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Green Flags flying at our country parks; help reduce risk of spreading bird flu and check out the ‘ultimate hot hatch’ cop car!

Green Flags flying at Stover and Grand Western Canal Country Parks

Our Grand Western Canal Country Park and Stover Country Park have been officially recognised among the country’s best parks by being presented with the coveted Green Flag Award.

They are among a record breaking 2,208 UK winners of the award this year, which is the international quality mark for parks and green spaces.

The news that our country parks have achieved the Green Flag Award is testament to the hard work and dedication of the teams that make them green spaces for everyone to enjoy.

The Grand Western Canal is celebrating 14 consecutive years of receiving the coveted award. The Green Flag Award judge was impressed with the ongoing improvements in visitor information provision, with several new signs and panels installed and more in the pipeline later this year. The Canal Ranger Service was also congratulated on the high level of community engagement it achieves, working with a range of volunteers, community groups and local schools.

For Stover, this year’s award is the 19th in a row. The Green Flag Award Judge commented that Stover is “a very pleasant visit with a hive of activities going on at the time with various local groups. Well deserving of the Green Flag.” The park also won praise for its well-maintained paths and additional access for people with mobility problems to most areas.

Why not give them a visit this summer!

Take care and help reduce risk of spreading bird flu

Bird flu, or avian influenza to give it’s correct name, is primarily a disease of birds and we are aware of some cases currently in Devon.

The risk to public health is very low as it is not an airborne disease. However, it is really important that you do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find.

If you find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.

Full guidance is available on the government website.

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) came into force across Great Britain last November. This means all bird keepers, regardless of whether they are pet birds, a commercial flock or just a few birds in a backyard, must keep their birds indoors, keep a close watch on them for signs of disease and maintain good biosecurity at all times.

Bird flu is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect any type of avian influenza in poultry or captive birds, you must report it by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.

Illegal tobacco

Trading Standards seizes large amounts of illicit tobacco

Our Trading Standards officers seized a large amount of illegal tobacco in raids in Devon and Somerset last Friday estimated to be worth more than £200,000.

Our officers, from the Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service, were supported by Avon and Somerset Police, Devon and Cornwall Police, the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit and HM Revenue and Customs.

The seizure is one of the largest of its kind by our service.

Using specialist detection dogs officers executed five warrants. We raided two stores, a residential address and a storage container in Taunton, two business addresses in Exeter and Yeovil and a business and residential premises in Tiverton. Two commercial vehicles were also searched. 

Read the full story on the news page of our website.

Anyone wishing to report the selling of illegal tobacco can do so, anonymously, online to Trading Standards via the South West Illegal Tobacco website.

Police use ‘ultimate hot hatch’ cop car to teach young drivers about road safety

It’s not every day you see a head-turning police car with a roaring exhaust, rear spoiler and 345bhp – but that’s exactly what Devon and Cornwall Police has just taken delivery of.

The force has acquired a Ford Focus RS, which it is transforming into a completely unique police car, as part of a bid to educate vulnerable young drivers on road safety, who are one of the groups identified by Vision Zero South West as being over-represented in serious collisions.

The project, funded by the Vision Zero South West road safety partnership, builds on the hard work of Road Casualty Reduction Sergeant Owen Messenger and YouTube channel GCM (George’s Car Media).

The Focus RS, which was chosen for its legendary status among young drivers and modified car enthusiasts, will be used to engage with young people at targeted events across Devon and Cornwall and through road safety videos on GCM’s social media channels. 

Read the full story on the news page of our website.

New leadership is bringing positive change

The latest monitoring visit by Ofsted to our Children’s Services confirms that after ‘a long period of poor outcomes for children’, we, and our partners, are now starting to make positive changes.

Since autumn 2021, our new children’s services senior leadership team has brought “a more cohesive, systematic and determined approach to doing what is needed to achieve the necessary progress,” inspectors write in their latest report, published this week.

“Importantly, this is now backed by political and corporate leaders, who have committed additional resources to tackling the weaknesses in Children’s Services,” they say.

But what progress is being made is too slow. Recent changes introduced by new leadership though are starting to bear positive fruit, and although they’ve not yet had time for their impact to be fully felt, inspectors acknowledge them in this report. They include actions to address recruitment and retention challenges, with a new improved offer and incentives for both new and existing staff.

You can read the full story on the news page of our website.

Temporary bridge to be installed at Martinhoe to re-open road

Work to install a temporary bridge over Martinhoe Bridge in North Devon will start next week to enable the road to re-open as soon as possible.

Martinhoe Bridge, located near the Hunters Inn on Exmoor, was closed for safety reasons earlier this month after a routine inspection by our bridges team found serious structural defects.

From Monday 1 August, a 90-tonne crane will lift two 24-metre long bridge planks into position across the existing bridge deck. The temporary structure will ensure the road can re-open to traffic, with a 15mph speed restriction imposed, while we develop a future replacement or strengthening scheme.

Read the full story on the news page of our website.

Respite unit team praised for their ‘flexibility and dedication’

Staff from our residential respite units have been highly commended at a national awards ceremony for rising to the challenge of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and adapting to support those leaving hospital.

At the recent Local Government Chronicle Awards our in-house Learning Disability Respite Team were recognised in the ‘small team of the year’ category.

We have three residential respite units, in Exeter, Honiton and Barnstaple, providing overnight respite accommodation for the families of younger adults with learning disabilities. Often these short breaks are the only breaks these families get. When COVID-19 hit and, following government lockdown rules, we had to close these services.

As hospital beds filled up and the NHS became under increasing pressure the team was asked to run and staff two facilities to support those leaving hospital ahead of an expected surge of COVID-19 related hospitalisations.

Two suitable hotels, one in Exeter and one in Bideford, were equipped and became ‘care hotels’. There our staff played a crucial role serving as a ‘bridge’ between hospital and home. They provided a supportive environment for patients, helped them relearn lost skills following a hospital stay and reduced the likelihood of readmission.

You can read the full story on the news page of our website.

New anonymous digital mental health support service launched across Devon

A new free and confidential digital mental health and wellbeing service for adults is now available across Devon, Plymouth and Torbay.

NHS Devon, working in partnership with Devon, Plymouth and Torbay Councils, has commissioned Qwell to ensure all adults in Devon have access to a choice of support to manage their own emotional health and wellbeing. 

It offers a safe online space for adults to access therapeutic activities and content including a peer support community. This includes self-help articles, forums, and discussion boards that are moderated by qualified practitioners. Users can also keep an online journal and monitor their wellbeing via an interactive goal tracker. 

There’s also a one-on-one live text chat and messaging counselling service with a team of qualified practitioners. Appointments can be booked in advance or accessed via a drop-in text-based chat which runs from midday to 10pm on weekdays, and from 6pm to 10pm at the weekend.

Anyone over the age of 18 years old living in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay can access support from Qwell without a referral from a health professional and there is no criteria to qualify for support.