New Look for EDW posts

Owl posted this comment yesterday:

“I really enjoy East Devon Watch, but please could it be in darker type – I find the grey print really hard to read. I have mentioned this before and was told it was up to the designer, so please could you mention it to him or her. Thank you. Best wishes, Liz Rhodes”

This is beyond Owl’s skills set, but help was volunteered by one of the original site designers who has “tweaked” the type appearance. For which Owl is very grateful.

Liz reports that the changes are “fantastic”.

Plan for £34 million boost to Devon’s buses

A bit more “joined up” thinking might help as well. 

Owl recalls that the “promised”  GP surgery site on the Alfred’s Way development in Newton Poppleford was used by Clinton Devon Estates to build a couple more houses instead. The NHS, in its wisdom, however, insists that Newton Poppleford inhabitants must use Ottery St Mary GP facilities. The only way to get to the surgery by public transport is to go into Exeter and out again. A short journey as the crow flies takes all day by bus. There is a surgery on the Exeter to Sidmouth route!

Real sustainability should be a prerequisite of major planning decisions.

Plan for £34 million boost to Devon’s buses

Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter

Devon could get a £34 million boost to its bus services, if the county council’s bid for a pot of government funding is successful.

The council’s ruling cabinet has agreed to bid for the cash from the government’s £3 billion ‘bus back better’ programme to improve local bus services across England.

But whilst the plan was broadly welcomed by councillors from across the political spectrum, one Lib Dem thought transporting people in “huge buses” was a blast from the fifties and that more people should be hitchhiking.

The county’s proposals, being developed in partnership with Devon’s bus companies, aim to make buses cheaper to use, greener, more frequent and more reliable. A public consultation will start across Devon in November.

Also included are plans for regional zone tickets to simplify fares, by working with neighbouring councils, and bringing in ‘young person’ tickets for 16 to 18 -year-olds, one of the age groups most heavily reliant on buses.

An additional £7.5 million could also be spent on bus priority measures to speed up journey times in urban areas such as Exeter, Exmouth, Barnstaple and Newton Abbot, as well as improving bus stops and other infrastructure in the rest of the county.

A council report said: “Bus is the main form of public transport in Devon, providing services to a large range of people, many of whom have no alternative means of transport. The opportunity provided by the government to bid for extra funding will provide a quantum leap in how the bus service operates in the future.”

Councillor Andrea Davis (Conservative, Combe Martin), cabinet member for climate change, environment and transport told the meeting: “It’s very ambitious, it supports Devon County Council’s carbon reduction. It’s about operating services, cutting fares, lots more services and frequent services so that residents have the choice over the mode of transport that they use.”

Councillor Alan Connett (Lib Dem, Exminster & Haldon), opposition leader on the council, said it was a “very exciting set of proposals” and added: “If successful it would bring an enormous benefit to Devon and for the bus passengers across the county who use them. There’s much to be applauded here and I really do hope the bid is successful.”

Leader of the Labour group Councillor Rob Hannaford (Exwick & St Thomas), while saying the “proposals to make buses greener, cheaper and more reliable is really welcome,” pointed to the current problems at Stagecoach South West, including a shortage of drivers and industrial action, as reasons for why the council should look into public ownership of buses, as has recently happened in Manchester.

RMT union members are currently set to walk out over pay for 24 hours on Monday 18 October. Stagecoach has offered drivers a 9.7 per cent increase, linked to productivity changes. It says passenger numbers are below pre-covid levels, with fares insufficient to cover day-to-day costs of running the serice. The RMT says the offer comes with strings attached which equate to “savage cuts.”

Devon County Council’s new plan calls for greater integration with the rail and coach network in Devon and better cooperation with other neighbouring councils to recognise that journeys often cross county boundaries.

The strategy also sets out targets for moving towards zero-emission vehicles. The council has been involved in two previous unsuccessful bids for reduced emission or electric vehicles. The report says: “The challenge in a county like Devon is the range of the vehicles versus the length of the routes operated.”

However, Councillor Julian Brazil (Lib Dem, Kingsbridge) said the report was a “massive, missed opportunity,” and claimed the council should be doing more to get people sharing smaller vehicles and even hitchhike.

“The old fashioned idea of transporting people in huge buses around rural lanes, or indeed on roads that were built for horse and coaches and not for double decker buses, I think is going back to the fifties.

“Instead, we should be looking to introduce some kind of hybrid bus-taxi service using the information technology that’s available to us, using people carriers. Looking to introduce things like a hitchhiking app that encourages more people to hitchhike, car-sharing…

“That’s what this report should be encouraging. More innovative, forward-thinking and ground-breaking ways of delivering truly public transport to all areas – not just towns, but to rural areas as well.”

The cabinet unanimously agreed the main principles of the plan, to submit the bid and to launch a public consultation. From the start of November, the Department for Transport will assess the bids submitted by each authority and respond with a funding package for the next three years.


Improvement to rural services

  • Provision of at least four return journeys Monday to Saturday for all communities with a population of over 500.
  • Exploration of alternative models of delivery including Demand Responsive Transport (DRT), expansion of Fare Cars or fixed routes

Evening and Sunday services

  • On improved inter urban and city corridors; a service of at least three journeys per evening and on Sunday.
  • Expansion of hourly night-time services for routes carrying over 2 million passengers* per annum. Inter-urban services
  • Improvements to services identified in the Exeter Transport Strategy up to a maximum frequency of 15 minutes.
  • Other services into Exeter to gain an additional journey per hour, plus those to strategic towns such as Barnstaple, Newton Abbot or Plymouth currently carrying over 100,000 passengers* per annum.

Devon “Lynx” services

  • Strategic links improved between centres of population.
  • Better connections with the strategic rail and coach network. Examples of possible links included in Appendix A.

City and town services

  • Towns with a population of 20,000 to gain an additional journey per hour if carrying over 100,000 passengers* per annum.
  • Towns with a population of between 5,000 and 15,000 to gain a minimum provision of an hourly off-peak service.

Current state of the local NHS overstretch

From a correspondent:

A friend fell in the centre of Exeter at about 8.30 pm on Saturday evening.  It was a bad fall and she had obviously hurt her arm and her collar-bone and was in great pain.  A local shopkeeper called an ambulance and 30 minutes later called again and was told there were none available. 

After one and a half hours lying on the concrete pavement the ambulance service sent a local taxi to pick her up.  The lady’s partner had to get her into the taxi for the journey to RD&E A&E and had to help her out when they got there as the taxi driver was not allowed to touch her.  

She had dislocated her shoulder and spent 12 hours in A&E before she was allowed home.

“Government by WhatsApp” set for legal challenge

Ministers and civil servants are required by policy to set instant messaging chats to delete automatically, it has been revealed, as a judicial review over the government’s use of self-destructing messages was given the go-ahead.

Cabinet policy obliges ministers to delete instant messages

Haroon Siddique 

The not-profit organisation the Citizens says the use of disappearing messages, which has been described as “government by WhatsApp”, violates British law on public records and freedom of information.

Its legal challenge comes amid concerns that the likes of WhatsApp and Signal, which have a disappearing messages option, are being used to avoid scrutiny of decision-making processes, including on significant issues such as the government’s coronavirus response.

At a high court hearing in London on Tuesday, it was revealed that the Cabinet Office’s “information and records retention and destruction policy”, disclosed in response to the Citizens application for a judicial review, obliges officials to delete instant chats.

The policy says: “Instant messaging is provided to all staff and should be used in preference to email for routine communications where there is no need to retain a record of the communication. Instant messages history in individual and group chats must be switched off and should not be retained once a session is finished. If the content of an instant message is required for the record or as an audit trail, a note for the record should be created and the message content saved in that.”

The Citizens says making a separate note, as opposed to preserving the actual message, is insufficient to comply with the law. Other documents disclosed ban the use of personal phones, email and WhatsApp by ministers and civil servants. The Citizens, which is being supported by the campaigning law group Foxglove, says the policies are “a confusing, contradictory mess”.

It is challenging the lawfulness of:

  • Use for government business of instant messaging services that allow messages to be automatically deleted, permanently, within a short period of receipt by ministers, civil servants and special advisers.
  • Cabinet Office policy requiring the use of automatic deletion within all instant messaging services.
  • Use for government business of personal devices, email and communications applications in breach, it says, of the government’s own policies.

After Mrs Justice Lang granted permission for the case to go to full judicial review, Clara Maguire, the director of the Citizens, said: “This is a good day for democracy. Lack of transparency has been at the heart of the UK government’s disastrous handling of the Covid catastrophe as today’s parliamentary report points out so clearly.

“It says that a culture of secrecy contributed to tens of thousands of excess deaths. We believe this case goes to the very heart of this problem and we look forward to proving government by WhatsApp is not only dangerous but also unlawful.”

The non-profit organisation argues the use of instant messaging makes it impossible to carry out required legal checks about whether a message should be archived for posterity. Information that could be useful to a public inquiry, or otherwise fall within the scope of a freedom of information request, may be lost as a result.

Cori Crider, the director of Foxglove, said: “Government by WhatsApp is an existential threat to Britain’s historical record. From people in positions of public trust, the law – and the country – require more.”

In July, the information commissioner announced an investigation into the use of private correspondence channels at the Department of Health and Social Care.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Ministers will use a range of modern forms of communication for discussions, in line with legislative requirements, and taking into account government guidance.”

We need a Covid inquiry, and we need it now

The joint parliamentary committee report “Coronavirus, lessons learned to date” can be found here.

A good summary of the key findings  can be found here.

A more critical review: “Hard hitting” Covid reports fails to land a single punch can be found here.

Two comments from Owl:

We  urgently need to know the: who, what, where and when; and

The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt’s participation as one of the Chairs, given his responsibilities as a former Health Minister, was/is totally inappropriate.

Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health secretary

The findings of the joint select committee report into the government’s Covid response came as a surprise to no one, but to read the litany of monumental and tragic errors catalogued so clearly is still devastating.

We all remember watching in horror as desperate scenes unfolded in northern Italy last year and questions started to be asked as to why we weren’t locking down here. Instead, race meetings and European football fixtures went ahead. The pubs remained open.

We all heard the demands of the World Health Organisation to “test, test, test”, but here testing was abandoned in early March.

We were all angered as our brave NHS staff pleaded for PPE to replace the flimsy bin-bags they were forced to wear or visors and goggles they had to purchase from local DIY stores. Doctors said they were abandoned like lambs to the slaughter.

Most shameful of all was the failure to protect care homes. In the rush to free up hospital beds, the frail were quickly discharged without a test. The virus inevitably spread with an unforgiving ferocity. Boasts of a “protective ring” now ring sickeningly hollow.

The need to free up so many beds was a consequence of needing to find “surge” capacity in the NHS. But that in turn reflects a cold reality: that for ten years the Tories have run the NHS into the ground. The deepest financial squeeze in NHS history, cuts to 15,000 beds and shortages of 40,000 nurses meant we entered the pandemic desperately unprepared.

The reality is that the NHS and social care sector needed protecting even before the pandemic hit.

Sign up to receive Red Box, our poke at politics delivered every weekday morning.

The running down of our health service, social care and public health capacity meant that ministers were slow in their eventual response. As the virus began to spread rapidly in the UK, Boris Johnson took an approach that differed from almost every country around the world; he kept society open for longer, favouring herd immunity.

Government officials — experts in “nudge theory” — were sent out to tour TV studios extolling the virtues of allowing the virus to rip through the strong while the weak “cocoon”.

Nadine Dorries tweeted videos of a bucket overflowing with water to explain the approach. Inside government, figures joked of mass “chicken-pox parties”. Meanwhile, our dedicated public health medical experts (none of whom had a seat on Sage) looked on aghast.

The line being taken by uncomfortable Tory ministers is to say that this is all passing judgment with hindsight. But Labour raised questions with the approach throughout March 2020.

As country after country closed its borders or introduced testing of people returning home, in public statements we asked why the prime minister had not done the same. We demanded mass testing and contact tracing to be protected, and support for people to isolate when sick — a demand to this day still not fully met.

Highlighting the monumental scale of the failures experienced at the start of the pandemic is not being done for political point-scoring. It is crucial that the mistakes from the pandemic are learnt, to ensure that catastrophic failures on this scale never happen again.

This means starting a public inquiry now. There is no reason to wait.

But it also means preparing for the coming winter. As case rates remain high, we need proper ventilation for businesses and schools. We need the rollout of vaccinations for children to be sped up, and we need to target the areas that have the lowest vaccination rates to drive up the number of people being jabbed.

Our NHS too must be given support this winter. Today, the Royal College of Physicians has issued a stark warning about hospitals’ ability to cope with winter. No doctor should be forced to make a choice between Covid care and cancer care. But without a proper plan to keep infections down and reduce the pressures on hospitals this winter, it is likely that once again our NHS will be faced with this difficult choice.

Covid has not gone away. We can learn to live with the virus, but that is not the same as pretending that it no longer exists.

The lessons from this report must be that ministers keep on top of the virus — and that preparing for a pandemic can never come too soon.

The cost of “Freedom Day” or how Boris Johnson looks to have thrown  away his “vaccination bounce”

UK’s high Covid case rates buck trend as western Europe outperforms east

Experts have suggested this may be because most western European countries retained significant distancing and other Covid-related restrictions when they opened up during the summer, while England decided to drop almost all of its measures.

Jon Henley 

Higher vaccination rates are translating to lower Covid infection and death rates in western Europe than in parts of central and eastern Europe, the latest data suggests – except in the UK where case numbers are surging.

Figures from Our World In Data indicate a clear correlation between the percentage of people fully vaccinated and new daily cases and fatalities, with health systems in some under-inoculated central and eastern EU states under acute strain.

The outlier appears to be Britain, which – though now overtaken by multiple EU states – has vaccinated a similar share of its population to most western European countries, but has an infection rate that more closely resembles those in the east.

Slower vaccination programmes in central and eastern Europe combined with an easing of most social distancing requirements over the summer have led to a dramatic surge in Covid cases in some central and eastern European countries.

Driven by the more infectious Delta variant, the Baltic states of Lithuania (771) and Latvia (737) have the highest rolling seven-day average of new daily cases per million, according to Our World In Data, with Romania (678) and Estonia (675) not far behind.

The same countries, with Bulgaria, are also enduring among Europe’s highest daily fatality rates per million, with Romania on a rolling average of 14 and Bulgaria on 13, followed by Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on 9, 5 and 3 respectively.

Those figures stand in stark contrast to some of the best-performing countries in western Europe: new daily infections per million in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Sweden and France are more than 10 times lower, at about 38, 43, 59, 59 and 76 respectively, with figures for daily deaths per million similarly down at between 0.5 to 0.9.

Health systems in Romania, Bulgaria and Latvia are struggling to cope, with hospitals running at 80% to 100% capacity. Romania last week postponed all non-essential operations, Bulgaria is battling a wave of fake vaccination and PCR test certificates and Latvia has declared a medical emergency.

“If the current flow of patients continues, in one or two days the health system will collapse because we already don’t have enough place to accommodate the sick,” the director of Bucharest’s Matei Bals hospital, Cătălin Apostolescu, said last week.

On Thursday there were 14,457 new Covid cases in Romania in 24 hours, in a country of just over 19 million, while Friday’s death toll was the highest of the pandemic so far, with 385 people dying from coronavirus. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, the country is envisaging sending critically ill patients abroad.

“I fear we are already in the Italy scenario,” said the head of the national vaccination campaign, Valeriu Gheorghiță, referring to the healthcare system in northern Italy becoming overwhelmed in March 2020 during the first wave of the virus.

The correlation with vaccination progress appears plain. Again according to Our World In Data, Bulgaria and Romania have the EU’s lowest immunisation rates, with just 20% and 29% of their total populations having received two doses.

Latvia and Estonia are performing better at 48% and 43%, but even those figures are a very long way from the percentages recorded by many western European countries.

Portugal has now fully vaccinated nearly 86% of its total population, Spain nearly 79%, Italy more than 68% and France more than 66%, with any increase in cases having only a very limited impact on fatality figures.

Official data shows more than 70% of confirmed infections and 93% of deaths in Romania are in unvaccinated people, “We are still a battlefield, sadly,” said Adrian Marinescu, the medical director of the national institute for infectious diseases. “Vaccination is often the difference between life and death for a vulnerable person.”

Bulgaria and Romania face the additional challenge of political crises. Bulgaria is heading into its third parliamentary election in less than a year while Romania’s government was toppled last week in a no-confidence vote, leaving politicians in both countries reluctant to impose tougher restrictions for fear of upsetting voters.

Britain is in the unusual position of having fully vaccinated a relatively high percentage of its population (just over 66%), but also having Europe’s fifth-highest infection rate, at 534 new daily cases per million people – not far behind the Baltics and between eight and 12 times higher that France, Italy and Spain.

After a hugely successful early vaccination rollout, the UK has been overtaken by seven EU states, partly because many continental countries began vaccinating children over 12 as early as June – although other factors, such as strong incentivisation through vaccine passports, have also helped boost vaccination rates in countries such as France.

While the UK’s relatively high vaccination rate means deaths per million are a fraction of the daily total in Bulgaria and Romania, they are still the highest in western Europe, significantly above such countries as Spain, France, Italy and Germany.

Experts have suggested this may be because most western European countries retained significant distancing and other Covid-related restrictions when they opened up during the summer, while England decided to drop almost all of its measures.

Germany and Italy, for example, still restrict large gatherings, while Spain enforces social distancing in schools. Many countries also require proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter public spaces such as museums and theatres, as well as cafes and restaurants, and masks are still mandatory on public transport and in shops.

Christina Pagel and Martin McKee, members of Independent Sage, an expert group critical of the UK government’s approach, wrote last week in the Guardian that the UK was pursuing what they termed a “vaccine just” strategy, while much of western Europe had opted for “vaccine plus”.

“Both require vaccinating as many people as possible,” Pagel and McKee wrote. But while Britain had relied only on vaccines – where it was now starting to fall behind – “face coverings and vaccine passports remain widespread across western Europe”. They said England, “not for the first time, is the odd one out in Europe.”

Covid rates up in all areas of Devon

Coronavirus infection rates have gone up in all ten areas of Devon.

Daniel Clark

Torridge continues to have the highest coronavirus infection rate in Devon, as the area recorded a rate of 451.1 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending October 7, according to the latest data from the UK Health Security Agency.

The lowest infection rate is in Mid Devon, where the rate is 291.8 cases per 100,000 people.

In Devon as a whole, the infection rate is now 357.9 cases per 100,000 population – slightly higher than the national average, which is 356.6 cases per 100,000 people.

A total of 4,330 people tested positive for coronavirus across Devon in the week which ended on October 7. The county-wide weekly total has increased by 566 cases compared to the previous week, which means the infection rate was up 15 per cent in the last week.

The infection rate is higher than the national average in 4 areas of Devon. It is lower than the national average in 6 areas.


In the week ending October 7, a total of 11 people died within 28 days of a positive Covid test across Devon, which is 8 fewer than the week before.

Cases reported in each of the ten areas

There was a rise of seven per cent in cases in East Devon over the week ending October 7, and the infection rate is now 336.3 cases per 100,000 population.

East Devon recorded 498 positive Covid-19 tests over the seven-day period, and that is 33 more than the previous week.

Teignbridge saw a total of 463 cases in the week ending October 7, which is 37 more than the previous week. That is a rise of nine per cent.

In Teignbridge, the most recent coronavirus infection rate is now 342.9 cases per 100,000 people.

In Torridge, there were 310 positive Covid-19 tests in the week ending October 7, which is 55 more than the previous 7 days.

Torridge has the highest infection rate in the region. The infection rate in Torridge is up slightly compared with the previous day and the week-on-week trend is up by 22 per cent.

In North Devon, the latest infection rate is 410.5 cases per 100,000 people and the number of cases has gone up by eight per cent.

A total of 403 people tested positive for Covid in North Devon over the seven days ending on October 7, which is 29 more than the week before.

In Exeter, the number of cases is up by nine per cent compared to the previous week – leaving the infection rate at 315.0 cases per 100,000 population.

There were 420 positive Covid-19 tests in Exeter in the week ending October 7, which was 35 more than the previous 7 days.

There were 241 positive tests over the last week in West Devon, which is 68 more than in the previous week.

The week-on-week trend in West Devon is up by 39 per cent and the latest infection rate is 429.3 cases per 100,000 people.

Plymouth recorded 1016 coronavirus cases, which is 126 more than in the previous seven days.

The latest infection rate in Plymouth is 386.5 cases per 100,000 people and that is up 14 per cent week-on-week.

The trend is up in Torbay, where there were 478 positive Covid-19 tests in the week ending October 7, which is 130 more than the previous 7 days. That is up by 37 per cent compared to the previous week.

The latest infection rate in Torbay is 350.9 cases per 100,000 people, which is lower than the national average.

South Hams is an area where the trend is up. The latest infection rate here is 293.4 cases per 100,000 people.

There were 258 cases recorded in South Hams, which is 17 more than the previous week – a rise of seven per cent.

Mid Devon, which has the lowest infection rate in the region, recorded 243 positive Covid-19 tests in the week ending October 7, which is 36 more than the previous 7 days.

The coronavirus infection rate in Mid Devon is now 291.8 cases per 100,000 people and is up by 17 per cent week-on-week.

Derelict land to be transformed to deliver new homes

Regeneration projects in Devon and Torbay have been awarded more than £8.4 million of Government funding.

Photo of an excavator/digger

The Devon and Torbay One Public Estate Partnership has announced that it has received £7,056,470 of Brownfield Land Release Funding (BLRF), and £1,360,474 of Self and Custom Build Grant funding to help drive economic recovery.

Councils are supported through the One Public Estate programme to deliver initiatives which create economic growth by unlocking land for new homes and jobs; providing new opportunities to save on running costs or generating income funding; or transforming services.

The Devon & Torbay One Public Estate partnership is made up of 10 local authorities (Devon County Council, East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council, Mid Devon District Council, North Devon Council, South Hams District Council, Teignbridge District Council, Torbay Council, Torridge District Council and West Devon Borough Council) as well as the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, Devon & Cornwall Police, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, the NHS, and South Western Ambulance Service.

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Cabinet Member for Economic Recovery and Skills, said:

“The Devon and Torbay OPE Partnership has successfully received the full amount of its bid in this latest round of funding, highlighting the benefits of working closely together. All of these schemes will regenerate and redevelop sites to open up opportunities for housing and economic growth as we look to ensure a strong recovery right across Devon.”

The successful bids for BLRF Funding are:

Exeter City Council –

Exeter City Council has been awarded £5,966,470 for the following sites:

• Cathedral and Quay car park

• Mary Arches car park

• Bonhay Meadows

• Belle Isle

• Exeter Canal Basin

Councillor Laura Wright, Deputy Leader of Exeter City Council, said: “This is excellent news for Exeter. This funding will help kick-start some very innovative housing projects which have been identified for key strategic sites in Exeter. We need to create more quality homes in the city but, to protect the greenfield ridges surrounding Exeter, we need to prioritise building on previously developed brownfield sites. So it is excellent news that the funding is now in place to further progress these important schemes.”

Torbay Council –

Torbay Council is receiving £675,000 for the redevelopment of Brixham town centre multi-storey car park and £415,000 to carry out groundworks at Torre Marine.

The multi-storey car park was demolished in 2004. It is hoped that this funding can help deliver a scheme that will see up to 70 residential units built on site. The project will address the aspirations of residents by bringing forward more affordable housing in the area. The new housing will be built without the loss of any car parking spaces, delivering on Brixham’s Town Centre Regeneration Strategy.

Torre Marine has been the subject of various planning consents over the years but none have been delivered. The funding will be used to try to develop a viable scheme to build 78 Assisted Living care units to be maintained and managed by a registered provider. The aim of the project is to address an under supply of extra care units within Torbay, helping to reduce waiting lists for such specialist accommodation and improving health outcomes for residents.

Councillor Steve Darling, Leader of Torbay Council, said: “It is fantastic that Torbay has secured this funding to allow us to hopefully accelerate the development of these two key sites, if initial investigation works go to plan. In Torbay this summer we have seen record numbers on our housing waiting list and a severe shortage of care accommodation. The lack of housing supply has created a housing crisis in Torbay, therefore a project to accelerate the building of new housing is great news for our residents and local community.”

The Self and Custom Build Grant Funding has been awarded to:

Teignbridge District Council –

Howton Field £585,474

Orchard Lane £275,000

Teignbridge District Council Executive member for housing, Councillor Martin Wrigley, welcomed the funding: “Custom and self-build homes are an attractive option for many people so receiving funding to cover some of the high infrastructure costs on these council owned sites is welcomed. Our plans for 10 – 20 custom build homes at Howton Field near Newton Abbot are well advanced with planning permission already achieved.

“The Orchard Lane site at Dawlish was highlighted in our recent local plan sites option consultation and so any building would be subject to the outcome of that consultation, member consideration and approval as well as planning permission being sought for around six affordable custom or self build homes. If approved, some of the funding would enable us to offset the open space loss by improving play equipment on a nearby site.”

North Devon Council –

Bicclescombe depot £500,000

This government grant is going to enable North Devon Council to deliver the necessary groundworks and infrastructure to release the former Bicclescombe Depot site in Ilfracombe for up to 15 serviced building plots, including affordable housing. It is a great opportunity to open up a site to local residents to build their own homes, but it needs this up-front investment to make it suitable for housing.

There are over a hundred people on North Devon’s register seeking suitable building plots so there is demand for this type of opportunity. Once the Council has secured outline planning permission and delivered the infrastructure, individual serviced plots will be made available for those wishing to physically self-build their own home or those who wish to commission a new home that is delivered by professionals on behalf of new homeowners following a collaboration between a developer and an owner to design or customise their home to suit their individual needs.

North Devon Council’s Lead Member for Economic Regeneration, Councillor Malcolm Prowse, says: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring this site back to life and offer local people a chance to build their own homes. This site has long been a thorn in our side due to the complications on site making it unviable but thanks to this government investment, we can finally overcome all of those hurdles to the benefit of the community and the local economy.”

Almost £58 million has been allocated by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to councils across the country to develop brownfield land into quality housing to help people onto the property ladder while transforming derelict local areas.

News National award for scheme that’s boosted kerbside collections and recycling

An innovative scheme which has allowed Devon’s district councils to improve their kerbside waste collection services and improve recycling rates has won a national award.

The Devon Authorities Shared Saving Scheme was recognised as the ‘Best New Idea’ at the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) Celebration Awards 2021.

The award was accepted by Devon County Council working with and on behalf of five of Devon’s waste collection authorities, East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, Teignbridge and Torridge District Councils.

The scheme has led to savings of £6.8m in treatment costs for the County Council, and half of this extra money has been shared back with the five District Councils which has enabled them to improve their waste collection services.

It has also increased recycling rates for those authorities and improved recycling collection services for over 250,000 Devon households.

The Scheme has allowed the five authorities to change their kerbside collections knowing that savings that they generate in cheaper treatment costs or a reduction in waste volumes will be shared back with them to fund further initiatives and improvements.

It has also supported the introduction of separate weekly food waste collections and partly subsidised separate garden waste collections which has improved the amount of food waste collected.

Average recycling levels within the five District Council areas have improved overall from 47.9% to 55.2% with a reduction in waste volumes of 25kg/head (6%).

Councillor Roger Croad, DCC’s cabinet member responsible for waste said:

Congratulations to Devon County Council’s waste team for delivering this innovative scheme and our district council colleagues – this is a great example of Devon’s councils working together. It has improved local services for more than a quarter of a million people and it’s great that it has been nationally recognised.”

Councillor Geoff Jung, the chair of the Devon Authorities Strategic Waste Committee (DASWC) and East Devon District Council portfolio holder for Coast, Country and Environment said:

I’m delighted that Devon’s councils have been recognised nationally. It shows yet again that by pooling our expertise and knowledge for the greater good of Devon we can, increase efficiency, improve recycling rates and reduce costs to enable us to continue to improve the services we can offer.”

Ban domestic flights and promote rail to tackle climate change, say transport campaigners

A leading national charity is calling on the UK government to ban some domestic flights and do more to promote rail as a greener alternative to help tackle climate change.

Rob O’Connor 

The increasingly influential Campaign for Better Transport is calling for measures to curb the number of domestic flights with a ban on certain routes and the equivalent train journey made cheaper, along with mandatory emissions labelling on airplane tickets. It also wants to see Air Passenger Duty (APD) maintained – rather than cut in the upcoming Budget as the government has indicated it might – and a frequent flyer levy introduced.

The plan would mean an end to flights between Manchester and London, London and Edinburgh, and Birmingham and Glasgow, with people offered cheaper train tickets instead, and anyone taking more than three international flights a year would be required to pay a frequent flyer levy.

Paul Tuohy, Campaign for Better Transport’s chief executive, said: “Cheap domestic flights might seem a good deal when you buy them, but they are a climate disaster, generating seven times more harmful greenhouse emissions than the equivalent train journey. Making the train cheaper will boost passenger numbers and help reduce emissions from aviation, but any cut to air passenger duty – coupled with a rise in rail fares in January – will send the wrong message about how the government wants people to travel and mean more people choosing to fly. The government has led the way with bold climate ambitions, now it needs to take similarly bold actions to make those ambitions a reality.”

Campaign for Better Transport is calling for the following measures to help tackle climate change, reduce carbon emissions from aviation and boost rail passenger numbers:

  • A ban on all domestic flights where the equivalent train journey is under five hours; [This would rule out domestic flights from Exeter to London, Manchester, Leeds and put Norwich on the borderline – Owl]
  • Cheaper trains tickets to compete with budget airlines;
  • No cut to Air Passenger Duty and a frequent flyer levy on international flights in the upcoming Budget;
  • Stop all plans for airport expansion until ‘net zero flights’ are a reality;
  • Make airlines label their tickets with comparison train emissions so that people can make informed choices.

Campaign for Better Transport is warning that without further measures to help reduce emissions from transport, the UK will struggle to meet its climate commitments. With the Budget falling just days before the start of the UN Climate Conference COP26 in Glasgow, the charity warns that any cut to APD will damage the UK’s environmental credibility ahead of the international conference.

The charity argues that many of the most popular domestic flight can be completed by direct train instead, bringing the UK closer to achieving net zero carbon emission. When check in and landing times are factored in, many of the journeys take a similar amount of time by train, but the charity argues one of the reasons people fly is the cost of the equivalent train journey and that more could be done to ensure rail is always the cheaper option.

To prove the benefits of travelling by train, Campaign for Better Transport’s Paul Tuohy and Norman Baker, a former Lib-Dem MP and transport minister in the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government between 2010-2013, ‘raced’ from London’s Piccadilly Circus to George’s Square in Glasgow on Friday 8 October by plane and train respectively. Door to door the plane journey was two minutes quicker but released almost seven times the amount of greenhouse gases.