Government postcode checker: What tier am I in?

www.heart.co.uk /news/coronavirus/government-postcode-checker-what-tier-am-i-in/


26 November 2020, 11:33 | Updated: 26 November 2020, 12:04

How do I find out what tier my local area is in?
How do I find out what tier my local area is in? Picture: Getty

The Government have confirmed which areas in England will be going into tier one, tier two and tier three.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced in the House of Commons today which areas of England are in tier one, two or three.

This comes after it was announced England would be returning to the three-tier system when lockdown ends on December 2.

Mr Hancock announced that only three areas across the country will be going into tier 1, which the majority will be placed in tier 2.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson confirms Christmas COVID rules will allow three households to mix for five days

What are the tiers in England?

In the House of Commons today, Matt Hancock announced which areas of England will be going into tier one, two and three.

Areas going into tier three:

Hartlepool

Middlesbrough

Stockton-on-Tees

Redcar and Cleveland

Darlington

Sunderland

South Tyneside

Gateshead

Newcastle upon Tyne

North Tyneside

County Durham

Northumberland

Greater Manchester

Lancashire

Blackpool

Blackburn with Darwen

The Humber

West Yorkshire

South Yorkshire

Birmingham and Black Country

Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent

Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull

Derby and Derbyshire

Nottingham and Nottinghamshire

Leicester and Leicestershire

Lincolnshire

Slough (remainder of Berkshire is tier 2: High alert)

Kent and Medway

Bristol

South Gloucestershire

North Somerset

Areas going into tier two:

Cumbria

Liverpool City Region

Warrington and Cheshire

York

North Yorkshire

Worcestershire

Herefordshire

Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin

Rutland

Northamptonshire

Suffolk

Hertfordshire

Cambridgeshire, including Peterborough

Norfolk

Essex, Thurrock and Southend on Sea

Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes

All boroughs of London and the City of London

East Sussex

West Sussex

Brighton and Hove

Surrey

Reading

Wokingham

Bracknell Forest

Windsor and Maidenhead

West Berkshire

Hampshire (except the Isle of Wight), Portsmouth and Southampton

Buckinghamshire

Oxfordshire

South Somerset, Somerset West and Taunton, Mendip and Sedgemoor

Bath and North East Somerset

Dorset

Bournemouth

Christchurch

Poole

Gloucestershire

Wiltshire and Swindon

Devon

Areas going into tier one:

Cornwall

Scilly Isles

Isle of Wight

What do the different tiers mean?

Under all the Tiers, non essential shops will be allowed to open again, as well as gyms, salons and leisure centres.

Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can also resume, and people will no longer be limited to seeing one other person outdoors, as the rule of six returns.

In tier 1, the rule of six will be the same both indoors and outdoors, while in tiers 2 and 3, meetings will only be allowed outdoors.

Limited and socially distanced numbers of spectators will also be allowed at both indoor and outdoor sports events in the lower two tiers.

In terms of hospitality, pubs and restaurants will be re-opened in tiers 1 and 2, while alcohol can only be served with a ‘substantial meal’ in tier 2.

In tier 3 all pubs, restaurants and cafes must close apart from for delivery or takeaway.

The curfew has also been tweaked, and while alcohol can’t be served past 10pm, people can stay until up to 11pm.

For sports events outdoors, in tier 1 up to 4,000 people can gather, while in tier 2 the number is 2,000 people.

You can find all the tier rules here.

Hancock’s former neighbour won Covid test kit work after WhatsApp message

An acquaintance and former neighbour of Matt Hancock is supplying the government with tens of millions of vials for NHS Covid-19 tests despite having had no previous experience of producing medical supplies.

Felicity Lawrence www.theguardian.com 

Alex Bourne, who used to run a pub close to Hancock’s former constituency home in Suffolk, said he initially offered his services to the UK health secretary several months ago by sending him a personal WhatsApp message.

Bourne’s company, Hinpack, was at that time producing plastic cups and takeaway boxes for the catering industry. It is now supplying about 2m medical grade vials a week to the government via a distributor contracted by the NHS.

Bourne categorically denies he profited from his personal contact with Hancock. However, the case raises questions for the health secretary and is likely to reignite the row over alleged government cronyism during the pandemic.

Contacted last week by the Guardian, Bourne’s lawyers flatly denied that their client had any discussions with Hancock in relation to Covid-19 supplies.

However, on Monday, after being confronted with further details about his interactions with the health secretary, Bourne backtracked. In a phone call with the Guardian, he conceded that he has in fact exchanged text and email messages with Hancock over several months.

He also participated in an industry Zoom meeting in August attended by Hancock, Boris Johnson and several dozen suppliers in the Covid test-and-trace programme.

Bourne said he sent his WhatsApp message to Hancock’s mobile number on 30 March offering his services amid a nationwide call to arms to respond to the pandemic. Bourne said he opened the exchange: “Hello, it’s Alex Bourne from Thurlow.”

Until the end of 2017 when they leased it out, Bourne and his wife had run the Cock Inn, a village pub in Thurlow a few hundred yards from Hancock’s former constituency home. The Conservative cabinet minister was a supporter of the pub, attending its reopening after refurbishment in 2016 and nominating it for an award in 2017. Hancock posted a photo of himself pulling a pint with Bourne on his parliamentary website. Hancock moved in 2018.

Bourne said his initial hope was that his packaging firm might be able to retool to provide personal protective equipment (PPE). Hancock messaged back, according to Bourne, directing him to a Department of Health and Social Care website, where he formally submitted details of the work his firm could do. Bourne’s lawyers said there was no further follow-up with Hancock.

A week or two later, around mid-April, Bourne said a major distributor of medical products that he had never heard of called him asking if he could produce specialist Covid-related items such as drop-wells and pipette tips. His company Hinpack was not deemed suitable for that job.

Later that month, Bourne said he was called back by the same distributor. The firm, which already had a general government contract in place to supply the NHS regularly when Covid struck, said it had been asked by the government to supply test tubes. Bourne persuaded the firm he could produce the vials, and said he also discussed Hinpack’s work with two civil servants representing the DHSC.

By June, after engaging the assistance of external advisers and regulatory experts, Bourne was producing large quantities of medical vials. He said he was now making about 2m vials a week, as well as about 500,000 plastic funnels for test samples.

In August, he switched distributor, and is now supplying the same tubes via Alpha Laboratories, which also had a pre-existing contract with DHSC. In a statement, Alpha Laboratories said: “Although we were aware Alex Bourne had met Mr Hancock, this was irrelevant to our discussions as we were sourcing from Hinpack a price-competitive product for the NHS supply chain which fitted within our product range.”

A Suffolk local and friend of Bourne’s, Sukhvinder Dhat, said he had regularly seen Hancock in the pub when he lived in the village and claimed that Bourne and Hancock were “friends” and “buddies”. Bourne’s lawyers denied that characterisation, saying Bourne does not now have a “close personal connection” with the health secretary.

In his call with the Guardian, Bourne also played down his relationship with Hancock. “I’ve never once been to his house,” he said. “He’s never been to mine. I’ve never once had a drink with him.” A spokesperson from the DHSC said: “We do not comment on the secretary of state’s personal relationships.”

Dhat, a retired business consultant, said Bourne had been talking to him over the summer about being in touch with Hancock and sitting in on government meetings about Covid supplies, including a Zoom meeting with the prime minister.

Over the weekend, Dhat said Bourne had confided in him that the Guardian was investigating his relationship with the health secretary. Dhat said he asked Bourne if he was being caught up in “chumocracygate” – a reference to the growing row over government contracts being given to Tory-linked firms.

Dhat said of his conversation with Bourne: “He said he had been approached by the Guardian about being a friend of Hancock’s but he had said, no, he wasn’t a friend. It was sort of ‘how can they prove anything’.”

Dhat also questioned how Bourne managed to become involved in providing medical supplies to the government given his limited business experience. Prior to running the Cock Inn, which was sold in January, Bourne set up a string of companies that did not trade and were later dissolved. Hinpack was established in July 2018, trading in disposable items for the catering industry.

“How does someone like [Bourne] get a contract to do something like this?” Dhat asked. “I was in management consulting for decades and we had to show some sort of capability or at least a client reference to get business. Who knew him to say he was an appropriate person?”

While he had no prior experience in medical supplies, Bourne said a partner company in the disposable catering business did have relevant experience. He also stressed his company had hired industry experts and retired professors.

His lawyers said it was “untrue” Bourne was helped “in any way, commercially or operationally” by Hancock. “To suggest that our client has had political, indeed ministerial, help is to betray a deeply regrettable lack of understanding of how the supply chain works.”

They said that Bourne, a former captain in the British army, offered his services to the government out of a “sense of duty and willingness to serve, not obtaining financial advantage”, adding that UK companies had “retooled” during the pandemic. They said the medical devices Bourne manufactured were “by no means complicated and are well within our client’s existing skillset”.

New to the industry, Bourne has certainly displayed ingenuity. He initially did not have the “clean rooms” required for manufacturing medical products and so commissioned a series of inflatable rooms.

He also paid a manufacturer of bouncy castles and blimps to make him a specially commissioned inflatable structure to unpack and decontaminate incoming supplies, which his lawyers described as a room that was intended to be “comparatively contamination-free” but “not medical-grade sterile”.

They said their client’s decision to turn to the bouncy castle company showed “creative and lateral thinking in a time of crisis”.

It remains unclear precisely how, with no prior experience in the field, and without the pre-existing facilities in produce medical supplies, Bourne came to provide millions of test tubes via two distributors with pre-existing deals with the DHSC.

Last week, the National Audit Office revealed that PPE suppliers with political connections were directed to a “high-priority” channel for UK government contracts where bids were 10 times more likely to be successful.

However, Bourne did not have a direct contract with the DHSC and said he did not believe he was added to any high-priority lane after contacting Hancock and entering details of his company’s area of work on the department’s website in March.

Asked whether Hinpack received any preferential treatment because of Bourne’s contacts with the health secretary, a DHSC spokesperson said it had not: “There is no evidence to support these claims. As the National Audit Office report has made clear, ministers are not involved in procurement decisions or contract management and to suggest otherwise is wholly inaccurate.”

Western Morning News on Chancellor’s “Levelling Up” in the South West

TOP STORY: The Chancellor has announced significant investment across the South West as part of the Tory Government’s commitment to “level up opportunity” across the nation, reports our Business Editor, William Telford…

The Government has insisted that Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Spending Review will benefit the South West and help “level up” the UK.

[Depends on what you mean by the South West and how much of this is re-announcement. Read Shadow Environment Secretary’s comments. – Owl]

Mr Sunak, in his Commons speech yesterday, announced significant investment across the South West as part of the Tory Government’s commitment to “level up opportunity” across the nation.

The Chancellor used the Spending Review to boost housing, transport and infrastructure and also announced a new £4billion Levelling Up Fund which will invest in local infrastructure that has a “visible impact” on people and their communities and will support economic recovery.

But there are concerns the measures will not do enough for a UK economy predicted to shrink by 11.3% in 2020, leaving 2.6million people unemployed by next year, and a pay freeze for non-NHS public sector workers will harm the South West.

Announcements specific to the South West included:

  • More than £600million in housing infrastructure funding across 23 projects, including £250million for key highways improvements. This includes the relocation of Junction 10 of the M5 to unlock nearly 9,000 homes to the west and north-west of Cheltenham.This is part of the £7.1billion National Home Building Fund which will invest in key infrastructure and provide support for SME housebuilders, to unlock up to 860,000 homes across the country.
  • West of England Combined Authority will receive a share of £4.2billion for intra-city transport settlements, enabling them to benefit from long-term, locally-led investment, subject to appropriate governance. The South East will also benefit from major upgrades to the A303 at Stonehenge, dualling the A358 Taunton to Southfields, and improving the A417 missing link.
  • The South West will also benefit from a share of the £5.2billion six-year flood and coastal defence programme, including better protection for over 7,000 properties across Bridgwater, Poole and Gloucester.
  • The Government also announced that the South West will receive almost £3.5billion in per-pupil funding through the schools block – an average per-pupil increase of 3.6% compared to 2020-21.
  • Furthermore, the Spending Review confirmed that 11 new hospitals will be built in the South West, with the continued growth of medical undergraduate degree places, with an additional 196 places in the South West compared to 2017/18.

Mr Sunak said: “We are committed to spreading opportunity to all regions of the UK and this Spending Review delivers on that promise.

“The investment in housing, transport and infrastructure announced today will support the recovery from coronavirus across the South West.

“We will provide billions of pounds in the fight against coronavirus across the UK, deliver the peoples’ priorities and drive the UK’s recovery.”

But Luke Pollard, Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport and Shadow Environment Secretary, criticised the pay freeze for non-NHS public sector workers, and said there was not enough announced that would help the environment.

He said: “The Tory pay freeze is a kick in the teeth for Plymouth’s frontline public sector workers. Police officers, teachers and firefighters all face real-terms pay cuts. It’s all well and good clapping for our key workers, but what they really need is to be paid properly for their dedication.

“This spending review was disappointing for the South West and for Plymouth. The Chancellor’s plans do not match the scale of the crises we face. The scale of the jobs crisis is scary and I am very worried about how many Plymouth families will be out of work very soon.

“There are large gaps in the spending plans especially for funding local services like care services from Plymouth City Council. The Tory plan is not ambitious enough to meaningfully help with our city’s recovery from the deep recession we’re heading into. And there’s no sign of Plymouth getting its fair share in funding yet again.

“The South West seems to have been missed in the Tory levelling up agenda. Tory Ministers are taking the South West for granted. I had high hopes for the new national infrastructure plan but this has just re-announced old projects for the South West. The map for planned investment shows nothing for Plymouth.

“The spending review was almost silent about the climate emergency. Recent green funding announcements unravelled almost as soon as they were made with only £3billion in new money which is barely 10% of what Germany is investing in new green jobs. We need a proper plan for jobs not a wall of Government spin.”

UK’s ‘chaotic’ PPE procurement cost billions extra

The government spent £10bn more buying personal protective equipment in “chaotic” and inflated market conditions during the pandemic than it would have paid for the same products last year, according to a report by the parliamentary spending watchdog.

[Link to NAO report here]

David Conn www.theguardian.com

But less than 10% of the gloves, gowns, face masks and other products – ordered for a total £12.5bn – had been delivered to NHS trusts and other frontline organisations by the end of July, the National Audit Office (NAO) report found.

Of 32bn items ordered at exponentially rising prices, 2.6bn had been distributed by July. The controversial “parallel supply chain”, rapidly set up by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in March, has still not received much of the PPE it ordered, the report said, “with some of it not yet manufactured”.

According to the NAO, the stockpile was “inadequate” before the pandemic, containing only two weeks’ worth of PPE but the health department then dramatically over-ordered, it was suggested, with the 32bn items amounting to five years’ worth of supply.

Setting out comparative costs for the equipment, the NAO said 760m gowns and coveralls, which would have cost 33p each last year, were bought for £4.50 each, an increase of 1,277%. One million body bags that would have cost £1 each last year were bought for £14.10, with millions of gloves, face masks, goggles and sanitiser also bought at inflated costs.

“The department had to pay such high prices because it was in the position of needing to buy huge volumes of PPE very quickly,” the report said. The total cost of all 32bn items at 2019 prices would have been £2.5bn, £10bn less than the government paid.

The report follows NAO revelations that the DHSC operated a “high priority” route for PPE suppliers with political connections, where bids for multimillion-pound contracts were 10 times more likely to be successful. Competitive tenders were suspended in the emergency.

NHS organisations told the watchdog that they had been able to get the PPE they needed in time, but the report contrasts that assurance with health and social care workers who told their professional bodies and unions that they suffered shortages of vital PPE.

Adult social care providers felt they were “not adequately supported by government in obtaining PPE”, receiving only 10% of their estimated need from the government between March and July, while NHS trusts received 80% of their estimated need.

Office for National Statistics figures show 612 deaths of health and social care workers involving Covid-19 were registered between 9 March and 12 October in England.

The NAO calls for the government to hold a “comprehensive lessons-learned exercise” to consider whether “any issues with PPE provision or use might have contributed to Covid-19 infections or deaths” and to inform planning for future emergencies.

The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, whose members include relatives of health and social care workers who died after complaining of PPE shortages, has repeatedly called for a rapid public inquiry.

Jo Goodman, the group’s co-founder, said: “The fact that some of our NHS heroes have been lost due to the government’s failure to adequately supply them with PPE is yet another national disgrace which can only really be truly understood with an urgent public inquiry. It is not too late to learn the lessons from the first wave of the pandemic and save lives.”

Jolyon Maugham QC, founder of the Good Law Project which is challenging the government’s procurement processes and several individual contracts, said of the report: “It shows there has been an obscene waste of public money. This was the worst of all worlds, where the government paid five times the normal price, but bought five years’ worth of supply, most of which will never be used. Most striking in the NAO report is the question they don’t answer: why the government procured 32 billion items of PPE in a period in which they only distributed 2.6 billion.”

Health minister Jo Churchill said: “As the NAO report recognises, during this unprecedented pandemic all the NHS providers audited ‘were always able to get what they needed in time’ thanks to the herculean effort of government, NHS, armed forces, civil servants and industry who delivered around 5 billion items of PPE to the frontline at record speed.

“We set up robust and resilient supply chains from scratch and expanded our distribution network from 226 NHS trusts to over 58,000 health and care settings. With almost 32 billion items of PPE ordered we are confident we can provide a continuous supply to our amazing frontline workers over the coming months and respond to future eventualities.”

Rishi Sunak Hits The Pause Button As The Dominic Cummings Legacy Lives On

Having spent most of his short career as chancellor being seen as the nice man who dishes out dosh, it was perhaps no surprise that Rishi Sunak sounded less sure-footed with the tough stuff.‌

Paul Waugh www.huffingtonpost.co.uk 

Even as he lobbed some red meat towards Tory backbenchers on public sector pay today, he couldn’t bring himself to use the F-word: freeze. Instead, Sunak said pay rises for non-NHS staff will be “paused” next year.

“Pausing” a pay rise is a euphemism that will stick in the throat of the 1.3 million teaching assistants, school dinner ladies, hospital porters, police officers, soldiers. The pay freeze (George Osborne had no qualms using the F-word in 2010) will also likely apply to council staff like bin men and care workers. In short, that’s a fair chunk of the “key workers” that have kept the country running through the pandemic.

The chancellor did of course try to limit the impact, setting out a £250 rise for 2.1m public sector staff who earn less than the median wage of £24,000. Yet even that seemed undermined by a sleight of hand. When Yvette Cooper pointed out that with inflation forecast to be 2% next year, the £250 would still be a real terms cut, Sunak sidestepped the issue.

In fact, “pausing” appeared to be the overall theme for this spending review. He paused an expected change in the inflation measure that will mean rail commuters and student loans will cost more for more years. The chancellor also paused any progress on climate change (there was virtually nothing on the global emergency that will one day overshadow the covid emergency).‌

And in yet another red meat moment for Tory MPs, Sunak paused the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of its GDP on overseas aid. The cut to 0.5% is for one year, but it’s unclear when the pause in the legal requirement will be restarted, given the only guide was “when the fiscal situation allows”.‌

It’s worth saying that the whole point of the GDP measure on aid was precisely to allow it to go up and down according to the health of the economy. When times are hard, aid spending already goes down automatically. But Sunak opted to go further, with £4bn more in cuts to the world’s poorest. Why? So some Tory backbenchers could dress it up with a depressing “charity begins at home” meme, like a tawdry early Christmas present they believe voters want to take their minds off covid.

Unsurprisingly, instant opinion polls showed that “reducing foreign aid spending” (yeah that word “foreign” is loaded with meaning) was popular. YouGov put support at 66%, opposition at 16%, SavantaComRes had 61% to 13%. Yet no one in government made the case that tying aid to growth has already reduced spending on it.‌

The resignation of junior minister Liz Sugg was an indication that some Tories won’t support a cynical attempt to use overseas aid cuts as a political weapon. Sugg, who worked for David Cameron and knows all too well how slippery Boris Johnson can be, won’t have been surprised he broke his promise to the voters in the Tory manifesto to “maintain” the aid pledge.

Although the aid cut will need new legislation, it’s hard to see how the One Nation caucus of Tory moderates has enough numbers to stop it. Few will forget how the caucus rolled over on the issue of breaking international law in the Internal Market Bill. But as with that bill, the danger (as Tim Montgomerie pointed out) is that “under this PM, Britain is becoming a nation that doesn’t keep its word”.

What really exposed the cynicism of both Johnson and Sunak (he’s meant to be the “nice guy” remember) was the quid-pro-quo of the £4bn aid cut being matched by a £4bn “levelling up fund” aimed at Blue Wall seats. Mansfield MP Ben Bradley tweeted exactly this equation, referring to “areas of the UK that are most in need”.

The fact is that the £10 billion saved by Sunak from partially freezing public sector pay and cutting aid spending was dwarfed by the £394 billion being borrowed to fund all the extra spending. But politically the cuts were about “the feels”. The point was unwittingly underlined by a Treasury “factsheet” on levelling up, that said it was aimed at “helping people feel better off”.

That emphasis on feelings and identity is indeed a reminder that while Dominic Cummings may be gone, his playbook and philosophy remains key to the Johnson government. The “foreign” culture war, the focus on the Blue/Red Wall, the suggestion that the NHS is the only bit of the public services that anyone really likes, Cummingsism lives on.

Yet on Cummings’ other big legacy – Brexit – Sunak was totally, utterly silent. The OBR was however more forthcoming, pointing out that a no-deal outcome would delay a post-Covid economic recovery by a whole year. Even a negotiated free trade agreement will strip 4% from output, the watchdog estimates. But the chancellor, himself a Brexiteer, had no comment.

Speaking of covid, the OBR’s figures today showed the merit of at least one big pause of Sunak’s: his close-run-thing decision to delay ending furlough in October. The extension to spring 2021 will save 300,000 jobs, it found. But ending furlough in March will lead to a 800,000 rise in unemployment, and the new Restart scheme won’t fully kick in next year.

Sunak also paused any decision on continuing the Universal Credit uplift. Though many expect that to come in the New Year at some point (Marcus Rashford is hinting another campaign is on the way), he was not ready to commit to it today, perhaps because that wouldn’t follow the Cummings script.

The biggest pause of all, however, was on the one thing that Tory chancellors are supposed to do: balance the books. The OBR warned he will need to find £27bn of tax increases or spending cuts in coming years, and the IFS said that kind of cash can’t be found without ripping up Tory pledges on income tax, VAT or national insurance.

Add the rising costs of an ageing population and climate change, and the chancellor is facing an almighty challenge. Inflict the pain too early and he risks choking off the recovery, inflict it too late and he gets very close to the next election. But whether he’s in No.11 or No.10 in coming years, Rishi Sunak can’t pause that big decision forever.

Exeter’s Nightingale to begin treating Covid-19 patients

Exeter’s Nightingale Hospital will begin treating coronavirus patients tomorrow.

[Contains a good summary of the history and interesting information on costs – Owl] 

Katie Timms www.devonlive.com

The first COVID-19 patients will be transferred from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital to the 116-bed hospital in Sowton on Thursday.

Construction of the hospital was completed in July and it was originally intended to ‘provide care for patients suffering from symptoms of coronavirus‘.

However, a fall in numbers of cases meant the hospital was not used for its original purpose and had been used for ‘diagnostic testing for a range of conditions’ since July.

An NHS spokesperson has now confirmed that the RD&E is “very busy”, resulting in patients being moved to the Nightingale.

It comes after two more deaths were reported at the RD&E today, bringing the total Covid-19 related deaths at the hospital to 70.

A Nightingale Hospital spokesperson said: “The Nightingale Exeter will accept patients tomorrow (Thursday) who will be transferred from the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (RD&E) which is very busy.

“We would ask that the public continue to observe the Government’s advice on observing the lockdown and social distancing so that we can keep patients safe.”

Responding to the news, Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw said: “Very good news that the Exeter Nightingale hospital is finally opening for patients tomorrow to take pressure off the RD&E hospitals and other local NHS services to cope with unprecedented Covid-19 UK pressures.”

A Freedom of Information request (FoI) in August confirmed that no patients had been treated at the hospital.

Philippa Slinger, chief executive leading the development of Nightingale Exeter, said: “While it remains the case that the Nightingale Exeter isn’t needed for Covid patients, we will be using our CT scanner to help local GPs and hospitals provide people with safer and faster access to tests for a range of conditions, not just cancer.

“The hospital beds are specifically designed for people with Covid needs, and throughout this time the facility will remain ready to quickly revert to our primary purpose and receive patients with Covid, if the number of cases in the region rises significantly.”

It comes as another FoI revealed how much the site in Sowton cost to build.

The exact cost of the hospital – one of seven built across the country at the start of the coronavirus pandemic – was not initially revealed.

An FoI in July showed that the Government spent an estimated £220 million setting up England’s seven Nightingale hospitals, while running costs in April were revealed to be around £15 million.

Details of how much each individual site cost were withheld.

However, another FOI in August saw the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust state that it had cost them £19,807,000 to build the hospital, rising to £22,643,000 when ‘costs incurred by other organisations’ was taken into account.

The ‘monthly stand-by costs’ of the hospital were listed as £409,000.

It was originally planned to be at Westpoint Arena and was scheduled to have 700 beds.

However, the location was changed as plans were scaled down to the current 36,000 sq ft site at a former retail unit.

Sunday saw the UK record another 18,662 coronavirus cases and 398 deaths.

The figure included 141 deaths which were omitted from Saturday’s Government figures in error, and brings the total number of deaths to 55,024.

UK local councils banned from making risky property bets

The British government has banned local authorities from buying up investment property after a near-£7bn spending spree left many councils heavily indebted and at the mercy of a downturn caused by coronavirus.

George Hammond www.ft.com 

Over the past three years local authorities have tapped £6.6bn from central government in low-cost loans to invest in property. That is 14-times the amount accessed over the previous three year period, according to the parliamentary public accounts committee.

The Treasury announced on Wednesday that it was tightening the lending criteria to prevent councils tapping the Public Works Loan Board as a source of cheap finance to fund risky bets.

Before any loans from the PWLB can be signed off, local authorities will now have to “confirm that there is no intention to buy investment assets primarily for yield at any point in the next three years”, according to the government statement.

Councils turned to property investing as a way of trying to generate income without increasing council tax, after deep cuts to local budgets over the past decade.

But the speculative practice has left a number of authorities exposed to the pandemic’s destructive impact on the property market. Since coronavirus broke out in the UK in March, the value of shops, cinemas, bars, leisure centres and offices have plummeted and rent payments have dried up, as retailers and hospitality businesses have been forced to close. 

Earlier this month, Croydon council in south London announced it could not balance its budget after investing in a shopping centre, a hotel and a number of housing developers. The council’s debt load has doubled to £1.8bn in the past three years.

Under the new rules for accessing the PWLB, authorities will also be asked to lay out their planned capital spending and financing plans for the following three years. 

The Treasury said its aim “is to develop a proportionate and equitable way to prevent local authorities from using PWLB loans to buy commercial assets primarily for yield, without impeding their ability to pursue service delivery, housing, and regeneration under the prudential regime as they do now.”

But the Local Government Association, the membership body for local councils, warned that tighter lending criteria might make it hard for authorities to access loans for the delivery of legitimate projects, such as delivering new homes.

“These plans will throw into doubt the future of programmes which help deliver on key government priorities, such as housing and regeneration,” the LGA said.

In an attempt to ensure the PWLB remains an attractive source of finance, the Treasury also said it would cut the interest rate on new loans from the fund, once satisfied those loans were not being used to finance property investments mainly intended to generate a yield. That reversed an October 2019 rate rise, which was designed to dissuade local authorities from borrowing heavily to invest in property.

Open letter to councillors on Winslade Park on “hybrid” application

Planning Applications – 20/1001/MOUT and 20/1003/LBC – Winslade Park, Clyst St Mary

This representation is written as an open letter to all Councillors on the Planning Committee to endeavour to explain the depth of feeling and opinions of residents in Clyst St Mary, who have submitted over 200 objections in total to Application 20/1001/MOUT (including 2 objections from the Devon Branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England), in an effort to assist the Committee in determining their decision on the above applications.

The Applicants have opted to submit a hybrid application, which is very difficult to determine because it combines a full application for the refurbishment and re-development of the redundant offices, which is fundamentally supported by the majority of residents –  but also incorporates inappropriate, outline new residential development proposals that are unacceptable to so many in this small village community. This leaves planners and decision makers with the burdensome task of either refusing acceptable proposals or supporting incongruous, unsuitable elements within the same application. This is considered a manipulation of planning procedures and two separate applications should have been submitted for such a vast developmental masterplan.

This also directly affects the tandem Listed Building Consent Application (20/1003/LBC), which is also supported by residents, to bring back sustainable, commercial uses within the historic assets but cannot proceed without an approval of 20/1001/MOUT.

 Local public trust was lost after the Applicants made major changes to the proposals after the Public Consultation, by adding substantial residential development in Zone A on a local  football ground (after objections – this has now been withdrawn) and by substituting 14 traditional homes with an inappropriate three-storey 59 apartment block in Zone D, opposite the Grade II*Listed Winslade Manor and historic Church (after objections  – this has now been reduced to 40 two/three storey apartments).

The submission of only outline proposals (as part of the hybrid application – 20/1001/MOUT) has also proved limiting and unsatisfactory to enable numerous consultees to advise constructively and the lack of transparency on specific details for the new build fuels anxiety for many in the community that the ultimate growth proposals will be in conflict and incompatible in a rural village community.

Although various mitigating amendments have seen an improvement on the original hybrid application, there are still not sufficient material considerations in favour of the development so as to outweigh the provisions of the Local Development Plan and the adverse impacts of permitting these proposed developments would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.

In essence, the Applicants seek an intensity of commercial use and new residential use (94 units) that together are excessive in terms of demands on infrastructure and services and will impact on the local amenity and character of this village. Such a scale of development is inappropriate in this location especially as there is no local need for housing because around 100 new homes have already been provided in this village in the last few years.

20/1001/MOUT continues to be contrary to policies in and constitutes a departure from the adopted East Devon Local Plan (EDLP) 2013- 2031 (including Strategies 26B and 7 and Policies 5B, TC2 and TC7), the Villages Plan and Built-Up Area Boundaries, the Bishops Clyst Neighbourhood Plan (BCNP) 2014- 2031 and also conflicts with core principles and policies set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, which are all in place for the protection of communities.

The Planning Officer’s own Report, before members, states that this application represents a substantial departure from the Local Development Plan and is contrary to the views of the Ward Member and the Parish Council. The public perception is that copious amounts of public money and substantial time have been expended preparing and adopting development plans that are now being ignored. It appears that greater weight is being afforded to the economic factors within this application, which is proving detrimental to the historic, social and environmental elements, when the National Planning Policy Framework recommends a balance for sustainability purposes.

Zone A is a best and most versatile agricultural green field that was specifically removed by EDDC from the EDLP for development purposes and the proposed 54 new homes constitute a clear departure from the previously-developed brownfield allocation in Strategy 26B of the EDLP.

Zone D proposes excessive quantum, poor design and placement (albeit indicative) in an area of landscape and historic importance. EDDC’s own Historic Conservation Officer stated that the 40-apartment block in Zone D was:-

 ‘totally unacceptable and appears to mimic the modern office development on the site or a student housing block. This should be an innovative well designed scheme being in such close proximity to the listed Manor. This is in the immediate setting of the listed building and still needs considerably more information to be submitted, as previously requested, to assess what will clearly still have an impact on the Manor, its setting and the original historic parkland.’

Even with the amendments of a reduction in height to two storeys at the eastern and western elevations of the Zone D apartments with the visual breaks – this is still an incongruous design, being too high and overbearing, which will overlook residents’ properties in Clyst Valley Road for 6 months of the year, when the screening of the deciduous woodland is lost. The substantial massing and bulk of any apartment block design in this rural and historic setting fails to respect the key characteristics and special qualities of the area. The proposals for Zone D continue to fail good design standards and are contrary to the Bishops Clyst Neighbourhood Plan Design Statement (Policy BiC 05).

The Applicants need to demonstrate how they are complying with the Government’s 10-point National Design Guide and recently published Planning Practice Guidance for ‘beautiful, enduring and successful places’ to improve the quality and character of this area and not detrimentally impact on the historic buildings and landscape.

Parking in Flood Zones B and J – The Applicants admit that these areas are susceptible to flooding but the planner’s opinion that when flooding occurs, the offices would not be in use, therefore the lack of on-site parking would not be problematic, is disputed. It has been indicated that in such emergencies, the single-track Church Lane could be used as an alternative access to the site, which shows that vehicle users would require parking during flooding? The implementation of major flood relief measures is essential to alleviate the high-risk flooding in Zone B (176 parking spaces) and Zone J (395 parking spaces). Fundamentally, the question to be answered is where will 571 vehicles park during the storms that have been experienced in the past few years? In all likelihood in adjoining residential areas!

Traffic – These proposals conflict with Strategic Policy 5B and Policies TC2 and TC7 of the EDLP. PolicyTC7 states that permission will not be granted to new development if the traffic generated by such would be detrimental to the safe and satisfactory operation of the local or wider highway network. There are still major concerns with traffic from 94 more homes, visitors, services and sports etc which together with the employment use will completely consume and overwhelm the capacity of the local highway network at peak times in an area which already suffers with major gridlock. The development site is not well located in terms of sustainable transport and performs poorly in respect of modes of sustainable transport (walking, cycling and public transport) and no provision to improve public transport to directly serve the site has been provided. Furthermore, the Applicants’ submitted traffic reports have been shown to be flawed under independent traffic expert analyses.

Heavy volumes of traffic at peak times on the A3052 and A376 cause daily congestion around the Clyst St Mary roundabout, resulting in complete gridlock which leads to an unacceptable number of vehicles using the nearby residential roads, in particular Winslade Park Avenue, in an attempt to bypass the roundabout.

The traffic issues have become so acute in recent years that the Parish Council appointed a Traffic and Parking Group to investigate and prepare a detailed report which was completed in December 2019 and presented to Devon County Council. A copy of this report is available on Bishops Clyst Parish Council website here http://www.bishopsclyst.btck.co.uk/Highways

The outline elements of this application seek to establish only the general principles of quantum, scale and the nature of the proposed development which will be acceptable to EDDC. However, this lack of transparency leaves huge voids regarding important details of what will eventually be built on this unique site? Low-rise bungalows could morph into houses in Zone A and inappropriate, towering 40 apartment blocks in Zone D could get two additional storeys added under future proposals for permitted development rights legislation. Community facilities offered to residents at the Public Consultation e.g. the swimming pool, indoor sports/fitness and cafes now appear likely to be restricted to office workers and those living on the site and not the Clyst St Mary wider community, although limited use of some facilities by the school (yet to be agreed) will be beneficial. Therefore, many of the amenities will not be of benefit to the existing Clyst St Mary or wider communities?

The Applicants purchased this complicated site with a full awareness of the planning history and environmental limitations and their comments that the whole development will fail and not be financially viable without the residential elements are unconvincing and equate to requesting planners to ignore planning policy.

This is not an urban environment and this exceptional, distinctive, historic landscape deserves a quality approach rather than one displaying quantity to safeguard and truly enhance this small, rural East Devon village. We, therefore, request that this inappropriate hybrid application is REFUSED.

Gaeron Kayley – Chairman

Save Clyst St Mary Residents’ Association