Storm Aurore, and the Ooops moment for LORP

According to reports, parts of East Devon had some of the heaviest rainfall from storm Aurore with half a month’s rain in just 10 hours.

As reported on Thursday this inundated some construction plant involved in the Lower Otter Restoration Project.

A correspondent has since sent Owl some dramatic photos, accompanied by notes.

 

This shows the scene about a month ago as new water course trenches were dug in the water meadows north of South Farm road.

With what now seems remarkable prescience, lifebuoys were placed along the trenches. One of these can clearly be seen in the centre.

With most of the hedgerows removed, the inundation gives us a glimpse of what the restored estuary will look like on a very high tide. Though after completion of the project fluvial flooding such as this should drain very quickly. This photo was taken 36+ hours after the storm.

This, again, is a photo taken a few weeks ago from the embankments just north of White Bridge looking towards South Farm road and the site of the old tip. Very much work in progress.

A similar view taken on Friday.

Behind the trucks are more inundated plant and equipment.

This is the view of South Farm road from White Bridge with a lot of floating detritus. The red and white objects are the barriers once used to fence off the road from the working areas.

This is the scene from the Lime Kiln car park looking down on the cricket pavilion. The water enclosed by the embankments reached such a depth that it overtopped them in many places to flow into the Otter. By Friday the level was only about 18 ins or so lower.

Day of Judgement

No sooner had Simon Jupp and Neil Parish voted to allow water companies to continue discharging sewage then they did just that!

Do not swim at these 14 Devon beaches, including Exmouth and Budleigh

Ami Wyllie www.devonlive.com

Sewage has been emptied into the water at over a dozen popular swimming spots along the Devon coastline.

Environmental charity, Surfers’ Against Sewage, have issued ‘do not swim’ warnings at all 14 beaches affected.

Most of the incidents are due to deliberate discharges after sewers overflowed in Wednesday night’s heavy rain that caused widespread flooding across the county….

Just HOW badly has the Wolverhampton Covid lab testing blunder affected Britain’s outbreak?

A testing blunder at a disgraced Covid laboratory in the South West of England led to thousands of avoidable infections and may trigger a fresh wave in the region, experts warned today. 

Connor Boyd, John Ely Senior www.dailymail.co.uk 

Up to 43,000 infected people were incorrectly told their PCR results were negative due to ‘technical issues’ at a private facility run by Immensa Health Clinic in Wolverhampton, where workers were filmed playing football and wrestling on shift. 

The affected patients, mostly concentrated in the South West, were given the false negatives between September 8 and October 12, allowing the virus to continue spreading unrestricted within the region.

According to data from the Government’s Covid dashboard, case rates in the South West have doubled in recent days after the error was spotted to reach a record-high. Five of the 10 worst-hit areas in England are now in the region. 

Dr Rupert Beale, an eminent virologist at the Francis Crick Institute in London, described the scandal as the ‘worst f***-up this year by some distance’.

Professor Paul Hunter, an epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline he believed the faulty test results were ‘having an impact’ on case rates and estimated the error led to thousands of avoidable infections. 

A total of 32,815 new cases of coronavirus were recorded in the South West in the seven days to October 15 — the equivalent of 579.9 per 100,000 people. This is up from 16,910 cases, or 298.8 in the previous seven days.

Bath and North East Somerset is now the Covid capital of England, with cases almost tripling in that time to reach levels twice as high as seen during the darkest spell of the second wave in January. It’s recording 877.5 infections per 100,000 people now, compared to 260.7 the week prior……

More details online

At this stage in the pandemic, a positive lateral flow test, followed by a negative PCR, still means a reasonable chance of Covid-19 – Analysis by David Spiegelhalter

Will half-term act as an infection “circuit breaker” within the population of school children, or will we get “seeding” into the wider community if many are brought down to second homes in Devon and Cornwall? – Owl

‘Self-obsessed and not bright’: what a mayor thinks of his councillors

A local council is beset by self-obsessed, selfish and not-very-bright councillors, says the town’s own mayor.

No not in East Devon but Middlesbrough! – Owl

Kevin Rawlinson www.theguardian.com 

Andy Preston, the mayor of Middlesbrough, intervened after complaints lodged by councillors against their colleagues this year neared the combined total for the previous two years.

“For way too long, politics in Middlesbrough has been a disgrace. There are some brilliant councillors here but there are also way too many self-obsessed, selfish and frankly not very bright people who seek to cause trouble for the good of their own self-promotion,” he said.

There have been 12 complaints from council members in roughly the first nine months of 2021, compared with four in 2020 and nine in 2019.

According to Teesside Live, Preston said: “Politics in Middlesbrough features a significant number of people who seek to cause trouble for others by making official complaints about them citing all sorts of false allegations, from bullying to pretty much anything they can dream up.

“What the public don’t necessarily realise is that every single one of those complaints costs the tax-paying people of Middlesbrough thousands of pounds in council time and resources. Some unscrupulous councillors are racking up council bills that amount to thousands simply to cause political trouble.

He continued: “The worst and increasingly frequent example I’ve seen is councillors trying to bully others by falsely alleging they themselves have been bullied. I want to see a culture change in Middlesbrough council that will end this outrageous waste of time and money and, for once, get all councillors focused on putting Middlesbrough first.”

Preston, who stood as an independent, has been at odds with councillors in recent months and even encouraged those who do not like his style of leadership to make official complaints against him.

Several councillors, including his deputy, resigned in May after telling him they had “collectively agreed that we can no longer support you … due to your consistent poor conduct and behaviour.”

The BBC reported that they accused Preston of incurring costs of £600,000 without official senior approval and of appointing and paying a friend without following required procedures.

The broadcaster quoted Preston as saying the allegations were unfounded and had been made by people “who don’t like the fact that I’m upsetting the applecart”.

He said: “I do things differently, I challenge the status quo and I clearly upset a few people along the way who’d like things to stay just how they are. I won’t stop. I won’t resign. I’ll keep doing what’s best for Middlesbrough. Ultimately, if anyone believes I’ve done wrong, they’d be better advised going through the appropriate channels and put in an official complaint to the council.”

Michael Gove ‘walks out’ of Tory fundraiser amid property developer ‘cash for access’ row…

THE Conservatives were hit by a fresh sleaze row tonight over claims party chiefs offered dinner with the Housing Secretary to property developers for £4,000.

Harry Cole www.thesun.co.uk

In a furious behind the scenes dust up, The Sun can reveal Michael Gove “point blank refused” to be sat with any builders and later walked out of the lavish fundraising bash early.

Tory HQ had advertised the 4 October party conference dinner with an offer for paying customers “to place a preference of senior minister to host your table” of 10 guests.

But The Sun and Sky News have been told a number of Cabinet ministers were angered that the £400-a-head dinner attempted to seat them near paying punters with interests directly involving their ministerial briefs.

A senior minister said: “Nobody really wants to do these dinners because there is always a risk of conflict of interest but this one was a joke.”

It was claimed requests for Mr Gove to dine with property firm executives sparked a furious backlash from the Cabinet big beast who sources say “point blank refused to come” if he was sat with any of them.

Tonight a CCHQ spokesman insisted: “At no stage in the preparation for this event did CCHQ plan to sit Mr Gove with any property developers. Any claims to the contrary are entirely false.”

A spokesman for Mr Gove declined to comment.

‘FACE LIKE THUNDER’

But eyewitnesses say the top Tory left the event after an hour “with a face like thunder”.

A senior Tory said: “Michael was trying to be whiter than white on this stuff and as he’s in charge of billions of potential developments, he had made clear he would not sit with developers and left after an hour.”

They branded the event “a farce” and said the party’s fundraising operation “needed a total reality check.”

The senior insider pointed the finger of blame at party co-chairman Ben Elliott who is in charge of raising party funds, but has been at the centre of a number of fundraising rows in recent months.

The source said: “They really don’t help themselves with situations like this. Ben Elliott needs to answer for this stuff.”

‘SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER’

Mr Gove’s predecessor Robert Jenrick was marred by a major sleaze affair after sitting next to billionaire developer and discussing a big housing project.

But Labour said the Conservatives had clearly failed to learn their lessons from that scandal.

Labour’s Steve Reed hit out: “Despite the outrage caused by the former Housing Secretary doing favours for a wealthy developer donor, Ben Elliot and his Conservative colleagues clearly think control of the planning system can be sold to the highest bidder.” 

The Tories hit back: “It will not come as news that the Conservative Party, like all major political parties, holds a business event at its annual conference.

“For this event, as with others organised by the party, CCHQ undertook robust due diligence to guard against any conflicts of interest.”

Mixed messages as Covid surges

But not on Tory exceptionalism.

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said MPs should be “setting an example” for the public by wearing masks.

But:

Jacob Rees-Mogg has said Conservative MPs do not need to wear face masks in the Commons chamber because they know each other and have a “convivial fraternal spirit”.

Anyone spotted Simon Jupp on one of his pub crawls recently?

Is DCC about to make the flood situation in the Otter Valley worse?

With yesterday’s intense rainfall in East Devon causing flooding in the Axe and Otter valleys it would seem appropriate to ask what is happening to the Straightgate Farm quarry application.

Readers will recall that DCC considered an application for extraction of up to 1.5 million tonnes of raised sand and gravel in 2017, and requested further information with a consultation expiry date of 16/05/21.

Various correspondents tell Owl that Ottery Council currently have absolutely no idea what is going on.

One of the key issue is the permanent destruction of three important watercourses (that feed hugely sensitive bogs, ancient woodland and mediaeval fishponds).

These are the features in our ecosystem which play an essential role in flood alleviation.

Remember the fatalistic words of John Hart regarding flooding (Feb 2020): “self-help is going to be the order of the day.”

This “your’re on your own” response will never solve the climate emergency, society need leadership.

Is DCC about to make matters worse?

The Tories just voted AGAINST an amendment to stop water companies dumping RAW SEWAGE into rivers

Including Simon Jupp and Neil Parish

Tom D. Rogers evolvepolitics.com 

Boris Johnson’s Conservative government have succeeded in voting down an amendment designed to stop private water companies from dumping raw sewage into the UK’s waterways.

The vote came as MPs were debating the final stages of the Environment Bill in Parliament yesterday evening.

Lords Amendment 45 to the Environment Bill would have placed a legal duty on water companies in England and Wales “to make improvements to their sewerage systems and demonstrate progressive reductions in the harm caused by discharges of untreated sewage.

In 2020, water companies dumped raw sewage into the UK’s rivers and coastal waters more than 400,000 times.

This is despite the UK – and all other countries – being legally obligated to treat sewage before it is released into waterways.

The majority of dumping by private water companies is happening via storm overflow pipes which are only supposed to be used to relieve pressure on the sewage system during extreme weather events such as torrential rain.

Treating raw sewage costs money – and many have speculated that privatised water companies are simply dumping it into our waterways in order to make bigger profits.

Despite the horrendous environmental impact of the disgusting practice, shortly before the vote, the Conservative Environment Secretary George Eustace recommended to his fellow MPs that they should reject it.

And, owing largely to the government’s 80 seat majority, the amendment was indeed defeated – by a margin of 268 MPs to 204.

You can see how your MP voted on the amendment here.

And, just 12 hours after Johnson’s government voted to protect the disgraceful polluting actions of private water companies, they were back at it – with Southern Water exposed dumping huge amounts of raw sewage into the UK’s waterways and coastlines yet again:

Hugo Tagholm, a spokesperson for the Surfers Against Sewage organisation, said the Tories’ opposition to the amendment “beggars belief”, stating:

“Why wouldn’t they want water companies to have a legal obligation not to pollute our rivers and ocean with sewage, for example? It beggars belief and hardly shows a commitment to be the greenest government ever. It’s time for more ambitious thinking and law that builds protected nature back into public ownership rather than leaving it to the ravages of shareholder interests.”

Speaking about the practice last year, the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, Sir James Bevan, said his organisation was working with water companies to try and reduce the practice, stating:

“Storm overflows are designed to discharge sewage to rivers or the sea at times of heavy rainfall to prevent it backing up into homes and streets. But higher population and climate change means they will discharge more often.

“The Environment Agency is working actively with the water companies to ensure overflows are properly controlled and the harm they do to the environment stopped. Increased monitoring and reporting of storm overflows is part of the solution. It means everyone can see exactly what is happening, and will help drive the improvements and future investment that we all want to see, with £1.1bn of investment already planned for the next four years.”

However, given that the privatised system means water companies exist purely to make profit for their shareholders (rather than in the public interest under a nationalised system), it is extremely unlikely they will be stopping the practice anytime soon – unless new laws are brought in to force them.

Despite promising to make Britain the “cleanest, greenest country on Earth”, Boris Johnson and his Conservative government have once again shown exactly where their priorities lie – not with the people, but with those seeking profit no matter how disgusting their actions.

Recent polls have found that almost two thirds of Brits think water should be brought back under democratic control.

And, given the profit-seeking motives and pollutive actions of water companies, that figure is surely only going to rise going into the future.

News: Lower Otter Restoration Project

Statement following flooding at project site 

www.lowerotterrestorationproject.co.uk

October 21, 2021: Following overnight flooding at the Lower Otter Restoration Project site, the Environment Agency has said:

“The Lower Otter Restoration Project is a partnership project seeking to adapt the downstream part of the River Otter in the face of rapidly changing climate, by connecting the Lower River Otter to its historic floodplain and creating intertidal habitat. This flooding is an example of what will happen increasingly as a result of climate change. It is an entirely natural phenomenon and has not been caused or exacerbated by project works.

“Flood waters from the River Otter rose sharply shortly after midnight peaking at 3:30am. This inundated some construction plant. We are working with our contractor, Kier, to understand why this was not moved ahead of the flooding. Plant will be moved as soon as is possible.

“Currently, flood waters resulting from heavy rainfall are unable to drain quickly in the valley due to the presence of an embankment that traps the water behind it. One of the benefits of the Lower Otter Restoration Project is that, once completed, the River Otter will be reconnected to its floodplain and the sea resulting in improved drainage.

“Once the project is in place, floods of this level will no longer sever access along the South Farm Road, flood the cricket club or threaten a former tip site to the same degree. Areas of footpath will also be raised above existing levels.

“The impact of this flooding highlights the need to adapt to climate change by moving human infrastructure out of the floodplain and make what remains more resilient to flooding. This is a key aim of the Lower Otter Restoration Project.”

Another massive student flats plan for Exeter

Students, especially international ones, have become big business. According to one analysis, international students in the UK contribute £28.8 billion to the country’s coffers annually. 

Providing student accommodation has also become big business as is becoming very evident when walking or driving around Exeter city centre. Rents can be as high as £265/week in Bath or £149/week in Southampton. 

The article below also introduces the concept of Co-living accommodation. According to the applicant: Co-living accommodation represents a rapidly emerging residential sector and provides an alternative affordable housing solution for young professionals and key workers as they either transition from student accommodation, and/or as a stepping stone to more traditional modes of residential accommodation.

Owl is not convinced.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

Massive student flats plans have been submitted for Exeter’s former police station and magistrates’ court site.

Plans would see more than 1000 bed spaces created as part of the major new redevelopment scheme submitted this week for Heavitree Road.

The plans from Nixon Homes & Student Roost, would see the demolition of the existing derelict buildings, to be replaced by a dedicated Purpose Built Student Accommodation building and a separate residential communal living accommodation (Co-living) building, along with associated amenity and ancillary spaces.

The development would be right next to the 134 co-living studios being built in Gladstone Road on the site of the former ambulance station, and is right opposite the St Luke’s campus of the University of Exeter.

Developers behind the plans say that the ‘exciting proposals’ are committed to achieving an exemplary development on this special site on a key route into Exeter.

The student accommodation would be arranged around two landscaped courtyard spaces, providing an external amenity area for the students. The five storey building would consist of 689 rooms – approximately 30 per cent studios and 70 per cent shared accommodation. There would be 689 rooms and the entrance is located in a prominent position on Heavitree Road at the junction with Gladstone Road and opposite St Luke’s Campus.

Artist impression of the proposed student flats and co-living development for the former Magistrates’ Court and police station site in Exeter

The Co-living accommodation would provide 352 rooms across a range of high quality standard, premium and wheelchair accessible studios across a six storey building.

Co-living accommodation represents a rapidly emerging residential sector and provides an alternative affordable housing solution for young professionals and key workers as they either transition from student accommodation, and/or as a stepping stone to more traditional modes of residential accommodation, the statement with the application says.

A statement with the application adds: “The student accommodation and Co-living buildings have been designed to create a vibrant community, with a dedicated communal amenity provision, promoting social interaction, well-being and activation.

“The main entrances to both buildings lead into an amenity hub space at ground floor, creating an impactful first impression, and this connects to a further amenity provision at lower ground level, allowing for double height spaces, and access to the communal courtyard garden. The provision of amenity space has been designed in line with best practice in terms of quantum and quality.

“The site benefits from sustainable transport links via bus, cycling and walking to the city centre, amenities and to the University of Exeter – including St Luke’s Campus directly opposite. Cycling is encouraged as a sustainable mode of transport and a dedicated storage provision has been provided for each use. The proposed masterplan has also been designed to allow for the potential plans to introduce a bus lane along Heavitree Road.”

Artist impression of the proposed student flats and co-living development for the former Magistrates' Court and police station site in Exeter

Artist impression of the proposed student flats and co-living development for the former Magistrates’ Court and police station site in Exeter

The statement continues: “This is a suitable location adjacent to St Luke’s campus for providing student residential accommodation, the new buildings positively address the distinctive topography of the area, and enhance the connection between street and buildings to encourage an active frontage and contribute to a higher quality, safer and more comfortable public realm around and through the site.

“It will enhance the pedestrian environment by removing vehicles from the site perimeter and the site accessibility for a pedestrian focused low car use development will encourage use of more sustainable modes of transport.”

It concludes: “The proposals look to deliver on the aspirations and opportunities that exist for the long-term investment and betterment of this site. The student accommodation provides 689 rooms and has been developed with award winning student accommodation provider Student Roost, to offer high quality, diverse living accommodation to suit different student needs, and to promote positive mental health and well-being. The Co-living accommodation provides 352 rooms across a range of high quality standard, premium and wheelchair accessible studios.

“The proposals will demand a sustainable approach to the design, construction and operation of the development, with an additional focus on occupant well-being, and the scheme features high quality contemporary architecture rooted in the site’s context.

“The team behind these exciting proposals are committed to achieving an exemplary development on this special site on a key route into Exeter.”

Artist impression of the proposed student flats and co-living development for the former Magistrates’ Court and police station site in Exeter

The magistrates’ court closed in 2020, with cases now being held at the Exeter Crown Court building instead, while the police station building also closed early in 2020, with officers now based at the new station at Middlemoor.

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