East Devon solar farm debate not over yet

An East Devon councillor says he would be “surprised” if the developers of a rejected solar farm near Exeter do not lodge an appeal.

Rob Kershaw, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

Cllr Olly Davey (Green, Exmouth Town) was commenting after the district council threw out a proposal last month that would have seen 60,000 solar panels built on farmland near Exeter. Six councillors called for the plans to be dismissed.

Among the reasons for turning down the solar site at Marsh Green were environmental damage, the visual effect on the landscape, and the location’s proximity to heritage landmarks.

Cllr Richard Lawrence (Conservative, Whimple and Rockbeare) spoke against the development which he believes will be difficult for large vehicles to access, and where flooding is frequent.

He is sceptical as to where the money would come from to restore the surrounding area to its current state after work is complete, and concerned about the funding to maintain the solar panels over the 40 years.

While the councillor says he supports the installation of solar panels, he suggests they are placed in more suitable areas.

He highlighted the new housing development in Cranbrook, with runs alongside East Devon’s local plan to create a “self-sufficient, low carbon, new town.”

“I’m not averse to solar panels, I’ve got them on the roof of my house,” explained Cllr Lawrence. “I think they perform an extremely important function. The only problem I have with it is where they’re positioned.

“I feel that there are number of brownfield sites and roofs of commercial buildings around East Devon that would be best served with the solar panels on, rather than taking up greenfield sites.

“We’re in the process of building Cranbrook, which is going to be 6,500 houses,” he added. “I know they have their own heating system – albeit it doesn’t work very well – but there’s nothing to stop them having solar panels on the rood connected to the national grid.

“There’s not a solar panel in sight in Cranbrook, which just seems a but odd to me. We continue to build new houses, but we don’t enforce solar panels on the roofs.”

Cllr Olly Davey supports the plans, arguing that “no unacceptable harm” would be caused to the area, and that every effort had been made to minimise flooding.

On that basis, he suggested that an appeal from the developer would have a strong chance of success.

“I would be very surprised if the developers didn’t put in an appeal,” he said. “They will have invested quite a lot in this already, so I would expect them to lodge an appeal, and I think they’ve probably got fair confidence that it would ger passed on appeal.”

Cllr Davey also feels that, while roofs and brownfield areas lend themselves well to solar panels, larger sites such as Marsh Green are also needed in the interests of sustainability.

“I don’t think it’s an either/or,” said Cllr Davey. “I feel that there’s an awful lot of false dichotomies that are set up; you either put them on roofs or you put them in greenfield sites. The way things are going, I think we’re going to need both.

“I absolutely support panels on roofs, I’ve got them myself. We were what we call early adopters; we’ve had our panels over 10 years now. It was one of the first things we did when we moved in.

“I would like to see solar panels on every available roof, and it’s a source of despair to me when I look at all the houses that could be absolute prime sites for solar panels, but they don’t have them.

“But the incentives aren’t there, and the interest to do it [isn’t there]. I think people don’t realise that it’s not a very disruptive thing to do, and it gives you an awful lot of free energy.”

Fury as Rishi Sunak claims NHS ‘has funding it needs’ to tackle crisis

Bean counting in an ivory tower! – Owl

Rishi Sunak has said the NHS has all the funding it needs to deal with the crisis engulfing hospitals, despite repeated warnings from health leaders that immediate investment is needed to protect patients.

Kate Devlin www.independent.co.uk

Healthcare officials have warned the NHS is on a knife edge, with many A&Es struggling to keep up with demand and trusts and ambulance services declaring critical incidents.

On Tuesday NHS leaders in London said ambulances would wait only 45 minutes to hand patients over to hospital staff. Experts believe the problems at A&Es are responsible for the deaths of up to 500 patients every week.

Critics said claims the NHS had enough resources were “an insult to all those suffering in hospital corridors or in the back of ambulances because the government refused to act sooner”.

Downing Street said the government has been “up front” with the public about the pressure the NHS faces this winter, with the prime minister’s official spokesperson acknowledging that the health service is facing an “unprecedented challenge”.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, accused Mr Sunak of taking a stance that was “negligent, irresponsible, and a risk to the public’s health”.

The row erupted after No 10 said the prime minister was “confident … we are providing the NHS with the funding it needs – and as we did throughout the pandemic – to deal with these issues”.

But Downing Street did admit some patients would find it difficult to access care, even as it sidestepped the word crisis.

Dr Vishal Sharma, from the British Medical Association (BMA), which is balloting junior doctors for strike action, hit back saying: “For staff working in the NHS or any patients desperately trying to access care, it is plain for all to see that the NHS is completely broken. This did not happen overnight but is a direct result of the government underspending on health and ignoring repeated warnings from staff about workforce shortages, soaring demand and crumbling infrastructure.”

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Pat Cullen, said: “Presented with a picture of an NHS teetering on the brink of collapse, with staff shortages across the board, it’s hard to see how more funding couldn’t improve the situation.”

Adam Brimelow, director of communications at NHS Providers, said: “It is clear that the resources available to the NHS have not kept pace with the changing needs of the population.”

Others challenged the claim that the Covid backlog was to blame for the current crisis. Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said it was “disingenuous to blame the current situation on the pandemic”, warning of staffing issues, a lack of beds and capacity and a lack of social care – “all problems which are due to under-resourcing”.

Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, conceded that the government had been “up front” about the challenges this winter, but “the reality has been more intolerable and unbearable for staff and patients than envisaged”.

Late on Tuesday, health secretary Steve Barclay blamed “particular pressures” of flu and Covid, and insisted the NHS was safe, saying: “We are putting in more funding, we’ve got more staff, over 34,000 more staff working in the NHS, so there’s more nurses, more doctors, we have got an extra 7,500 going into social care [and] looking at greater support for domiciliary care.”

However, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the NHS went into the pandemic with too many staff vacancies, a figure that now stands at more than 130,000, “and we were coming off the back of the longest financial squeeze in the NHS’s history”.

With another four days of strikes looming later this month, he also urged the government to reopen talks with unions over pay.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine warns that between 300 and 500 people a week are dying as a result of delays and problems with urgent and emergency care. NHS England has said it did not recognise these numbers, but Dr Ian Higginson, the vice president of the college, accused political leaders of “a battle of machismo and denial”.

Mr Sunak is under increasing pressure from Tory MPs about the crises escalating on his watch. He is not due to make any public appearances this week, with officials insisting he is hard at work inside Downing Street.

The last time they visited a hospital both Mr Sunak and Mr Barclay were berated by members of the public.

One former Tory minister warned the chaotic scenes at hospitals, combined with the week-long rail strike, were “helping no-one … except Labour”.

Mr Sunak is also facing growing calls from within his own party to soften his stance on public sector pay rises.

One Tory MP said it was time for Mr Sunak to compromise on NHS pay, even if he holds firm in other sectors. The red wall MP said the current stance was “unsustainable”.

“I don’t think saying, ‘We can’t afford it’, is going to work,” the MP said. “You can’t keep seeing if nurses or the government will win sympathy – you’re not going to win that.”

Former cabinet minister David Davis backed the government’s stance on pay, but warned Mr Sunak that he could lose the battle for hearts and minds over strikes unless the government gets better at making its argument.

“What’s an issue is the way the government is not really presenting its case,” he said. “People will die as a result of the NHS union strikes. We need to make that point clear. I want the government to make it clear to the public that there’s a price to this.”

Lib Dem health spokesperson Daisy Cooper said the idea the NHS had enough funding was “an insult to all those suffering in hospital corridors or in the back of ambulances because the government refused to act sooner”.

Tory voters believe the Government has failed on NHS, education and austerity, poll finds

Conservative voters overwhelmingly believe their party has failed in its management of the NHS during their time in Government, a poll suggests.

Arj Singh inews.co.uk 

A vast majority (73 per cent) said they thought NHS management had been a failure in the last decade, compared to just 16 per cent who said it had been a success, according to the Opinium survey for Compassion In Politics, shared exclusively with i.

Of voters who backed the Tories in 2019, more also believe their party’s austerity policies have been a failure (47 per cent) than those who believe they were a success (16 per cent).

Underlining the grim electoral situation facing Rishi Sunak, more Tory 2019 voters believe education reform has been a failure (46 per cent) than a success (22 per cent).

Tory voters’ views on the NHS and education were close to the opinions of voters of all parties – though a markedly bigger proportion of the total sample thought austerity was a failure (57 per cent).

However, bucking the trend, more Tory voters (43 per cent) believe Brexit has been a success than a failure (33 per cent. Among all respondents, the outcome was the opposite: more viewed quitting the EU as a failure (57 per cent) than as a success (24 per cent).

Opinium questioned 2,000 British adults from 16 to 20 December 2022. Results have been weighted to be nationally representative, with almost 700 respondents being Conservative voters in 2019.

Asked to grade the Tories’ time in Government, one in five of the party’s 2019 voters gave it a “fail” mark, with 11 per cent giving them a D grade and 28 per cent a C.

Only 15 per cent awarded the party an A or A*, and a quarter (25 per cent) a B.

Among voters overall, just 8 per cent gave the Tories an A* or A grade, with 29 per cent rating the party at a C or D and 42 per cent a fail.

Jennifer Nadel, co-director of Compassion in Politics which describes itself as a cross-party campaign organisation, said the poll showed that voters were putting the Conservatives “on notice” ahead of the next election.

She added: “There is a hunger and a need for change. A decade of underfunding, low pay, and inadequate social security support has impoverished millions, weakened our public services, and spread financial fear, stress, and worry.

“Into that mix we’ve had the continuing disruption and prolonged uncertainty of Brexit. The public have judged this record to be one of failure and they’re putting the Government on notice.”

Ms Nadel called for new policies including a right to food, income and housing and greater social security support from the Government. Some of these options were put to the poll respondents, who were asked which policies they would most like to see implemented.

A quarter backed better socio-economic rights, a fifth (21 per cent) said a universal basic income, 18 per cent backed an honesty law, and eight per cent favoured citizens’ assemblies.

The rest either said they did not know (16 per cent), did not back any of the policies (10 per cent), submitted other asks from the Government (two per cent).

Ms Nadel said: “It’s up to the Government to learn the hard-earned lessons of the last twelve years and lead us towards a future economy which supports, empowers and cares for all.”

The Conservative Party was contacted for comment.

Pub famed for its carvery confirms closure – Sidmouth’s Bowd Inn goes dark

A Devon pub which is renowned for its farmhouse carvery has announced its sudden closure. The Bowd Inn in Sidmouth has closed its doors with immediate effect.

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com

It has not been confirmed how long the pub will be shut or if the current owners will reopen it again. Customers who have emailed the pub this week have been shocked to receive automatic replies stating that the business is no longer trading.

The response from The Bowd Inn states: “Unfortunately, the Bowd Inn is now closed. We would like to thank all of our guests for your custom and support.

“Emails will be reviewed periodically and responded to where appropriate.” The owners of the pub have been contacted by DevonLive but have declined to give further insight into the reasons behind its closure.

A spokesperson for the Bowd Inn said: “The business is now closed until further notice and we have no additional comment to add at this time.”

The pub’s website has been updated today to give news of its closure. It simply states: “Sorry, but we are closed until further notice. Thanks for your support.”

Its website reveals that the Webb family took over The Bowd Inn just under nine years ago. Tom Webb said: “We, the Webb family, had our eye on the Bowd Inn for some time and saw its potential and beauty, and hoped that one day it would become available.

“Fortunately for us, our chance arose in late 2013, and after many months of negotiation, a deal was struck and we received the keys in April 2014. After weeks of not always straightforward renovations we opened on May 10, 2014, with our team ready to do what they do best, look after you, our customers.”

On TripAdvisor, many customers have left five-star reviews. Just two weeks ago a customer said: “A fabulous Sunday roast and a carvery that looked beautifully presented. Well worth a visit.

“Thank you to the chap behind the carvery (possibly the owner) for really making a fuss over our party and for making our foreign visitor feel so welcome. Would highly recommend!”