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Four crews fighting fire in Somerset

fire engine
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Four crews are fighting a fire at a property on Market Street in Highbridge, Somerset.

The fire began shortly before 11:15 GMT after black smoke was spotted coming from a flat and storage area.

Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue sent four appliances - two from Burnham-on-Sea, one from Bridgwater and one from Taunton - and crews are still working on the first floor of the property.

Firefighters also gained access to neighbouring properties and are checking on nearby roof spaces to stop the further spread of fire.

Plymouth sees 40% rise in fly-tipping

Rebecca Thorn

BBC News Online

Fly-tipping in river

Plymouth has seen a 40% increase in fly-tipping in 2018-2019 compared to the previous year, according to new figures.

Information gathered by the government shows that the city's reported incidents increased from 13,953 in 2017-18 to 19,622 in 2018-19.

Exeter followed closely, seeing a 30% rise in illegally dumped waste from 728 in 2017-18 to 950 in 2018-19.

Teignbridge District Council also reported an 11% increase from 900 to 1,002.

However, some areas of South Devon saw a fall in fly-tipping, including:

  • South Hams - 20% fall from 398 to 317
  • Torbay - 7% from 790 to 738.
  • East Devon - 16% from 533 to 450.

An average 8% increase was seen across councils in England.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said fly-tipping cost taxpayers "more than £57m a year to clear up".

The government said it could not comment on the figures because of purdah restrictions due to the upcoming UK general election.

Ottery St Mary: Flaming tar barrels carried through streets
Men, women and children carry the traditional flaming barrels through the streets of Ottery St Mary.

Consultation opens on broadband gaps in Somerset and Devon

Fibre broadband cable
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People in Somerset and Devon are being asked which areas have the biggest need for broadband, ahead of the process to appoint a new contractor.

In September Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) terminated its contract with Gigaclear as it significantly fell behind schedule.

CDS wants to establish which areas lack infrastructure and where the private sector has no future plans to invest.

A replacement contractor is likely to be in place by next November. 'Biggest impact' CDS is a partnership between Devon and Somerset county councils to deliver broadband to rural areas.

Responses to the consultation will help inform how the contract is shaped.

The procurement process is due to begin next month.

Devon County Council's cabinet member, and CDS board member, Conservative, Rufus Gilbert said the consultation would help them set out the proposed areas and where to focus efforts.

Somerset County Council has added that it wanted to ensure the public funding as the biggest impact in increasing coverage.

The consultation closes on 10th December.

Devon mental health patients 'go 90,000km for treatment'

BBC Radio Devon

Devon's mental health trust has admitted significant under-investment in mental health services in Devon for many years.

The admission is in response to a Royal College of Psychiatrists' report stating patients with mental health issues in Devon have had to travel a total of about 90,000km (56,000 miles) away from home for treatment in the year August 2018 to July 2019.

Devon was among the seven worst places in the UK for mental health patients having to travel out-of-area for treatment, the Royal College said. It added that it wanted to see more mental health beds created closer to home for patients.

The Devon Partnership NHS Trust said the "funding tide's starting to turn" and it was "playing catch-up" despite the "shortfall of 45 to 50 mental health beds in Devon" causing "far too many people" to "travel outside the area for care".

The government has pledged to end the practice by 2021.

Tour of Britain will return to Devon in 2020

The Tour of Britain will return to Devon in 2020 it has been announced.

Devon County Council and tour organisers have confirmed Devon will host stage two of the cycle race on Monday 7 September 2020.

The Tour of Britain has already unveiled Cornwall as the location of the Grand Depart on Sunday 6 September 2020.

The following day, the race will move across the border for the Devon Stage, which will start in the new community of Sherford in the South Hams and finish in Exeter city centre.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for cycling, said: “We’re thrilled to be hosting another stage of the tour.

"Crowds in Devon are among the most passionate and supportive in this race and I’m sure they’ll do us proud again in 2020.

"Devon made history as the first stage of The Tour of Britain to host a summit finish when the race celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2013, and we were the first stage to race through a building when the 2018 stage went through South Molton Pannier Market, and no doubt we’ll have another exciting stage in prospect next year."

Heart failure hits record high in south west

Rebecca Thorn

BBC News Online

Graphic of heart in person's chest
Getty Images

The number of people in South West England diagnosed with heart failure has risen by more than a third (39%) in the last five years, according to a new report by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Data taken from GP registers showed that the number of people diagnosed with the incurable condition had increased from 42,884 in 2013-14 to 59,525 in 2018-19.

Hospital admissions for heart failure have also reached record highs, increasing by 32% since 2013-14.

The region's new figures reflect a widespread trend across England.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at BHF said "new and improved" methods were required to care for those who suffer from the condition.

"Doing so will improve thousands of lives and relieve the unsustainable pressure that heart failure is putting on our health service”, he said.

Exeter given UNESCO City of Literature status

Exeter Cathedral
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Exeter has become the first city in the UK to be given UNESCO City of Literature status.

The Devon city joins 65 locations across the world in becoming part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network after it's bid for inclusion was successful.

It highlighted the Exeter Book at the city's cathedral – one of the oldest and best-preserved collections of old English verse in the world, and is older than famous texts such as Beowulf – but also what reading and writing means to residents in Exeter.

Dom Jinks, Director of Exeter Culture, said: “This is so positive for Exeter. The bid made much of the city’s wide variety of historical assets. But it is actually much more about culture supporting the well-being of everyone in the city today, including those who may not currently see themselves engaging with culture."

The University of Exeter hosts the archives of works connected to famous writers such as William Golding, Ted Hughes, Agatha Christie, Daphne DuMaurier and Sir John Betjeman.

Writer of the Harry Potter series JK Rowling studied at the University of Exeter and graduated in 1986 after earning a BA in French and Classics.

Flooding possible as yellow rain warning issued

A yellow warning for rain has been issued by the Met Office for parts of the South West.

View more on twitter

Heavy rain may lead to some surface water flooding and travel disruption, the Met Office said.

What to expect:

  • Flooding of a few homes and businesses is likely
  • Bus and train services probably affected with journey times taking longer
  • Spray and flooding on roads probably making journey times longer
  • Some interruption to power supplies and other services likely

MP Peter Heaton-Jones stands down for personal reasons

BBC Radio Devon

North Devon Conservative MP Peter Heaton-Jones is standing down from Parliament for personal reasons.

He's written to the chairman of the North Devon Conservative Association saying it's a "purely personal decision" with "no political dimension".

He says he reached the decision only very recently after a short but extremely intense period of person reflection. He's tweeted it's been an honour and a privilege to serve North Devon.

View more on twitter

Gang jailed for smuggling cocaine from Jamaica

A woman who smuggled cocaine in the lining of a case through a Birmingham airport has been jailed along with the rest of a West Country gang.

Jordane Morris, 27, was filmed returning home from a "dream holiday" to Jamaica but police were waiting for her as she had 250g of high grade cocaine in her case.

Morris was smuggling the drug for gang boss Nathanial Freeman, 34, and her partner Ryan Chard, 37, Plymouth Crown Court heard.

Plymouth Crown Court

Freeman's second in command, Steven Doukoure, 25, paid more than £4,000 of the gang's cash into Morris' account so she could take the two week trip - and take an innocent friend with her.

All four were convicted of smuggling cocaine after a six-week trial.

Freeman, from Cornwall, was jailed for 16 years, Doukoure, from Plymouth, for 12-and-a-half years, Chard, from Cornwall, for seven years and Morris, of North Road, Holsworthy, Devon, for six years.

Freeman and Doukoure had also been convicted of two counts of conspiracy to smuggle Class A drugs in 2017.

Armed robbery arrests in Plymouth

Rebecca Thorn

BBC News Online

Police vest
BBC News

Police are investigating reports of an armed robbery in Stoke in Plymouth on Tuesday night. Four people, believed to be armed, approached a male and demanded money before leaving the scene. Armed officers searched the area, including on the Torpoint Ferry. Two men and one woman have been arrested on suspicion of armed robbery.

Inquiries are ongoing to locate a fourth suspect.

Stuart Hogg: Exeter Chiefs' Scotland full-back relishing Premiership chance
Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg says he chose to join Exeter as he hopes it is "the perfect place to excel as a rugby player".
Did Mark Denning have a conflict of interest?
The fund manager was forced to resign after the BBC found evidence suggesting he broke investment rules - he denies any wrongdoing.

Speed camera catches out nearly 19,000 motorists

Daniel Clark

Local Democracy Reporting Service

One Devon speed camera caught more nearly 19,000 drivers breaking the speed limit in the last three years.

The camera on the A386 Alma Road in Plymouth was activated a total of 18,838 in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The road, which is two lanes of dual carriageway, has a 30mph speed limit.

Over the three-year period, the camera was activated once every 105 minutes, although the number of activations also includes emergency service vehicles attending call outs.

The camera was also the one across Devon and Cornwall that led to the most most Fixed Penalty Notices being issued during the period.

There were 3,116 issued, with other motorists caught breaking the speed limit either offered a speed awareness course or sent to court due to the severity of the offence.

speed camera

A Freedom of Information Request to Devon and Cornwall Police asked for the roads on which the top 10 highest recorded speeding offences took place.

The highest recorded speed was on the A30 at Victoria in Cornwall, in which a motorist was caught doing 126mph on the 70mph road.

Information provided by the force also revealed that in 2018, there were 293 speeding offences where motorists were caught doing over 100mph, an increase on the 258 in 2017.

A361 crash: Three people taken to hospital

Hayley Westcott

BBC News Online

Three people were injured in a two-car crash on the A361, police have said.

Officers were called to Beaples Barton at about 16:20 on Wednesday after the crash involving a red Honda Jazz and blue Vauxhall Corsa.

A man and woman, both in their 20s, were taken to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital where the woman was treated for minor injuries and the man remains there awaiting surgery for a broken kneecap and toe.

The driver of the Vauxhall Corsa, a woman in her 40s, sustained multiple serious injuries to her leg, hip and pelvis and remains in Derriford Hospital in a stable condition.

Devon and Cornwall Police are appealing for witnesses.