Ofwat investigates South West Water over sewage discharge

South West Water is under investigation over its treatment of sewage, the Water Services Regulation Authority has announced.

By Georgina Rannard www.bbc.co.uk

It joins five other water companies in England and Wales being probed over wastewater concerns.

Raw sewage was discharged into waterways 375,000 times last year, according to the Environment Agency.

South West Water said it was taking Ofwat’s decision “very seriously.”

Discharged raw sewage poses a serious risk to health and the environment.

South West Water cover Devon, Cornwall and small parts of Dorset and Somerset, areas of England that are popular with swimmers and surfers.

Investigations are ongoing into Anglian Water, Northumbrian Water, Thames Water, Wessex Water and Yorkshire Water.

It has become common in England and Wales for members of the public to report seeing raw sewage in rivers, canals and along the coasts.

Condoms, toilet paper, and even excrement can be seen in the water and on riverbanks or beaches.

“As we gather and analyse more information, including data on storm overflow spills, our concerns have grown further about South West Water’s operation of its wastewater assets and environmental performance,” said David Black, Ofwat Chief Executive.

He called the scale of the issue so far “shocking” and told BBC News that Ofwat had never taken action on this scale before.

A South West Water spokesperson said the company would work “openly and transparently” with Ofwat. The company noted that it had recently announced its largest environmental programme in 15 years.

“This will reduce our use of storm overflows, maintain our region’s excellent bathing water quality standards all year round and reduce and then remove our impact on river water quality by 2030,” South West Water said.

The charity Rivers Trust told BBC News that the decision to open the investigation was “long overdue” and that “this kind of practice has become business as usual in the water sector.”

In January, MPs were warned that a “chemical cocktail” is running through all of England’s rivers.

Ofwat has the power to fine water companies 10% of their annual income.

Inflation could push English councils into bankruptcy, say leaders

What are you doing to help Simon? – Owl

Patrick Butler www.theguardian.com 

Council leaders in England have said a multibillion-pound financial crisis caused by rising inflation could make local services unviable and even lead to local authorities going bankrupt, unless the government offers emergency funding.

The cross-party Local Government Association (LGA) said local services that were seemingly secure just three months ago were now at risk of closure or cuts as councils scramble to manage an unforeseen £2.4bn rise in energy and pay costs.

The Tory chair of the LGA, James Jamieson, said the impact on services would be “disastrous” and hamper councils’ efforts to support people through the cost of living crisis at a time when demand for services was rising, especially in areas such as adult and children’s social care, and homelessness.

“Soaring inflation, energy prices and ‘national living wage’ pressures are putting council services at risk. Budgets are having to be reset, with potential cuts to the essential services people rely on, in the middle of a cost of living crisis,” Jamieson said.

The LGA estimates that without adequate long-term funding – in effect a revisiting of the spending review settlement agreed last autumn – the collective increase in inflationary costs faced by English councils this year will be £2.4bn, growing to £3bn in 2023-24 and £3.6bn in 2024-25.

It argues that these pressures, coming on the back of more than a decade of austerity cuts to local authority funding, pose a “serious risk to the future financial viability of some services and councils”.

Jamieson added: “Inflation is not going to come down overnight. As our analysis shows, the impact on our local services could be disastrous. This will stifle our economic recovery and undermine government ambitions to level up the country.”

The Guardian revealed earlier this month that councils were anticipating a collective and unexpected £1.7bn shortfall this year as a result of inflation. The LGA has updated this to include estimates from England’s 181 district councils, as well as additional analysis of the impact of increases in the national living wage.

When budgets were set earlier this year, councils were typically factoring in average pay and inflation costs of about 3%. However, inflation is now at 9%, with the Bank of England predicting it will hit 11% by October.

Councils are required by law to balance their books each financial year, meaning that fixing financial shortfalls cannot be put off. This is likely to lead to job losses, and the abandonment or delay of building projects such as new schools or regeneration schemes. It could also result in service cuts, from libraries and leisure centres to road repairs.

Chart showing rising costs English councils face

John Boyce, the Liberal Democrat leader of Oadby and Wigston borough council in Leicestershire and an executive member of the District Councils’ Network, said: “This could push some councils over the edge, or they will have to make radical cuts. That’s difficult because we are already cut to the bone. Cuts means staff, and staff equal frontline services.”

Lisa Nandy, the shadow levelling up, housing and communities secretary, said: “There is a crisis on the horizon. The cleaners, carers, bin collectors and other council workers that kept this country going during the pandemic and are now struggling to feed their families deserve a pay rise.

“But councils have seen billions cut from their budgets in the last decade and are now facing billions more in extra costs due to soaring inflation. They cannot square this circle alone.

“Ministers are the only people who can get everybody round the table and find a solution to protect vital council services. They must urgently do their job to prevent yet more chaos.”

A government spokesperson said: “This year, we made an additional £3.7bn available to councils so they can continue to deliver key services, and we are working with the sector to understand the impact of emerging challenges.”

However, the LGA, which hosts its annual conference in Harrogate this week, said that inflation had already eaten through this year’s increase, and with the lion’s share of the three-year spending review increase falling in 2022-23, councils would be even more exposed in future years. It estimated a net funding gap of £1.4bn this year and £3.4bn next year, rising to £4.5bn in 2024-25.

PM equates proposed  £150,000 treehouse for Wilf to “infrastructure”

“In Touch” with the PM (maybe he thinks it would count as affordable housing) – Owl

Susanna Reid floored as PM quizzed about £150,000 treehouse

Gemma Jones www.liverpoolecho.co.uk 

Susanna Reid appeared perplexed on today’s Good Morning Britain as a clip was shown of the Prime Minister being questioned about a treehouse.

Speaking to co-host Adil Ray, Susanna explained that there have been reports of Mr Johnson wanting to build a treehouse for his young son. However, the alleged plans are said to be costing around £150,000 – more than some actual houses cost.

She said: “He was asked about this by ITV News. Let’s see what he said.” The screen cut to a clip of the Prime Minister having a chat with a reporter.

The reporter asked him: “There are reports that you wanted to but a £150,000 treehouse for your son. Did you?”

He replied: “There is no such structure. There are all sorts of allegations made about my family.” The reporter interrupted him, as she said: “But did you want to build one?” He ignored her and continued: “If you look at the infrastructure that I have built, I am very very proud of it.”

After the clip, Susanna looked incredibly shocked as she said: “What treehouse costs £150,000?” Adil added: “Well, precisely.”

Guest Ranvir Singh said: “Clearly in his mind the treehouse is infrastructure. What a strange comparison to make.”

The Prime Minister and his wife Carrie wanted to build the treehouse during autumn 2020 but had to pull the plug after it raised security concerns. There were discussions about having Lord Brownlow, a Tory donor ranked the 521st richest person in the UK last year, fund the project, with plans for the treehouse drawn up for the country retreat, it has been reported.

Some No10 aides warned Mr Johnson against the project due to the cost and the matter of it being more expensive than some homes in many parts of the UK. A government spokesman said: “We do not comment on private or family matters which do not involve any ministerial declarations or taxpayer funds.”

Now they are losing newly won Council seats

Labour win Harlow by-election seat held by ex-councillor after his Twitter account retweeted ‘racist’ material

Charlie Ridler  www.msn.com 

Labour have won a seat formerly held by an ex-councillor who resigned after “racist” content was retweeted on his Twitter account. Kay Morrison will represent Bush Fair ward on on Harlow Council after beating Conservative candidate Emma Ghaffari by 112 votes in a by-election last night (June 23).

The former Conservative councillor Marco Lorenzini won the seat from Labour by just four votes in the May local elections, but only a week later had the party whip withdrawn and then resigned. In an earlier statement, Harlow Conservatives said they “utterly condemn” the remarks retweeted from Mr Lorenzini’s account, withdrawing the whip and calling on him to resign. A later statement by Harlow Council confirmed Mr Lorenzini had resigned.

Labour now hold 13 seats on the council, but the Conservatives still have a majority, holding 20 seats. Speaking to the local democracy reporting service after the result, Cllr Morrison said she was “absolutely delighted” by the victory.

Read more: Harlow Tory councillor quits days after winning seat over ‘racist’ and ‘abhorrent’ retweets

She said: “I know that quite a lot of Conservative voters have been disillusioned, and who would blame them with the behaviour of those MPs, and in particular the Prime Minister, in Westminster and the behaviour of a certain individual here in Harlow, really not acceptable.”

Conservative candidate Emma Ghaffari said the controversy surrounding Mr Lorenzini’s departure was not the main reason for the group’s defeat. She told the LDRS: “I do feel sad about it [the result] but we must move on, onwards and upwards.” Later she said: “The cost of living and other various factors came into play, but we just stick with local issues.” She said she could not comment on whether the Conservative group would be changing its vetting procedure for candidates.

According to Harlow Council’s website, the turnout was 22.97 per cent, 4.67 per cent lower than in May. Cllr Morrison received 594 votes while Ms Ghaffari received 482. Meanwhile, the Green Party’s Jennifer Steadman received 109 votes and Nicholas Taylor, standing for the Harlow Alliance Party, received 47.

Likes and retweets which had been made by Mr Lorenzini’s account emerged on Twitter on May 10, including one referring to a “Muslim invasion” and another saying white people are “the only race you can legally discriminate against”. Another mocked the recent casting of Ncuti Gatwa, a Black Scottish actor with Rwandan heritage, as the next Doctor Who.

A Harlow Council spokesperson said in an earlier statement: “Marco Lorenzini has resigned as councillor for the Bush Fair Ward with immediate effect.”

A statement shared by Harlow Conservatives on Twitter said: “We utterly condemn these remarks and have removed the whip from this councillor with immediate effect. This means he will sit as an independent councillor.

“These abhorrent views are not the views of the Conservative party and we utterly condemn them. There is no place in our party for such thought and we will never accept it.”

A later tweet from Harlow Conservatives said: “Our group calls unreservedly for the independent councillor to resign with immediate effect.” A third said: “Following this, we understand this Cllr has resigned.” Sharing the screenshots on Twitter, former Labour leader of the council Mark Ingall claimed Mr Lorenzini’s account was “spreading racist hate”. Nationally, the Conservatives also lost two Westminster by-elections to opposition parties last night, losing Wakefield to Labour and Tiverton and Honiton in Devon to the Liberal Democrats, according to reporting by the BBC.

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Conservative controlled Wiltshire Council meeting cancelled due to ‘insufficient business’

“I’m surprised at a time when Wiltshire residents are facing a crippling cost of living crisis, a climate emergency and strike action that, apparently, there isn’t anything worth discussing at a council meeting.” (Leader of Lib Dem group, Cllr Ian Thorn) 

They are running out of ideas – Owl

Benjamin Paessler www.salisburyjournal.co.uk 

WILTSHIRE Council will no longer meet next month due to “insufficient business”. 

The council had been due to have its next full meeting in Trowbridge on July 19. 

The decision was taken before the deadline for submitting motions and questions.

The leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat group, cllr Ian Thorn, said he is “flabbergasted” that the administration “seems to have nothing to discuss”. 

Cllr Thorn added: “I’m surprised at a time when Wiltshire residents are facing a crippling cost of living crisis, a climate emergency and strike action that, apparently, there isn’t anything worth discussing at a council meeting.

“Either there is no programme or activity to share with members at a council meeting or decisions are being taken elsewhere. Coupled with the sparse agenda in May, at least one cancelled meeting of cabinet and members being denied the opportunity to ask verbal questions at cabinet it all adds up to a pretty sorry state.”

The Lib Dems were planning motions on the cost of living crisis, disinvestment in companies that avoid paying tax and possibly something on pesticides.

In an email seen by the Journal’s sister paper the Gazette and Herald, Lib Dems cllr, Ruth Hopkinson, said she was “somewhat appalled” by the decision. 

Cllr Hopkinson, writing to the chairman of the council Stuart Wheeler, said: “I have no wish to sit through tedious meetings for no good reason, but there is a matter of principle at stake here.

“That principle is that all Councillors are elected to oversee the work of the Council & represent our residents. This decision reduces our ability to do that.”

The council’s leader, Richard Clewer, responded saying there were only two items that full council needed to make a decision over – a governance report around parish boundaries that will not come into effect until 2025 and “a very minor change around the constitution which can be covered in October”.

He said: “On that basis I don’t personally see that it is sensible to ask 98 members to (mostly) drive to county hall for a meeting that is not making any decisions that are urgent. 

“Instead I think it makes sense to save the travel and carbon emissions not to mention officer time.”

On the matter of motions more broadly, Cllr Clewer said: “I find that many of the motions that are brought to full council are based on national templates and call on Wiltshire to urge central government to take action. 

“They are politically motivated and of no benefit to Wiltshire Council or its residents.  There have been a few exceptions to that and those motions have been discussed in advance, worked on to make sure they are implementable and been put through on a cross party basis. 

“No one has raised any such motions with me over the last few weeks. I would also note that no motions were brought to the last full council.” 

Losing Touch in East Devon – Latest News

Owl has been reminded of the hypocritical glossy flyer distributed by the Tories in March/April publicising Simon Jupp’s partisan comments about EDDC on the front page.

Neil Parish took a similar though less abrasive line. Even so, he has now been replaced by Lib Dem Richard Foord MP.

Maybe it’s time Simon took his own advice and, as the member of parliament for East Devon, listened to, and worked constructively with, the elected majority in the District Council in his constituency to make East Devon a better place to live and work in.

To use his words “East Devon deserves better”.

PS “Our MP’s work closely with our councillors” is a bit of a joke – Owl

I’m not keeping up with the times

A correspondent writes:

I find it disingenuous for Neil Parish to proudly say that in his 12 years in Parliament he never snitched on his colleagues and did not expect them to do it to him.  This implies that there were times when he could have done just that.

He pleads (to him) a lesser charge of “immorality” rather than “illegality”.

I expect my elected representative to behave both morally and legally in Parliament and outside it, but it is obvious I am not keeping up with the  times, where both immorality and illegality are not  just accepted by the Tory Party but actively encouraged.

Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 13 June

Ten years since Exmouth seafront redevelopment plans proposed

It is now ten years since redevelopment plans for Exmouth seafront were first put forward. But now fresh proposals for something to finally happen on the site are moving closer.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

The plans have faced delay after delay – so much so that the temporary attractions installed in 2018 have had to be made permanent. Several visions for the Queen’s Drive site have come and gone and fallen by the wayside.

But now, East Devon District Council aims to move a step closer to finally ending the long wait. The start of exciting new plans to regenerate sites across Exmouth town centre and its seafront are beginning, with the launch of public workshops and an online questionnaire.

The Placemaking in Exmouth Town and Seafront Group – which is being led by East Devon District Council – is looking to gather residents’ and visitors’ thoughts on the key themes and characteristics they want to shape future developments. An online questionnaire focuses on the future for Exmouth, looking for views on how various key sites can be improved.

Two workshops will be also held for the general public on Thursday 14 July, from 7pm until 9.30pm, and on Sunday 31 July, from 10am until 12.30pm, at Exmouth’s Ocean Queen’s Drive on the top floor. All the views gathered will be used to help shape developments in Exmouth town centre and seafront in the future.

Cllr Paul Arnott, East Devon District Council’s leader, said: “Exmouth is by far the biggest community in East Devon, and it is vital to listen to the opinions and wishes of local people. We are very grateful indeed to all the town councillors, local residents and stakeholders who have advised us on how best to approach this new consultation and now look forward to hearing what everyone wishes to say. Thank you for taking part.”

The questionnaire asked people if they agree or disagree over improvements focused around the Jurassic Coast, a traditional seaside theme, a unique selling point, being open all year around, and whether it should offer something to everyone.

Questions are also asked about whether improvements need to be made to the town centre, to make the town more environmentally friendly, sport and leisure facilities, open spaces, derelict areas of Exmouth, and arts and culture facilities.

South West Research Company will also be conducting 400 on-street face-to-face interviews in July and August – 150 and 250 interviews respectively, on behalf of the council.

Cllr Nick Hookway, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder tourism, sport, leisure and culture, said: “At the first stakeholder session, which was held last Monday, there were many comments on how Exmouth needs to unlock the puzzle that visitors often experience when moving around the town centre to get to the Seafront.

“Exmouth is blessed with a superb seafront and together with the Exe Estuary Exmouth is an attractive place to visit. Exmouth is a lovely place to live and work in as well. However, there is a need to develop new places that will enhance the town, improve the visitor experience and provide better amenities for residents. New developments will lead to economic growth and provide job opportunities.

“EDDC would like to hear the views of residents as these new placemaking proposals are put forward. May I encourage as many residents as possible to take a few minutes to complete the consultation.”

It was back in 2012 when plans to redevelop the area between the old lifeboat station and the Maer first came forward, with the intervening period seeing several iterations of the plans not coming to fruition – with the scheme being referred to as ‘Exmouth’s Brexit’.

While phase 1 – the relocation of the Queen’s Drive road – and phase 2 – the watersports centre – have been completed and are open, phase 3, the longer term vision for the site remains in doubt.

Planning permission for the redevelopment of a 3.6-hectare swathe of Queen’s Drive has been granted, and has been implemented, the council say, with the realignment of the road. The attractions currently on the Queen’s Drive space – the replacement for the former Fun Park now have planning permission to stay on the site permanently after two temporary were granted – but ultimately may not be the final use for the stretch of land.

In 2012, plans to redevelop the area between the old lifeboat station and the Maer, known as the Splash Zone, formed part of the Exmouth Masterplan which sets out future regeneration in the town The controversial plans divided opinion in the town in 2013 when more than 500 people completed questionnaires about the authority’s intention to redevelop the area between the old lifeboat station and the Maer, known as the Splash Zone.

When asked for a general opinion, 52 per cent of respondents of the questionnaires were in favour of the overall proposals with 41 per cent against. The remaining seven per cent did not express a preference. In December 2013, East Devon District Council’s Development Management Committee gave the go-ahead for the development of the Queen’s Drive area in Exmouth.

The outline permission includes the realignment of the road to give easier access to the beach and stunning views from the proposed new watersports hub, cafe and public open space. The detailed plans included luxury flats, shops, eateries, a multi-screen cinema and a new Harbour View Café and coastwatch tower.

At the same time, a new action group was launched to ‘save’ Exmouth seafront from developers, with Save Exmouth Seafront concerned that the £18m redevelopment would mean some of the town’s oldest most popular businesses closing. In October 2015, the Carriage Café on the seafront left the town. It had been open for nearly 50 years and the restored 1956 carriage business’s closing brought an end to an era for residents.

At around the same time, more than 1,000 residents and visitors took part in the Exmouth Seafront Survey, initiated by Cllr Megan Armstrong. Led by author and analyst Louise MacAllister, the survey aimed to discover if plans for a multi-screen cinema, outdoor water splash zone and adventure golf park were wanted by those who would be using the facilities.

East Devon District Council were then working with Moirai Capital Investments of Bournemouth to put forward proposals to “breathe new life into the nine acre council-owned seafront site at Queen’s Drive with a range of exciting leisure facilities”.

Organisers said the survey showed 95 per cent were against the redevelopment, it showed widespread support for the businesses at the time occupying the seafront and that many Exmouth residents felt their concerns regarding the plans had been ignored.

In April 2016, Exmouth residents went to the polls, and around 95 per cent of those who turned out to vote want more consultation on multi million-pound plans for Queen’s Drive. Called by concerned residents, the parish poll saw 4,754 people – 17.8 per cent of the electorate – take part. But the summer of 2016 saw Moirai Capital Investments sacked as the developer due to the length of time it had taken for them to bring more plans.

September 2016 saw the Jungle Fun attraction and Arnold Palmer Putting Course closed for the last time. Hours earlier, locals and tourists had flocked to the attraction for one last round. The crazy golf course was established around 40 years ago.

In November 2016, campaigners in Exmouth staged a protest march calling for further consultation on controversial seafront redevelopment plans. The Save Exmouth Seafront protesters set off from the lorry park in Marine Way and marched through Imperial Road, The Strand and Alexandra Terrace before finishing on the seafront.

April 2017 saw the reserved matters application for the seafront redevelopment approved. It meant the council could now go ahead and build the £18million redevelopment of a 3.6-hectare swathe of Queen’s Drive, but had no plans to do so. Had the application been rejected, it would have meant the outline permission for redevelopment would have no longer been extant and sent the project back to the drawing board. The Fun Park, run by the Wright family, closed after more than 40 years at the end of August 2017, with a vigil held and floral tributes presented.

A last gasp bid to reprieve the Fun Park from closure failed two weeks later, when East Devon councillors voted 26 to 21 against extending the lease of the Fun Park. The contents of the Fun Park were auctioned off the following day. The Harbour View café was also due to close at the same time, but has seen its lease extended, and is still operating now.

Floral tributes laid inside the swan at Exmouth Fun Park

Floral tributes laid inside the swan at Exmouth Fun Park

October 2017 saw Grenadier reveal their plans for the Watersports Centre, before submitting the formal planning application in February 2018, which was then approved in June 2018 by eight votes to five, with a full opening taking place in the early part of 2021.

The temporary attractions for the seafront at the Queen’s Drive Space, which include the food and drink area and the dinosaur-themed play park opened in May 2018, having been given planning permission in March 2018. Permission was initially granted for one year, followed by a second permission for a further three years. That expired in March 2022, but the council agreed to make that use permanent earlier this year.

Work began at the end of 2018 to realign the Queen’s Drive road, which was completed in June 2019, although questions have been raised about where the funding for the road, which East Devon District Council paid for, actually came from.

At the end of 2019, HemingwayDesign and Lambert Smith Hampton submitted their vision for Phase Three for Exmouth Seafront to East Devon District Council. The suggested uses for the site include a new two storey café/restaurant on the existing Harbour View café site to the south of Queen’s Drive, a mix of playspace (including free play) and open public space on the remainder of the site, and an 60–80 bed 3–4 star hotel of high design quality.

East Devon District Council’s cabinet, when they met on Wednesday, February 5, 2020, agreed to launch a formal marketing exercise to identify developer/operator partners for the Queen’s Drive site. But the council’s scrutiny committee then unanimously agreed that the panel for the purpose of agreeing the selection criteria for the commercial development was not properly balanced, and expressed their anger at how they felt Exmouth residents were not being listened to.

The current view of the Exmouth seafront site

That process was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and a change of administration, in August, full council accepted that recommendation and sent it back to cabinet, who are now able to make the decision they wish over the future of Queen’s Drive, although as of yet, no firm plans have come forward.

That meeting saw councillors agree and express a desire to ‘Get Seafront Done’, as Cllr Joe Whibley put it, but that as Exmouth is the biggest town in East Devon, it was critically important to the economy and the reputation of the council that they do the right thing and get a scheme that is both popular with the residents and viable in the long term.

The ultimate decision over what happens with Phase 3 will lie with the council’s cabinet, as under the council’s constitution, it falls within their remit rather than that of full council. They have now launched this latest consultation to once again gauge the views of residents in the town ahead of more concrete plans coming forward.

If you need a copy of this consultation on paper, in large print, or in any other format, please email: exmouthconsultation@eastdevon.gov.uk or call 01395 519960 by Friday, 12 August, or can be filled in online at https://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/exmouth-consultation-summer-2022/

Devon’s chief executive has decided to retire

Dr Phil Norrey is a fine example of what we should be able to expect from a local authority Chief Executive – Owl

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

Devon County Council’s long-serving chief executive, Phil Norrey, has announced his retirement. Dr Norrey has held the post since 2006 and is the longest-serving chief executive in the council’s history.

He joined the authority in 1998 as deputy director of education before being promoted to director of education. Dr Norrey, who will be 60 next year, said it was the right time for him to leave and hand over to his successor as a new senior management team takes shape at County Hall.

He said: “Devon County Council has been a huge part of my life and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with some excellent colleagues to provide vital services to the people of Devon. This year the council has been building a talented new senior management team and it’s the right time for me to hand over to a successor with different talents and ideas to lead the authority as local government faces many new challenges.”

Dr Norrey said among the highlights of his career in Devon were the major reorganisation of education in Exeter, leading the council through a period of austerity, Devon’s response to the pandemic when the county council was the regional lead authority and its current leadership of the Green agenda with his chairmanship of the Devon Climate Change Emergency Response Group and the production of the Carbon Plan to cut emissions.

The introduction of daily rail services from Exeter to Okehampton and the creation of new railway stations including Marsh Barton, which is currently under construction, would help encourage people out of their cars and onto public transport, he said.

Dr Norrey has overseen a number of major projects such as the development of two new towns at Cranbrook and Sherford, the South Devon link road and the creation of Exeter’s innovative Science Park along with two waste to energy plants in Exeter and South Devon .

“I’m also proud that we have been consistently one of the top councils for recycling waste and, as a keen cyclist, the network of cycle trails that we have developed across the county,” he said.

Dr Norrey led the region’s chief executives in preparing for Brexit and the pandemic and has chaired the regional and national societies of chief executives.

“One of my predecessors told me when I was appointed that I would probably not want to do the job for more than 10 years,” said Dr Norrey. “It’s now been 16 and a half years and I certainly never intended to go on past my 60th birthday.”

In his retirement he plans to follow his beloved Burnley football club as they attempt to return to the Premiership at the first attempt, to cycle around Devon more and to pursue his keen interest in local history.

Devon County Council leader, John Hart, said: “Phil Norrey has given nearly a quarter of a century of exemplary service to this county and I will miss his wise advice and counsel and his help and support.

“He has a local, regional and national reputation and it is fitting that he has been Devon’s longest-serving chief executive. I wish him all the very best for a long, healthy and happy retirement.”