Community Hospital Beds

At this morning’s NHS Clinical Commissioning Group meeting it was decided that the number of community hospital beds in North Devon should be reduced from 72 to 40.

The voting was unanimously in favour. It should be noted that, with one exception, all those who are allowed to vote are local GPs. So this wasn’t a decision made by faceless managers but one made by practising local doctors.

The next step in the process is to decide where those beds should be, and therefore which community hospitals will lose their beds. This certainly doesn’t mean that any hospitals will close but it does mean that there will be a change of focus.

CCTV Useful or Not?

There’s currently renewed discussion about CCTV in South Molton.

Personally I think CCTV is, generally, a ‘bad thing’ and its usefulness in terms of the detection and prevention of crime is very overrated.

A recent College of Policing document about the use of CCTV had this to say:

“The review finds that use of Close Circuit Television (CCTV) can lead to a small reduction in crime. CCTV is more effective when directed against specific types of crime; it is effective at reducing theft of and from vehicles, but has no impact on levels of violent crime”.

And an official Home Office report said this:

“[E]vidence suggests that over 80% of the CCTV footage supplied to the police is far from ideal, especially if it is being used for primary identification”.

In civil service language having a car with three wheels  would be “far from ideal”.  The rest of us, on the other hand, would say it was “completely useless”.

There are of course very good uses for CCTV. CCTV coverage of ticket barriers, motorways and shops is a good thing.  It’s good for perimeter security of  large buildings. But only if  constantly monitored and acted on very quickly.

Landscapes and Developments

Many people see development as being a good thing, as being something that means “South Molton is going places” – as a former councillor said- but it very much has its downsides.

Anaerobic Digester

This picture, taken from Great Hele Lane, shows the anaerobic digester being built. It actually looks worse in real-life than in the photograph. The site is to the right where the crane is.

The Community College is going to be rebuilt in front of the current buildings.   The old building is a two storey building, its replacement will be three stories.

The photograph below shows the current view from Alswear Old Road to South Molton. Imagine what it will look like once the new, taller community college is built. The current community college is the white structures running from left to right. The new, taller, building will be built in front of that.

Community College

The next picture is a view of Alswear Old Road looking north towards South Molton. I was able to stand in the road to take the picture because there’s very little traffic. The local plan talks about a western extension road joining Alswear Old Road just behind where I took the picture.

This means widening Alswear Old Road, and will mean the loss of the hedge rows on both sides.

Alswear Old Road Towards South Molton

So, is development good or bad!

Old Road to Tiverton Closed Again

Many of you will know that the road to Tiverton via Witheridge, is, once more, closed.

I have to say I’m totally underwhelmed by the way in which Devon County Council Highways department handle these, all too frequent, closures.

The first I knew of it was when a sign appeared at the junction of Poltimore Road and Alswear New Road stating boldly “This Road Will be Closed 27/05/15 to 2/6/15”.

The following day the sign changed as follows:

Road Closure Poltimore Road and Alswear New Road Pt 1

I rang the Highways Department to ask where the road was going to be closed  (an issue of interest to me as I live down Alswear New Road). They couldn’t tell me!

Several phone calls later I was eventually told by the contractors (South West Highways) that the road was going to be closed at Meshaw. I told them that it was extremely unhelpful not to be told where exactly the road was going to be closed!

The following day the number of signs increased:

Road Closure Signs Pt 2

At least this time you know you can’t get to Witheridge, but it still doesn’t say where the road is closed. For that information we have to rely on the bus company.

At the bus stop opposite Sainsbury’s Stagecoach posted the following sign:

Bus Company Service Notice

At last! We know where the road will be closed  – or at least pedestrians and bus users will. Car drivers are still left in the dark!




Why Bother?

Tucking Mill Lane Public Footpath Sign

I frequently walk the dog along Tucking Mill Lane and the other day I noticed the post in this photograph had suddenly appeared – it’s just to the right of the rather pointless “No Tipping” sign.

I wondered what it was, and it was only when I drew level with it that I saw that it was a Public Footpath sign.

Well done to Devon County Council’s Public Rights of Way (PROW) team for fulfilling their legal obligations by marking the right of way. But in future make sure you put the signs where they can be seen properly.


Enterprising Creatures

I wonder whether Western Power know that they’ve got birds nesting in one of the power poles at the top of the Sheep Fair Field.

Birds Nest in Power Pole

When walking the dog the other day I saw a small bird fly into the hole (circled in red). Of course I didn’t have my camera ready when it flew in, and the dog was getting a bit fractious, so I couldn’t wait until it flew out. So all I’ve got is a picture of a hole.

If you’re out walking in that area take a look and if you see anything flying in or out drop me a line so that I know that my eyes weren’t deceiving me.


That’s Better


Phone Box at the end of Kingsway
Phone Box at the end of Kingsway

and after:

Kingsway Refurbished Phone Box (Website Portrait)

It took several e-mails to BT, but now the phone box at Kingsway looks very much better than it did last September.

It works, the glass has been replaced, and there’s even a new door!

They’re still going to take it away though.

Swingeing Cuts

Whitehall spending as a proportion of GDP is expected to fall to its lowest level for 80 years by 2020. Spending on health, education and international development will, however, be ‘ring-fenced’.

Unprotected Whitehall departments will be expected to find £13 billion worth of departmental savings.

In a speech that underlined his credentials as a potential future leader of the Conservative Party, Mr Osborne said he wanted Britain to secure “higher living standards for the next generation to come”.

I find it very difficult to reconcile the fact that Osborne seeks higher living standards yet at the same time is proposing swingeing cuts to services.

Badly maintained roads, dirty street signs, overgrown verges, blocked drains, cut backs in social services etc. etc. do nothing to improve living standards at all – in fact quite the reverse.

If you only spend money on patching things up there comes a time some years later when you have to spend a lot more money on doing the job properly.

Blocked Drains

Badly Maintained Roads

Dirty Signs

First Time

This evening was the first time I’d attended a council meeting as a councillor rather than as a member of the public.

Was I nervous? No.

Why not? Because I’ve been well prepared by spending a large proportion of my working life attending (and chairing) meetings of highly qualified, opinionated, professional people from the international IT industry.

I’ve also attended many council meetings as a member of the public and am therefore familiar with official procedures and know most of the councillors. All of which makes life a great deal easier.

Was I disconcerted? Yes.

Why? The selection of Mayor and deputy Mayor is an annual event which is a legal requirement and one which is hugely important.

The Mayor is both the ‘leader’ of the council and the civic head. The deputy Mayor takes over those functions when the Mayor is indisposed.

David Goodman was an excellent choice for Mayor. He’s a very good chair, has an excellent public persona and also has a great deal of public support!

Much as I like Christine Lock, who’s the newly elected deputy, I don’t feel that she was the best choice for the town.

I’m afraid, but not at all surprised, that I feel the malign influence of party politics.



Sprouting Cabinets

The observant among you would have noticed BT Openreach and its contractors digging up a fair number of roads and pavements in South Molton. That’s because they’re laying the foundations for superfast broadband.

South Molton Broadband Rollout v9

The yellow stars on the map show where superfast broadband cabinets have already been installed and the red ones where they’re about to be installed. Green means that they’re live (only one of those at present – in Pathfields).  I’ll try and keep this map up-to-date. UPDATE: 19/06/15 Duke Street added.  We now have to wait for the cabinets to go live. I suspect that will be in about six month’s time. But who knows.

Standard BT cabinets have copper wire from the cabinet to your home or premises and copper wire from the cabinet to the exchange.

Superfast Broadband cabinets on the other, although they still have wire to your home, have fibre-optic cable to the exchange. Unlike standard cabinets, these cabinets have to have a power supply to work the electronics that converts the pulses of light that travel down the  fibre-optic cable into electrical signals that travel along the copper wire.

This means that the pavement and roads need to be dug up to lay the optical cable back to the exchange and to connect the cabinet to a power supply.

Given the number of power outages we have in South Molton I wonder whether those with superfast broadband will suffer more broadband failures!

Having just looked at the Connecting Devon and Somerset website it appears as if superfast broadband on the Pathfields Estate is now live! The BT website confirms that orders are being taken for premises at Pathfields. Having taken a closer look it appears that all the premises on Pathfields, as well as the Riverside Caravan Park and the Adventure Centre on the other side of the Link Road, have access to superfast broadband.