked that they have done this,’ Conservative leader Simon Bosher said. ‘They have created absolute anarchy by playing fast and loose with the standing orders.’

However, the council’s solicitor said amendments did not need to be proposed at the start of the debate.

The joint amendment was passed with the support of all Lib Dem, Labour, Progressive Portsmouth People and independent councillors.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Vernon-Jackson said the agreed budget was ‘ambitious’, ‘strategic’ and followed a ‘financially-prudent model’.

‘Most of the budget was agreed cross-party,’ he said. ‘The debate was about the details of the last two per cent, which are still important but showed we are willing to work together for the benefit of the residents of this city.’