Exeter now fifth in top ten flooding hotspots

Where in the UK is most prone to flooding

Following Storm Christoph last week and with flood warnings in place in many parts of the country, MoneySuperMarket reveals the UK’s flooding hotspots, with Hull the worst impacted city for the fourth year running.

Neil Shaw www.hulldailymail.co.uk

The price comparison website analysed a year’s worth of home insurance quotes to see how many homes have experienced flooding.

The research finds that homeowners in Hull are most impacted, with 5.9% of quotes declaring previous experience of flooding. This is well above the national average of 0.7 per cent – but down slightly on last year’s figure of 6.8%. The port city in East Yorkshire is particularly at risk to flooding because 90% of it sits beneath the high tide line.

Carlisle (3.1%) and Lancaster (2.6%) are the next most flood-prone cities, followed by Llandudno (1.9%) and Exeter (1.8%). The Devon city is one of two cities making its first appearance in the top ten – the other is Hereford which has a flooding rate of 1.4%.

Hereford has risen significantly in the table from 38 th position in 2018, to 25 th position in 2019, to 10 th in 2020 – a jump which is likely explained by last year’s Storm Dennis which badly impacted the city and the surrounding area.

Crewe (0.2%) and Luton (0.1%) are the areas in the UK that are least likely to experience flooding.

The UK’s 10 Flooding Hotspots

Location2020 rank% home flooded 20202019 rank% home flooded – 20192018 rank% homes flooded – 2018
Hull15.916.817.0
Carlisle23.123.223.2
Lancaster32.632.432.2
Llandudno41.942.052.1
Exeter51.8141.2121.2
Perth61.761.641.4
Worcester71.651.861.8
Gloucester81.561.671.6
Llandrindod Wells91.481.5171.1
Hereford101.4250.9380.7

The research also sheds light on the impact that flooding can have on home insurance premiums, with a flooding claim adding £72 on average to premiums, while quotes are £120 higher on average when the applicant declares that flooding has previously occurred to the property.

Emma Garland, data expert at MoneySuperMarket, said: “Storm Christoph was an unwanted reminder that flooding affects tens of thousands of Britons every year, with people in Hull bearing the brunt more than any others.

“If you live in a flood risk area, be proactive and protect your possessions by taking preventative measures like installing flood resistant doors and windows.

“Of course, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got the right home and contents insurance policy. Use the MoneySuperMarket home insurance comparison tool and browse a list of policies. People that live in flood risk areas can result end up paying higher home and contents insurance premiums but it’s possible to keep these costs down. If you shop around it’s possible to save up to £108 on your policy.

“And you should also look into Flood Re – a joint initiative between the Government and insurers which aims to make flood cover more affordable for homeowners living in areas that are flood risks.”

Exmouth Queen’s Drive car park to become fitness area

“We are where we are and the summer will be difficult…..” (Cllr. Chris Wright)

Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

A former Exmouth seafront car park is to be grassed over and turned into an outdoor fitness area as an attraction for 2021 – whilst £200,000 is being set aside to employ two people for two years to drive forward projects in Exmouth – if plans get final council approval.

The temporary car park was built in 2019 for about 50 new car parking spaces was provided on land off Queen’s Drive previously partially used for the Railway Carriage Café.

East Devon councillors had previously said it should return to leisure use after planning permission ran out last year. Now they have backed plans for low-key fitness uses there.

The Exmouth Queen’s Drive delivery group also agreed that food and beverage traders that are part of the Queen’s Drive Space – the replacement for the former fun park – should be given the opportunity to return this year because they were affected by last year’s covid restrictions.

The existing attractions, including the dinosaur-themed play park, will also stay this summer. Councillors also backed a proposal to enable organisations to deliver events rather than the council manage them.

Tim Child, service lead for place, assets and commercialisation, said: “In terms of temporary uses for the car park land, for next season or two, the favoured uses related to low key fitness type uses. The rationale for this being that it would fit well with the council’s health and wellbeing agenda and is consistent with themes in the council plan.

“It supports covid recovery for small businesses and would provide much needed wellbeing opportunities for the community, would not compete with businesses in the vicinity, contributes to the tourism agenda and Exmouth as a destination in providing additional activities, would provide a range of activities across the age bands, and we know through the Events Team that there’s ample demand.”

He said that while the costs of laying to grass and any fencing were ‘not insignificant’, around £30,000 to £40,000, the costs will be less compared to those that would be incurred for many other types of surfaces and uses.

Cllr Joe Whibley said that progressing with the proposal would be a statement of intent of returning it to what it was meant to be in community lands. He said: “People might have the perception that we are not thinking big and may have the opportunity to do more, but given the initial use, it is turning the paved area green as we are investing in green space. It is a real statement of intent of what the space was originally meant to be, community land.”

Independent Cllr Chris Wright, whose family ran the fun park for decades, added: “It is a difficult situation for anyone in the leisure businesses to know what will happen, and if we grass it, in becomes an informal open space, even if we don’t manage it. The area to the rear is aimed more at the community and when people get to the site for an event. The piece at the front aimed at passers-by. We are where we are and the summer will be difficult, but now is the time to get on with it.”

While phase 1 of the overall Queen’s Drive project – the realignment of the road and the car park – has been completed, and phase 2 – the new watersports centre – is on the verge of completion and should be fully open soon, the long-term use of final phase of the regeneration remains unclear.

Planning permission for the redevelopment of a 3.6-hectare swathe of Queen’s Drive has been granted, and has been implemented, the council say, with the realignment of the road, but the attractions currently on the Queen’s Drive space – the replacement for the former Fun Park – only have planning permission to stay on the site until March 2022, with no further extension allowed under planning law likely.

The group also recommended to cabinet that up to £200,000 be made available from the Business Rates Pilot Reserve for a development surveyor and an engagement / project officer for two years, dedicated to moving projects forward.

Further discussions around the long term use for the Queen’s Drive Space will be debated by the group later this year.

Local elections cannot be held safely in May | Letter

www.theguardian.com

Few involved in running elections believe that those scheduled for May can be held safely. No guidance has been received from the government on any way in which they could be (Make May elections in England more Covid-safe, Labour urges, 17 January).

As an election agent, I see no way at present in which I could ensure the safety of canvassers, or of myself. Even delivering leaflets – there is no Freepost in local elections – will be virtually impossible; just delivering nomination papers to the returning officer will be accompanied by some risk. Even if it could all be done electronically, we know that not all voters can register for a postal vote or could exercise it via their computers – because they don’t all have computers or smartphones, or any desire to acquire them.

The government’s dithering on this issue may be typical of Boris Johnson’s haphazard approach to decision-making in general, but it is unacceptable to those charged with making the system work.

The government should decide now that the elections should be postponed to the autumn or, if necessary, even later.

Robert Jones

(Labour constituency party secretary), Ventnor, Isle of Wight

Conservative Party ‘illegally collected ethnicity data on 10 million voters’

The Conservative Party acted illegally by collecting ethnicity data on millions of people, the Information Commissioner has told MPs.  

www.independent.co.uk 

Elizabeth Denham said the information was deleted after her office intervened.  

But she told members of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee: “They did not have the legal basis to collect it … it was illegal to collect.”  

Before the 2019 general election the party purchased data that estimated a person’s county of origin, ethnic origin and religion based on their first and last name.  

This was applied to the records of 10 million voters.  

Ms Denham said that after the release of her office’s findings last November the data was deleted.  

If it had not been, her office would have ordered it to be destroyed, she added.  

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Pressed on the issue by SNP MP John Nicolson, Ms Denham said: “Religion and ethnicity are both – like health information – special category data that requires a higher standard for a legal basis to collect.

’So again, ethnicity is not an acceptable collection of data, there isn’t a legal basis that allows for the collection of that data.”

Mr Nicolson later said: “The ethnic and religious profiling of voters by the Tories was always morally and ethically abhorrent. We now know from the Information Commissioner that it was illegal.”

Jim Killock, executive director of campaigning organisation Open Rights Group, said: “The Conservative Party’s racial profiling of voters was illegal. 

’Elizabeth Denham finally confirmed the unlawful nature of this profiling by the Conservative Party under pressure from MPs on the DCMS committee.

“Yet the ICO still has not explained what parties can and cannot do. Mass profiling of voters continues, even if this data has been removed. The ICO needs to act stop unlawful profiling practices. That’s their job.”  

Mr Nicolson also said he planned to raise a point of order in the Commons, complaining that culture minister John Whittingdale had specifically told him the party had not broken the law.

During her appearance before the committee, Ms Denham also revealed she does not use Facebook or WhatsApp and said she understood concerns about the trustworthiness of both platforms.

Ms Denham said she did use Signal, one of the apps that has seen a surge in popularity following a recent privacy announcement by WhatsApp, for “personal communications”.

“What’s really interesting about the WhatsApp announcement in ongoing sharing with Facebook is how many users voted with their virtual feet and left the platform to take up membership with Telegram or Signal which are end-to-end encrypted,” she said.

“I think it’s a bigger issue of trust. Users expect companies to maintain their trust and not to suddenly change the contract that they have with the users and I think it’s an example of users being concerned about the trustworthiness and the sustainability of the promises that are made to users,” she added.  

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “The Conservative Party complies with all prevailing electoral, data protection and electronic marketing legislation.

 “The party has assisted the Information Commissioner in its review of political parties’ practices, and have taken on board the constructive feedback from the review.”

Will Boris Johnson Come To Regret His ‘Sorry, Not Sorry’ Apology For 100,000 Deaths?

You know things are bad when Boris Johnson says the word ‘alas’. You know they’re truly awful when he doesn’t. And as the prime minister used his No.10 press briefing to mark the passing of 100,000 deaths from Covid, there was no disguising the magnitude of the moment or the scale of the loss.

Paul Waugh www.huffingtonpost.co.uk 

You know things are bad when Boris Johnson says the word ‘alas’. You know they’re truly awful when he doesn’t. And as the prime minister used his No.10 press briefing to mark the passing of 100,000 deaths from Covid, there was no disguising the magnitude of the moment or the scale of the loss.

The tone was suitably sombre as he (finally) pledged some form of national remembrance of those who had died, as well as recognition of all the acts of kindness, large and small, that have characterised the past year.

Yet even though Johnson began his address with the words “I’m sorry to have to tell you…”, it felt like he was a traffic policeman imparting bad news to a family, rather than the man at the wheel when the car crashed. Tellingly, the word “responsibility” wasn’t in the script.

He did remember to utter the R-word in answer a question from the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, and even tried to expand on his apology. “I think on this day I should just really repeat that I am deeply sorry for every life that has been lost,” he said, “and of course as I was prime minister, I take full responsibility for everything that the government has done.”

Some will have seen that as authentic and statesmanlike. Others may think condolences without contrition, real contrition, are empty words. Talk of taking responsibility can be cheap, but genuine remorse means changing your behaviour and, if you run a nation, changing your policy to prevent further harm.

In his opening speech, he said “we will make sure that we learn the lessons and reflect and prepare”. The problem is that sadly we’ve been here before. Last July, when he was talking stock of his first full year in office as 45,000 deaths were recorded, Johnson said “there will be plenty of opportunities to learn the lessons of what happened”.

By November, there were 50,000 deaths. And just 79 days later we now have another 50,000. The bereaved may be forgiven for thinking he’d learned nothing when he failed to heed scientists’ warnings to lockdown last September, and again just before Christmas. Many believe his decision to come out of the November lockdown was a huge error, compounded by a delay until January to reimpose it.

In July, Johnson said “what people really want to focus on now is what are we doing to prepare for the next phase” and in the same breath hailed test and trace. While testing capacity was indeed grown to cope with the ‘next phase’, the return of schools took the system by surprise and contact tracing and testing turnaround targets were repeatedly missed.

Back in the summer, the PM even promised an independent inquiry, but has since given no clue to what form it will take. And again on Wednesday, it was telling that he linked “lessons learned” with some vague point in the future, suggesting they would come once the country was vaccinated and “on a path to recovery”.

What most jarred with talk of taking responsibility came when Johnson said in the press conference “we did everything we could to minimise suffering and minimise the loss of life”. That had echoes of his claims during the first wave of deaths that he had taken the “right decisions at the right time”. It was almost as if we were back to square one and there were no lessons to learn at all.

Prof Neil Ferguson has at least admitted he and other advisers should have recommended earlier lockdown at the start, and that even a week’s difference would have saved possibly 20,000 lives. He has now told Radio 4 “we did just let the autumn wave get to far, far too high infection levels..a lot of the deaths we’ve seen in the last four or five months could have been avoided”.

The fact is that for Ferguson, chief scientist Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Chris Whitty, learning lessons comes as second nature. Responding to test outcomes and changing ideas as you go along is part of their DNA. They don’t need to wait for a public inquiry, they admit errors and adapt in real time. If only more politicians could do the same.‌

Whitty said “we have learned, are learning and will learn about this”, referring to mask wearing, asymptomatic transmission and new treatments. Asked about the Sage September advice on a circuit breaker he said “it’s extremely clear what the evidence on that is”, while adding that the new Kent variant changed the path of the pandemic significantly.

When NHS chief Simon Stevens was asked whether there was too much household mixing in December (a reference to the PM failure to lockdown before Christmas), he was admirably frank: “The facts as we see it in the health service are that on Christmas Day we had 18,000 coronavirus positive patients, and now we’ve got just under 33,000.”‌

It was notable to see the contrast between Stevens, who brutally distanced the NHS from ‘NHS Test and Trace’ in evidence to MPs earlier, and Johnson, who hailed Dido Harding’s service as a “colossal” operation doing “amazing work” in contacting Covid cases. Indeed, some may argue that the stunning success of the vaccination programme (6.9m jabs so far) underlines what happens when you put the NHS in charge of a delivery project, rather than outsourcing it.

Johnson’s strangest comment came at the end of the briefing when he said “our readiness for a future pandemic is really colossal by comparison” with last spring. How can he say that when he wasn’t even ready for the third wave of the current pandemic last month? “He’ll never change,” was how one senior Tory put it to me last year, decrying the PM’s inveterate habit of leaving problems to fester until the last minute and then panicking his response.

There was even a hint of the columnist-as-premier when Johnson said it would “exhaust the thesaurus of misery” to describe the 100,000 death toll that the UK has suffered. That reminded me of when he was once grilled as foreign secretary for his racist remarks about Barack Obama, saying there was such “a rich thesaurus now of things that I have said” that had been misunderstood that it would need “a global itinerary of apology to all concerned”.

The ‘sorry, not sorry’ apology on Tuesday was in that sense typical. But Johnson may ultimately be judged not by his thesaurus, but by his actions. And unlike our PM, that 100,000 figure does not lie. Last April, he claimed “there will be many people looking now at our apparent success”. This January, there are many people looking at our actual failure.

Civic Voice strongly objects to Government consultation to allow inappropriate changes to High St

Civic Voice – the national charity for the civic movement with 75,000 members – has submitted a consultation response urging the Government to think harder about the plans it has to allow developers to change buildings on our high streets without requiring full planning permission. 

Ian Harvey, Executive Director of Civic Voice, said:

“Civic Voice strongly objects to the proposal in principle because of the harm that it could do to our high streets, town and city centres; the creation of poor-quality homes; and the loss of historic character of our conservation areas. We accept that our high streets, town and city centres are currently facing acute challenges and they will need to adjust and, in some cases, contract in response to changes in shopping and leisure habits. However, Civic Voice believes this needs to be done in a planned and curated way by local communities through their local planning policies, not by allowing the market to decide in a random and potentially counterproductive manner”.

The proposals introduced in the consultation ‘Planning Reform – Supporting housing delivery and public services infrastructure’ would allow the change of use from any use to residential use with the need for a full planning application.

Harvey finished by saying: “The danger with deregulation is that it can often lead to unscrupulous developers/ landowners exploiting loopholes, as we have seen with previous widening of PDR, which the Government’s own commissioned report concluded that permitted development rights create “worse-quality residential environments. We are also extremely concerned that unlike some of the recent changes to permitted development, this consultation proposes that the new right would apply in conservation areas. We cannot support this policy and believe the ‘protected status’ that is being offered to conservation areas in the Planning White Paper is meaningless, if the suggestions in this consultation goes ahead”.

Civic Voice key concerns – see here for the full consultation response.

New permitted development right to change use from Commercial, Business and Service (Class E) to residential (C3)

 Civic Voice and its members are acutely aware of the challenges facing the high street, but we question claims that these proposals will breathe new life into our high streets, town, and city centres. We fear further deregulation of planning through permitted development will prevent the proactive and positive management that our centres desperately need and simply enable change of use to more profitable uses, often residential, rather than enabling a greater range of uses to diversify and support our high streets and centres. In particular, we are concerned that the proposals to widen permitted development could:

 • Be harmful to to the diversity of our high streets, town, and city centres.

• Enable the creation of poor quality homes and living environments.

• Lead to the loss of historic character within our conservation areas through inappropriate development and unsympathetic alterations.

For these reasons Civic Voice cannot support this policy and we have encouraged all Civic Societies to respond to this consultation.

New public service application process

 We also strongly object to the proposed reduction in the statutory public consultation period for major public service infrastructure development to 14 days. Whilst an efficient and effective process is important to deliver critical infrastructure, we do not believe reducing the consultation period to 2 weeks is the right way to achieve this.

We understand the thinking behind the proposal and welcome greater emphasis on pre-application engagement in the consultation. However, this is guidance and Civic Voice’s experience is that effective pre-application engagement with communities is not happening in practice. We cannot support the change to the statutory consultation period unless there are standards for effective, genuine, and meaningful engagement with the local community on major developments.

Honiton’s new town clerk ‘will try to make a difference’

Let’s hope this is not “mission impossible” – Owl

Tim Dixon www.midweekherald.co.uk

Honiton has a new town clerk.

He is Stephen Hill and he started in the role on January 18.

Mr Hill said this week: “I am very pleased to be working for Honiton Town Council supporting Honiton’s local community. It will be an exciting role with plenty of opportunities and experiences to manage.”

He added: “Working with councillors, the officer team and the community, I will try to make a difference.”

The town clerk’s role is to support, guide and advise the town councillors and ensure the smooth running of the authority.

Announcing Mr Hill’s appointment earlier this month, the town council said: “Mr Hill has the Certificate in Local Council Administration (CiLCA) and is a Fellow of the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC). He comes with a strong local government background, with many years of experience working for district councils in Devon and Dorset and town councils in Somerset.”

Rubbish drivers are making Cranbrook look scruffy, says council

Bad drivers have been sent a warning after leaving kerbs and verges in Cranbrook looking scruffy and damaged.

Or it could be that roads are too narrow and garages too small (or being used for storage) or too few parking spaces …. all of which were pointed out by Owl in 2014 after a scathing report on its planning mistakes https://eastdevonwatch.org/2015/09/14/what-mainstream-media-isnt-telling-you-about-that-dcc-cranbrook-report/

Tianna Corbin www.devonlive.com

After multiple people were reported vehicles driving over grass verges across the newtown, the council say anyone caught doing so may be charged for the repair costs.

Cranbrook Town Council wrote a post on Facebook to warn people about their actions.

The post reads: “Sadly, we have received a number of reports of vehicles driving over verges/grassland, which renders them unsightly and costly to remediate.

“Please be considerate when driving around Cranbrook and keep vehicles on the road. Where we have proof of individuals damaging the verges, we will invoice for remediation costs.”

In agreement with the post, the residents of the town commented that there should be some precautions put in place to ensure this does not happen.

One person suggested the council install posts making it impossible for the cars to drive over the verges.

While another added there should be double yellow lines in place to deter people from parking and mounting their cars on the grass.

How Johnson’s cronies are profiting from COVID

From open democracy:

Guess what? Boris Johnson’s cronies are continuing to get rich during this new (grim) phase of the pandemic.

We’ve just discovered that a firm controlled by major Tory donor Lord Ashcroft has landed a £350m COVID vaccination deal.

Once again it’s shrouded in secrecy, so we don’t know what’s actually being provided.

We do know the firm has a poor track record. A 2019 report found its care services ‘inadequate’ and ‘not safe’, including administering ‘potential overdoses’ of medicines. We also know that Ashcroft is one of the Tories’ biggest donors. 

Throughout the COVID crisis, Tory allies and donors have had a ‘VIP lane’ to win lucrative taxpayer-funded contracts – as a recent, damning National Audit Office report put it.

We’ve exposed scandal after scandal: from a Tory councillor landing a £156m PPE deal to the secret appointment of Lord Feldman, former Tory chairman and corporate lobbyist, as a COVID advisor.

What’s really worrying is the secrecy. We uncovered details of a Downing Street unit planning a radical ‘shake-up’ of the NHS: something they’d been denying for months. And when we threatened to sue over their dodgy NHS data deals with the controversial spy firm Palantir, they snuck the deal through anyway.

That’s why we have a plan. We’re not only going to challenge these dodgy practises in the courts. We’re also launching a massive campaign to stop Johnson’s government blocking journalists (like us) and members of the public (like you) from asking inconvenient questions. 

Brixham fisherman regrets voting Leave

A Brixham fisherman has spoken out about his regrets about voting Leave and in turn has received the sympathy of thousands of Twitter users.

Lee Trewhela www.devonlive.com

Ian Perkes, a fish exporter from Brixham, believes the town’s fishing industry has been destroyed by Brexit and if he could turn the clock back he’d vote to remain in the European Union.

He told the Byline Times: “I’m coming to the end of my career but to go forward I think me and many others have perhaps made a mistake.

“I just thought there’d be a better future for myself and for my children and my children’s children, to become independent, to have our own fishing grounds, for Europe to rely on us.

“The reality is we’re now January 20, we’ve yet to send a consignment to Europe from Brixham. It’s just been an absolute nightmare.”

Thousands have retweeted, shared and commented on a video of Mr Perkes’ interview.

Paterson Joseph, who played Alan Johnson in Peep Show as well as many other TV, theatre and film roles, retweeted the interview with Ian, saying: “I have a lot of sympathy for this guy. Genuine question: who has benefited from Brexit in the UK?”

Ian added: “I think I was sort of taken along on the ride we were all on with the bus going around; you know we were going to save £350 million per week that we were throwing at Brussels, that we’re going to have this free trade and Europe were going to be desperate for our fish because we had control of it all. We’d be in control of our own destiny.

“I’m very disappointed with the comments, you know, Rees Mogg, ‘happy fish’. I don’t think there’s any room to make any jokes about this current situation.

“Forty four years I’ve been selling fish and overnight it’s pretty much been destroyed. I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.”