A round-up of news and festive fun from across East Devon – including stories from Exmouth, Sidmouth, Budleigh Salterton, Seaton, Sidford, Honiton and Exeter

A round-up of news and festive fun from across East Devon – including stories from Exmouth, Sidmouth, Budleigh Salterton, Seaton, Sidford, Honiton and Exeter.

Sidford

Fire crews from across East Devon tackled a blaze at a business in Sidford on Friday afternoon (December 22).

Firefighters from Sidmouth, Seaton, Colyton, Honiton, Exmouth, and Danes Castle, in Exeter, wore breathing apparatus and used attack jets, light portable pumps and hose reel jets to bring the blaze under control.

Sidmouth

A gas leak reported in Sidmouth on Friday evening (December 22) resulted in homes being evacuated and an area of the town being cordoned off.

Firefighters were called along with the police and a specialist gas engineer.

East Devon firefighters isolated the source of the gas leak and confirmed no one was involved.

Crews wore breathing apparatus and used gas safety monitors and a safety jet while bringing the situation under control.

Branscombe

A carbon monoxide alarm heard going off at a home in Branscombe prompted firefighters from Seaton to check the property with a gas detector.

Firefighters were called to the home in December where a log burner was alight inside.

While the gas detector showed carbon monoxide levels were normal the log burner was extinguished as a precaution.

It is thought the carbon monoxide alarm was faulty because it continued to sound outside in the fresh air.

The crew said it was ‘important’ to have a carbon monoxide detector for gas, oil and wood heating, or an open fire.

A Seaton fire station spokesperson said: “We were sent to Branscombe for an alarm sounding. When we arrived, we found a carbon monoxide alarm in pre-alarm.

“The property was using a log burner at the time, so we had a possible source of the alarm.

“We carry a gas detector that we take in on most job, it was telling us conditions inside were normal. It’s was possible that the property had been vented before our arrival.

“The carbon monoxide alarm was removed to fresh air and stayed in pre-alarm, which indicated the alarm was faulty. The log burner was extinguished as a precaution.”

Firefighters fitted new smoke detectors at the property.

Exmouth

The Deaf Academy, in Exmouth, this week welcomed the Government announcement that British Sign Language would become a formal GCSE qualification.

Mark Stocks, partnership and community manager at the Deaf Academy, said:  “It will ensure that Deaf children are not left behind and will help to reduce the feeling of isolation.

“It will also help to break down barriers in communication for the new generation, where they can have the opportunity to communicate independently instead of relying on phones, interpreters or support all of the time.”

Exmouth

Exmouth

The Exmouth RGB team with their Christmas jumpers.
Photo: with permission.

Bad language and Christmas jumpers raised funds for the Children’s Hospice South West when staff at RGB Building Supplies in Exmouth dreamed up festive fundraisers.

The building supplies firm has raised more than £3,000 for the charity through installing swear boxes at all its branches, and announcing a Christmas jumper day.

Jason Hurley, branch manager at RGB in Exmouth, said: “We are thrilled to see the incredible support from our customers and staff throughout the year.

“The funds raised will make a meaningful impact on the lives of children and families supported by Children’s Hospice South West.

“We extend our sincere thanks to everyone who participated in our initiatives and made generous donations.”

Seaton

Plans to relocate two bus stops near Seaton seafront are being put forward in a bid to improve safety for pedestrians, the county council has announced.

Devon County Council is proposing the move as part of its Bus Service Improvement Plan, using funding from the Department for Transport.

If successful, the bus stops would be removed from Marine Place and at the foot of the Seafront Gardens, replacing them with an ‘upgraded’ single stop on the esplanade side of the roundabout.

The county council said existing flowerbeds located to the south of the roundabout would be removed to make way for the new bus shelter and bus waiting area.

East Devon

Seaton seafront flowerbeds.
Photo: EDDC.

Devon County Council aims to complete the work by spring 2024 in time for the summer season.

Details of the proposals drawn up by DCC can be found here.

Sidmouth

Sanctuary donkeys at Sidmouth have been enjoying some festive treats this month – munching on some specially-made Christmas wreaths

The garlands were carefully crafted by staff at The Donkey Sanctuary using willow, herbs and selected pieces of cut up fruit and vegetables.

Sidmouth

Donkey Coill at The Donkey Sanctuary Sidmouth, pictured here with wreath enrichment.
Photo: with permission.

Sidmouth

Music lovers have two dates for their 2024 diary with the announcement of the the Sidmouth International Jazz & Blues Festival, and also the Sidmouth Folk Festival.

The town will host Sidmouth International Jazz & Blues Festival from Thursday, May 23 to Monday, May 27.

The Sidmouth Folk Festival will take place from August 2-9, 2024. The organisers said 70 acts are so far  booked to perform.

East Devon

Police in East Devon are appealing for witnesses and information after caravans were stolen from Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton.

Investigating officers said caravan thefts took place in Sidmouth on Wednesday, November 29, and in Budleigh Salterton, sometime between Saturday, December 2 and Tuesday, December, 5.

An Exmouth police spokesperson said: “We are appealing for witnesses an anyone with information in connection with reports of thefts of caravans from caravan sites and similar locations.

They added: “Please can caravan sites and caravan owners be wary of this and review security, check on caravans regularly, consider trackers, alarms and CRiS registering.”

Call 101 with information. The crime reference for Sidmouth is 50230316546 and 50230316996 for Budleigh.

Seaton

An illegal rave at a derelict hotel in Seaton ended when police were called to break up the party.

Police were called to the former Seaton Heights Hotel at 7.30am on Sunday, November 26, after neighbours reported noise and disturbance.

Police broke up the party and seized music equipment and a vehicle.

A spokesperson for the rural East Devon police team said: “The event was unauthorised and residents expressed their concern not simply due to the noise and disturbance but also for the safety of those attending the abandoned premises.

“The crowds were dispersed and the organiser of the event has been reported for offences under the Licencing Act 2003; namely conducting a licensable activity on the premises without authorisation.

“All music equipment was seized along with the vehicle used to transport the equipment to the venue. “

They added: “Local teams are in continued liaison with partner agencies around the future and the wider security of the site.”

Exmouth

New resident parking zones throughout Exmouth have prompted the district council to ‘assure’ residents it was ‘actively investigating ways’ to ensure that there was ‘sufficient parking at all times of the day’ in the town.

East Devon District Council said Devon County Council’s extended parking permit zone around the Colony area of Exmouth, which came into force in August 2023, had ‘put extra pressure on the town’s car parks’.

An EDDC spokesman said: “EDDC are sorry for any inconvenience that a lack of available car park spaces in Exmouth has caused this winter.

“Changes to car parks, or terms and conditions, require due process to be followed, so these cannot be carried out overnight.

“However, the council is listening to the many comments that it has received over the past two months and aims to implement a solution as soon as possible.”

Exmouth

Exmouth’s ageing police station is to get a £5million makeover after Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez and Chief Constable said funds were available.

Alison Hernandez said: “The following month I and the Chief Constable decided to make £5m available to redevelop Exmouth Police Station.

“The ageing station complex in Exmouth’s North Street is tired and maintenance costs soaring.

“The new station will be the operational base for about 60 officers, staff and volunteers. They deserve the clean and modern working environment that this rebuild will deliver, and the community deserves an accessible and open front desk in what is one of Devon’s busiest towns.”

Honiton

Honiton

The unveiling of the Honiton bridge artwork.
Photo: EDDC.

Train commuters at Honiton Railway Station can now see a collage created by youngsters at school in the town.
Honiton Primary School pupils created the new artwork on the station footbridge, teaming up with Alistair Lambert, at the Thelma Hulbert Gallery.

The £6,700 project was made possible through funding and multiple grants.

The artwork was officially unveiled by the Honiton’s mayor, Councillor Helen Hurford.

Honiton

The mural at Honiton station.
Photo: with permission.

East Devon

An independent panel has proposed increasing allowances for East Devon district Councillors for the first time since 2008.

The increase will bring the East Devon Councillors’ allowances ‘to a level more in line’ with councils across the county and England.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) said the decision to adjust allowances ‘comes after careful consideration, reflecting Councillors’ dedication, hard work, the evolving demands of the role, and the challenges faced by local government’.

EDDC said the recommendations of the independent panel approved by the full council meeting on Wednesday, December 6, will backdate the basic allowance for all Councillors to the May 2023 election, with the special responsibility allowance backdated to June 1, 2023.

The recommendations include:

  • That the Basic Allowance for East Devon District Councillors should be increased to £5,260,
  • The increase to the Basic Allowance should be backdated to the May 2023 election.

Exeter

Firefighters said two people at a property in Exeter had a ‘lucky escape’ after a wash basket accidentally left on top of a cooker hob caught fire in Exeter.

Firefighters were called to a property in Pennsylvania, Exeter, in the early hours of Saturday morning (December 23) where they found two people at the property suffering from smoke inhalation.

The blaze was brought under control by 1am and the occupants were treated a the scene by paramedics.

A Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: “Two occupants at a property in Beacon Avenue in Exeter had a lucky escape after a wash basket, accidentally left on top of a cooker hob, caught fire.

“Crews from both of our Exeter fire stations, Danes Castle and Middlemoor, were mobilised and were on scene within mins of the initial call.”

The spokesperson added: “ Two firefighters in breathing apparatus entered the property with a hose reel jet to locate and extinguish the fire and the incident was brought under control at 0100hrs.

“The contents of the wash basket were emptied into the sink and extinguished.

“Both occupants suffering from slight smoke inhalation, were treated on scene and checked over by paramedics but did not go to hospital.

“ Damage was confined to the contents and wash basket only and once crews made the scene safe and ventilated the property, left duty of care with the owners.”

Exmouth

East Devon

The Boxing Day run returns on December 26, in Exmouth.
Photo: with permission.

Exmouth Rotary’s popular Boxing Day run makes a welcome return to the town, with a new route.

Runners will head along the seafront, this year finishing at  Exmouth Pavilion.

All are welcome to take part in the event, to run, jog or walk the route.

Entry is £5 for adults, £2.50 for children, with funds raised helping community projects and Rotary-backed charities.

Registration starts at 10.15am, at Exmouth Pavilion, a warm-up starts at 10.45am and the run sets off at 11am.

A spokesman for the event said: “Come and blow away the Christmas cobwebs, burn off some calories or maybe just cheer the runners.”

Exmouth

The route the runners will take.

Exmouth

Care home staff and residents in Exmouth have donated hot water bottles and fleece blankets to support the town’s community through the winter.

Raleigh Manor Care Home staff, residents, and their families, showed their support for Exmouth’s Open Door Centre, raising £200 with a raffle and donating items to help keep people warm.

Gill Pratt, Raleigh Manor Care Home general manager, said: “Doing something charitable at Christmas to support our local community is very important to us. And we know how important the work that Open Door Exmouth is.

“We know our efforts will be directly helping those who need it.”

East Devon

Gifts and warm blankets were donated to the Open Door Charity.
Pictured here are staff members, Kirstie Cobb and Louise O’Sullivan with Open Door representative, Tim Chappell Photo: with permission.

East Devon

Hospiscare has launched its annual Christmas tree recycling fundraiser to support end-of-life care across Devon.

In East Devon, collections will take place in Exmouth, Honiton, Tiverton, Sidmouth and Ottery St Mary, plus Exeter, on Thursday, January 11, Friday, January 12 and Saturday, January, 13 January 2024, with a suggested donation of £15 for each tree.

Last year the collection service raised £24,000 for the charity to help provide specialist services to patients and their families living with terminal illness in Exeter, Mid and East Devon.

Laura Robertson, Hospiscare spokeswoman, said: “We are so grateful to our local community for coming together in support of our Christmas tree recycling scheme every year.

“2024 is set to be challenging as we face a £2.5 million funding gap, which could force us to axe existing services, making fundraising more important than ever. “After the festivities are over, leave the effort of getting rid of your Christmas tree to us and help raise much-needed funds to continue providing our services.”

If you have a van, Hospiscare is seeking volunteers to help out with the collections. Email treecollection@hospiscare.co.uk.

Register your tree collection by January 7, 2024, here.

East Devon

East Devon MP Simon Jupp has told the district council to ‘wake up’ and act after an independent auditor published a damning report on the council’s failures in handling housing complaints.

In the report published by Grant Thornton, an external organisation, found that no formal agreed action plan to improve East Devon District Council’s housing service had been established – despite having one of the ‘highest maladministration’ rates in the country at 89 per cent, as recorded by complaints to the Housing Ombudsman.

Mr Jupp said lack of heating, persistent mould, empty homes and condemned rooms were among the complaints raised to him by EDDC residents.

He called on the political leadership of the council to agree a formal action plan including a method to report on progress for councillors and MPs as a priority.

Mr Jupp said: “Some of the people being housed by East Devon District Council are the most vulnerable in our district and they deserve so much better. This report is truly damning for East Devon District Council’s Liberal Democrat political leadership who continue to sit on their hands without a plan to sort out their mess. This is a dire dereliction of duty.

“Homes are being left empty for months with overdue repairs, while local people are stuck on the waiting list as the council’s leadership fails to act.

“I have had enough and so have many tenants, some of whom have broken down in tears at my regular advice surgeries.”

Mr Jupp, who planned to meet with EDDC chiefs to ‘go through several serious outstanding cases’, added: “I’m fearful for the future of many tenants living in poor conditions which is affecting their physical and mental health.

“It’s time for leading Councillors to wake up and act quickly to tackle mounting housing complaints across the district.”

Exmouth

Devon County Council’s cabinet has given the green light to put a major new road build in Exmouth out to tender.

This month Councillors approved recommendations to approve the layout for a new road which would ‘complete’ Dinan Way and link it to the A376.

The county council said once built, ‘the road would reduce congestion on the A376 and make it easier to access the northern and eastern areas of Exmouth, such as the communities of Brixington and Littleham, from that road’.

Devon County Council said the new road was ‘subject to land assembly agreements being completed’, adding ‘negotiations with affected landowners are ongoing’.

The Dinan Way Extension road:

  • Will be approximately 830 metres in length, run parallel to Summer Lane, and include the construction of two roundabouts.
  • The first roundabout will intersect with the top of Dinan Way, Hulham Road and the eastern end the new road; and the second roundabout would be constructed near Courtlands Cross and intersect with the A376 (Exeter Road) and western end of the new road.
  • As part of the construction Summer Lane will be closed to through traffic and a new shared use pedestrian and cycle path will be built along the southern side of the Dinan Way extension.
  • Bus stops will be added for future routes and footpaths around the Wotton Valley area.
Exmouth

Dinan Way extension.
Image: with permission.

East Devon and Exeter

Roads in East Devon and Exeter will receive extra funding for highway maintenance, through an extra £6.663million government funding awarded to the county.

Devon County Council said more than 65 road repair plans were being brought forward as a result of the extra cash – raised from the cancelled HS2 rail line extension.

The roads earmarked for repairs in East Devon and Exeter are:

East Devon
Douglas Avenue, Exmouth
UNNAMED, Woodbury
Lodge Lane, Axminster
Winkleigh Lane, Colaton Raleigh
Quarter Mile Lane, Rockbeare
UNNAMED, Upottery
Station Road, Feniton
Cullompton Road (Budlake), Broadclyst
Axe Farm, All Saints
UNNAMED, Dalwood
UNNAMED, Nether Exe
To Yarty farm, Membury
Valley View, Seaton
UNNAMED, Membury

Exeter
Pulling Road and Puckridge, Exeter
Streatham Drive, Exeter
Lyndhurst Road, Exeter
Victoria Park Road, Exeter
Fortescue Road, Exeter
Carlyon Gardens, Exeter
Premier Place, Exeter
Welcome Street, Exeter
Blackall Road, Exeter
Lower Summerlands, Exeter

The county council said the funding will also ‘accelerate’ patching and pothole repairs across Devon’s 8,000-mile road network, with the aim for the repairs to be completed this financial year.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, DCC cabinet member for highway management, said: “We’ve had to prioritise which schemes to bring forward using this money, but the decisions have been led by which roads have the greatest need and where we can get best value from the funding we’ve been given.

“We want to progress with work as soon as possible.”

Lympstone

The closed section of Exe Estuary Trail, near Lympstone, is expected to reopen by the end of January after repair work finishes.

Devon County Council (DCC) said work to replace the timber on Courtlands Boardwalk, between Lympstone and Exmouth, was currently ongoing and has now passed the half-way stage.

Timber structural beams and deck planks on all 72 wooden spans of the boardwalk had deteriorated and were ‘unsafe’, prompting the county council to replace them with a ‘more durable fibre-reinforced material’.

DCC said delays in delivery of the new materials had ‘hampered’ the refurbishment, but now ‘good progress’ was now being made.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, DCC cabinet member for highway management, said: “Our team has been liaising closely with the contractor and their installers are working longer days to try and catch up on the time that has been lost.

“Every effort will be made to minimise the delay and get the boardwalk open as soon as possible.”

East Devon

The Exe Estuary Trail.
Photo: LDRS.

East Devon and Exeter

Detectives are appealing for residents to check their doorbell and CCTV footage as part of their investigation into a spate of burglaries – some in East Devon.

Officers recently issued an appeal after four homes were targeted in Alphington, in Exeter, and Newcourt, near Topsham, in the early hours of the morning between October 30 and November 7.

Police say they have now received a total of 15 reports, which are believed to be linked.

The latest crimes have taken place on December 1, 2023 in Crediton, Exeter and Exminster, and prior to this Ottery St Mary and Branscombe on during the early hours of November 25, 2023.

Offenders, believed to be two men dressed in dark clothing, entered three of the properties through unlocked doors, stealing car keys and then the cars themselves. An attempt was made on a fourth home, said Devon and Cornwall Police.

Police urged residents to keep doors locked and have called for information, CTTV doorbell footage to get in touch on 101, quoting crime number 50230293912.

East Devon

Battling for better broadband speeds is on an MP’s agenda for the East Devon towns of Sidmouth, Axminster, and Seaton who rank in the worst 10 per cent of the whole country.

Speaking in Parliament, Richard Foord MP highlighted the case of two East Devon communities who have been left in ‘not spots’ – lagging behind on broadband.

The Tiverton & Honiton MP said the villages of Northleigh, near Honiton, and All Saints near Axminster, ‘struggle’ to get even a basic internet connection.

He said it was rural areas in East Devon where speeds were the slowest, clocking in at almost half the UK average.

Mr Foord said Sidmouth, Axminster, and Seaton rank in the worst 10 per cent of the whole country for broadband. And places, like Honiton, where speeds are notionally better, the average connectivity was still in the worst 30 per cent in the country.

He called for the Government to step-up efforts to get people online with speeds that bring people into the 2020s.

Richard Foord MP said: “It’s a scandal that rural towns and villages like ours are being left struggling to get even basic broadband access, all while urban areas surge ahead.

“In recent years we’ve seen so many banks close branches on our high streets, forcing people to rely upon online banking to manage their finances. There’s also been a rise in online bookings for travel, particularly when it comes to our railways.

“But all of this isn’t possible if you cannot get a reliable connection. For far too long, people in our part of the world have been neglected by this Government, which seems out-of-touch with some of the challenges we face on a daily basis.

“Devon is tired of being left at the back of the queue. That’s why we need to see real action to fix this situation and to help our communities get online, ensuring that the South West – and East Devon in particular – catches up with the rest of the country.”

East Devon

A charity set up to support young families in the county is offering East Devon residents energy advice and tariff switching sessions this winter.

The project, in Cranbrook and across Exeter, East, and Mid Devon aims to support isolated, low-income families struggling with energy costs – with the aim of providing one-to-one assistance through home visits and sessions in a new warm bank, plus advice on energy tariffs, support schemes, and directing families to additional funding or guidance.

The help has been made possible through a £4,500 grant for Home-Start Exeter East and Mid Devon – awarded by the National Grid’s £5 million Community Matters Fund, supporting groups fighting fuel poverty this winter.

Jo Darke, Home-Start Exeter East and Mid Devon project manager, said: “We are delighted to receive this grant from the Community Matters Fund.

“It will make a big difference to families who are struggling to pay for their energy; our staff and volunteers will now be able to provide families with informed choices about their energy, helping them get the best deals, saving them money and helping them feel confident to address energy efficiency in the future.

“In addition, our groups will provide a warm-bank for families with sessions running all through the winter period.”

Exeter

Exeter

Photograph shows: Exeter Chiefs players at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. Photo: Royal Devon Hospitals Charity.

Exeter Chiefs players surprised young hospital patients in Exeter when they delivered sackfuls of Christmas presents.

Players Ollie Devoto, Jack Yeandle, Scotty Sio, Jacques Vermeulen and Hallam Chapman this week spent time chatting with patients during  surprise visit to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital’s Bramble ward.

They handed out toys and gifts donated by the players and the Exeter Chiefs Foundation.

Ollie Devoto, who was instrumental in planning this year’s visit, said: “It was amazing to get the opportunity to head down to the RD&E and to put some smiles on faces.
“We even managed to surprise some young Chiefs fans, which was extra special.”

He added: “Each player at the club had to get two presents and, although there was some questionable wrapping, they all helped to contribute to a great afternoon.”

Budleigh Salterton

Budleigh

Music, mince pies and mulled wine at Seachange.
Photo: with permission.

A community hub in Budleigh Salterton held a carol sing-a-long, with a performance by the Harlequin strummers.

The festive fun was held at Seachange and after the music ended, mince pies and mulled wine was served.

Diane Pentel, who attended the event, said: “We all enjoyed the strummers and then the carol singing and of course, the mulled wine. Once again, Seachange has come up trumps.”

A spokeswoman for Seachange said: “The carol singalong event was a massive success, and the community is looking forward to more community events in the future.”

Budleigh

The music event at Seachange.
Photo: with permission.

Sidmouth

Twinkling lights in their thousands lit up the walkways of The Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary when the charity held its annual Carols by Candlelight service.

Hosted by celebrant and BBC Radio presenter Emma Britton, the evening featured traditional carols sung by The Donkey Sanctuary choir, with additional readings and poetry.

The charity said hundreds of people joined the service held in the main barn in the heart of the sanctuary, with thousands more watching the service live online, as the donkeys munched on their straw in their own space alongside the visitors.

Sidmouth

Carols by Candlelight at The Donkey Sanctuary – the donkeys in the barn nearby. Photo: with permission.

Sidmouth

Estate agent Christie & Co has announced the sale of Sidmouth Residential Nursing Home for an undisclosed amount, following the retirement of its operator.

The agent said the home had been bought by an existing care home operator in Dawlish.

Simon Harvey, who handled the sale, said: “This home attracted a lot of interest, with multiple bids being received; its location, reputation, and asset quality combined to make it an attractive proposition.”

East Devon

‘Generous’ shoppers in East Devon helped towards donating two million meals to support charities, supporting a supermarket’s winter food collection.

Tesco customers in Exmouth, Sidmouth, Budleigh Salterton and Exeter donated 3,887 meals in support of the Trussell Trust food banks and FareShare charity projects.

East Devon

Scores of food donations were made by East Devon Tesco customers.
Photo: with permission.

Sidmouth

Design consultants will ‘soon begin working on multi-million pound coastal defence work for Sidmouth and East Beach.

The work has been  fully approved by the Environment Agency, with £16million of funding from the Government.

The Sidmouth and East Beach coastal defence scheme has been fully approved by the Environment Agency, with £16million of funding from the UK Government.

The £20million project will protect 113 residential and 70 commercial properties from the risks of sea flooding and cliff erosion.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) will provide £2.25million of already approved funds, with additional contributions from Devon County Council and other local bodies.

East Devon

Sidmouth from above.
Photo: with permission.

An EDDC spokesperson said: “Design consultants are soon to be employed to revisit the outline design. Design and modelling will occur throughout 2024 into 2025 with the public being invited to consultation to help shape the final design prior to the planning process. Construction will follow on once planning is granted.”

They added: “Planned improvements currently include one or more new offshore breakwaters, a new rock groyne at East Beach, and the splash wall at the east of the Esplanade will be raised.

“A new slipway access will allow improved maintenance and easier launching for the lifeboat and other watercrafts.”

EDDC said the main and East beaches will be ‘recharged’, with levels to be increased using similar material dredged from offshore.

All planned changes will be done in a sympathetic manner, keeping Sidmouth’s historic architectural and natural beauty in mind, said EDDC.

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