Breaking News: “Independent” candidate may enter Tiverton and Honiton by-election race!

‘Porn MP’ Neil Parish threatens to stand for re-election against Tory candidate

“I’ve got some sort of quite powerful backers within the farming community… If I stood, it wouldn’t be a problem in raising the money. The farming community realised how I fought their corner.”

Noon update according to Politico Newsletter: He’ll decide whether to stand on the eve of nominations closing! (Just to upset Tory High Command – Owl)

Will Taylor www.lbc.co.uk

“Porn MP” Neil Parish is weighing up standing for re-election and running against the Conservative Party candidate.

The politician resigned after he was caught watching porn twice in the House of Commons.

The ex-Tory MP became the focus of both outrage and ridicule when it emerged he had brazenly watched it in the chamber, causing female colleagues to complain.

Mr Parish later said he had accidentally viewed it in the first instance, while searching for tractors on his phone, before later accessing it deliberately.

He resigned his seat in Tiverton and Honiton in South West England after initially looking like he would try to fight on, and admitted he was a “f***ing idiot”.

But he is now considering running as an independent in the upcoming by-election triggered by his own resignation, pitting himself against any Tory candidate who stands.

“It is an option for me and one that I could consider,” he told the Telegraph.

“The only thing that may well stop me is the fact that my local party, my local activists, my local councillors, are friends. I don’t know if I want to do that to them.

“Some of the hierarchy of my own party, I suppose I wouldn’t have the same problem with doing it. At the moment, I’m taking soundings.”

He went on: “I’ve got some sort of quite powerful backers within the farming community… If I stood, it wouldn’t be a problem in raising the money. The farming community realised how I fought their corner.”

Mr Parish resigned after admitting his “moment of madness”, saying he was “not proud of what I was doing”.

He was reported as telling his wife he was sorry she “married a f***ing idiot”.

Mr Parish denied watching the porn in a way that he hoped others would see it, and added: “I make a full apology. A total full apology. It was not my intention to intimidate.”

The former chair of the Commons environment committee, who is passionate about rural issues, has said he will decide before nominations for the by-election close.

First elected in 2010, he won the Tiverton and Honiton seat in the 2019 general election with 35,893 votes, a 60% share and 24,239 votes ahead of his closest rival in the constituency, a Labour nominee.

Street votes on England planning rules ‘will not increase affordable housing’

Mini-referendums that allow homeowners in England to loosen planning rules and build bigger and taller extensions may do nothing to increase the supply of affordable housing, campaigners have said.

Better to take more notice of the Neighbourhood Plan process – Owl

Robert Booth www.theguardian.com 

“Street votes” have been included in the levelling up and regeneration bill as part of what the housing secretary, Michael Gove, has described as a way to boost democratic involvement in homebuilding.

But the countryside charity CPRE said the policy would allow homeowners to simply have more space and increase the value of their properties, making it harder still for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder.

“We don’t think it will provide any more affordable homes, [it] will make existing homes in urban areas less affordable, and there are no guarantees it will lead to more homes overall,” said Paul Miners, the group’s policy director.

The local votes are part of a new package of planning reforms unveiled after ministers scrapped an earlier attempt to allow property developers to build new estates without having to repeatedly apply for planning consent.

Officials said the votes would grant residents the right to allow the development or replacement of properties on their street within design rules and national policies. Development would only go ahead if the proposal is endorsed by a “supermajority” of residents at referendum.

“It has the scope to be very divisive in terms of neighbours,” said Peter Rainier, principal director of planning at law firm DMH Stallard.

The bill also includes a new requirement for community votes if a council wants to change a street name. Last year, Swanage town council in Dorset tried to change a street name from Darkie Lane but a public consultation found most residents wanted to keep it.

Successive governments have struggled to boost housebuilding to tackle the affordability crisis in the face of vociferous local opposition to greenfield development and rural sprawl.

The 2020 attempt to free up construction led to a backlash in the Conservative heartlands, and backbench MPs including Theresa May called the approach “ill-conceived”. The government is playing down the likelihood that it will hit a manifesto target of building 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.

Gove said on Wednesday: “Arithmetic is important but so is beauty, so is belonging, so is democracy, and so is making sure that we are building communities.

“People, when it comes to housing development, should be partners. We are going to do everything we can in order to ensure that more of the right homes are built in the right way in the right places. I think it is critically important that even as we seek to improve housing supply you also seek to build communities that people love and are proud of.”

Social housing landlords said any reforms should boost the delivery of affordable homes. Kate Henderson, the chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said planning changes should “deliver the number and type of affordable homes the country desperately needs”, citing 4.2 million people in need of social housing in England.

Gove’s predecessor as housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, said on Tuesday that the government would miss its manifesto target “by a country mile” and it could be years before the output hits even 250,000 a year again. He said: “We have to get those homes built because we are letting down hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens. People are homeless today because we are failing to build those houses.”

On “street votes”, May warned parliament of “unintended consequences”. She said: “I can well imagine a situation in which somebody persuades their neighbours in a street to agree to the sort of development that might enhance the value of their houses but which actually has a negative impact on the wider community and wider neighbourhood.”

Street votes were proposed last year by the Policy Exchange thinktank, with the backing of several architects and planners associated with Prince Charles who have advocated for the “densification” of urban areas, in part to reduce pressure to build on open fields.

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The thinktank said: “Residents of a street should be able to agree by a high majority on new strict rules for designs to make better use of their plots. A street of suburban bungalows, for example, could agree on the right to create Georgian-style terraces. In many cases, an adopted ‘street plan’ would greatly increase the value of residents’ homes, giving them strong reasons to agree on it.”

It suggested redevelopment of listed and pre-1918 properties should be prohibited.

Another day, another 50 fixed penalty notices

Downing Street is the most fined address in the country for Covid breaches, according to the Telegraph headlines.

Seven occasions when Boris Johnson denied No 10 broke Covid rules

 Here are the moments Johnson denied rules were broken.

1 December – House of Commons

After the Mirror’s first story broke about Christmas parties in Downing Street:

“What I can tell the right hon and learned gentleman is that all guidance was followed completely in No 10.”

2 December – Sky News

Asked why he would not explain his account of the allegations, Johnson said:

“Because I have told you and what I want to repeat … that the guidance is there and I am very, very keen that people understand this.”

7 December – BBC News

When asked about Downing Street Parties in December, the prime minister said:

“All the guidelines were observed.”

8 December – House of Commons

After the Allegra Stratton video is released by ITV News:

“I apologise for the impression that has been given that staff in Downing Street take this less than seriously. I am sickened myself and furious about that, but I repeat what I have said to him: I have been repeatedly assured that the rules were not broken. I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken.”

8 December – Downing Street press conference

Asked why he had not extended the No10 inquiry:

“ … all the evidence I can see, people in this building have stayed within the rules … if that turns out not to be the case … and people wish to bring allegations to my attention or to the police … then of course there will be proper sanctions …”

Johnson giving a Downing Street press conference

13 December – Sky News

Asked again about Downing Street parties:

“I can tell you once again that I certainly broke no rules … all that is being looked into.”

20 December – BBC News

After the Guardian reveals pictures of people, including the prime minister, at No 10 drinks in the garden on 15 May 2020

“Those were people at work, talking about work. I have said what I have to say about that.”

Michael Gove Appears To Ditch Government Pledge To Build 300,000 Homes A Year

“We’ll do everything we can but it’s no kind of success simply to hit a target if the homes that are built are shoddy, in the wrong place, don’t have the infrastructure required and are not contributing to beautiful communities.

“Ultimately, when you’re building a new dwelling, you’re not simply trying to hit a statistical target. I’m certainly not.” – Michael Gove

When is a target not a target? – Owl

Kevin Schofield www.huffingtonpost.co.uk 

Downing Street has said the government remains committed to building 300,000 new homes a year, despite Michael Gove suggesting the target had been ditched.

The pledge was contained in the Tory manifesto in the run-up to the 2019 general election.

It said: “Since 2010 there has been a considerable increase in homebuilding. We have delivered a million homes in the last five years in England: last year, we delivered the highest number of homes for almost 30 years.

“But it still isn’t enough. That is why we will continue our progress towards our target of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.”

Appearing on Radio 4′s Today programme this morning, the levelling up secretary was asked if the government would hit its target.

He said: “We’ll do everything we can but it’s no kind of success simply to hit a target if the homes that are built are shoddy, in the wrong place, don’t have the infrastructure required and are not contributing to beautiful communities.

“Ultimately, when you’re building a new dwelling, you’re not simply trying to hit a statistical target. I’m certainly not.”

Pressed on whether the government was still committed to its manifesto pledge, Gove said: “We are not bound – I am not bound – by one criterion alone when it comes to development. Arithmetic is important, but so is beauty, so is belonging, so is democracy.”

But Downing Street later said the government remained committed to its target.

“Our target to deliver 300,000-a-year is central to our levelling up mission,” the prime minister’s spokesperson said.

“We’re certainly making progress towards that target. We are at 244,000-a-year currently.

“Some of the measures in this bill are designed to remove some of the barriers that can gum up planning applications and cause more resistance amongst local communities.”

Boris Johnson’s Flagship Plan to Fix Britain Is in Trouble

The prime minister promised to supercharge Britain by reducing regional inequalities. Two years on, an exclusive analysis by Bloomberg News shows things are going backwards.

Joe Mayes, Andre Tartar, Demetrios Pogkas www.bloomberg.com (Extract)

In 2019, Boris Johnson led the Conservative Party to a resounding general election win, pledging to revive large parts of the UK left behind during the era of globalization that made London one of the world’s richest cities.

Johnson’s rise was driven by his successful campaign to pull Britain out of the European Union. The so-called “levelling up” agenda was designed to turn that into tangible benefits by 2030, especially for the working class Brexit voters who abandoned the opposition Labour party to hand Johnson his party’s biggest majority since the 1980s.

More than two years on, in a period dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, most of the places that lagged behind London and the South East of England when Johnson came to power have seen little sign of better times. In fact, as a new Bloomberg News analysis shows, they’re more likely to be falling further behind.

To understand how levelling up is progressing, we analyzed 12 key socioeconomic metrics across every one of the UK’s 650 parliamentary constituencies to measure whether the gap has changed—one way or another—since 2019.

The data we used are based on priorities outlined in the government’s official levelling up policy paper and were compiled in consultation with Bloomberg Economics. Where data at the constituency level was unavailable, we used data for higher-level geographies and matched them to the relevant parliamentary seats.

Our analysis shows that the salary gap is widening in nine out of 10 constituencies, that home affordability is getting worse nearly everywhere, and that public spending per head has fallen behind the capital in every region of England.

Only on a few metrics has the gap narrowed for much of the UK—including life expectancy and the share of people receiving Universal Credit benefits—and in both those cases it’s because the situation in London and the South East has worsened. As a result of Covid-19 the death rate is up and more people are claiming welfare benefits. This is not the kind of levelling up Boris Johnson was looking for…..

(This graphic summary says it all. But note that the “hot spots” in the southwest are not in the peninsula but to the east: in places like Bristol, Bath, Gloucester & Swindon. Each hexagon represents a constituency.)

….The UK Treasury has been reluctant to dedicate large new pots of money to the levelling-up cause, citing the need to repair the public finances post-Covid. The roughly 12 billion pounds of funding announced so far amounts to about 3% of total government departmental spending in the 2019 fiscal year. Haldane argues this shouldn’t be a particularly limiting factor because tilting more of existing government budgets away from London and the South East will spur levelling up alone.

And the public money that has been dedicated to levelling up hasn’t always gone to the areas that need it most. Of the 100 most deprived areas in England, only 38% of councils won at least some of the Levelling Up Fund money they requested, 34% didn’t participate at all and 28% had all their bids rejected, BBC Panorama reported this week…..

There is a lot more to read in the full article, all illustrated by more graphics and an interactive table where you can search results for your own constituency. – Owl

Cranbrook’s epic £5.5M town centre approved

“Getting Cranbrook done!” The New Guard deals with a legacy issue.

(Just think Simon how this money could have been spent instead on reducing car park charges. Maybe you could winge about it in the next Tory leaflet.) – Owl

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com

A major milestone has been reached in the continued development of Cranbrook after the go-ahead was given for funding of up to £5.5m for a town centre. Planning permission has also been granted for a supermarket, high street shops with apartments above, a town square and a children’s day nursery

East Devon District Council has announced it has approved the funding for the acquisition of town centre land in Cranbrook. It sits alongside current plans to provide space for shops and community facilities including a children’s centre, youth centre, library, town council offices, health and wellbeing hub, a leisure centre and a skatepark.

Work on the supermarket and nursery is due to be completed by summer next year, followed soon after by the high street shops, apartments, town square and children’s day nursery. The investment is funded by the Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone from borrowing against future ring-fenced business rate income.

By securing the land, the council says it can make sure that the new town centre will be able to grow and develop over time, including providing workspace to meet the needs of a growing population.

The Council has also agreed the process for delivering the £40m Cranbrook Local Infrastructure Fund. The fund will ensure that critical infrastructure, such as schools and transport improvements, can be delivered in step with new homes as the town expands to a population of around 20,000 people.

Cranbrook town centre supermarket

Cranbrook town centre supermarket (Image: EDDC)

Cllr Dan Ledger, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for strategic development and chair of Cranbrook Strategic Delivery Board, said: “This is a monumental moment for the town where the ‘coming soon’ notion actually becomes a reality over the next few months. Through partnership working across all levels of local authority and with the consortium of developers, Cranbrook will now finally have its much-needed centre.

“I couldn’t be happier for the residents.”

Cranbrook town centre plans

Cranbrook town centre plans (Image: EDDC)

Agreement on the details underpinning the facilities for the town has been coordinated by the Cranbrook Strategic Delivery Board. The Board is a partnership of Councillors from Cranbrook Town Council, East Devon District Council and Devon County Council who all played an important role agreeing the way forward with the developer consortium (Cranbrook New Community partners in conjunction with Henry Davidson Developments).

Cllr Les Bayliss, chairman of Cranbrook Town Council, said: “This long awaited news will undoubtedly bring significant benefits to the community. For example, being able to shop locally I believe will have a positive impact on the people that live in and around Cranbrook. Not to mention the benefits locally to the environment, economy and the potential of local employment opportunities”.

Pinewood Studios in talks with Neil Parish over new ‘Carry On…’ script

Pinewood Studios say they are in talks with former Tory MP Neil Parish over his script for a new Carry On film.

Gerontius www.newsbiscuit.com

Rank Organisation say they have already signed a deal with Parish and filming for the comic caper should get underway later this year at the Buckinghamshire studios.

The film – titled Carry On Ploughing – is set in the farming community of mid Devon and centres around a young hapless farming lad played by Jim Dale trying to woo the barmaid from the local village pub. Dale tries to impress the barmaid (played by Barbara Windsor) with his ploughing skills and his massive seed planter. But the barmaid’s mother has misgivings about Dale and what he intends doing with his enormous dibber, and has barred the farming lad from the local pub.

Carry On regulars Sid James, Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey are all said to be on board with the new film and say it is one of the most laughable and implausible scripts they have encountered in Carry On history.

James said he had appeared in nearly 20 Carry On films but the plot for this script was the most ridiculous yet.

Former Tory MP Ann Widdicombe was initially pencilled in to be Windsor’s battle-axe mother, but having met her during rehearsals Rank say she would be better suited to the new Hammer House of Horrors movie set for next year.

Parish said he had been working on the Carry On script while serving as a sitting MP and had even researched farming practices on his mobile phone while still at work. The former Tiverton and Honiton MP added that he had been so keen to get the Rank script ready for filming, he had even visited websites while sitting on the front bench in the House of Commons.

A publicist for Rank welcomed having Parish on board and looked forward to working with him on this and future projects. ‘Neil is Rank through and through,’ he said. ’We think he will fit in nicely with his new stablemates.’

[Central Casting is looking for a replacement for Neil in the long running Whitehall farce, due to end no later than January 2025. Conformity is essential. Lib Dems have other ideas. – Owl]