Twelve Devon tourist beaches on Pollution Alert

Beer, Sidmouth, Budleigh Salterton and Exmouth are on the list

Twelve Devon beaches – 11 of them on the south coast of the county – have been put on pollution alert today after more heavy rain fell overnight. The beaches include some of the county’s most famous tourist hotspots.

Guy Henderson

Torre Abbey Sands at Torquay was the first to be placed on an official Environment Agency Pollution Alert, meaning that storm sewage had been discharged from a sewer overflow in the location within the past 48 hours. There is a sewer overflow in the urban catchment directly behind the beach that discharges into the Torre Abbey stream. Torre Abbey Sands was made the subject of an alert on Monday, which was still in place today.

The 10 other beaches were added overnight. They include Beer, where three overflows surround the beach, with one discharging from Beer car park, one discharging 600m North East and one slightly further to the South.

Other beaches on alert today are Sidmouth, where one overflow discharges through a long sea outfall some 600m out to sea while the other discharges into the River Sid, just under 400m to the east. Budleigh Salterton is on today’s list. There are three sewer overflows in the area, one discharges directly onto the beach, another 400m east and another that discharges 1.3km away into the sea.

At Exmouth, which is also on the list, there is a sewer overflow discharging through an outfall to the south east which may affect bathing water quality especially after heavy rainfall. Dawlish Town Beach is on the list. It has five sewer overflows covered by the Safer Seas Service within 650m off the beach which can operate in heavy rainfall.

At Coryton Cove, another beach included on today’s list, a sewer overflow discharges over the rocks at the southern end of the beach. Teignmouth’s Holcombe Beach is on the list too. It has a sewer overflow which discharges into the Holcombe Stream 40m upstream of the beach.

Torbay beaches on today’s list in addition to Torre Abbey Sands are Beacon Cove, which can be affected after heavy rainfall and Goodrington, where there is one sewer overflow discharging directly onto the beach while another discharges 500m upstream in the Goodrington Stream that then meets the sea towards the southern end of the beach.

In the South Hams Mothecombe beach is on the list. There are no sewer overflows directly on the beach at Mothecombe but urban areas including Ermington and Ivybridge can discharge into the River Erme whose estuary Mothecombe is located in.

The only North Devon beach on today’s list is Westward Ho!, where a sewer overflow discharges to the sea at Nose Rock at the southern end of the beach while the Tawe/Torridge estuary also receives overflows from the surrounding urban area which may affect water quality especially after heavy rainfall.

All pollution warnings are highlighted on an interactive map by Surfers Against Sewage. At Paignton Beach and Brixham’s Shoalstone Beach sewer systems are under maintenance and South West Water has temporarily disabled real-time alerts.

There are two sewer overflows on Paignton Sands – one at the southern end of the beach and another offshore of the harbour. A sewer overflow discharges to the sea across the rocks at the eastern end of Shoalstone.

Foord trying to be ‘local champion’

Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton and Honiton, Richard Foord, insists he can hold onto the seat in the next general election by being a community champion.

Philip Churm, local democracy reporter

Foord, who won the Devon seat in June in Britain’s biggest ever by-election swing, made the comments in an interview as he met with Lib Dem leader, Ed Davey, in Honiton on Friday 4 November. 

In an interview with the Local Democracy Reporter Service, he explained why he felt he had already made an impact in his first few months as an MP. 

RF: “It’s been a furiously busy short time, actually. We’ve had on my first day in Parliament, I put together an early day motion pressuring the government to offer fuel duty relief for for my constituents, for people here in my part of Devon, because what we see is people in rural areas like this one needing to travel far more miles in their cars than is the case for people who live in urban areas.

“And in part of North Devon, there is a different fuel duty, a lower fuel duty levy, for people who live in very remote areas. And I would like to see that extended to all of Devon and other rural areas besides.”

LDRS: “It could be maybe 18 months, maybe even less until the next general election. With the kind of majority that you overthrew when you managed to win this seat, how can you convince the electorate to stay with you?”

RF: “I think when people vote for a Liberal Democrat MP, what they’re doing is they are recognising that they’re going to get a community champion. And so I’m trying my very best to be that champion of local people here in Devon in the short time that I’ve got before the next general election, to prove that I can represent them as best as possible in Parliament.”

LDRS: “That’s quite a tough task because the previous incumbent [Neil Parish] would say that he was too. He had this good relationship with farmers, with rural communities. So, in the very short time you have, that’s a lot of work to do. How confident are you that you can do that?”

RF: “I’ve paid tribute before to my predecessor, Neil Parish. who was indeed a very good constituency MP. I’ve learned from the way that he managed to cut about all of the towns and villages in our patch. He was very much present in village halls and at community centres, talking to local people and dealing with individuals’ casework and I’m really trying to emulate that as best I can and be that community champion.”

LDRS: “What have been your biggest challenges, do you think, so far and what do you think are likely to be your biggest challenges in the near future?”

RF: “I think one of the biggest challenges that I’ve seen when working with constituents over the last couple of months is this dreadful cost of living crisis that they are experiencing that we’re all seeing. I mean, it wouldn’t be the case that people’s mortgage rates were skyrocketing – or interest rates on loans were going up, so much. Or people’s pensions were put at risk, were it not for the decisions made by the Truss government over the last couple of months.

“And so I think trying to help shield our constituents and directing them and signposting them to some of the things that are on offer is something that I’ve been trying to do. But it’s difficult and it’s tough because of some catastrophic decisions that the government has made in recent months.”

LDRS: “It’s not realistic to assume that the Lib Dems are going to have an overall majority at the next election. So which political parties would you feel comfortable working with?”

RF: “Well, we’re simply fighting hard for every single Liberal Democrat MP that we can obtain at the next general election. We started this Parliament with 11, we’re now on 14 and we’ve proved with our momentum that we are a fighting force in British politics. We’re definitely on the way back up and in a stronghold that was once the west country.

“We we’ve got deep roots and we can regenerate some of the activism, the enthusiasm that we’ve seen before for the Liberal Democrats in our part of the world.”

Senior civil servant claims Gavin Williamson told them to ‘slit your throat’

A senior civil servant claims Gavin Williamson told them to “slit your throat” in what they felt was a sustained campaign of bullying while he was defence secretary.

Pippa Crerar

The Ministry of Defence official told the Guardian Williamson made the extraordinary remarks in front of other civil servants in a meeting, and on a separate occasion told them to “jump out of the window”.

The Whitehall aide, who worked closely with the cabinet minister, claimed Williamson “deliberately demeaned and intimidated” them on a regular basis.

They reported the behaviour unofficially to the MoD’s head of human resources and took contemporaneous notes of the alleged incidents, but decided against making a formal complaint against the cabinet minister at that time.

Williamson, who was defence secretary from November 2017 until May 2019 when he was sacked after a leak from the national security council, was said to have “shouted and raged”.

The senior civil servant, who later left government, said the abuse was so bad that a senior military aide working in the department had later apologised for not calling it out.

Williamson denied that he bullied the civil servant and said he had good working relationships with his officials. However, the Guardian understands that he is not denying that he used those specific words.

In a statement, he said: “I strongly reject this allegation and have enjoyed good working relationships with the many brilliant officials I have worked with across government. No specific allegations have ever been brought to my attention.”

The claims come after Downing Street said No 10 had “full confidence” in the Cabinet Office minister despite the emergence of bullying claims and abusive text messages he sent to the former Conservative chief whip Wendy Morton.

Speaking at the Cop27 summit in Egypt, Rishi Sunak said: “There’s an independent complaints investigation that is happening and it’s right that we let that process run its course before passing judgment. I want to see the results of that, obviously, but I’ve been very clear that language is not right, it’s not acceptable. And that’s why I welcome the fact that Gavin Williamson has expressed regret about that and now we wait to see what the investigation says.”

The latest allegation poses yet more questions for the prime minister about his political judgment after he decided to reappoint Williamson – a close political ally who is seen to have played a key role in his leadership campaign – to government despite being aware of Morton’s complaint.

Text messages revealed over the weekend included angry remonstrations about not being invited to the Queen’s funeral and one that said “there is a price for everything”.

The prime minister’s spokesperson said on Monday that Sunak had a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, but had refused to sack Williamson, claiming he had an “important contribution to make to government”.

Meanwhile, the Times reported on Monday that an MP claimed Williamson, when he was chief whip in 2016, threatened her with potentially revealing details about her private life. The MP was now a minister, the paper said.

She told the paper he called her to his office when she was campaigning on a politically sensitive issue and raised something about her private life “which she interpreted as a tacit threat”. Unnamed allies of Williamson said this had not been a threat and he had raised the issue in a “pastoral capacity”.

‘He was not right to send them,’ says Grant Shapps on Gavin Williamson’s abusive texts – video

Grant Shapps, the business secretary, said the messages should not have been sent, telling Sky News: “I don’t think it was the right thing to do, to send messages like that. I see they must have been sent in a moment of frustration. I think, generally, it is the case that it’s much better to write things which you would not live to regret later.”

Williamson was sacked first as defence secretary by Theresa May after it was alleged he leaked details of a national security council meeting – an allegation he has always denied; and later as education secretary by Boris Johnson over the Covid 19 A-levels debacle.

Labour and the Lib Dems have called on Sunak to sack Williamson. Anneliese Dodds, the Labour party chair, said on Monday night: “These allegations are extremely serious and speak to the toxic culture at the top of the Conservative party. The prime minister knew there was a complaint against Gavin Williamson but appointed him anyway.

“He was given a seat around the cabinet table because Rishi Sunak was too weak to face a vote of his own party. Here again we see the grubby deal made by Rishi Sunak to put party management over the national interest.”

Suella Braverman’s ‘photocopying’ CV claim is being assessed by legal regulator

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been reported to the Bar Standards Board for ‘a dishonest statement made out of self interest to promote her career’

Greg Barradale 

Suella Braverman’s dubious claim she “contributed” to a legal textbook when working as a lawyer is being assessed by the barristers’ regulator.

The home secretary claimed in an online CV to have been “a contributor” to a regulatory book published titled Gambling for Local Authorities, Licensing, Planning and Regeneration by Philip Kolvin KC.

But Kolvin told The Big Issue in October she made “no written or editorial contribution”, adding: “However on one occasion I asked her to do some photocopying for the book, which she did.”

It has now emerged the story sparked a complaint of “potential serious misconduct” from a fellow barrister to the Bar Standards Board, which regulates barristers and investigates wrongdoing.

The complaint, first reported by Private Eye and seen by The Big Issue, was made in early October and accused Braverman of a “dishonest statement made out of self interest to promote her career”.

It reads: “The ‘Big Issue’ has recently reported that in her profile on the Website of Number 5 Chambers, removed apparently at short notice on 30 September 2022, Ms Braverman claimed to have contributed to a textbook Gambling for Local Authorities: Licensing, Planning and Regeneration (Institute of Licensing, 2010) edited and primarily written by Philip Kovin KC.

“He says she did no more than do some photocopying for him and ‘did not make a written or editorial contribution to the book.’ If true, that would seem to be a dishonest statement made out of self interest to promote her career.”

Profiles on the No5 website outline barristers’ accomplishments and are submitted by the individuals concerned. Many are self employed, with the chambers the rooms they use while working. 

No5 declined to comment on the record, but the entire contents of Braverman’s profile was removed from the website after The Big Issue approached her office for comment. Staff at the chambers said she asked them to remove the profile after the Big Issue made contact about the claim. A copy of the web page is still available online through the Internet Archive.

Suella Braverman

Braverman’s regulatory and licensing profile on the No5 chambers website. Image: Screenshot

In a response to the complaint seen by The Big Issue, the BSB says reports of “a concern” will be assessed “as quickly as possible”, whereas reports of “serious misconduct” may take longer.

If the BSB decides to investigate, this could lead to a tribunal which, at most, could see the home secretary being banned from being a barrister.

Other punishments include a fine. However, the board could also decide to take no action or send an informal letter.

The decision whether to investigate takes up to eight weeks, while an investigation itself would take about six months.

Barristers reporting other barristers are under a duty to only do so if they have a “genuinely and reasonably held belief” that serious misconduct has taken place.

The Bar Standards Board said: “The BSB is unable to comment on any ongoing investigations as these are confidential. 

“Full details on how we assess reported concerns about barristers are available on our website. Should such an investigation result in a decision by a Disciplinary Tribunal, this would be published on the BTAS website in due course.”

Braverman’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Simon, Boris says those who want to “frack the hell out of the British countryside” are “naysayers”

And those who dismiss wind power are “mediaeval”.

Boris Johnson has criticised net zero “naysayers” who want to “frack the hell out of the British countryside” in his first appearance at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt.

He continued with “we have to tackle this nonsense head on”, criticising  his former newspaper The Daily Telegraph for dismissing wind power as “mediaeval”. 

“Burning oil is positively paelolithic,” Johnson hit back. (inews)

Exeter set to get nearly 200 new homes near Alphington

Plans for 182 new homes on the edge of Exeter have been put forward. The scheme, on behalf of Tilia Homes Western, would see the homes built on land at Aldens Farm in Alphington.

Owl was always under the impression that the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) was based on the premise that the city had run out of space.

Daniel Clark 

Outline planning permission for the scheme was granted back in 2021. Now, developers have put forward plans for the details of appearance, scale, layout and landscaping for the major new scheme – with 30 per cent of the homes being affordable.

The site is allocated for development in the large urban extension of ‘South West Exeter’ which is being built. A total of 500 homes could be built in the wider area.

The site adjoins existing residential development to the north and is bound by Shillingford Road to the west, Markham Lane to the south and Chudleigh Road to the east of the site. Beyond Chudleigh Road, Redrow Homes are currently building out their scheme within the allocation.

A statement with the planning application, submitted this week to Exeter City Council, says: “A mix of 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedroom homes are proposed. The houses are two and two and a half storeys, and the apartment blocks are three storeys.

“The proposed layout has sought to establish a clear and simple hierarchy of streets. The layout incorporates the permitted vehicular access off Shillingford Road towards the west of the site, with a primary street running west‐east through the site and secondary streets then lead off the primary street.

“The proposed development will involve the retention of existing hedgerows and incorporates the principle area of public open space towards the north, which will include an attenuation basin and play area. Each house has its own garden which is of a size capable of supporting the needs of a family, being large enough for play, relaxation and the growing of food if required.”

The statement concludes: “The principle of the development of the site and means of access to the site are not therefore matters for determination having already been approved. It is only the detailed design of the proposals that fall to be considered at this stage, specifically the layout, scale, appearance and landscaping.

“The proposed development complies with the relevant policies of the Development Plan, and there are no other material considerations which point to a decision other than in accordance with the Development Plan.”

Exeter City Council planners will determine the fate of the application at a later date.

According to South West Water 30% of leaks are “typically” found on customers’ own property

SWW is offering to fix them for free because it is failing to meet leakage reduction targets. See Owl’s August analysis: SSW Leakage: how bad is it?

(Is this 30% of the number or leaks or 30% of the volume of water lost? )

The sponsored content article (below) contains a second attempt at blame-shifting:

“The region is reaching a tipping point where demand for water exceeds supply”. 

Could this, by any chance, be another example of lack of investment, sewage treatment being another?


No new reservoirs have been built in England since privatisation.

“They [the water companies] have consistently prioritised their own financial interests above those of the public, who have no choice but to use their services. Of course companies must be able to pay dividends if they are to attract capital to fund investments. But the extreme financial engineering led by rapacious private equity funds has sucked more than £72 billion out of the sector in dividends since privatisation and piled £56 billion of debt on to its balance sheet, crippling its ability to fund infrastructure projects, even as customer bills have risen by 40 per cent.” See The Times and many similar articles written in the past couple of months

South West Water’s approach to finding leaks is out of this world

NB Advertorial content, Jessie Parker 

As reservoir levels across the South West remain extremely low, customers, visitors and businesses are being urged to reduce their water usage as the sustained and significant rainfall required to recharge the reservoirs is not currently forecasted.

The region is reaching a tipping point where demand for water exceeds supply and South West Water is asking all of its customers, along with visitors to the counties, to do everything they can to save water, and the company has a range of free devices and help and advice on its website.

South West Water is also doing more now than ever before to help secure supply. This includes finding and fixing more leaks than ever before with a monthly high of 2,500 leaks.

To help with this, the water company has nearly doubled its number of staff detecting leaks and is using cutting-edge technologies to further support the rapid detection and repair of leaks.

Most pipe leakage is invisible to the human eye because water doesn’t break the surface. South West Water is employing the use of special satellites to help find these leaks up to two metres underground, and has drone pilots searching out hard-to-reach places across Dartmoor and Exmoor.

With around 30% of leaks now typically found on customers’ own properties, South West Water has also extended its offer to find and fix these leaks for free – saving enough water so far to serve the equivalent of 8,000 homes.

We spoke to Martin Pipe, customer regional delivery manager, who has worked for South West Water for 16 years.

Explaining what’s led to the current position, Martin said: “We’ve experienced one of the driest and hottest periods in our region in over a century, with below average levels of rainfall paired with high levels of demand during the summer.

“We’ve been urging customers and visitors to the region to do everything they can to reduce the amount of water they use, while our own teams are out fixing more leaks than ever before, including repairing customer leaks for free.

“Our team of leakage experts work around the clock pinpointing and fixing leaks as quickly as possible. It’s a big job, we’ve got 9,320 miles of network mains covering a rural and hilly region.  We’re heavily investing in technology to help us use real-time data to make sure we do everything we can to find and fix leaks quicker.

“This includes using satellites to help find water leaks underground with the same technology used to search for water on other planets, such as Mars. It works by using microwave sensors onboard a satellite in space to take photos of the earth showing potential water leaks.

“As microwaves can penetrate up to two metres underground, the data will highlight potential leaks which may not be showing above ground so our leakage technicians can locate more leaks and make necessary repairs.”

How to tell if you may have a leak

Martin went on to explain how you can tell whether you’re losing water through leakage: “You can easily have a leak and not see it. In fact, the majority of leaks will be running without anyone knowing anything is wrong and a lot of leaks will run underground. So just because you can’t see a leak, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one.”

Because of this it can be hard to tell whether you’ve got a leak but a clear sign is an increased bill at a time when your water usage hasn’t gone up. Once reported, South West Water will help you locate the leak and find out who’s responsible: “If you suspect a leak but are unsure, give us a call or visit our website as soon as possible and our teams can help you determine if you have a leak and, if so, how to resolve it.

You can report a suspected leak to South West Water by filling out this quick online form or by calling 0800 230 0561. For more information about the current water usage bans and what’s being done to tackle it, head to the South West Water website.