Thursday, 21 June 2018

Making Plymouth Sound the UK's first national marine park

An exciting report in today's national press: 

A kayaking family filmed a rare sighting of a killer whale off the coast of Devon

Orca in Plymouth Sound (Photo: Eileen Wright)

Josh Barrie
Thursday June 21st 2018

A large dolphin believed to be an orca has been spotted swimming off the coast of Devon in an extremely rare sighting. The huge orca, which while commonly known as a ‘killer whale’ is in fact a species of dolphin, was filmed by Eileen Wright in Plymouth Sound.

Orcas are sometimes seen in British waters, but not usually in great numbers, and are usually found in northerly areas of Scotland. This is the first orca sighting in Plymouth, which happened four years ago – and was then believed to be the first recorded.

This month, the Wright family were kayaking in Plymouth Sound when they saw the telltale killer whale fin in the water. The mammals can grow up to 30ft long.

Kayaker Neil Wright, from Plympton, said: “It was much larger than anything I had seen on previous trips out around the Sound, probably at least twice the length of the two-metre grey seals I have seen. The height of the dorsal fin is what really stood out but sadly the encounter was over almost before we had a chance to really think about what we might have just witnessed. It was much larger than anything I had seen on previous trips out around the Sound, probably at least twice the length of the two-metre grey seals I have seen”

Staff at the National Marine Aquarium (NMA) in Plymouth said they were hugely excited to be sent the footage. Experts said all the characteristics of the animal suggest it was an orca (Orcinus orca).

Mark Parry, conservation project manager, said to i: “It’s a really wonderful sighting. It’s an amazing sight to see.”

An NMA spokesperson added: “As a charity dedicated to connecting us with our oceans, and having just held a national meeting on the future of marine parks around the UK, it was almost perfect timing for an unusual sighting in the area of water just in front of the aquarium.”

Kayaking family filmed rare sighting of killer whale off coast of Devon

This has highlighted the importance of Plymouth Sound - and the promise of it forming part of a 'blue belt':
'Blue Belt' plan for Devon coast - Devon Live

This is part of the UK government's plans:
World-leading 'Blue Belt’ expands as new marine protections revealed - GOV.UK
Britain's 'blue belt' haven protecting marine life will increase by 50%, Theresa May announces - Telegraph

Which were announced on World Ocean Day earlier this month:
Futures Forum: "This week marked World Environment day and World Ocean day, both of which highlighted plastic global pollution as the most urgent problem facing our planet."

And part of that is the promise of a 'national marine park': 

Minister gives thumbs up to plans for new Plymouth national marine park

This new blue belt will mean that harmful economic activity isn’t allowed

Keith Rossiter
8 JUN 2018

Plymouth's hopes of becoming a new national marine park have won backing at the highest level.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who visited the Westcountry today, said he likes the imaginative plans to create the park. Mr Gove was speaking on the day he announced a third wave of marine conservation zones (MCZs), including 16 in the Westcountry and three near Plymouth. He has also commissioned a review which will look at extending Britain's national parks.

An international conference in the city this week brought together scores of supporters in a campaign to set up a new marine park that embraces the diverse range of protected coastal habitats in Plymouth Sound and the surrounding area.

Asked if the Plymouth campaign to create a new national marine park as part of the expansion of national parks was worth considering, Mr Gove said: “Yes it is. We are in the market of for imaginative ideas for making sure our marine environment as well as our landscapes can be better protected.

“Of course, each scheme has to be considered on its own merits, and we need to consider what the consequences might be for existing businesses. But yes, it’s an attractive idea, and we want to look very closely to see whether it’s a runner.”

Mr Gove also announced a third wave of 41 new marine conservation zones, including proposals for the Erme, Avon and Dart estuaries near Plymouth.

“We’re fortunate to have some of the healthiest and most productive seas in the world, but we need to do more,” he said. “We need to make sure our marine environment is protected for the next generation. This new blue belt will mean that harmful economic activity isn’t allowed in those parts of our seas, and we can see fish stocks grow.”

He said the MCZs had been designed to ensure that we “have the best possible prospects for our fishermen”, that fish stocks are protected and grown and that they have an opportunity in the future to fish even more so that coastal communities, which suffered while we’ve been in the EU, have the chance to revive.”

Consultation opened yesterday on the new MCZs, which will safeguard almost 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitats and mark the most significant expansion of the UK’s “Blue Belt” to date. The proposed protections – announced on World Oceans Day – will cover an area almost eight times the size of Greater London.

No new activities deemed damaging – such as dredging, or significant coastal or offshore development – will be allowed to take place in these areas. Existing harmful activities will be minimised or stopped to allow important habitats to be restored over time.

A marine parks conference was held at the National Marine Aquarium (Image: Keith Rossiter)

Rare or threatened marine habitats and species which will be protected include the short snouted seahorse, stalked jellyfish and peacock’s tail seaweed.

At the same time, the Prime Minister will be making a call for urgent global action to protect the world’s oceans from plastics and other harmful waste. Speaking at the G7 summit in Canada, she will implore other world leaders to follow the UK lead in working with business, industry and non-governmental organisations to find innovative and effective solutions to this issue.

Some 50 MCZs have already been designated around England, including the first tranche of 27 designated in 2013, followed by 23 sites in 2016. This third and final tranche will be designated within 12 months of the consultation, which will last for six weeks. It will cover approximately 11,700 square km, bringing the total area of protection to more than 32,000 square kilometres.

Marine Conservation Zones are just one type of the many Marine Protected Areas in place around the UK to conserve rare, threatened and nationally important habitats and species for future generations. Marine Protected Areas cover a total of 209,000 square kilometres.

If approved, the new tranche will take the total to about 220,000 square kilometres, or two fifths of the UK coast.

Mr Gove, said: “The UK is surrounded by some of the richest and most diverse sea life in the world. We must protect these precious habitats for future generations.”

The sites in the Westcountry are: Axe Estuary; Camel Estuary; Cape Bank; Dart Estuary; Devon Avon Estuary; East of Start Point; Erme Estuary; Helford Estuary; Morte Platform; North West of Lundy; Orford Inshore; Otter Estuary; South of Celtic Deep; South of the Isles of Scilly; South West approaches to Bristol Channel.

Firestone Bay from 'Exploring Britain's Hidden World' by Keith Hiscock (Image: Keith Hiscock)

The Marine Conservation Society said designation was only the first step to creating a network of sites, and that adequate funding must be found to ensure these final sites are not protected in name alone. 

Among the sites put forward for the public consultation, which starts today, is South West Approaches to Bristol Channel, an area that hosts a reef complex, and a sand and gravel seabed. Recovery of the fish populations and wider species in this rich sea would widely benefit the animals, and migratory species such as common dolphin, sharks and seabirds that regularly visit this site.

Further offshore, South West Deeps East is an area that could show phenomenal recovery following intense historical fishing pressure.

Minister gives thumbs up to plans for new Plymouth national marine park - Plymouth Live

Oliver Rackham and the Wildwood @ Radio 3

This week, Radio 3 is taking us into the forest:
BBC Radio 3 - Breakfast - Into the Forest
Futures Forum: Into the Forest @ Radio 3

And this evening, it takes us into the world of Oliver Rackham:

Oliver Rackham and Wildwood Ideas

Our romantic attachment to the idea of wildwood, the impossibility of ever getting back to some primeval grove, and the possibilities opening up about the health and wellbeing of future forests, are debated by Rana Mitter with ecologist and conservationist, Keith Kirby, who knew and worked with the late Oliver Rackham (1939-2015), botanist Fraser Mitchell whose work with pollen is helping to uncover the deep history of trees and environmental archaeologist, Suzi Richer, who is assembling oral histories of woodcraftship and exploring different ways we have imagined the forest. Also celebrating the habitat where many good trees went to die, Donald Murray, author and poet, who grew up on the Hebridean moorland of Lewis, celebrates peat bogs, for themselves and their place in human cultures around the world.
Guests: Keith Kirby, Plant Ecology Research Group, University of Oxford
Fraser Mitchell, Trinity Centre for the Environment, Trinity College, Dublin
Suzi Richer, Environmental Archaelogist from the University of York
Donald Murray his book The Dark Stuff: Stories from the Peatlands is out now
Producer: Jacqueline Smith
In midsummer week, Radio 3 enters one of the most potent sources of the human imagination. 'Into the Forest' explores the enchantment, escape and magical danger of the forest in summer, with slow radio moments featuring the sounds of the forest, allowing time out from today's often frenetic world.
Main image: Oliver Rackham working in the White Mountains of Crete July 2012 taken by his collaborator Jennifer Moody (Courtesy of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge)

BBC Radio 3 - Free Thinking, Oliver Rackham and Wildwood Ideas

This blog considered the great man on his death back in 2015:
Futures Forum: Oliver Rackham: How 'natural' is our landscape?

Here's another tree book:
Futures Forum: "The Wood for the Trees" > SVA lecture: Weds 14th March

Swift awareness week >>>

Exeter has a project to help out the swift:
Futures Forum: Swifts over Exeter >>> "showcasing the potential for urban green spaces to benefit wildlife" 

And Exmouth has a group:

Exmouth Swift Group

Contact - Jan Gannaway - exmouthswifts@gmail.com

Aims - To conserve and increase our small local breeding population of swifts

Activities - In 2017 we are concentrating on finding all the current breeding sites in our area so that we can protect them and also working with local churches to get boxes into church towers. Later on we hope to work with schools and to persuade local councils to promote swift conservation.

Facebook - facebook.com/groups/ExmouthSwiftGroup

Swifts Local Network – Google My Maps

This is an important week for swifts in the UK: 

UK Swift Awareness Week

Saturday 16 June - Saturday 23 June 2018

This summer, Britain will become the first country in the world to dedicate a national week in support of Swifts.

Swift Awareness Week will run from 16 – 23 June. There will be events and publicity all around the country, organised by dozens of local Swift groups. These events aim to raise awareness of Swifts and bring a focus to their plight, and of course provide information about how to help them. The Swift is one of the few endangered species that individuals really can help in their own property and there are many groups across the country working hard to try to halt their dramatic decline of 50% in just 20 years.

UK Swift Awareness Week - National Biodiversity Network

Action for Swifts: 2018 UK Swift Awareness Week, 16-23 June

As promoted by SpringWatch - with comment on their blog:

19 Jun 2018 20:40

I live in East Devon; there is a small colony of swifts in Broadhembury; we see about six flying over our village which is about two miles from there most days, a bit down on last year. There is large colony in the village of Culmstock well established, in the eaves of the Old Mill, also in the town of Honiton swifts are screaming everywhere. Numbers seem the same as last year.

BBC Blogs - Springwatch - Swift Awareness Week

Axminster woodworker Joshua Johansen - innovative Devon shepherd's huts and exquisite bespoke furniture

An Axminster woodworker has been doing some innovative stuff with traditional Devon craft:
we craft beautiful Shepherd Huts - Joshua Rose Shepherd Huts

And very beautiful too:

Meet the Maker - Joshua Rose Woodwork - YouTube

Josh has been profiled in the national glossies too:
Shepherd's Delight - Period Living

The Axminister Tools & Machinery business has a nice profile too:

Meet The Maker - Woodworker Joshua Johansen Of Joshua Rose

He also does exquisite furniture:

Bespoke furniture- from commission to reality - YouTube
Artists page | Devon Artists Network (Ltd Company No. 06202878)

Midsummer in the West Country

Midsummer is not only celebrated at Stonehenge...
Happy Litha as thousands celebrate Summer Solstice 2018 UK at Stonehenge - Birmingham Live
Awaiting the dawn at Stonehenge: midnight parties - archive, 21 June 1928 | UK news | The Guardian

... but also elsewhere in the West Country:

Summer Solstice in the West Country shaping up to be clear and sunny | West Country - ITV News

Including Cornwall:

Traditional event for midsummer's eve

Thursday, 21 June 2018 - Local People
by Cornish Times

FLOWER garlands, saffron buns and song will be part of a midsummer’s eve event on the outskirts of Liskeard.

The summer solstice bonfire has been organised by the Old Cornwall Society (OCS) for many decades, and used to be held at Castle Park. This year it will take place at Bolitho Farm.

The ancient ceremony, conducted in Cornish and in English, is said to encourage a long and sunny summer in order to ripen the crops for a good harvest.

’Everyone is welcome to help us keep this grand Cornish tradition alive and well in Liskeard,’ said OCS president Brian Oldham. ‘Saffron buns will be provided, but bring your own liquid refreshments.’

The midsummer’s eve bonfire will be held at 6.30pm on Saturday June 23.

Traditional event for midsummer's eve | News | The Cornish Times

It is of course an international thing:
Midsummer — the year′s longest day and shortest night | DW | 20.06.2018

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Sidford business park >>> How to allocate an ‘employment site’ in the local development plan - that is on a flood plain, is a rich wildlife habitat, and whose main access would be a narrow street where two lorries can’t pass without mounting the pavement...

Several submissions on the planning application at Sidford have referred directly to the history of the allocation - citing the influence of the East Devon Business Forum:
Futures Forum: Sidford business park >>> “Sidmouth’s outstanding natural environment is a key asset - and conservation, enhancement and sensitive management of the landscape, heritage and wildlife of the area is critical.”
Futures Forum: VGS comment on Fords planning application 18/1094/MOUT >>> "there is no proven need for this particular business park"
Futures Forum: Sidford business park >>> and the East Devon Business Forum revisited

A correspondent has provided this overview on the East Devon Watch site:


18 JUN 2018

Tim Ford, once a much-respected plumbing and electrical contactor in Sidmouth, is renewing his controversial application to build a business park in the AONB at Sidford. (18/1094/MOUT)

Incredulous locals wonder how it was possible for a council to allocate an ‘employment site’ in its local development plan that is on a flood plain, is a rich wildlife habitat, and whose main access would be a narrow street where two lorries can’t pass without mounting the pavement!

For the dominant Tory group on East Devon District Council it was easy!

First, they let landowners and developers decide where to build. In 2007 they asked East Devon Business Forum how much employment land the district would need over the next 25 years. EDBF was a lobby group which included the Carters of Greendale, the Stuarts of Hill Barton and Tim Ford of Sidmouth. Their answer was predictable: lots and lots!

Second, they put Chair of EDBF, Cllr Graham (‘I ain’t doin’ it for peanuts!’) Brown:


in charge of quietly asking landowners where they would like to build. Apparently, the proposal for a Sidford business park was first mooted at one of these confidential meetings in July 2010.

Third, in 2011 they elected Paul Diviani, founder member of EDBF, as leader. Under him the District Council became what many saw as a ‘Development Corporation’, the planning system became less about protecting the environment and more about encouraging building.

Fourth, they didn’t listen to the public or community groups whom they ignored or misrepresented. Sidmouth Chamber of commerce said the business park would be catastrophic for local businesses, Council minutes recorded the Chamber as supporting it!

Fifth, they whipped their large political majority to vote through the Sidford allocation. When hostile public reaction worried them just before the 2015 council elections they voted to ‘remove it’ from the Local Plan. Universal Rejoicing! But in 2016 the Inspector kept it in the Plan. Why? Because East Devon’s chief planning officer had not been instructed to give the Inspector reasons for the council’s change of mind!

Former EDDC Leader Diviani is now EDDC’s representative on the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan. In its confidential meetings he is helping to oversee a gigantic overspill project along the A3052 in the west end of the District where hundreds of acres of land are being earmarked for a massive expansion of business parks and thousands of new houses.

Indeed one such expansion was announced only this weekend near Cranbrook, where the developer is quoted as saying:

“The first, ‘Scenario 1’ is a response to existing market demand with the provision of a single large unit of around one million square feet (92,9000 sq.m.).

‘Scenario 2’ would see the site offer a multi-unit option, providing a range of sizes and configurations informed by ongoing market need.”


Which all makes the wretched Sidford application even less necessary!

Would you choose immediate A-road and motorway access to Exeter and the M5 or access down a country road where two medium-size vehicles cannot pass?


Sidford residents say resounding no to new industrial zone in village

Could Councillor Stuart Hughes have done more for Sidford Fields?

Sidford Business Park – a grubby history | East Devon Watch

Knowle relocation project: and retirement home developers in trouble

Builders of retirement home developments have been pushing it somewhat:
Futures Forum: Sidford and developers lobbying to exempt retirement complexes from affordable housing obligations

Both in Sidford and at Knowle:
Futures Forum: A tale of two developments > affordable housing in Sidford ... but not at Knowle

Apparently, the sister company of the builder of the Sidford retirement complex is having difficulties, though:  

McCarthy & Stone, which specialises in selling homes to older buyers, said there had been a “noticeable decline” in reservation rates since its first quarter with potential buyers exercising “more caution due to ongoing economic uncertainty, a slower secondary market and a softening of pricing...

Housebuilder McCarthy & Stone tumbles 13% on poor sales | Financial Times
Retirement homes boss retires after McCarthy & Stone profit collapse | London Evening Standard
McCarthy & Stone shares slump to record low after profit warning - Telegraph 

As reported by East Devon Watch:


19 JUN 2018

“… Another profit warning at McCarthy & Stone (MCS.L) triggered a sharp share price fall for the UK’s biggest builder of homes for retirees a 18.8 percent decline. …”

Could this be part of the reason? 

There are no affordable properties being built at the PegasusLife Knowle site...

Retirement home builders feeling the pinch … | East Devon Watch

The post goes on to quote from what's happening in London - where the builders of retirement housing are being challenged:
Judge rules in favour of Mayor’s threshold approach to housing | London City Hall 

However, it seems that the likes of PegasusLife and Churchill - both of whom are building retirement complexes in the Sid Valley - have been successful after all in putting pressure on the London Mayor: 

They said imposing affordable housing requirements along with retirement homes for sale made their schemes financially ­unviable.