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Devon and Somerset fire stations may close under changes

Ben Woolvin

BBC South West Home Affairs correspondent

Some fire stations may close under changes being considered by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.

The brigade is due to reveal options for change later on Wednesday.

Bosses said it was to bring an outdated service into the 21st Century.

Unions said closing any fire stations would be a mistake and they were concerned about a potential "lack of fire cover and increased response times".

Devon and Somerset Fire Service vehicle

Talking about a service delivery public consultation on its website, the brigade said it was originally designed over 50 years ago and that "since then, the make-up of our communities and the way in which people live their lives has changed significantly".

It added: "The majority of our existing 85 fire stations have been in place for well over 30 years and the firefighter duty systems have not changed since the 1970s."

Weather: Clear spells and scattered showers overnight

BBC Weather

Weather map

Most places should remain dry tonight with clear spells, but the odd shower can't be ruled out.

Minimum Temperature: 7C (45F)

Looking ahead, there will be a few scattered showers on Thursday, but in general there will be lots of dry spells with some sunshine and a light breeze.

Maximum temperature: 17C (63F).

Police 'stormed' university in gunman threat

Aisling Finn

BBC News Online

Police cars at the University of Exeter
Katie Leadbetter-Hope/Jo Crawford

A student at the University of Exeter said "about seven policemen stormed into the Amory building" following reports of a man with a handgun.

Student Katie Leadbetter-Hope said: "The guy was taken out in handcuffs at about 12:25. He looked like he was of student age and people are speculating he was sitting an exam."

The Amory building is a centre for humanities on the Streatham campus of the university.

Police said nobody was injured in the incident.

BreakingArmed police arrest man with 'handgun' at Exeter University

Armed police have arrested a man at Exeter University following reports of a student making threats to other students while carrying a "handgun".

Devon and Cornwall Police have seized the weapon and the suspect is in custody.

There were no injuries in the incident.

View more on twitter
View more on twitter

Dartmoor Zoo 'will never forget' popular brown bear Hayley

Millicent Cooke

BBC News Online

Dartmoor Zoo has announced the death of its popular brown bear Hayley.

Much-loved by staff and visitors, Hayley was born at a wildlife park in Scotland on Christmas Day 1985 and moved to Dartmoor 18 months later.

Dubbed "Hayley the hoover", she soon formed a firm friendship with fellow bear Fudgy, who died in 2017.

Hayley bear
Dartmoor Zoo

Earlier this year, Hayley had a period of ill health that concerned keepers and staff.

Although she appeared to recover, the zoo said her arthritis had developed, and her mobility became more affected.

"Having spent 32 years at Dartmoor, she became somewhat of a matriarch to our family. Life at the zoo goes on, but we will never forget you Hayley Bear," the zoo said in a statement.

Fudgy bear
Dartmoor Zoo

We are very sad to announce the death of Hayley, our much-loved European brown bear. She was one of the great characters of Dartmoor Zoo and will be missed by thousands of people."

Dartmoor ZooSpokesperson

Weather: Showers will clear later

BBC Weather

Weather map

Rain will clear through the morning to leave a dry and increasingly sunny day.

A generally gentle breeze. Maximum temperature: 18C (64F).

Patients waiting more than a year for treatment

BBC Spotlight

More than 250 patients in the South West had waited more than a year for hospital treatment at the end of March.

NHS England had hoped to halve the number over the last year but missed the target.

Trusts say the closure of operating theatres and high demand for services is partly to blame.

John Beaumont told the BBC he paid for his knee replacement to be carried out privately after being told he would have to wait up 18 months with the NHS

Weather: Showers and rain pushing in before drier spells

BBC Weather

Further spells of showery rain will push in through the course of Tuesday night, some spells could be on the heavy side.

A few mist patches may develop too.

Minimum temperature: 9 to 12C (48 to 54F).


A rather dull start to Wednesday with areas of rain and mostly cloudy skies.

However, an improving picture into the afternoon as it turns drier and brighter.

Maximum temperature: 15 to 18C (59 to 64F).

Mental health detainee driven from North Devon to Torquay

Ed Oldfield

Local Democracy Reporting Service

The location of safe places for people suffering a mental health crisis in Devon has been questioned after police had to drive a detainee from North Devon to Torquay.

The officers used up most of a shift on the 150-mile round trip to find an assessment place for the person who had been held under the Mental Health Act.

The incident was raised by Torridge Independent councillor Philip Hackett at a meeting of the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel.

He said the problem had arisen after the closure of a designated place of safety in North Devon.

Two places at Exeter were unavailable when the person needed help out-of-hours so the officers had to drive on to Torquay.

Cllr Hackett said: “Surely there needs to be a place of safety to stop two or three officers being taken off shift.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez told the meeting the situation would be reviewed and "there does just need to be another look at that".

A place of safety which can take two people was opened by the Devon Partnership Trust at The Cedars psychiatric hospital in Exeter in April last year following consultation with the police.

The suite operates round-the-clock as part of a response by the NHS and emergency services to reduce the number of people with mental health needs being held in police cells. Now in most cases people are taken to a place of safety instead of a policy custody centre.

The trust has also opened a series of crisis cafes across Devon, including one in Barnstaple, to support people while reducing demand on the emergency services.

Heathrow plans include joining Great Western rail links

BBC News

Heathrow Airport has published details of its plans to construct a third runway by 2026 and complete its expansion by 2050.

The proposals, which include diverting rivers and rerouting the M25 through a tunnel under the runway, will be open to public consultation until mid-September.

It also wants to join existing rail links to the Great Western network.

The controversial scheme to expand Heathrow won government backing last year.

The expansion has faced fierce opposition, but the airport said it had engaged with local communities and other stakeholders.

The proposals are now open to public consultation until 13 September.

Architects' visualisation of expanded Heathrow
Grimshaw Architects
An architects' visualisation of Heathrow's planned expansion shows the third runway, new terminals and car parks

Zoo staff battle around the clock to save sick orangutan

Andrew Segal

BBC South West

Gambira the orangutan being treated at Paignton Zoo
Paignton Zoo

Animal experts at Paignton Zoo in Devon have been battling around the clock to save a sick primate, staff say.

Keepers, vets and vet nurses responded swiftly when 22-year-old female orangutan Gambira, who was born at the zoo, was taken ill suddenly.

They found she had an infection of an air sac - a large pouch in the throat, thought to be used for vocalisation and connected to the respiratory system. The condition is known as air saccultis, and can be fatal.

During emergency surgery and treatment, which often saw staff staying up with her through the night, they had to cut drainage holes in her air sacs and are thought to have removed "1.5 to 2 litres of pus in total".

Staff said she had been "improving slowly but steadily" since the treatment and also underwent a second short procedure to flush the air sacs a week later which found much less fluid.

They added that they were "keeping a very close eye on her" and monitoring to ensure a chest infection clears.

Zoo spokesperson Phil Knowling said: "We almost lost her, she was very close to death. What shines through at these difficult times is the dedication and care of the keepers and the vet team."

University's diabetes research centre gets £6m grant

Andrew Segal

BBC South West

The University of Exeter has been awarded £6m towards the expansion of its diabetes research centre.

The major investment is part of the government's UK industrial strategy.

Diabetes research in Exeter began in 1987 and the centre has made many discoveries that have transformed the treatment and care for diabetics, including improving helping improve clinical care in the NHS.

The disease, which affects blood sugar levels, is one of the world's greatest health challenges, affecting about 400m people.

University of Exeter diabetes research website
University of Exeter

Weather: Cloudy with chance of showers

Alex Osborne

BBC Weather

A rather cloudy day with a chance of some spells of showery rain at times.

There will still be some drier interludes with gentle winds.

Maximum temperature: 17C (63F).

weather map

Devon Tory MPs declare support for leadership candidates

BBC Radio Devon

The latest Devon MP to declare support for one of the Tory leadership contenders is South West Devon's Sir Gary Streeter, who has joined Torbay MP Kevin Foster in backing Sajid Javid.

Other local conservative MPs Central Devon's Mel Stride and Tiverton & Honiton's Neil Parish have said they are supporting Michael Gove.

Newton Abbot's Anne Marie Morris is behind Dominic Raab.

Plymouth Moor View's Johnny Mercer is supporting Boris Johnson, as is Torridge and West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox,

Mr Cox introduced Mr Johnson when the former foreign secretary and mayor of London launched his leadership campaign.

Weather: Mainly dry but getting cloudier

Emily Wood

BBC Weather

Largely dry on Monday night, with some clear spells and mist and fog patches.

However, cloud will thicken in the early hours.

Minimum temperature: 8 to 11C (46 to 52F).


Rather cloudy on Tuesday, with a chance of some spells of showery rain at times throughout the day. Gentle winds.

Maximum temperature: 13 to 16C (55 to 61F).

Police forensics service faces a major shake-up

Ed Oldfield

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Jobs could be at risk in the Devon & Cornwall Police forensics service under a major shake-up.

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer has revealed the force’s science support service is undergoing modernisation to take into account new digital processes.

But concerns have been raised about the impact of changes on the service in Plymouth, which has already seen the effect of cutbacks with fewer crimes being investigated by forensics staff.

Under the restructuring plan, fingerprint and chemical laboratories would be based with Avon & Somerset Police and Devon & Cornwall would host a digital centre. The force would also have a series of forensic hubs where staff would collect material from crime scenes for analysis.

Devon & Cornwall Police

The plan follows a decision in March to drop a plan to transfer employment of the Devon & Cornwall team to Dorset Police.

Mr Sawyer told members of the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel that the changes could take between six months and a year, adding he hoped any staff who might lose their job could be retrained and redeployed, but redundancies could not be ruled out.

Discussions would be taking place with staff and the GMB union.

He said there were concerns about a backlog in forensics work which was having an impact on the progress of sexual offence cases.

Mr Sawyer said: “Digital fingerprints can be looked at as easily from Scotland as Saltash. We have to work in the real world.”

The chief constable was responding to a question about the changes from Plymouth Labour councillor Sally Haydon, who commented: “We don’t want to lose any of our highly skilled staff from here.”

Knee op prep reveals prostate cancer

Jenny Walrond

Health Correspondent, BBC Spotlight

Lesle Burden and Paul Gidley

A Plymouth man's life was saved by having a pre-operative assessment for a knee replacement, he says.

Nurse Lesle Burden checked on earlier blood tests Paul Gidley had had and picked up the signs of an aggressive prostate cancer after seeing a high PSA [prostate-specific antigen] level.

She told him to go straight back to his GP and to have this followed up, which led to him being treated with radiotherapy, surgery and hormone therapy.

About 3,000 men a year in the South West are diagnosed with the disease, with one in six men nationwide developing it.

In the meantime, Paul said he hoped to get his new knee soon and he was urging other men to go to their doctor if they had concerns.

Paul Gidley

If you notice anything different, if anything changes, if you get up to go to the loo a couple of times a night, just go and see your GP. No one wants to go, but, believe you me, if you don't you may well end up paying the ultimate price."

Paul GidleyProstate cancer patient

Police use informal punishments for sex offenders

Ben Woolvin

BBC South West Home Affairs correspondent

Devon and Cornwall Police has handed more than 100 informal punishments to sex offenders in four years despite guidance restricting their use.

Community resolutions are intended to be used outside of the court service to resolve low level offences or anti-social behaviour incidents. Offenders agree to apologise and perhaps repair damages.

The offender does not get a criminal record and it does not show up on a DBS criminal records check, which is why using them to deal with reported sex offences is controversial.

New figures from the BBC's Shared Data Unit show community resolution orders have been used in more than 102 reported sex offences in the force area since 2014.

That is a very small proportion of the total number of reported sex offences - just under 1% of the 12,000 sex offences reported to Devon and Cornwall Police in that time. But, of course, sex offences are serious by definition.

The charity Victim Support said it was "very concerning and completely inappropriate for community resolutions to be used in cases where a sexual offence has been committed" and that the public "could be put at risk if sexual offenders are not receiving criminal records".

Devon and Cornwall Police said the resolutions were only used for sex offences in very rare instances - for example, "peer-on-peer" offences where young people in relationships were having sex before reaching the age of consent, or "sibling on sibling" offences within a family.

It added they were also only employed for such offences "when the victim, or their parent or guardian, has been consulted, and the offender accepts responsibility".

Devon and Cornwall Police car

Weather: Cloudy start, sunshine later

Emily Wood

BBC Weather

A fairly cloudy morning with some scattered showers.

More in the way of sunshine in the afternoon, with most areas remaining dry, and it will be breezy.

Maximum temperature: 18C (64F).

weather map

Weather: heavy rain tonight

BBC Weather

It is a mainly cloudy afternoon with some bright or sunny spells. There will also be some showery outbreaks of rain. Winds will be moderate gusting fresh south westerly, but strong later in the west.

TONIGHT: Cloud will lower and thicken from the west with occasionally heavy rain spreading eastwards overnight. Winds will be fresh southerly, gusting near gale at times.

Minimum: 9°C

weather map

Devon schools see real terms funding cut of 10 per cent

Daniel Clark

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Education funding in Devon has seen a real terms reduction of 10 percent from 2009/10 to 2017/18, Devon County Council's children's scrutiny committee has heard.

Schools in the county also have a maintenance backlog of more than £40m, with £23m of the repairs considered critical.

Getty Images

On Monday, the committee agreed to call on the cabinet to once again lobby parliament and the region's MPs over the inadequacy of the current funding for Devon's schools.

Cllr Alan Connett, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Devon County Council, said the county was being short-changed in education.

Is Parliament listening and are our MPs - other than the one for Exeter - listening, as they keep voting for the budget and are the ones depriving the children of Devon? At what point do we just say that we can do no more? Every council meeting, every cabinet meeting, and probably every scrutiny meeting, we say that Devon is being shortchanged when it comes to education, but they are not listening."

Alan ConnettDevon County Council

Dawn Stabb, Head of Education and Learning at Devon County Council, said schools have had to make a significant reduction in staffing levels, and that some had discussed reducing their hours or closing early on a Friday due to the lack of funding.

The Department for Education (DfE) said school funding in England was at "its highest ever level".

Weather: A cloudy start but sunny spells later

Bee Tucker

BBC Weather

A rather cloudy and damp start, but rain will ease and cloud will break up during the morning.

This afternoon will see some bright or sunny spells, but perhaps with the odd shower.

Maximum temperature: 17C (63F).

weather map

Weather: A cloudy and rainy day ahead

BBC Weather

A cloudy day ahead with outbreaks of rain which will be widespread and locally heavy.

The rain should start to ease and become more intermittent during the afternoon.

Maximum temperature: 14C (57F).

weather map

Weather: Persistent and thundery showers

BBC Weather

weather map

Showers will continue on Wednesday evening and through the night.

They should ease and become more isolated, but a few will persist through the night. Some clearer intervals later.

Minimum temperature: 7 to 10C (45 to 50F).

There may be some bright or sunny intervals on Thursday, but there will be showers and perhaps some longer spells of rain too.

The showers may become heavy and thundery locally.

Maximum temperature: 11 to 14C (52 to 57F).

Weather: Dry for some but showers expected

BBC Weather

A dry Wednesday morning in some places with some bright or sunny intervals.

However, showers and longer spells of rain are expected during the day.

Some thundery downpours are also possible.

Maximum temperature: 16C (61F).

weather map

Unemployment in South West lowest in country

Unemployment in the South West was 2.7% in the three months ending in April, down from 3.3% last year.

This is the lowest rate of all the regions in the UK. The highest unemployment rate in the UK was the North East at 5.7%.

The UK’s unemployment rate has stayed at 3.8%, its lowest since late 1974.

Unemployment chart

UK wage growth faster than expected

Devon flood alert in place

A flood alert for Devon has been issued, affecting areas around the rivers Culm and Clyst.

The Environment Agency warns flooding is possible for Hemyock, Cullompton, Stoke Canon, Broadclyst and Clyst St Mary.

The main area of concern is the River Culm, where levels suggest that there will be flooding to low lying land and roads close to the river.

Levels are expected to remain high throughout Tuesday, though no flooding to properties is forecast.

South West weather: More rain on the way

BBC Weather

There will be low cloud around the coasts and across the moors this afternoon. Winds will be fresh or strong northerly, gusting near gale in exposed locations.

Maximum: 13C

It will be overcast overnight with outbreaks of rain that could still be heavy at times. It will ease through the night to be very light and patchy by dawn, but with some low cloud and hill fog over the moors. Winds will ease to be fresh reducing moderate north easterly.

Minimum Temperature: 8C

Weather map

Very wet with heavy rain throughout

Lucy Martin

BBC Weather

It's a wet start to the day with a flood alert around the River Exe near Cullompton.


For the rest of the day it will be very wet and breezy, with prolonged spells of frontal rain spreading from the east throughout, these often heavy and persistent.

High rainfall totals possible, but some uncertainty still.

Maximum temperature: 11 to 14°C (52 to 57°F)

Weather warning in place for Devon and Cornwall

Miles Davis

BBC News Online

The Met Office has issued a weather warning with more heavy rain expected this afternoon across Devon and Cornwall.

Here is what the Met Office said to watch out for:

  • Bus and train services affected with journey times taking longer
  • Spray and flooding on roads will make journey times longer
  • A few homes and businesses flooded
  • Some interruption to power supplies and other services

The warning is in place until 19:00.

Weather map

Number of Devon's children being home educated 'doubles'

Sophie Pierce

BBC Radio Devon

The number of children being home educated in Devon has more than doubled in the last five years, according to figures from Devon County Council.

Councillors on its children's scrutiny committee will hear later how the number has increased from 750 to nearly 1,600 and how about a third of these children have special needs.

It's thought the growth in home education is due in part to the increasing number of parents of children with disabilities who feel the schools are letting them down.

Lyndsay Haywood is home educating her eight-year-old daughter who has autism.

She says she was forced into it after the school failed to meet her daughter's needs...

Earlier this year, regulator Ofsted said there were "significant areas of weakness" in the service provided by Devon for children with special needs.

Devon County Council said the situation is being exacerbated by continuing budget cuts from central government.

Councillor James McInnes, who chairs a national group of local councils lobbying the government for more education funding, conceded the situation was not ideal and was also worried about disillusioned parents taking their children out of school.

Almost a third of local authority secondary schools in England were unable to cover their costs, a study from the Education Policy Institute earlier this year suggested.

But the Department for Education said that, across all types of state schools, more than 90% are in surplus.

Gulliver takes over at Plymouth Albion

Brent Pilnick

BBC Sport

Ben Gulliver has been appointed as the new head coach of Plymouth Albion.

The 38-year-old replaces Kieran Hallett at the National One side and returns to the club where he spent two seasons as a player from 2006 before moving to the Cornish Pirates.

"I feel so privileged to be asked to be head coach at Plymouth Albion. It really feels like I’m coming home,” said Gulliver, who also spent time with Premiership side Worcester.

“I know a few of the guys at Plymouth from my playing days there and I have a good understanding of them as individuals and I think that will help us develop as a team.

Ben Gulliver
Getty Images

"I’ll be going in with a blank canvas and I want to get to know the players better. We’ll work hard but there will be fun. I think there’s a very good, strong squad here and it gives me something to get my teeth into.”

Albion’s managing director Max Venables commented: "Ben has a wealth of experience and knowledge, both on and off the field, and is really passionate about Plymouth Albion.

"Ben shares our vision of where we want the club to get to, so - combined with the work that we have been putting in quietly behind the scenes - we believe that we will have a very strong squad and sense of direction for the forthcoming season.

“I am feeling extremely positive about Plymouth Albion and the direction it is going in right now.”

Weather: A cloudy and showery start before cloud breaks

BBC Weather

A cloudy start to Monday, with scattered showers spreading north across the area.


Cloud breaking to allow more in the way of sunshine during the afternoon, but the odd shower still possible.

Maximum temperature: 13 to 16C (55 to 61F).

Parts of A303 dualling 'may not happen'

BBC Spotlight

Plans to dual the entire length of one of the major roads in and out of the South West will be delayed, and some parts of the project may now not happen.

In 2014, the Department for Transport (DfT) identified eight stretches to complete the dualling of the A303 trunk road connecting the region to the South East.

Despite rising costs the DfT maintained it was committed to three of the projects, including the A358 Taunton Link Road, which is now a year behind schedule.

But the remaining five have been classified as "low to poor value for money", prompting fears they may fall by the wayside.


Thunderstorm warning in South West

It's on its way- here's what to expect says the Met Office:

  • Heavy thundery showers may cause some travel disruption
  • Some flooding of a few homes and businesses likely, leading to some damage to buildings or structures
  • Spray and flooding on roads probably making journey times longer
  • Bus and train services probably affected with journey times taking longer
  • Some interruption to power supplies and other services likely

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Ann Widdecombe bemoans 'liberal tyranny' after gay science row

Ann Widdecombe says she does not regret her comments about sexuality, which have led to some of her theatre appearances being cancelled.

Ann Widdecombe

Venues in Altrincham in Greater Manchester, Devon and Surrey have axed tour dates of her show after she suggested science could "produce an answer" to being gay.

Miss Widdecombe said her comments had been "distorted" on social media and that theatres refusing to host shows were "denying free speech".

Her critics have accused her of waging an "anti-LGBT campaign".

The Brexit Party MEP denied this and told the BBC:

This is now the grip that I call the liberal tyranny and I think we have got to fight it.

Bikers caught at up to 116mph by police operation

BBC Radio Devon

Bikers were caught riding at up to 116mph after a speeding clampdown by Devon and Cornwall Police.


The operation on 22, 23 and 29 May and 1 June also caught bikers doing 99mph and 96mph on the 70mph-limited A30 and A38.

Another biker was recorded doing 81mph in a 40mph zone of the A386, among a total of 500 speeding offences over the four-day action.

PC Ralph Delbridge said the figures were "disappointing" because motorcyclists were "undoubtedly some of the most vulnerable road users".