East Devon to have vast Amazon warehouse staffed by ….. well, that depends …..

Many readers will be too young to remember Rast Devon’s plans to develop an ‘inter-modal transport hub’ on the outskirts of Exeter, about which many promised were made and broken. There was even a cursory planning application in 2010:

https://planning.eastdevon.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=neighbourComments&keyVal=LB8Z9LGH03P00

Eventually all or part of the site (Owl is none too sure) was bought up by Sainsbury’s who said they would build, well, something. Another promise broken.

Eventually, part of the site was bought by Lidl, who built a massive warehouse.

Now, it seems Amazon is going to build a second massive warehouse, next to the Lidl one:

https://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/amazon-set-to-take-on-industrial-unit-on-outskirts-of-cranbrook-1-6125408

Many jobs (200 in the article) are promised to the lucky (or unlucky) residents of Cranbrook – which way you look at it depends on what you research about both Amazon’s working conditions and future plans:

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/31/amazon-accused-of-treating-uk-warehouse-staff-like-robots?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/may/20/unions-lobby-investors-to-press-amazon-over-uk-working-conditions?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

The desire of most of these warehousing companies – including Amazon – is NOT to treat their workers like robots (though it is alleged that some of them do) but to REPLACE them by robots.

Progress it’s called.

“Government axes ‘pro-fracking’ paragraph from NPPF following court defeat”

“The government has removed a paragraph from the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) intended to support the extraction of “unconventional hydrocarbons” following a High Court ruling earlier this year which found that a public consultation on the policy was flawed.

Paragraph 209 (a) of the NPPF had stressed the benefits of onshore oil and gas development, including “unconventional hydrocarbons”.

It stated that such developments benefit the security of national energy supplies and support the transition to a low-carbon economy. It went on to give a commitment that policies will be put in place to facilitate on-shore exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons, including fracking for shale gas.

The paragraph was added to the NPPF as part of revisions to the document published last year.

But in March, environmental campaign group Talk Fracking successfully challenged the new paragraph at the High Court.

Judge Mr Justice Dove ruled that the public consultation on the new policy was unfair and unlawful and the government had failed to take into account up-to-date scientific evidence on the climate change impacts of such development.

He ruled that the secretary of state “did not consciously consider the fruits of the consultation exercise in circumstances where he had no interest in examining observations or evidence pertaining to the merits of the policy”.

“This had the effect of excluding from the material presented to the minister any detail of the observations or evidence which bore upon the merits of the policy,” he added.

Yesterday, the housing ministry announced that it had removed the paragraph from the NPPF.

This followed a written ministerial statement in May which stressed that, despite paragraph 209 (a) being removed, the remainder of the NPPF policies “and, in particular, Chapter 17 on ‘Facilitating the Sustainable Use of Minerals’ remain unchanged and extant”.

“For the purposes of the National Planning Policy Framework, hydrocarbon development (including unconventional oil and gas) are considered to be a mineral resource,” it added.

In addition, the statement added that the written ministerial statements of 16 September 2015 on ‘Shale Gas and Oil Policy’ and 17 May 2018 on ‘Planning and Energy Policy’ “also remain unchanged and extant”.

It added: “The written ministerial statements sit alongside the National Planning Policy Framework.

“Planning Practice Guidance is also unaffected by the ruling. This suite of policies and guidance remain material considerations in plan making and decision taking for hydrocarbon development and they should be afforded appropriate weighting as determined by the decision maker.”

Government axes ‘pro-fracking’ paragraph from NPPF following court defeat

Rural broadband still a dream for many – and will remain one

Shelve that dream of running an internet-based company in many parts of rural East Devon.

“The company awarded the publicly-subsidised contract to deliver superfast broadband to thousands of rural homes in Devon and Somerset has been given a deadline to come up with a rescue plan for the programme.

Last September, Gigaclear admitted the project was facing significant delays and was two years behind schedule.

Connecting Devon and Somerset, the organisation in charge of the whole project, stopped paying Gigaclear nine months ago.

It has told the firm it must come up with acceptable plans by the end of July to fulfill the contract.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-48664146

“Unlawful decision by town council to open café led to £234k debt: watchdog”

A warning here for all councils.

“A town council did not give due consideration as to what powers it had to open a café, the decision was based on a poorly prepared business plan and, as a result, the decision to open the establishment was unlawful, the Auditor General for Wales has found.

Since opening the café in 2011, Connah’s Quay Town Council went on to incur a cumulative deficit of more than £234,000.

Finding failures in its decision making, the Auditor General’s report made three clear recommendations for the council to:

undertake a full option appraisal for the operation of Quay Café, incorporating a full financial appraisal of each option;

ensure appropriate advice is received prior to making decisions on the provision of new or novel services;

review the services it provides and ensure that it understands the statutory basis on which it provides those services.

The town council now has one month to consider the issues raised within the report and to make a decision on whether to accept these recommendations.

The Auditor General’s report is issued alongside public interest reports for Glynneath Town Council, Maenclochog Community Council and Cynwyd Community Council.

These reports set out significant failures in governance arrangements and inadequacies in financial management and internal control at all four councils.

The Auditor General for Wales, Adrian Crompton, said: “Given the scale of the deficit incurred at Connah’s Quay Town Council, I believe it is important that the public has a full and proper awareness of the events concerning the council. When it opened the café, the council did not have the statutory authority to do so and its decision was not supported by a clear and coherent business plan. As a result the decision was, in my view, unlawful.

“There are lessons to be learnt not just by this council, but by all town and community councils in Wales. The public interest reports issued today serve to highlight the shortcomings at four different town and community councils. Councils need to be innovative in dealing with community issues, but they must at all times display appropriate risk management and operate within their legal framework.”

Crompton added: “All four councils now have an opportunity to demonstrate that the risk of such governance failures recurring is reduced to a minimum. The public need to be assured that town and community councils have proper governance arrangements in place to manage the activities of the council both financially and administratively.”

https://www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/governance/396-governance-news/40854-unlawful-decision-by-town-council-to-open-cafe-led-to-234k-debt-watchdog

“Research highlights worrying need for hospital emergency beds”

Owl says: you could not make this up.

“Hospitals in England are relying on backup beds to carry out routine care, research has found.

Hospitals in England are relying on backup beds to carry out routine care, research has found.

Reliance on emergency beds suggests NHS trusts are at a “critical stage” and struggling to cope with demand, the British Medical Association has said.

The BMA submitted two waves of Freedom of Information requests to all 134 acute trusts in England in March and May 2019, which revealed the extent to which ‘escalation beds’ were being used routinely.

The first round of data received responses from 105 trusts showing that there were 3,428 escalation beds in operation.

In May, according to responses from 54 trusts, there were 1,637 instances of the these beds being used, though the BMA noted that due to a lower response rate, the real figure is likely to be higher.

The beds are only supposed to be used in emergencies and when there is a spike in demand.

Rob Harwood, BMA consultants committee chair, said: “The use of escalation beds is a sign that trusts are at a critical stage and are unable to cope with demand with their current bed stock.

“Some hospitals are forced to designate their theatre recovery beds as ‘escalation’, resulting in elective surgical operation being cancelled as there is no space for those patients who need immediate care after their surgery.”

Harwood noted that the pressure on capacity can see patients placed on beds in corridors and overcrowding treatment areas.

The BMA said that while escalation beds were traditionally used mainly in the winter, this was no longer the case as the number used in the first week of April was comparable to those in early January. There was an average of 20 escalation beds used per trust in early April and the start of January.

A total of 3,000 extra beds are needed to stop routine use of escalation beds outside of winter, while up to 10,000 are needed to bring occupancy to safe levels, the BMA estimated.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow Health Secretary, said: “The use of escalation beds is yet another sign that hospitals are struggling to cope under continued pressure. We know this is compromising patient care.”

https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2019/06/research-highlights-worrying-need-hospital-emergency-beds

Developers holding Help to Buy purchasers to ransom

Just when you think all the juice had been extracted from buyers, another scandal pops up.

“Contracts for new-build homes and the industry-led code of practice that informs them are heavily weighted in favour of the developer. The Consumer Rights Act does not include new builds, giving buyers less protection than high-street shoppers, and each year hundreds of purchasers are left in limbo when a home is not finished in time. They can’t pull out and reclaim their deposit until building works look likely to exceed what’s known as the “long-stop” date – the final date by which a property can be finished, which is often buried in the small print.

This can be up to six months later than the legal completion date cited in the contracts, and the legal completion date is often months later than the estimates given when contracts are exchanged. Most mortgage offers are only valid for three months.

While purchasers are legally bound to the developer’s timetable for the exchange and completion of contracts and face substantial penalties if they delay, developers allow themselves generous leeway.

A completion date only becomes legally binding when the home is ready and a “completion notice” is served, after which purchasers have seven to 10 days to pay up or else face interest charges on the balance.

Nor are developers obliged to pay compensation for delays, unless the developer exceeds the “long-stop” date. Purchasers who have to proceed with the sale of their old home after exchanging contracts, or to rearrange a mortgage when their offer expires, can be left heavily out of pocket. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/jun/23/new-build-homes-buy-delay-bill-developers?