Are we ageing well in Totnes and Dartington?

If you were inspired by Angela Rippon on the BBC programme 'How to Stay Young' to discover ways to stay young and healthy for longer, the Functional Fitness MOT events, new to Totnes and Dartington could be just the ticket.

The Functional Fitness MOT is a series of free events for people over 60 taking place in Totnes and Dartington in May and June 2016. These events give participants the opportunity to test their fitness and aim to promote discussion around activity levels and to promote active ageing.

The Functional Fitness MOT tests elements of active ageing such as flexibility, muscle power, motor ability, balance, aerobic endurance, current activity levels and personal goals and participants will have the opportunity to discuss their strengths and weaknesses with a qualified physiotherapist who will signpost participants to local activities and exercise groups. The tests are fun and performed in a supportive, non-judgemental environment. For the more competitive you are welcome to bring your friends and compare results.

Event dates, times and venues are as follows:

  • Rushbrook Centre, Totnes; Wednesday 18th May 2016, Drop in between 9.30am – 12.30pm
  • St John's Church Hall, Bridgetown; Wednesday 25th May 2016, Drop in between 2.30pm – 4.30pm
  • Rushbrook Centre, Totnes; Wednesday 8th June 2016, Drop in between 9.30am – 12.30pm
  • Dartington Village Hall, Dartington; Friday 17th June 2016, Drop in between 9.30am – 12.30pm

For further information please contact Pauline by email or give her a call on 07975708130.


Flooding in Totnes

The Environment Agency have announced a new initiative to reduce the risk of flooding in Totnes. Since the original flood defences were built in the 1980s there have been at least two separate occasions where some properties in Totnes have come close to flooding.

For more information you can contact the Environment Agency by email or write to them at The Environment Agency, Manley House, Kestrel Way, Exeter, Devon, EX2 7LQ. Or you can visit their website using the following link

In addition to the Environment Agency's new initiative, the government has recently launched FLOODre. This is a new national scheme designed to help provide better access to affordable home insurance. More about FLOODre can be found at or you can watch their informative video.


Petitions to Torbay Council

Torbay Council is encouraging people who wish to submit petitions to follow the correct procedure as this will ensure their voice is heard about subjects that matter to them.

Petitions are often used to allow communities to raise awareness and participate in local affairs. If a petition has 25 or more valid signatures it will be seen at Council and the petitioner will have the opportunity to speak on the matter. The petition will then be referred to the decision-maker for a decision.

Petitions with 1,000 or more valid signatures can be presented to Council for full debate and decision. However, for a petition to be approved it must follow Torbay Council's Petition Scheme or it will unfortunately be refused.

Recently a number of petitions have been refused for the following reasons:
• The petition did not have accompanying signatures with full addresses (including post codes).
• The petition did not clearly stating the action it wishes the council to take.
• The petition did not have clear headings on each page to inform the signatories what they are signing.

Addresses must be clear and include the correct post code to ensure they have been signed by people who live, work or study in Torbay.

If you are thinking of submitting a petition please contact the Governance Support Team on (01803) 207087 or email before you start so that they can assist you and ensure your petition meets the requirements of the scheme.

To help you decide what to include please find details of petitions received by the council and the outcomes on the website

The petition scheme and a template is available here


Together, We can tackle Child Abuse

The Department for Education is funding an important communications campaign to encourage members of the public to report child abuse and neglect. We all want to ensure children who are at risk of abuse or neglect are identified quickly to stop situations escalating.

In 2014/15 there were 632,400 referrals into children's social care, with 9.7% of these coming from members of the public. This figure can be improved upon and that is why this campaign aims to get as many people as possible to be more alert to the protection of children in their communities.

Campaigns have already been launched across the country with the government funding out-of-home advertising on billboards and bus stops along with digital and radio advertisements to get the message across.

We all have a role to play in protecting children and young people from child abuse and neglect and I am pleased that the campaign has received welcome support from local authorities, the police and health officials.

For more information on the campaign, and advice on how to protect children from abuse or neglect please visit the following links:


WW1 Commemoration Funding

2016 marks the centenary of some of the most bloody and significant battles of the First World War, including Verdun, Jutland, the Dublin Easter Rising and of course, the Somme. A number of sources of funding are available to help explore and commemorate the events of WW1. These are:

  • The Heritage Lottery Fund, which is providing grants of £3,000-£10,000 to mark the centenary of WW1. Details of this can be accessed here.
  • The War Memorial Trust, which provides grants of up to £30,000 to help conserve and restore local war memorials. Details can be found here.   
  • Historic England has launched a programme, financed by the Government, to add 2,500 war memorials to the National Heritage List. Details of this project, including how to register a war memorial, can be found here.


A first for community-led development in South Hams

South Hams District Council has received its first Community Right to Build Order for the proposed Atmos Totnes development on the former Diary Crest site. This is one of the first in the country to use this new route to planning which increases the amount of consultation and involvement by the local community within a planning process.

Totnes Community Development Society (TCDS) have been working with the community for the last 18 months to prepare plans for a mixed development on the site. Before Christmas TCDS held Pre-submission Consultation (Regulation 14 of Neighbourhood Planning Regulations 2012), which is a formal part of the Community Right to Build Order process.

Following the most recent consultation with both the community and statutory organisations, there have been some changes to the Order and associated plans. Please do have a look at the revised Order available through South Hams District Council, which includes all associated plans, designs, and supporting technical information for Atmos Totnes. This period of Consultation (Regulation 16 of the Neighbourhood Planning Regulations 2012) will end on the 8th April.

You can submit comments and objections to the submission for Atmos Totnes via the South Hams District Council website, email or the office address:


Torcross Update from the Environment Agency (22.04.16)

Our project board met this week to review the repair options for Torcross. We are confident that our consultants have provided robust solutions for the stability of the defence at Torcross. As promised we're sharing with you an overview of the options being considered.

What repair options are technically feasible?

1. Full rock revetment in front of the whole length of defence – this option is likely to result in full loss of the beach (similar to Beesands). We are concerned about the impact of this option on the community in Torcross.

2. Concrete Armour in front of the whole length of defence - this option is likely to result in loss of the beach, although less than with option 1. We are concerned about the impact of this option on the community in Torcross.

3. New steel sheet piled wall – this option would involve driving a new piled wall approximately 1 metre in front of existing defence to a greater depth than the existing piling, to provide greater protection to the structure from reduced beach levels. This wall could be either along the full length of defence or just in front of the damaged areas, with or without rock in front.

4. Beach management – this option would involve recharging the beach in front of the existing defence. Any recharge will need to take into account 2015 experiences and the potential for ongoing management.

5. Combination of Option 3 and 4 – this option would involve a combination of new steel sheet piled wall and recharging the beach. This option would help increase the lifespan of the new sheet piled wall.

What repair options are economically feasible?

When investing tax payer's money, government requires us to follow appraisal and funding guidance to ensure we are providing a cost effective solution over the life of the defence and ensure value for money. The preferred option will be the one that has the highest benefit to cost ratio (i.e. the one which gives the best value comparing the cost with the damage avoided) provided the solution is technically feasible.

Tell us what you think

As well as choosing a technically and economically feasible option, we also want to endeavour to choose a solution that enables residents to continue to enjoy Torcross. This means we need to know more about what you think of the options presented above.

Please send any feedback on the options above through to your community representative, Bill Fletcher-Neal by the 6th May 2016 to or calling 01548 581 036. Bill has kindly agreed to collate these comments for us. We will also hold a drop in to answer any questions individual residents and businesses have about the options if you think this would be useful.

All your comments will be taken to the project board in May to make a decision about which option is preferred

All enquiries about this project should be sent to If you need to report an emergency incident at Torcross please call our 24 hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

For all updates please look at the Slapton Line Partnership website

Picture by kind permission of Pat Nettleton


Torcross is open for business.

The recent weather has damaged the A379, temporarily closing the southern end of the Slapton line but thanks to a rapid response, it is hoped that this will reopen to light traffic by the weekend or early next week.

Devon County Council are also funding a temporary shuttle bus service between Kingsbridge bus station and Torcross to replace the suspended Stagecoach bus route.

The car park at the War Memorial is open so please take the opportunity to enjoy one of our best sea views and nature reserves with a stunning walk along the coast path. The wonderful Start Bay Inn is also very much open for business.



Thank you to local residents, Mike Williams and his Environment Agency team, Peter Brunt from DCC Highways, South Hams District Council, local councillors and the Slapton Line Partnership for coming to today's emergency meeting at Torcross. This was an opportunity to inspect the sea defences and raise questions about the scale of the damage both to the sea wall protecting Torcross as well as to the A379. This vital road link has been closed at the Torcross end of the Slapton Line as a result of damage to the sea wall.

Despite all three main agencies, SHDC, EA and DCC working together to rapidly agree remedial work to the sea wall protecting the road, further bad weather over the weekend has caused further damage and forced a complete closure. It was explained that work to drive metal sheeting to protect the road could not start last week because of the essential requirement to first carry out checks for unexploded ordnance. The EA confirmed that the main sea wall at Torcross is their responsibility as a flood defence barrier and that the section to the north, protecting the road, is the responsibility of SHDC. The road itself is however, the responsibility of DCC whilst the land on which the road runs along the Slapton line is owned by the Whitney Trust. The urgency of the task ahead to protect both the community and vital road link was clear to everyone. It was reassuring to see work in progress to create extra protection for the road as well as the equipment arriving on site to construct a temporary diversion through the car park to allow the passage of light traffic and hopefully also to local buses.

The EA have now awarded the contract for an urgent survey to assess the condition of defences beneath the main sea wall protecting Torcross and, in the meantime, plan to start emergency work bringing in rock armour to place in front of the wall.

For local residents worried about the structural safety of their homes, the advice was to call 01626 215793 to discuss this with Building Control if not already covered by home insurance.

The need for a future single communication hub for all agencies to update the community was agreed and thank you to the Slapton Line Partnership for agreeing to host updates on their website.

I will continue to work with the community and all the agencies to try to get the work completed as soon as possible and to safeguard the future of Torcross and the A379. These plans must also consider the defences and communities of Beesands and North Hallsands.


Drink Wise, Age Well in Devon

Drink Wise Age Well are a fantastic organisation who provide expert advice on healthier drinking for the over 50s.

They provide friendly and community led activities and the opportunity to learn new skills and meet new people. They run both group and individual sessions and can help with information on looking after your health and wellbeing, family relationships and healthier drinking.

To find out more phone 0800 304 7034 or visit their website


Breaking Free Online

Breaking Free Online is a confidential online treatment and recovery programme for alcohol and drugs to help people break their dependence and move on with their life.

It is very easy to follow and completely confidential, providing a wide choice of coping strategies. You build up a helpful toolkit of recovery resources and get a certificate showing your achievements.

Breaking Free Online helps you identify what is keeping your drink or drug use going and sets you personal goals to track your progress.

You can find out more via their website


A379 At Torcross

I was sorry to hear the news this morning that the A379 at Torcross has had to be closed, due to the failure of the seawall during this morning's high tide. The sea wall that has failed is the one starting at the slip way supporting the highway.

This is clearly a worrying situation and I have recently held meetings with the Environment Agency, South Hams District Council and Devon County Council to discuss prioritising of repairs and plans for a long term solution. Devon County Council are currently trying to get an 18 tonne excavator down there to see what they can do as a temporary measure to prevent any further loss of material supporting the highway over the next few days, before they start work on Monday to do something more permanent.

Picture by kind permission of South Hams Newspapers


Totnes and Dartmouth Ring and Ride Service urgently needs funds.

This valuable service is at risk of being lost to the community. It needs a minimum of £10,000 by the end of February to see it through to the next financial year when it is hoped to access grant funding for a restructured operation. The Ring and Ride Service were delighted to hear that last year they had been awarded money to provide a new specially adapted bus, this will allow them to hand back a 15 seater bus they are currently leasing from Devon County Council and thereby help their running costs.

The Ring and Ride Service is aimed at some of the most vulnerable in the area and with their specially adapted vehicles, assist the elderly, frail and disabled. Often this group do not have access to other forms of transport and some of the users have already stated that if the service closes they will have to remain in their homes.

There are less than 28 days for the Ring and Ride Service to order their new bus but if they do not receive funds of £10,000 within the next couple of weeks, the service will have to close their doors.

If you are able to help please do get in contact with Ring and Ride Chairman, Judy Westacott on 01803 863043.


The Local Government Boundary Commission

The Local Government Boundary Commission is carrying out an electoral review of Devon County Council.

The aim of the electoral review is to recommend electoral division boundaries that mean each county councillor represents approximately the same number of voters. The aim is to ensure that the pattern of divisions reflects the interests and identities of local communities as well as promoting effective local government. In order to achieve these aims, division boundaries are being re-drawn across the county.



The Points of Light Award

The Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community and inspiring others.

Every week day the Prime Minister recognises an inspirational volunteer with the Daily Point of Light award.

First established by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, over 5,000 US Points of Light have been recognised in the USA. UK Points of Light was developed in partnership with the US programme and launched in the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street in April 2014.

Since then hundreds of people have been named Points of Light by the Prime Minister, highlighting an enormous array of innovative and inspirational volunteering across the length and breadth of Britain.

Doing everything from tackling knife crime, to supporting families of dementia patients, our UK Points of Light are fundraising, awareness raising, problem solving heroes who all had an idea they decided to make a reality. Their actions have changed lives and their stories are can inspire thousands more to get involved or start their own initiatives.

Find out more about our UK Points of Light.

Feeling inspired? Discover volunteering opportunities near you.

Tell No 10 your inspirational volunteering stories.


Superfast Broadband in Thurlestone

Connecting Devon and Somerset have connected Thurlestone to superfast broadband through the Sutton Cross 4 cab. The future for superfast broad in the constituency is looking positive with 89% of properties in the constituency having superfast broadband by the end of this year. Whilst the remaining 11% will be connected in the near future. To register your interest in superfast broadband or to find out more about Connecting Devon and Somerset you can simply use the following link. Remember if more of us register an interest in superfast broadband the more likely it is, the roll out will be faster and more encompassing.
Photo by kind permission of Marcus Faye

Employment Figures

The latest figures show that unemployment in the Totnes constituency, and across the country, continues to fall.

Those benefitting most from the employment figures are women and the long term unemployed. Since 2010 there are a million more women in work and this is likely to be helped further with our guarantee of 30 hours free childcare for three and four year olds.

The number of people who have had to cope with long-term unemployment has fallen by a quarter since 2010 and that needs to fall further if everyone is to have the same opportunity to benefit from having a job.

Of course, it is not just work itself that matters, but the quality of that work and training opportunities. People were rightly concerned about some companies' abuse of zero-hours contracts. Businesses, small and large, are the lifeblood of the UK economy, but they rely of millions of individuals who deserve fair pay. It's for this reason that it was so important to have banned 'exclusivity clauses' in contracts, preventing companies from locking-in employees on unfair hours whilst preventing them from working elsewhere. The latest ONS Labour force survey estimates that just 2.4% of the workforce now work zero hours contracts

It is also welcome news that wages continue to outstrip inflation and that is before a welcome boost from the National Living Wage. The fall in petrol prices has been particularly good news for businesses and commuters alike in this area where people are more likely to need to drive longer distances.

There is no room for complacency as, compared with the rest of the country, local people are paid lower wages yet face higher housing costs and, as a nation, we still have a long way to go to close the gap between what we earn and what we spend.

Nuisance Calls

The Government has set out plans in the bid to tackle the scourge of nuisance calls.

Direct marketing companies will have to legally display their telephone number on caller ID, helping consumers report unsolicited calls to the regulators.

Unsolicited direct marketing calls can cause significant stress and anxiety, particularly to those people who rely on the telephone as their main means of keeping in touch with friends and loved ones. At best these calls are a source of irritation and at worst they can lead to people falling foul of scammers.

The proposal to make it a requirement for direct marketing callers to provide valid Calling Line Identification (CLI) will help:

  • Make it easier for people to refuse and report unwanted marketing calls;
  • Make it easier for the ICO to investigate and take enforcement action against callers that persistently and deliberately break the rules.

There is a six-week consultation which closes on 23 February 2016 and following this, the Government plans to bring the measure into force in spring 2016.


Paying your tax online

The Government has set out the details of its plan, first announced in the 2015 Budget, to replace the annual tax return with an online payment system which will be available to all individuals and businesses by 2020. Businesses and individuals will be able to record their income and costs directly to a secure digital tax account online and this will cut out the need to fill in a complex annual tax return form. Online records need to be updated at least quarterly, in a process which aims to be quicker and simpler than filling in the current tax return.

It is hoped this will make it easier for businesses to track how much tax will be due, helping them to plan for the future. The smallest businesses won't have to pay for the software, to help them make the transition. Other ways of paying tax, such as telephone filing, will continue to be available for those who are unable to use this system. For more details on the replacement of tax returns click here.


Our Plan; The South Hams Newsletter

Click on this link to read Our Plan; The South Hams Newsletter for an update on the progress of the development plan, it covers changes nationally and locally, along with calls for new sites across the District.






Looking for local funding?

Local groups and organisations with great ideas to make their communities even better places to live are now invited to apply for funding to turn their ideas into reality.

Using money raised by HealthContact society lottery through The Health Lottery, People's Health Trust has opened Active Communities in Devon and Torbay.

Active Communities is a funding programme for community groups and not-for-profit organisations, with an income of less than £350,000 a year or an average of £350,000 over two years, seeking investment of between £5,000 and £50,000 for projects lasting up to two years. They are looking for small and local projects, genuinely designed and run by local people. By small, they mean just a small group of people on an estate, in a few streets or villages.

They are also looking for great ideas from communities of interest. By this they mean a group of people who have things in common and wish to come together to address something that is important to them. These ideas could be based in one neighbourhood, or cover a wider area.

They run a two stage application process over a four week period that begins with a short online form. There's step by step guidance to help you along the way but if you need any support, please call them on 020 7697 4021 or email

The deadline for applications is 1pm on Wednesday 3 February 2016.


Share shop in Totnes

Network Of Wellbeing is planning to open a Share shop in Totnes and would welcome your views and help. The Share shop is a library of things, instead of books people can borrow things- this could be garden tools, a sewing machine, camping or leisure equipment or even a chocolate fountain. Things we don't need every day, which we could share. We hope that this would have benefits of building community, allowing people to uses things they may not be able to afford and helping people de-clutter their garages of what they no longer want to keep without things going into landfill. At this early stage we are wanting to gather ideas on a suitable venue for such a shop, ideas for fundraising and inviting people to fill out this link which takes a few minutes to share your views on such a shop.


'Defra Guidance and Data Reforms: Cost, Benefits and Early Feedback' Consultation

On the 17th December, Defra launched a consultation 'Defra Guidance and Data Reforms: Cost, Benefits and Early Feedback', which will run until the 10th February 2016. The consultation is being conducted as an online survey. The online survey and supporting information may be found at

As part of the Red Tape Challenge, Defra committed itself to a fundamental overhaul of its guidance and information requests to make them simpler, quicker and clearer to use. The purpose of this consultation is to invite views from stakeholders on the assumptions, key sensitivities and risks that underpin the estimates of costs and benefits to business contained in the Consultation Impact Assessment. Take this opportunity to have your say.


New South Devon Highway Opens To Traffic!

Last night (14.12.15) after more than 60 years in the planning, the South Devon Highway opened to traffic. In an overnight operation which took several hours to complete the last works to the main road were carried out on the construction project. In a joint effort with Devon and Cornwall Police, the project team opened the road, with the first vehicles travelling north on the new 5.5km road. The operation took place overnight to ensure it was safely managed and this morning commuters will find themselves travelling on a new dual carriageway which has taken just over three years to construct.

To help motorists understand the new junctions, diagrams are available through the following link.

Just before the new road was opened, a video flythrough was filmed. The video was produced by Matt Cranfield of Skyflicks. It contains a series of blends showing how the road has transformed over the last eight months.


Great News for Shoalstone Pool

I am so delighted that Shoalstone Pool in Brixham is to receive a grant of £49,500 for repairs and renovation as part of £3m of funding from the government for projects in seaside towns. I know it has been a long fight and a lot of hard work from the community to keep the pool open and this money will ensure the future of the pool is secured. The hope is that this funding will allow for new life to be breathed in to the pool, allowing it to be retained as a top class destination for both locals and tourists.

The purpose of the Coastal Revival Fund, where the money is coming from, is to help kick start the revival of at risk heritage sites, which have the potential to create opportunities for new businesses and jobs. In total there are 77 Coastal Revival Fund awards being made and the grant will go directly to the local authority. More good news is that another £1m of funding will be available in 2016/17 for projects that narrowly missed out on being selected.


Care Quality Commission Listening Event

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has announced a listening event for the public to share their experience of the service and care provided in the last year by Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust.

These listening events are a great opportunity for the people who use the services of the hospital trust to contribute to the inspection process and share their experience of care, which can help inspectors identify particular issues to pay attention to during inspections, and ultimately improve the service provided.

The event will take place on the 20th of January at Paignton Library and Information Centre from 10.00 am until 1.00 pm and I would encourage people to go along and share their views.


Floods and Insurance.

This weekend, the weather has served as a reminder of the danger flooding poses in the UK.

The Association of British Insurers have written a guide explaining how insurance companies will respond in an emergency situation where homes or businesses have been flooded and sets out the support that can be expected from an insurance provider in the days, weeks and months following a major flood.

Indeed, I hope this information is not needed, but just in case, you can view through the following link.


Community Potluck

The Community Potlucks are regular events, hosted by the Network Of Wellbeing, which provide the local community in Totnes with an opportunity to come together and share a meal, with everyone contributing a delicious dish. These are family friendly events and all are welcome.

 For more information, email or telephone 01803 849107


Parliamentarian of the Year.

The Political Studies Association awarded Sarah, Parliamentarian of the Year. The judges said that she was a worthy winner as someone who has developed a "reputation for independence of opinion and approach, using her knowledge of the health service to raise concerns over planned health reforms".

Sarah was also commended for:

"making best use of parliamentary scrutiny and use of her role as Chair of the House of Commons Health Select Committee to impressive effect. Her work proves that the independent voice still plays an active role in UK politics."




This week I met up with representatives from Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) – the organisation responsible for the roll-out of superfast broadband in our area – for an update on their progress.

In the Totnes constituency, there are already 8,273 properties connected to superfast broadband with an additional 2,034 coming online shortly. I was pleased to hear that areas connected to exchanges in Bigbury, Blackawton, Dittisham, Dartmouth, Kingswear, Paignton, Salcombe, South Brent, Staverton, Stoke Fleming and Stoke Gabriel will be connecting to superfast soon and that the infrastructure for those areas has now been put in place.

By the end of 'Phase One' of the rollout in 2016, CDS estimates that 89% of properties will be connected to superfast. The remaining 11% will be delivered through 'Phase Two' and discussions are ongoing ahead of the process to decide which provider will be awarded the contract to deliver this. CDS are currently negotiating an agreement for State Aid Notification with the European Commission, which is necessary before the tender process can begin and it is hoped that this will be concluded by February. The contract will then go out to tender for 12-16 weeks before a provider will be decided and work on connecting the final 11% will begin.

Residents can check whether their property can receive superfast broadband or see when their area will go online via the following link


Fair School Funding

As part of the Comprehensive Spending Review, it was great to see a commitment to introduce fairer system for school funding. The current arrangement, which has lasted for decades, has led to a situation where the ten best funded areas in England receive over £2,000 per pupil more than the ten worst funded areas. In Devon, schools currently receive over £1,000 less per pupil than schools in the best funded area.

The new funding formula will set a national rate that every school will receive for each pupil, with additional funding for those with extra needs. Crucially, from 2017-18 the resources that schools and local authorities receive will be based on pupil characteristics rather than historic political calculations. MPs representing the F40 group of underfunded schools have been asking for this for many years and I'm delighted that the Department for Education will now consult on the detail in early 2016 and I look forward to seeing the full proposals.


Torbay gets UNESCO status!

In its 70th anniversary year and 40 years after the creation of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Science Commission of UNESCO (United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture) at the UNESCO General Conference in Paris today has approved the statutes of the new "International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme" which will allow for the creation of the new site designation of "UNESCO Global Geoparks" and the re-designation of all 120 existing Global Geoparks, including Torbay, as new UNESCO Global Geoparks.

Previously operating with the informal support of UNESCO, the status of UNESCO Global Geoparks has been recognised under the new programme. The English Riviera, which includes the three towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham, and covers the entire Torbay area, became a Global Geopark in 2007 and, against competition from China and Europe, won the bid to host the 7th International Conference on Global Geoparks in September 2016 when delegates from around the world will attend what will now be the first UNESCO Global Geoparks conference.

The English Riviera Global Geopark was an initiative that came from the Torbay Heritage Forum 11 years ago and led to the development of a grass-roots initiative, championed by the Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust, supported by Torbay Council under the direction of Nick Powe, director of Kents Cavern. It is now a partner-led organisation coordinating Geopark activities and assuring adherence to a pragmatic code of conduct mandated by the Global Geoparks Network and UNESCO.


EU dairy support payments come early for UK farmers

I met with a group of farmers last week to discuss their concerns and was pleased to hear from the Chancellor that two weeks ahead of schedule EU support payments to help hard-pressed UK dairy farmers manage cash flow problems will start arriving in bank accounts

The first payments have been made to over 10,000 farmers across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – three-quarters of all eligible farmers and amounting to almost £19.2 million. Payments will continue through November and December. I hope this emergency payment will help ease some of the immediate cash flow problems that many people are facing.


Major boost to Devon NHS Perinatal Service; Chancellor waives VAT for Wembley gig

The Chancellor has announced that all VAT will be waived on ticket sales for the sold out performance by "Above and Beyond" at Wembley Arena in the memory of Charlotte Morley, the sister of sister of band member Jono Grant, with an estimated £80,000 going to the Devon NHS Perinatal unit. All proceeds from the event are being donated to the 'Little Something Fund'

Charlotte, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away earlier this year at the age of 42. She was a well-respected member of the Perinatal Mental Health Service provided by Devon Partnership NHS Trust.

A wife and mother herself, Charlotte worked with a lot of women from South Devon who had babies at either Torbay Hospital or the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and was passionate about family wellbeing.


Do you know what to do in a flood?

There is a tendency for us all to think that "flooding will never happen to me". The fact is - it could.
Almost 5 million people in England are at risk of flooding and this is only going to increase with a changing climate.
The Environment Agency is running a flood campaign in early November to encourage you to act now to prepare for a flood.
Have you ever checked to see if your home or business are at risk from flooding?
Would you know what to do in a flood?
What could you do now to save you time, money and worry if it happened tomorrow?

Visit to take the following simple steps to help protect you, your family and home from flooding.

Take these small steps now and help save you time, money and distress in a flood


Dartmouth: a 'Rising Star' in the Great British High Street Competition!

The awards were set up to recognise and champion local areas working to develop their high streets. This year, a record-breaking 230 applications were received and 21 finalists were chosen and are now fighting it out to win the public vote. However a further ten applications which impressed the judging panel with their commitment to working together to rejuvenate their high streets, were recognised with a 'Rising Star' award. These areas are considered to be strong competitors for a finalist's spot next year.

Dartmouth will receive £1000 in recognition of their hard work for introducing a new high-quality tourism campaign.


Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner

Have your say in the selection of the next Conservative candidate for the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner elections in May 2016. Anyone, registered to vote in the Devon and Cornwall Police Authority area can register to attend and vote at the two primary meetings being held. They are on the evening of 30th October in Mid Cornwall and on the morning of 31st October in the Exeter Area. Full details will be sent to those who register to attend. To register, For the Mid-Cornwall meeting email  and for the Exeter Area meeting email Or phone: 01626 331795 between 9am and 5 pm. Please apply by 6pm on Thursday 29th October.


Have you trouble cancelling or terminating a broadband, phone or TV contract?  Ofcom want to hear about it.

Ofcom is looking to hear from consumers about their experiences of cancelling or terminating phone, broadband or pay TV contracts.

Earlier this year, Ofcom launched a monitoring and enforcement programme to look closely at the cancellation and termination arrangements of different providers, identifying where they seem to be making it difficult for customers to leave.

Although Ofcom cannot handle individual complaints, they want to make sure they fully understand the difficulties consumers are facing and use it to inform their wider monitoring and enforcement work. So if you have recently tried to or succeeded in terminating your phone, broadband or pay TV contract, please tell Ofcom about your experience by filling out a short questionnaire.


Keeping Children Safe Online

New technologies inspire children to be creative, communicate and learn. However, while the internet is a wonderful resource, it is important that children and teenagers are protected from the risks they may encounter. This is where Parent Info comes in. Parent Info is produced by The Parent Zone, which has been working with parents for over a decade. This organisation has the support of numerous organisations that make up the UK Council for Child Internet Safety and is also backed by the government.

The service they provide is relatively new and gives information to parents on a range of issues affected by the internet. It also offers the most up to date and expert advice from a wide range of sources to help parents understand and support their children's digital activity, to help their children grow up confident and creative online.

On the Parent Info website their articles cover everything from internet gaming, cyberbullying and mobile phone apps. There is also information for parents with older children on sex and relationships. A vast amount of information is covered to help to put parents' minds at ease.


An opportunity to apply for a free defibrillator and training for your community!

The British Heart Foundation and the Department for Health have launched a joint partnership, with an investment of £1 million from the government, to improve public access to defibrillators.

Each year, nearly 30,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest out of hospital, with less than one in ten surviving. However a bystander providing immediate CPR and defibrillation can significantly increase the chances of survival. Unfortunately at present only 38% of the public are aware that they can use public access defibrillators in an emergency, and only 22% are confident that they would know how to do so. This is an opportunity to apply for the following three packages for your area.

  • A free public access defibrillatorCPR training kit and a cabinet
  • A free public access defibrillator and CPR training kit
  • A cabinet to improve accessibility to a current defibrillator

Successful applications must demonstrate:

That the defibrillator will be accessible to the public, preferably 24/7
A commitment to train the local community in CPR
A clear need for the device, such as high footfall or a rural location

For more detailed information click here Applications close in March 2016



A number of people have contacted me about how they can help to support the refugees being welcomed into Britain. Depending on what you can offer, the agency you will need to contact will vary.

Locally The Dartington Hall Trust is already putting together a fantastic offer, talking to local groups and like-minded organisations on how they can work together on a useful and effective response to the refugee crisis and more information can be found on their website.

For more detailed information and contact details of the many agencies involved locally and regionally please click on the following link


Totnes, a Caring Town with a Compassionate Response

Concerns have been raised about beggars in Totnes. Some people have been asking what they can do to help. Based on experience and evidence from many other places, it has been found that giving money directly to beggars doesn't always help, especially when there are other routes that can have more lasting benefits.

Below is information about the support networks in Totnes that work long term with the homeless and practical ways in which you can help.

  • The Drop In Centre on Burke Road—first right after South Devon house on the Industrial Estate. This has links with South Hams and Leatside Surgery and provides, food, clothing, washing facilities professional advice and help with housing. In bad weather it operates as a Night Shelter. The Drop is open Monday to Friday 9.30—12.30 Sunday at 12.30 for lunch Closed Saturday
  • Emergency Food Parcels—these can be collected from the Market Place Ministries building opposite the Drop In

Who can you telephone?

  • Emergency Food Parcels: 01803 840354
  • South Hams Rough Sleeper 24 hour hotline: 0800 151 3441
  • South Hams Housing and Benefits: 01803 861234

How can you give money which will help add to the current support?

If you wish to give money to help those who are homeless, on the streets or in food poverty, several of our cafes and restaurants operate the Giving Back Scheme where you can donate the price of a cup of coffee or meal to help fund the support networks

The Drop In and Giving Back Scheme are run by volunteers and so 100% of any donation goes directly to support the homeless and those in need.


I support the campaign organised by the cycling charity Sustrans, for the November spending review to guarantee that 5% of all transport spending be reserved for cycling and walking. If we are going to make a serious difference to the number of people who walk or cycle to work or to school, then we have to build safer infrastructure in order to build confidence and improve safety. Encouraging cycling and walking will also help the UK to meet our legally binding commitment to cut carbon emissions.

If you agree that the Government should be doing more to promote cycling and walking then please support Sustrans' campaign via a dedicated Sustrans campaign webpage, which can be accessed here.


Attention all MIU nurses!

If you would like to join the team at Dartmouth Community Hospital or visit our town, this beautiful job advert is not to be missed!






A New Strategy for Sport

A public consultation has been launched on a new strategy for sport. The benefits of sport are clear, both physically and mentally. We know that keeping active adds years to our lives and life to our years. We need to keep up the momentum from the London Olympics to create a long term sporting legacy for everyone, and not just for our elite athletes. We know the greatest health benefits will be in making activity and sport appeal to those who take no exercise at all, so please send your views about what would help the most to get Britain active.

The consultation is open until the 2nd of October and you can access it here.


 Coerced consent is not consent and would threaten us all.


Torbay CAB

Torbay Citizens Advice Bureau is launching a new initiative aimed at people in Torbay facing poverty and hardship.

Weekly drop in sessions are going to be held at The Edge, Bolton Street, Brixham on Thursdays between 1-4pm

The drop in sessions provide a whole range of services that offer information on a variety of different issues such as: benefits, budgeting, debt, housing, employment, family and personal issues.

Advisors can also offe

I have received a number of emails about the amendment tabled by John Mann to the Serious Crime Act.

First and foremost, it is of the utmost importance that the government protects children from abuse and addresses concerns that public bodies and other institutions may have failed to act to protect children in the past or deliberately covered up abuse. These must be fully investigated without any fear that anyone could be deterred from giving evidence as a result of the Official Secrets Act

The government has made it clear that John Mann's amendment was not necessary as the Official Secrets Act does not prevent disclosures about abuse being made, this point being clarified by the Home Secretary in the Commons & by the following statement by the Home Office:

The Official Secrets Act is intended to protect certain classes of particularly sensitive information such as security and intelligence matters, and it provides for a number of offences that prevent current or former Crown servants or Government contractors from disclosing certain information without lawful authority. It does not prevent protected information from being disclosed to an officer of an official investigation or inquiry into historical child abuse. In particular, information may be disclosed where the disclosure is made in accordance with that person's official duty or is otherwise authorised. Departments and Ministers can permit current and former civil servants and Government contractors to share knowledge and documentation with an inquiry.

For example, in the case of the Kincora investigation - the Hart Inquiry in Northern Ireland - it has been made absolutely clear by the Attorney-General that prosecutions under the Official Secrets Act will not take place where people are giving evidence of child abuse to the inquiry. The Home Secretary has made it clear that official authorisation would be given for the Goddard Inquiry if a request were made, in a manner similar to that for the Hart Inquiry, and has written to Justice Goddard to suggest that she make such a request to the Attorney General.

Click here to see me being interviewed by Women2Win


Click  to listen to BBC Radio 4 Today programme interviewing Sarah and discussing "Do Westminster Primaries Work?"




30 MAR 2016

Mental Health and Policing

This evening I spoke on mental health and policing at a meeting held by Alison Hernandez, the Conservative Candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall.

04 MAR 2016

New Bob the Bus!

Great to join Simon and volunteers to unveil the terrific new Bob The Bus, purchased with a grant from the Government's community transport minibus fund.

04 MAR 2016

Torcross Meeting

Thank you to Councillors and the team at South Hams District Council, Devon County Council, the Environment Agency and the Slapton Line Partnership for meeting today to discuss the work in and around Torcross. The organisations are working together to bring about a resolution. Updates on their...

27 APR 2016

Out-patients: Attendance

Written Answer Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health Committee To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what safeguards are in place to ensure that patients who require review hospital appointments are seen within a clinically recommended or safe time. Ben Gummer The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of...

26 APR 2016

Health Select Committee

Today the Health Select Committee met to discuss the impact of membership of the EU on health policy in the UK

25 APR 2016

Junior Doctors Contracts

Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health Committee There are only losers in this bitter dispute, but those who have the most to lose are patients and their families. Tomorrow people will visit hospitals to see those whom they care about more than anything in the world, and will ask themselves why the doctors...

25 APR 2016

Meningitis B Vaccine

Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health Committee It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Peter Heaton-Jones, and I apologise to my hon. Friend Ben Howlett for missing his opening statement, because of a statement in the main Chamber. I start by thanking all the families who gave evidence to the...

20 APR 2016

Department of Health: Databases

Written Answers Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health Committee To ask the Secretary of State for Health, whether he expects to be consulted in cases where a Bulk Personal Dataset is required from his Department by an Agency under the provisions of Part 7 of the Investigatory Powers Bill. George...

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Sarah's Personal Blog

Click here for Sarah's blogs and to leave comments

Community Hospitals; a precious community resource (17.04.16)

Our community hospitals are immensely valued and so any changes, especially those that could lead to bed closures are a serious concern. Community hospitals are about far more than their bricks and mortar, they are at the heart of delivering a service to local communities that allows people to be cared for closer to home, sometimes to be able to be cared for near loved ones at the end of their lives or to avoid having to be admitted to a larger hospital too far away for friends and family to be able to visit. Community hospitals provide personal, high quality and supportive care and are extraordinarily important to all the communities and individuals they serve.

To be clear, I do not want Paignton or Dartmouth hospitals to close. But our ageing population and the rising demand for services especially as a result of the growing number of people living with long term conditions mean that those planning services have to look at how we can care for as many people as possible close to home within the resources available. That means looking at the whole system of primary care, community nursing, social care, mental health services and voluntary services alongside community hospitals and Torbay hospital. We cannot look at them in isolation.

Click here to read the full blog and to leave comments on this article

In this junior doctors row, both sides have lost sight of the patient (04.04.16)

I have great respect for junior doctors; it has always been a demanding role. Alongside my clinical practice, I spent over a decade teaching them before changing my initials from GP to MP. I should also declare a personal interest as my daughter is one of them, albeit currently working in Australia.

There is a long tradition of juniors spending a year or two abroad early in their careers before settling down to specialist training back in the UK, but now there is a genuine concern about the balance between leavers and returners. Many of my daughter's colleagues are not planning to join her on the journey home next year and there has been a marked increase in the numbers applying for certificates to work overseas.

The toxic dispute between the government and our core medical workforce risks driving an exodus of skills that we cannot afford to lose.

The contract sits like a festering boil with neither side ready to agree a way forward, and the dispute looks set to erupt into a dangerous full walkout by junior doctors. The British Medical Association (BMA) claims that the contract will harm patients by stretching doctors too thinly across seven days while reducing their take-home pay. The government insists that patients are being put at risk by understaffing at the weekends and that the contract reduces doctors' maximum hours and consecutive shifts while increasing basic pay by 13.5%.

Click here to read the full blog and to leave comments on this article

Taxing sugary drinks companies helps to boost funding for children's sport (18.03.16)

George Osborne's announcement in the Budget that he wants to help fight childhood obesity through a tax on sugary drinks has provoked the usual grumbles. But this is not a 'pious, regressive absurdity', as some claim. It is practical action that will help to tackle an avoidable health disaster for the nation's children, a quarter of whom from the most disadvantaged families are leaving primary school not just overweight but obese. This is double the rate for the most advantaged children and the inequality gap is rising every year. If that had no consequences for them, there would be no case for action, but obesity blights their future health and life chances. It also adds to the rising and unsustainable bill for the NHS of at least £5bn per year.

Click here to read the full blog and to leave comments on this article

Britain Will Be Stronger Out of a Federal EU (21.02.16)

The European Union has missed an important opportunity for reforms that could have benefited all its member states and their citizens.

As a result, the prime minister has returned with a threadbare deal that has highlighted our powerlessness to effect institutional change. If this is the very best that can be grudgingly conceded when EU leaders express concern at the prospect of a British exit, what hope is there of any meaningful reform in the future?

Come the referendum in June, the deal will be a distant memory and unlikely to influence decision-making so much as gut reaction and weighing the balance of individual and national interest. I expect that those campaigning for us to remain in the EU will win the day if they can persuade people that doing so is the only way to guarantee security and prosperity. They will not win because people have any love for the institution itself. Click here to read the full blog and to leave comments on this article

Why, as a Europhile, I'm heading towards the Brexit Door

I have always been a Europhile and before becoming an MP would not have imagined voting to leave the European Union. So why am I heading towards the door? I am in love with the possibilities of the EU but can no longer ignore the grinding reality of the institution.

The Prime Minister has set out the terms of his provisional deal with the leaders of our EU partners and it is a threadbare offering. What use are 'emergency brakes' when the driver has no control or 'red cards' that have no credible chance of being deployed? Apart from a small concession on sham marriages, the truth is that the proposals will have no significant impact on our ability to limit inward migration from the EU. They will however, usher in rafts of bureaucratic cost and complexity with sliding scales for length of residency and nationality for child benefit. Click here to read the full blog


It's time for a bold and brave strategy on childhood obesity (21.01.16)Written for PoliticsHome.

On the morning of the 2012 track cycling Olympics, the architect of Team GB's victory, Sir David Brailsford, attributed their success to the relentless pursuit of 'marginal gains'. He looked at absolutely everything that goes into riding a bike, from the rider and their bike to the environment around them. It was by improving every aspect, even if that was by a small margin, that the sum total struck gold.

There is no single easy solution to the crisis of obesity which is blighting the lives of our nation's children and I hope that David Cameron will look at the success of team GB and apply the same principle of marginal gains.

Some firmly believe that tackling obesity is all about education and information, others that exercise is the answer. Some will focus on the role of marketing and promotions, tackling super-sizing and reducing the levels of sugar in food or the role of taxation.

The fact is that we need all of the above, and far more. We need a bold and brave obesity strategy because of the sheer scale of the problem and the implications both for individual children, their families and wider society.

Click here to read the full blog


It is time for bold and brave action to tackle childhood obesity (30.11.15)

There is a single fact which demonstrates the compelling case for bold and brave action on childhood obesity. A quarter of the most disadvantaged children in England are now obese by the time they leave primary school. This is double the rate among the most advantaged children, setting out in stark terms the scale of the health inequality from obesity – and that has profound implications for children's health and wellbeing both now and in the future.

Obese children are at greater risk of bullying and of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer and joint problems later in life. The cost to the NHS of obesity is estimated to be £5.1bn annually, and treating diabetes accounts for about 10% of its entire budget. Prevention is a central theme of the NHS's own long-term plan, yet there has been a further cut in the resources for public health under the November spending review. This places an even greater responsibility on the prime minister to make sure the policies in his obesity strategy can make a lasting difference to children's wellbeing and life chances. This cannot be stuck in the "too difficult" box just because effective action requires politically difficult decisions.
To read the full blog click here

I opposed Syria bombing in 2013, but now David Cameron has my support (27.11.15)
This article appeared in today's Telegraph

Two years ago, I voted to oppose military action against the Assad regime in Syria. If David Cameron returns to the Commons next week, I will be voting to stand with our allies in extending air strikes against Isil, wherever they hide. It has not been an easy decision because, whatever the accuracy of our weaponry, the innocent are likely to be among the victims of future bombing. Right now, however, countless thousands across Syria and the wider region living under Isil barbarity are subject to systematic enslavement, rape, torture, murder and genocide. Isil cannot be reasoned with and it shows no shred of humanity or mercy to those under its barbarous control.
To read the full blog and leave comments click here

Social Care and Public Health are Essential for Individuals and the Future of our NHS (25.11.15)
This article appeared in today's Telegraph

Britain spends 8.5% of GDP on health care, just below average among the OECD group of rich nations. But while our spending on health has been virtually static in real terms since 2009, the same is not true of demand, which has risen inexorably. Anyone listening to those on front line will hear the unequivocal message that our NHS is under unprecedented strain from the increase in the number of patients with complex long-term conditions, and the shortage in staff and funding to cope. Hospital trusts are heading for a record end of year deficit of around £2bn.

George Osborne faces enormous pressures as he tries to balance the books but he is right to commit an additional £3.8bn to the NHS next year, bringing forward a significant down payment on the £8bn promised by 2020. No one should be under any illusion, however, that this £3.8bn will solve the financial challenges facing our health service.
To read the full blog and leave comments click here

Childhood Obesity

Almost one in five children are obese before they leave primary school. 85% will go on to become obese as adults with increased risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Do you feel that we should do more to help them?

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