Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 4 July

(Apologies, slightly later than usual – Owl)

Huge rise in building on prime farmland in England stokes food security fears

Under Tory control, agricultural grade 1 land was sacrificed to build Cranbrook. There is very little grade 1 agricultural land in East Devon. Why, and was this wise? – Owl

Land classification East Devon: Source Natural England

Key to land classification:

Helena Horton 

The rate at which infrastructure is built on prime farmland in England has risen a hundredfold in the past decade, a report has found, as it calls the country’s food security into question.

Farmland that could grow 250,000 tonnes of vegetables a year has been lost to development, with 300,000 homes built on prime land since 2010.

There was a huge rise in “best and most versatile” agricultural land set aside for housing and industry between 2010 and 2022, up from 60 hectares (148 acres) a year to more than 6,000.

Politicians have been looking at the way land is used in the country, as in order to tackle the climate emergency as well as feed people, farming must become lower-emission, more productive and increase biodiversity.

This means that low-grade farmland, which requires more irrigation and fertiliser, may have to be used for infrastructure instead of prime land, which is more efficient for growing food.

As well as being at risk from development, prime land is also more at risk of flooding, raising deeper questions about food security as Britain experiences more extreme weather events as a result of the climate crisis.

Sixty per cent of grade 1 agricultural land (more than 200,000 hectares) is within flood zone 3, the areas at highest risk of flooding.

CPRE, the countryside charity that published the report, is calling for the government to produce a comprehensive land use strategy, setting out what type of land should be used for which purpose and is asking for a “brownfield first” approach to housebuilding. It is also calling for a firm presumption against development on prime farmland.

The government has been working on a land use framework that, before Boris Johnson’s resignation, was due for publication in the coming weeks, but sources at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it could be delayed until the new prime minister is in post.

Crispin Truman, the chief executive of CPRE, said: “For the first time in several generations, our food security is at risk – yet we’ve seen a hundredfold increase in the loss of our best farmland to development since 2010. Heating, eating and housing are fundamental needs. A healthy environment, mitigating and adapting against the devastation threatened by the climate emergency, is the bedrock that underpins them all. We need to know what to put where. That’s why we need a land use strategy.”

The government recently admitted that the country needs to produce more of its own food, in its food strategy.

However, to reach net zero and stop biodiversity collapse, farming also has to change to become more sustainable. Experts have said this means looking at the way land is used and perhaps making some changes.

Truman added: “As we face a cost of living crisis, housing crisis and the adjustment of our farming sector to post-Brexit subsidies, we have multiple, critical priorities for our land. We need to move away from intensive farming practices and towards a more ‘multifunctional’ approach, reconciling food production with better management for natural and cultural heritage, and for public access. Policies which are put in place now will be crucial in the coming years to ensure the most efficient use of our land in the face of these challenges.”

Food charities have welcomed the report. Rob Percival, the head of food policy at the Soil Association, said: “Decisions concerning land use are complex and inadequately supported by government policy. Given competing demands for food, nature, climate adaptation, and societal demand for new homes, transport and energy infrastructures, it’s essential that government expedites its delivery of a land use framework.

“This framework, promised for 2023, should ensure that land is used for the purposes it best serves, with prime farmland harnessed for agroecology and the production of healthy foods. It’s high time we got on top of the challenge. The land use puzzle is only going to get more confounding as the climate and nature crises escalate.”

The Torygraph on the election of next PM

Tories in turmoil, a selection of what’s on offer to the right wing reader:

We want a vote to keep Boris Johnson as PM, demand Tory members

More than 2,000 Conservative members have written to the party’s chairman to demand a vote on whether Boris Johnson should carry on as leader.

The party members want Mr Johnson’s name to be added to the ballot when 160,000 members vote for a new leader next month….

The petition is the first stage of a campaign by members to reinstate Mr Johnson, with further plans to pressure association chairmen to take action over his removal from the leadership.

Tory Party members don’t care about net zero target ‘because 90pc will be dead by 2050’

Conservative MP Chris Skidmore says climate change fight requires more urgent timeframe

Conservative Party members are unwilling to prioritise the Government’s 2050 net zero targets “because 90pc of them will be dead”, a Conservative MP has claimed.

Liz Truss ‘poses the greatest risk’ to UK economy 

Leadership candidate’s economic plan is ‘concerning’, warn City analysts

Liz Truss’s policies pose the biggest risk to the British economy out of the remaining Tory leadership challengers, City analysts have warned, as she eyes multi billion-pound tax cuts and a Bank of England shake-up.

The Foreign Secretary’s “more substantial” economic plan is an “unseemly combination” of stimulative tax cuts and concerning views that scapegoat the Bank of England, according to economists at Citigroup.

We won: Government’s Net Zero Strategy is unlawful – Good Law Project

Now we know this really is a government of piss and wind! – Owl

Government’s strategy for getting to Net Zero is inadequate and unlawful, the High Court has found, following a successful legal challenge brought by Good Law Project, Joanna Wheatley, Client Earth and Friends of the Earth. [Owl’s emphases here and below]

The Climate Change Act requires Government to hit Net Zero by 2050, to make proposals as to how it will meet that target, and to place a report before Parliament. 

In a detailed judgment and order published today – amid the first ever red alert for extreme heat – the High Court held that the proposals for achieving Net Zero approved by the Secretary of State were too vague to enable him to be satisfied that the statutory targets would be met. And that the report placed before Parliament lacked the specificity necessary to meet the Secretary of State’s duty to inform Parliament and the public of his plans.

The illegality of its landmark climate change strategy is a huge political embarrassment to the Government. On launch in October 2021 the Net Zero Strategy was hailed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a foreword “Our strategy for net zero is to lead the world in ending our contribution to climate change.” And by the Secretary of State, Kwasi Kwarteng: “This strategy demonstrates how the UK is leading by example, with a clear plan for the future.”

The Court has ordered that the existing Strategy be fleshed out with the detail necessary for Parliamentary – and public – scrutiny within the next 8 months. And the Government has been ordered to pay our costs.

The dangerous heatwave this week is a stark reminder of the very real threat we face. Our infrastructure and homes were designed for a climate that no longer exists. This cannot wait. The Net Zero target must be a road map to a sustainable future – not a lie we tell our children.

We are thrilled to have worked alongside our friends at Client Earth and Friends of the Earth to deliver this landmark victory. And we are hugely grateful to Baker McKenzie and Jason Coppel QC and Peter Lockley of 11 Kings Bench Walk who worked pro bono or at hugely discounted rates.

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

Tobias Ellwood loses Tory whip after missing confidence vote

The “Nasty Party” just got a whole lot nastier and personal. – Owl

Boris Johnson has withdrawn the Conservative whip from the defence committee chair, Tobias Ellwood, who failed to support the government in a confidence vote.

Jessica Elgot 

Ellwood, the MP for Bournemouth East who has been an outspoken critic of Johnson’s conduct during his time as prime minister, told whips he intended to continue with a trip abroad during the vote.

Ellwood will no longer be eligible to vote in the Tory party’s leadership election as he will no longer be regarded as a Conservative MP. He has backed Penny Mordaunt, who came second behind Rishi Sunak, in the latest round of voting on Monday night.

A spokesperson for the whips’ office said: “Tobias Ellwood MP has lost the Conservative party whip following his failure to vote in support of the government in the confidence vote last night.”

In a statement, Ellwood said he had been unable to return because of travel issues. He said: “Following my meeting yesterday with the president of Moldova I was unable to secure return travel due to unprecedented disruption both here and in the UK.”

A source in the whips’ office said confidence votes needed to be taken extremely seriously by all MPs and said a failure to vote in support was considered a failure to support the Conservative party agenda, regardless of whether Johnson was leader.

Ellwood was warned he could lose the whip if he did not attend the vote, despite being “slipped” – which is permission granted by whips not to attend. Ellwood’s slip was rescinded but the source said he ignored overtures to attend.

The source said Ellwood was reminded that the vote of confidence would be taking place and was informed of the repercussions if he were not present.

The source said he had been threatened with the loss of the whip and asked to return on multiple occasions.

Other Conservative MPs cancelled foreign trips, left poorly relatives and one MP still attended and voted even though their mother had died that morning, the source said.

However, it remained unclear why 11 other Conservative MPs missed the vote without any apparent repercussions. There was no vote recorded for MPs including John Baron, Nusrat Ghani, Tom Hunt and Johnny Mercer, the newly appointed veterans’ affairs minister.

It is understood that some of the missing Tory MPs were, like Ellwood, also on trips abroad, but that they were given permission to be “paired” with opposition MPs.

However, a government whip source said these were on government trips, while those not away who missed the vote were ill. Ellwood had not sought permission to be absent for his trip, they added.

In the debate before the vote, Johnson defended his three years in power in a combative speech that hinted at a “deep state” plot to drag the UK back into the EU when he leaves office.

The government won by 349 to 238, a majority of 111. In a highly unusual move, No 10 called the vote of confidence in itself after it rejected a Labour motion that singled out Johnson.

Labour had originally said it would seek to hold a confidence vote after Johnson announced he was staying on as prime minister until the autumn and a new Conservative leader was in place.

However, the government refused to accept the wording of the Labour motion, which expressed no confidence in the government and the prime minister, so ministers tabled a motion of their own.

Exmouth beach is reopened to swimmers and watersports after foul-smelling black sand sparked pollution scare

A temporary ban on swimming and watersports at Exmouth beach has been lifted this evening (Tuesday, July 19) following a pollution scare.

Smelly (H2S-“bad eggs”) black mud? Most likely the result of anaerobic (lack of oxygen) decomposition of organic compounds, rotting seaweed? Basically an indication of pollution of one sort or another whatever they say. See this and similar articles. – (Owl tries to recall some sixth form science)

Becca Gliddon 

Beachgoers were earlier told by East Devon District Council (EDDC) to avoid the water while the Environment Agency (EA) carried out tests.

This followed concerns over foul-smelling black sand being found at the eastern end of the beach close to Maer rocks on Monday, July 18.

Red flags and warning signs telling people to stay out the water were put along the seafront and lifeguards stepped up patrols.

EDDC said this evening that test results of water samples, taken yesterday, have now shown ‘a very low level of bacteria in the normal range’.

South West Water is still investigating the cause of the incident, but EDDC’s precautionary closure has now ended.

“Bathing and watersports are once again being allowed at Exmouth,” said a council spokesperson.

“We would like to thank everyone for their patience while these tests were carried out.”

The area of concern had been between Orcombe Point and the lifeboat station.

The black sand. Photo: Environment Agency.


The black sand is submerged during high tide. Photo: Environment Agency.


Samples have been sent for analysis to determine the black sand’s pollution risk. Photo: Environment Agency.