Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 13 September

East Devon reports rise in Covid cases

Covid figures continue to fall throughout most of Devon and remain well below the national average – although East Devon has reported an increase in cases.

www.exmouthjournal.co.uk 

In the week up to Sunday 19 September, the average rate of infection across all of Devon’s councils was 265 per 100,000 people, down from 295 the week before.

In the Devon County Council area, which excludes Plymouth and Torbay, the most recent stats show an infection rate of 233 per 100,000 a fall of 20 from the previous week.

In contrast, the average infection rate across the country is 313 per 100,000 of the population. However, this, too, has dropped from 337 the previous week.

The only council areas to report a rise in cases in the county were East Devon and West Devon. 

The former recorded 356 cases, 14 [or four per cent] more than the previous week. The infection rate in East Devon is now 240 per 100,000 people.

West Devon’s cases spiked, with 152 new infections, 42 [or 38 per cent] more than the previous week. The case rate in the district is now 271 per 100,000 of the population.

Mid Devon now has the lowest infection rate in the county, with 168 per 100,000 of the population infected. Cases in the district dropped by almost a third (30 per cent) – 55 cases – in the most recent weekly data. The area recorded 152 new cases.

Plymouth registered 747 new cases, 77 [or nine per cent] fewer than in the previous week. The rate of infection in the city is now 284 per 100,000 of the population.

It was similar in Torbay. Its 392 new cases (288 per 100,000 of the population) is a nine per cent drop on the previous week. 

High infection rates in August meant both Devon and Cornwall were given extra support – called ‘enhanced status’ for five weeks. It means extra testing and measures such as making children at secondary school or college continuing to have to wear face coverings in communal areas. 

However, it was announced this week that special measures to combat rising numbers of covid cases in Devon are unlikely to be extended. Devon County Council’s director of public health says it is unlikely Devon’s status as a coronavirus enhanced response area will continue into October.

Nevertheless, fears remain that cases could rise this winter, with the potential of some restrictions being reimposed. 

The decline in infection rates in Devon has continued to translate into a reduction in people being admitted to hospital with covid. The latest figures [to Tuesday 21 September] show that across Devon, 98 people are in hospital as a result of covid, 30 fewer than the previous week.

Of these, 12 patients are at Derriford, 28 are at the RD&E, 16 in Torbay, while 12 are being cared for at North Devon District Hospital.

Ten of the patients in hospital with covid are on mechanical ventilation beds, down from 14.

Deaths have fallen in Devon in the most recent seven-day period (up to and including Sunday 19 September). Fifteen people died within 28 days of a positive covid test, 14 fewer than the previous week.

Eleven people died in the Devon County Council area, which excludes Plymouth and Torbay.  In Plymouth, three people lost their lives with covid, whilst one death was recorded in Torbay.

The total number of people in Devon who have died of covid since the pandemic began is now 1,198.

Eighty-seven per cent of people aged 16 and above have had their first dose of a vaccine in the Devon County Council area, which excludes Plymouth and Torbay, with 82 per cent receiving both doses.

In Plymouth, 84 percent have had one dose, while 77 per cent have had both.

In Torbay, 86 per cent have received one dose, while 79 per cent have had both jabs.

This means that vaccination rates in Devon are slightly behind the rest of the UK.  Ninety per cent of people aged 16 and above have had one dose, while 82 per cent have had both jabs.

The UK’s vaccination drive will continue this autumn winter as the NHS starts rolling out booster shots to the over-50s, younger adults with health conditions and frontline health and care workers.

There was yet another big moment for Margaret Keenan, 91, from Coventry this week as she received her first vaccine booster shot. Ms Keenan became the first person in the world to have a Pfizer jab when she received the vaccine in December of last year. The first man to receive a covid jab, William Shakespeare, has since died, but did not have covid.

Seaside towns in Cornwall and Devon decimated by rent shortage

Seaside resorts in Cornwall and Devon have been hit the hardest by the property shortage this year, data has shown.

Tianna Corbin www.devonlive.com

Compared to the summer of 2019, the number of properties by the sea available for long-term rent has fallen by more than 75%, while competition has increased 345%.

Property website Rightmove compared the available rental stock in June and July 2021 with June and July 2019.

Their analysis showed that in Cornwall, the number of available properties by the sea fell by 72%, with competition up 345%.

In North Devon the number of available properties fell by 80%, with demand up 292%.

In West Devon, the demand had risen 264%, while the amount of properties available had fallen by 76%.

Rightmove’s Director of Property Data, Tim Bannister said: ” Landlords in the typical tourist destinations around Britain have been chasing the huge surge in demand for holiday lets this summer, which has led to a temporary drop in the stock available for permanent tenants.”

He continued: “As the summer holidays are coming to an end, agents are now reporting more landlords turning their attention to longer-term tenants as a more secure and stable option for the rest of the year and into 2022.

“The value of a good tenant should not be underestimated, and with the competition for rental properties in these areas so high right now, it could be a good time for landlords to take stock and consider their best longer-term option.”

Don’t panic Captain Mainwaring

Could Boris Johnson’s government pass the “able to run a whelk stall” test?

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, sparked anger when he claimed industry leaders were responsible for the chaos, despite the government having admitted to a lack of lorry drivers.

Army could be called in as half of local petrol stations out of fuel

www.independent.co.uk

More than half of all non-motorway petrol stations have run dry after a weekend of panic-buying by spooked motorists, forcing ministers to consider putting the army on notice to drive tankers to forecourts.

The government has suspended competition laws to allow fuel companies to co-ordinate deliveries, and Boris Johnson is set to decide on Monday whether to send in soldiers to ease the crisis.

The Petrol Retailers Association reported alarming shortages among its independent members as oil giant BP warned that almost a third of its sites had no supplies.

Government pleas for drivers to stop filling their cars “when they don’t need it” fell on deaf ears as long queues formed at forecourts, operators rationed supplies – and police were called to one scuffle in London.

With Christmas just three months away, shoppers were also warned of turkey shortages, while toy sellers report delays and higher prices shipping goods into Brexit Britain.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced at 9pm on Sunday that petrol firms are temporarily exempt from the Competition Act 1998. Officials said the “Downstream Oil Protocol” would make it easier for firms to share information and prioritise delivery of fuel to parts of the country most in need.

Brian Madderson, the PRA’s chairman, revealed a survey of its members, who make up the majority of the UK’s 8,000-odd petrol stations.

“They serve the main roads, the rural areas, the urban roads, and anywhere between 50 per cent and 90 per cent of their forecourts are currently dry – and those that aren’t dry are partly dry and running out soon,” he told the BBC.

“One of them mentioned to me that yesterday they had a 500 per cent increase in demand compared to a week ago, which is quite extraordinary.”

BP, which operates 1,200 petrol stations, said: “With the intense demand seen over the past two days, we estimate that around 30 per cent of sites in this network do not currently have either of the main grades of fuel.”

Earlier, Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, sparked anger when he claimed industy leaders were responsible for the chaos, despite the government having admitted to a lack of lorry drivers. He was accused of a “disgraceful attack” on hard-pressed hauliers and of “shamefully passing the buck” for the queues.

The row blew up after The Mail on Sunday quoted a government source claiming the Road Haulage Association (RHA) is “entirely responsible for this panic and chaos”.

The transport secretary backed the claim, saying: “There was a meeting which took place about 10 days ago, a private meeting, in which one of the haulage associations decided to leak the details to media.

“And that has created, as we have seen, quite a large degree of concern as people naturally react to those things.”

Calling the leak “irresponsible”, Mr Shapps told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “The good news is there is plenty of fuel. The bad news is, if everyone carries on buying it when they don’t need it, then we will continue to have queues.”

But the RHA hit back quickly, pointing out its managing director Rod McKenzie had not even been at the meeting where a BP executive had discussed stock levels.

“He was not, as the government source claimed, “aware of the comments” and certainly did not “weaponise” them in subsequent TV interviews,” a statement said.

“Indeed he repeatedly stressed the need not to panic buy and that there were adequate fuel stocks.

“The RHA believes this disgraceful attack on a member of its staff is an attempt to divert attention away from their recent handling of the driver shortage crisis.”

Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat business spokesperson, said: “Grant Shapps is shamefully passing the buck for the government’s own failures.

“The Conservatives have repeatedly ignored calls from businesses to address the shortage of drivers. It is a bit rich for ministers to now blame the public and the road haulage industry for the mess we find ourselves in.”

Mr Shapps’s comments came after the announcement of emergency visas for foreign lorry drivers to come to the UK to ease the crisis was dismissed as a damp squib.

As expected, the offer will be made to 5,000 HGV drivers – plus 5,500 poultry workers – but the visas will run out on Christmas Eve, triggering criticism they are too little, too late.

Keir Starmer suggested 100,000 foreign drivers are needed – the RHA estimate of the shortfall – saying: “We are going to have to do that. We have to issue enough visas to cover the number of drivers that we need.”

The Labour leader said: I’m astonished the government, knowing the situation, is not acting today. The prime minister needs to say today what he is going to do.”

Meanwhile, a poultry association said big firms have already scaled back production of turkeys for the festive season, because they would not have enough staff to for more orders.

Kate Martin, chairwoman of the Traditional Farm Fresh Turkey Association, said: “It’s looking like there is a national shortage of turkeys when we’re talking about supermarket shelves, rather than buying direct from your farm.”

Footage circulated on social media showed two men in helmets tussling with each other at a petrol station in north London, before the police were called to the scene.

A man was arrested on suspicion of assault and taken into custody, but no injuries were reported.

Cladding crisis: ten builders have made more money since Grenfell than their companies pledged for safety works

Ten top executives and shareholders at Britain’s biggest housebuilders have personally pocketed more money since Grenfell than their firms have set aside to fix the cladding crisis. The bosses and owners have made a total of £708 million in dividends, share sales and pay over three years, £65 million more than their companies have allocated to fix dangerous homes they have built.

Martina Lees http://www.thetimes.co.uk 

Barratt, Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey, Berkeley, Bellway, Redrow and Vistry have set aside £643 million for fire safety over the past three years. The figure is about 4 per cent of their profits over that period and a fraction of the estimated £15 billion — and counting — that it will cost to make all flats in the UK safe. The seven construction giants have posted £15.1 billion in profits since 2017, when the Grenfell fire in west London fire killed 72 people and exposed a nationwide building safety scandal.

The findings will add pressure on the government — and the newly appointed housing secretary Michael Gove — to increase industry levies and make companies pay for repairs where homes breached safety rules at the time.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” said Stephen McPartland, a Conservative MP leading a backbench rebellion to protect flat owners from fire-safety costs. “It shows the big developers are not taking the issue seriously. It’s imperative that those responsible actually pay to resolve this. Leaseholders don’t have the funds and never will have the funds to make their buildings safe.”

Clive Betts, chairman of the housing, communities and local government select committee, said he was “shocked” at the figures. “This makes the case absolutely for a significant tax and/or levy on companies who ought to be collectively made to pay for the failings of the industry over the years. If they have built flawed, dangerous buildings, they should simply put them right.”

To those who have been living with flammable cladding on their building for the past three years, who are struggling with the soaring costs of waking watches, insurance and life-changing bills for repair works, the figures are incendiary.

This month about a thousand leaseholders, who are among an estimated 700,000 people who are still trapped in unsafe flats and up to three million people who are struggling to sell, marched on parliament to protest about the quality of their homes and the bills they have received to fix defects. The sun was shining, but the mood was bleak.

“Michael Gove, we want justice,” they chanted. “The system isn’t broken, it was built this way,” said Karim Mussilhy, who lost his uncle in the Grenfell Tower fire, and criticised the “cosy relationships [of] our leaders . . . with those responsible for killing our families.”

Hayley Tillotson, the first-known leaseholder to go bankrupt because of the crisis, waved the placard “Bankrupt and broke, leasehold is a joke”. Other signs said “Paid for a home, got a nightmare Taylor Wimpey”; “How many Grenfells will it take?”; “Lives before profits”; and “Make those responsible pay, not the victims”.

One of those victims, Ritu Saha, who co-founded the UK Cladding Action Group after flammable cladding was found on her Taylor Wimpey flat, said: “To now find that they value the lives of thousands of the innocent victims far less than the bank balances of their CEOs and shareholders makes us feel incredibly angry, and even more determined than ever to make sure they are held to account.”

The construction industry is paying for a fraction of repairs, leaving owners and taxpayers to foot the bill. In February the government announced two levies for fire safety. A blanket levy on housebuilders with profits of over £25 million is expected to raise up to £200 million a year over the next decade, while a gateway levy will tax developers that apply for building regulations approval on some new high-rise schemes. Ministers have allocated £5.1 billion in taxpayers’ grants to reclad unsafe tall blocks.

It is not enough, according to Sir Peter Bottomley, the longest-serving MP. “There is thought to be an estimated gap of £10 billion where leaseholders would in theory have to pay. They haven’t got the money. Some will lose their homes and they will look to those who have made money from housebuilding with anger,” he said.

A landmark House of Lords report in 2016 described the housebuilding industry as having “all the characteristics of an oligopoly”. Since then housebuilder profits have been boosted by the taxpayer-funded Help to Buy scheme, which accounted for a third of total sales at the seven housebuilders since 2017. And over the past year a strong stock market rally — fuelled by the pandemic stamp duty holiday — dramatically inflated the value of bosses’ shares. At Taylor Wimpey and Bellway share prices are up about 70 per cent since last September. Redrow’s stock price is up more than 90 per cent — increasing the value of founder Steve Morgan’s stake by nearly £200 million in a year.

Their second windfall was an explosion in dividends. Ten years ago the seven giants paid £38.1 million in dividends. Their latest results show dividends of £846 million — and over the past three years they made total payouts of more than £5.3 billion.

Earlier this year Sajid Javid, the health secretary and former chancellor, called on the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate an industry “dominated by just a few large operators” with a “stranglehold on supply”. The seven companies we analysed built 257,636 homes since 2017 — 41 per cent per cent of the total supply since 2017.

The housing ministry said: “We are making sure industry is held to account for the wrongs of the past by contributing to the cost of safety works — so far half the private sector high-rise buildings with unsafe [Grenfell-type] ACM cladding have been remediated without passing costs on to leaseholders or taxpayers. The Building Safety Bill will legally require building owners to prove they have tried all routes to cover the cost of essential safety works, while our new levy and tax will apply to developers.”

Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, wants to go further and has called for a “proper levy”. “Developers racking up huge profits, for their companies and themselves, while innocent leaseholders are trapped in unsafe, unsellable homes should be ashamed,” she said.

Steve Day, 40, who faces a £40,000 bill for fire risks at his Barratt flat in east London, was “disgusted” by the figures. Day has drawn up a law with experts that would make companies pay for building homes that breached regulations at the time, a proposal that the government is now seriously considering.

‘A bit of a mystery’: why hospital admissions for Covid in England are going down

In early September, outbreak modelling for the government’s Sage advisers showed Covid hospitalisations had the potential to soar. If people rushed back to work and resumed all the socialising they had put on hold, the number of daily admissions in England could peak at 7,000 within six weeks. It was, in effect, a worst-case scenario, barring a dramatic waning of immunity or a troublesome new variant.

Ian Sample www.theguardian.com 

The optimistic scenario looked very different. Assuming a more gradual return to normality, the modelling had daily Covid hospitalisations rising slowly and slightly, topping out at nearly 2,000, before falling again in November. Now, even that looks overly gloomy. Over the past fortnight, hospitalisations have fallen in England, even as schools and offices reopened.

Mismatches between the modelling and the true course of the epidemic have caused confusion throughout the Covid crisis. The models are not predictions of what will happen. They are what the computers churn out when presented with a “what if?”. In this case, what if R (the reproduction number of the epidemic) reaches 1.1? And what if – as Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, would say – people “tear the pants out of it” and push R to 1.5? That would mean, on average, every two people infected go on to infect three more.

Sage expected hospitalisations in England to peak somewhere near the lower range, namely 2,000 a day, but no sooner was the modelling complete than hospitalisations began to fall. The decline was unexpected. What it suggests is that – for now – the effect of unlocking on fuelling the epidemic is more than offset by the combination of people’s behaviour and immunity, whether from vaccination or infection.

“Those are two very powerful forces. Each by itself is perfectly capable of making the number of cases or hospitalisations go up or down, and they are basically fighting each other right now,” said Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Edinburgh University.

On Friday, the Office for National Statistics reported a fall in infection rates in England for the second week running, with one in 90 now estimated to test positive for Covid. Elsewhere in the UK, rates remain stable but high.

According to Prof Graham Medley, chair of the Sage modelling subgroup, Spi-M, while infections and admissions have drifted down in the past couple of weeks, little has changed over the larger timeframe of the past 10 weeks. “This is unexpected,” he said. “There must be a balance between the increasing immunity from infection and vaccination, and the amount of contact, but how they exactly balance to keep R roughly at 1 is a bit of a mystery.”

It may be that vaccines are more effective at preventing transmission than studies – often based on symptomatic patients – suggest. If that is the case, Woolhouse said, immunity may be playing a larger role in suppressing the epidemic than thought. After a sharp rise in Scotland, cases appear to be falling back down, without any obvious change in behaviour, he added. “It’s a watershed moment. This is the first time in the history of the UK’s epidemic that we’ve had a sustained decline in cases in the absence of a lockdown or not far short of it,” he said. “We’ve never seen that before, so clearly something is fundamentally different, and the fundamental difference for me is the buildup of herd immunity.”

That would be excellent news, particularly if the rest of the UK follows suit. On Friday, the R number for England was revised to 0.8 to 1, with the number of new infections estimated to be shrinking at 1% to 3% a day. The difficulty is that, with a lot of virus still around, a manageable situation could become challenging very fast. “If there is an uptick then we need to react to that quickly. If this does go wrong, the NHS will be in trouble very quickly,” Woolhouse warned.

As Medley pointed out, the country has not rushed back to “life-before-Covid”. What happens next is still as murky as ever. “We are still a long way from normal levels of contact, so there is still the possibility of an increase in transmission and hospitalisations, but the past couple of months gives a lot of hope,” he said.

We may have reached another turning point

Tim Spector’s symptom tracker app, which has a track record of identifying turning points in the evolution of the pandemic across UK a couple of weeks in advance of confirmed cases, is now showing a slow down in the rate at which the infection is falling.

More on Lib Dems hold Exe Valley 

Some observations to make.

In 2019 turnout was 36% in this by-election it dropped to 26%.

In 2019 the Conservatives got 43% of the vote in a two way contest, this time it dropped to 32%. 

In 2015 general District Council elections, the turnout was 77% and the Conservatives won the ward with 52% of the vote in a two way contest.

So the Conservative proportion of the vote has consistently fallen from 52% through 32% to 26% since 2015. 

Not exactly a vote of confidence in the Tory “build, build, build” policies for East Devon. – Owl

Lib Dems hold Exe Valley ward in East Devon District Council by-election

Philippa Davies sidmouth.nub.news

The Liberal Democrats have held on to a seat on East Devon District Council after a closely fought by-election for the Exe Valley ward.

Jamie Kemp received 190 votes, seeing off Conservative Kevin Wraight who won 164 and Labour’s candidate, Mike Daniell, who earned 161. One voter made their opinion well known by spoiling their ballot paper, drawing sad faces next to each candidate’s’ name.

The turnout was 26 per cent.

Mr Kemp is expected to join the council’s ruling coalition known as the Democratic Alliance, a combination of the East Devon Alliance, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Labour and some, but not all, Independents.

He picks up the reins from fellow Liberal Democrat Fabian King who stepped down as a councillor in July to focus on his business, which he said had been affected by Covid.

Speaking after the result Mr Kemp said: “I’m over the moon. It’s been a fantastic campaign, the other candidates have worked really hard. It’s a win really for everybody in the Exe Valley and I look forward to representing them.

“And, yes, now my wife probably won’t moan at me quite so much – and the children won’t be as annoyed with me!

“I look forward to starting work with the other councillors and getting the job done.”

‘A good campaign with three strong candidates’

Conservative candidate Kevin Wraight said: “I’m disappointed, obviously. I wanted to win but it’s a fair fight – it’s been a good campaign and three extremely good, strong candidates.

“I think the Exe Valley has been very well served by an election that’s been so close.”

Labour candidate Mike Daniell was also pleased with the result: “I’m more than chuffed with it.

“We’ve given everyone a run for their money to the point that this has become a very well-fought campaign.

“I think Labour’s given everyone such a good kick up the arse as it were that they’ve gone out and really campaigned hard, so I congratulate Jamie on a very hard-fought success.”

The defeated candidates might not have to wait too long for another attempt with the next full district council elections expected to go ahead in 18 months.

What’s the political make-up of East Devon District Council?

For now, the make-up of the council is now as follows:

Conservatives – 22

East Devon Alliance – 13

Independents – 14

Liberal Democrats – 7

Green Party – 2

Labour – 2

The Exe Valley vote was the district council’s third by-election in recent months, with polls held in May and July this year.

The July by-elections returned some surprises as Conservative Alasdair Bruce took Feniton, previously held by an Independent, and teenager Jake Bonetta won Honiton St Michael’s.

The 19-year old took the seat previously held by the Liberal Democrats to become the first Labour councillor on the district council in more than 20 years. Since his election formerly independent councillor Paul Millar (Exmouth Halsdon) has joined Labour, giving the party two seats.

Climate change: Construction companies told to stop knocking down buildings

Britain’s top engineers are urging the government to stop buildings being demolished.

By Roger Harrabin www.bbc.co.uk

Making bricks and steel creates vast amounts of CO2, with cement alone causing 8% of global emissions.

They say the construction industry should where possible re-use buildings, employ more recycled material, and use machinery powered by clean fuels.

They are concerned about “embodied emissions”, which is the CO2 emitted when buildings and materials are made..

They believe that unlike carbon from aircraft, vehicles and gas boilers, embodied emissions are not in people’s minds.

They suspect few people realise there’s a carbon impact from, for instance, building a home extension.

The report, steered by the Royal Academy of Engineering, said a new way of thinking is needed before planning new homes, factories, roads and bridges.

Prof Rebecca Lunn from Strathclyde University, one of the report’s authors, said: “Our biggest failure is that we build buildings, then we knock them down and throw them away. We must stop doing this.”

Fellow author, Mike Crook, adjunct professor at Imperial College, challenged the government’s £27bn road-building programme because of the embodied emissions created to obtain the concrete and tarmac, as well as the use of very polluting machines to construct the highways.

Prof Crook told BBC News: “We have to radically revise the way we look at things.

“The most important thing is to maximise the use of existing road infrastructure by using smart motorways to maximise every inch of tarmac.”

Speaking in a personal capacity, he added that the decision on Heathrow expansion should be re-visited following stronger warnings from climate scientists.

Prof Crook said questions should be asked whether projects such as HS2 – with its massive embodied carbon – will really benefit future generations.

media captionClimate change: Should we be demolishing buildings?

The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers’ Dr Julie Godefroy urged the government to set targets for the construction industry to move swiftly towards zero carbon, including embodied emissions.

She observed: “We have to avoid demolition and new-build. Often most of the material in an existing building is underground – so we should seek to use existing foundations.”

media captionAbout 88kg of explosives were used to reduce the tower to 10,000 tonnes of debris

A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) responded to a request from BBC News for a comment by stating that the UK was a “world leader in tackling climate change”.

They added: “We are committed to reducing emissions from the construction sector, and have set up the Construct Zero programme to support the industry to achieve their climate commitments.”

The spokesperson said that the government, earlier this year, had set out their Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy, which was “the government’s comprehensive assessment” of how industry, including the construction sector, could decarbonise in line with the government’s net-zero plans.

Also, they explained, ministers this week had announced £220 million of funding to help UK industry reduce their carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency.

Refurb over rebuild

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) estimates that 35% of the lifecycle carbon from a typical office development is emitted before the building is even opened. The figure for residential premises is 51%.

It wants the government to change the VAT rules which can make it cheaper to rebuild than to refurbish a standing building.

Its managing editor Will Hurst said: “This staggering fact has only been properly grasped in the construction industry relatively recently. We’ve got to stop mindlessly pulling buildings down.”

Covid impact on life expectancy in Devon shown

Life expectancy has risen in Devon, despite the impact of the pandemic causing stalling and falling levels across much of the UK.

Edward Oldfield www.devonlive.com

Figures released by the Officer for National Statistics (ONS) show that for men in the area, life expectancy at birth was 80.7 years in 2018 to 2020 – up from 80.4 years in 2015 to 2017 – a rise of 14 weeks.

For women, it rose by 22.4 weeks, taking life expectancy at birth from 84.2 years in 2015 to 2017 to 84.6 years in 2018 to 2020, although the rise was not seen in all parts of the area.

Life expectancy in Torbay has fallen – life expectancy at birth for men was 78.6 years in 2018 to 2020, down from 78.7 years in 2015 to 2017.

For women, life expectancy at birth fell from 82.8 years in 2015 to 2017 to 82.5 years in 2018 to 2020.

Life expectancy also fell for men in Plymouth, down from 79.0 years in 2015 to 2017 to 78.8 years in 2018 to 2020.

However, for women, it rose from 82.2 years in 2015 to 2017, to 82.5 years in 2018 to 2020.

The figures released this morning by the ONS are the first to include higher death rates seen in 2020 due to coronavirus.

Life expectancy at birth in the UK in 2018 to 2020 was 79.0 years for men and 82.9 years for women.

Compared to 2015 to 2017, that was seven weeks less for men, and almost no change for women (a slight increase of 0.5 weeks).

Pamela Cobb, Centre for Ageing and Demography at the ONS, said the coronavirus pandemic led to a greater number of deaths than normal in 2020, leading to virtually no improvement in life expectancy for women and life expectancy for men falling back to levels reported for 2012 to 2014.

She said: “Life expectancy has increased in the UK over the last 40 years, albeit at a slower pace in the last decade.

“This is the first time we have seen a decline when comparing non-overlapping time periods since the series began in the early 1980s.

“These estimates rely on the assumption that current levels of mortality, which are unusually high, will continue for the rest of someone’s life.

“Once the coronavirus pandemic has ended and its consequences for future mortality are known, it is possible that life expectancy will return to an improving trend in the future.”

Life expectancy for those aged 65 years was another 18.5 years for men and 21.0 years for women.

These estimates are very similar to those for 2015 to 2017, with a slight decline of a week for men and an increase of 3.1 weeks for women.

Male life expectancy between 2018 and 2020 was highest in the South East (80.6 years) and lowest in Scotland (76.8 years), with a similar pattern for women, with the highest levels in London (84.3 years) and lowest in Scotland (81.0 years).

The impact of reduced life expectancy – like the impact of the pandemic – varied across the country.

There were significant reductions in male life expectancy at birth in England (7.8 weeks) and Scotland (11.0 weeks) in 2018 to 2020 compared with 2015 to 2017.

In Wales, male and female life expectancy at birth saw non-significant reductions between the same periods.

There were large falls in male life expectancy at birth in the North East (16.7 weeks) and Yorkshire and The Humber (16.2 weeks).

For women, it significantly reduced in the West Midlands (9.9 weeks).

Meanwhile, the South West saw a significant increase in life expectancy for women (17.7 weeks) and an increase in male life expectancy (5.7 weeks).

The continued improvement in life expectancy observed in the South West coincides with lower excess deaths and lower mortality involving Covid-19,compared with other regions of England.

See online DevonLive article for detailed data tabulation.