Thursday, 21 August 2008

Olympic gold medallists in Exmoor stage of Tour of Britain

OLYMPIC cycling gold medallists Bradley Wiggins (pictured) and Geraint Thomas have been confirmed as competitors in the Tour of Britain, which comes to Exmoor on Tuesday, September 9.
They will also be joined by Beijing bronze medal winner Chris Newton, and Mark Cavendish, the only Briton to win four stages of the Tour de France in a single year.
Somerset County Council is hosting the 113-mile South West stage of the Tour of Britain, which will start in Chard and finish in Burnham-on-Sea.
The race is expected to attract thousands of visitors to the county to cheer on the riders and congratulate the Olympic champions.
The Somerset stage will cross Exmoor from North Molton via Exford and Wheddon Cross to Dunster and then take the A39 and A358 to Bishops Lydeard before crossing the Quantocks and heading towards Burnham.
County council Tour of Britain project manager Graham Bagely said: “The successes in the Tour de France and the Olympics has made 2008 a really exciting year for British cycling.
“The Tour of Britain will be a great event to celebrate this success and see the stars of British cycling compete against each other in Somerset for the toughest stage of the race.”
The county’s economic development portfolio holder, Councillor Alvin Horsfall, said: “The Great Britain Olympic team has set a new standard for competitive cycling.
“It will be great for residents and visitors to see the stars of the Olympics competing in Somerset.
“Last year, the race attracted over 70,000 spectators and we hope the recent success of British cycling will attract even more crowds this year.”
Bradley Wiggins won Gold in the men’s individual pursuit and the men’s team pursuit and will represent ‘Team Columbia’ in the Tour of Britain.
Geraint Thomas won Gold in the men’s team pursuit and will represent ‘Barloworld’ in the Tour of Britain.
Chris Newton won Bronze in the men’s individual pursuit and will represent ‘Rapha Condor’ in the Tour of Britain.
Mark Cavendish is the only British rider to win four stages of the Tour de France.
He also won two stages of the Tour of Britain in 2007 and will represent ‘Team Columbia’ in this year’s race..
More information about the Tour of Britain in Somerset is available by visiting

Group wants to put old hospital to use as community and cultural hub

IDEAS are being sought for the best way to use the existing town centre Minehead Hospital after it is replaced by a new hospital on the edge of the town.
Minehead Old Hospital Group (MOHG), which was formed earlier this year, is asking people across West Somerset to contribute their thoughts on its proposal to make the hospital a hub of community and cultural activity.
The group wants to keep the historic listed building for the community and hopes the venture can be underpinned by sound private enterprise to make it a viable and sustainable centre for residents across the district to enjoy and also to provide an indoor attraction for visitors.
MOHG chairman Julian Luttrell said: “The hospital was built as a town hall in 1889, before it was converted into the Luttrell Memorial Hospital and, latterly, the West Somerset Hospital.
“Not only is the beautiful building based in the heart of the town, it has always had the public at the heart of it various functions.
“We would like to keep it this way, and we would like the support of people from the whole area if they feel the same.”
Web pages have been set up on West Somerset Council’s website so that people can track the project’s progress.
There are feedback forms on the page and the group would like to hear local people’s views on their hopes and aspirations for the building, and how they see it benefiting the district’s community in future.
The pages can be accessed at by clicking on the ‘Minehead Old Hospital’ tab under the popular pages heading on the right hand side of the screen.
MOHG has plans to widen consultation opportunities for local people in the coming months to allow everybody with an interest to have their say on the potential uses of the building, and it will make details available shortly.
An economic regeneration strategy for Minehead and West Somerset identified a need to develop the area’s profile as a leisure destination with tourism, citing culture, arts, and crafts as major drivers.
MOHG group has raised approximately £20,000 in donations for a feasibility study into the old hospital site’s future.
Pledges for the study have come from all sectors of the community, including the Minehead and East Quantoxhead Trust, Minehead Chamber of Commerce, Somerset County Council, and West Somerset Council.
The South West Regional Development Agency, which encourages projects which regenerate local towns and their economies, has also expressed an interest in the project.
And the Grade 2 listed building’s current owner, Somerset Primary Care Trust, has not ruled out remaining stakeholders in any proposals which may arise from the study.
ARTlife chairman Ray Tew said: “As part of this exploratory work, we have also applied to Sea Change for further funding.
“Sea Change specialises in arts and cultural regeneration projects which will bring benefits specifically to coastal towns.
“If this extra funding is won, it would increase the scope of our feasibility study to include other sites in the town, such as the Regal Theatre and Blenheim Gardens.
“Either way, we are committed to exploring all the options we can for the old hospital.”
The hospital, which is in the Wellington Square conservation area, has a Gothic Revival façade which remains largely intact.
In 1898, the ‘old’ police station was built at the rear, and another extension for a nurses’ home was built in 1923.
Minehead Conservation Society spokeswoman Sally Bainbridge said: “It is vital that this architecturally-important listed building which was designed by one of Minehead’s foremost Victorian architects, Piers St Aubyn, is preserved and restored.
“The building has contributed to the cultural, social, and community needs of Minehead for over a century and we would like to see this valuable asset continue to benefit people across the whole of West Somerset.”
The aim of the feasibility study is to establish ways in which the hospital can be developed to play a significant part in social and cultural life locally.
The study will look at the possibilities of incorporating a library, exhibition and museum space, and community arts space, study rooms, and offices.
It will also explore whether the works and theories of Minehead-born author Sir Arthur C. Clarke can be celebrated, and there will be scope to look at commercial and residential aspects of any proposals.
Chamber commerce chairman Graham Sizer said: “We are not naïve and we know that it is hard for cultural and arts centres to make a profit, especially in these hard financial times.
“To underpin the project and make a good business case, we need to explore avenues that will help support the project in the long-term.
“If the study is positive, we will apply wherever we can for capital funding to buy the building and get any viable proposals under way.
“However, we do not want to see it struggle once that funding has run out, so we will consider any packages that will ensure the venture is sustainable for future generations who will live in or visit West Somerset.”
The group expects to hear next month if its Sea Change funding application has been successful.
Although it already has pledges of funding, it is still keen to hear from any other organisations which could be interested in contributing to the study.
West Somerset Council economic development and tourism portfolio holder, Councillor Michael Downes, said: “In the study, we hope to identify that the hospital can play a significant role in the regeneration of Minehead by providing a social and cultural hub, while also providing visitors with a focal point in the centre of town.
“The potential value of the hospital to tourism, as well as to the local economy, should not be underestimated.”
Minehead’s Somerset County Council ward Councillor Ian Galloway, said: “The county council has invested a significant amount in the regeneration of Minehead through projects like work and market space beside the railway station.
“However, we recognise that new opportunities like the hospital will come along and, if they prove to have social, cultural, and economic benefits for the people of West Somerset, naturally we would welcome them and pledge our support to help make them a reality.”
Engage CVS manager Katrina Midgely said: “It would be really exciting to see a range of services under one roof.
“If it is possible, the hospital could provide local people with the chance to experience a range of arts and cultural pursuits as well as give the communities of West Somerset a social centre in which to come together.”
  • Our photo shows the present town centre Minehead Hospital. Photo submitted.

Borat-style beachgoers to promote new online auction site

STAFF from a new internet-based auction business will be storming the beach and seafront in Minehead on Saturday in mad-kinis (bikinis) and mankinis.
The stunt will be in honour of all things MAD, to hand out free frisbees to sunbathers and visitors to the area.
Yes, that’s right - mankinis... think Sacha Baron Cohen, aka-Borat (pictured) in the lime green suit that has wedgied its way into people’s long term memories.
The site in question is, an online penny auction which allows consumers to buy new retail goods at well below their normal price.
To promote the website, officially launched this month, the MadBid team will be wandering around the beach front handing out frisbees and vouchers for 10 free bids on - valued at more than £10.
The site features premium retail products ranging from gadgets such as iPods, mobile phones, and laptops, to lifestyle products such as holidays and games consoles, often at a fraction of their retail cost.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Urgent-only service from district council as it moves into new headquarters

PEOPLE are being advised that West Somerset Council will not be able to provide its full range of services on the day the authority moves into its new headquarters next month.
A reduced service will be available on Friday, September 5, while staff relocate to their new offices a few yards away in Killick Way, Williton.
The council’s acting head of paid service, Adrian Dyer said: “There will be staff in the customer centre and the current offices in Williton who will try and assist with urgent inquiries.
“However, they will not be able to take payments such as council tax or business rates because the IT systems will be closed down.
“We will be working over the entire weekend to restore the IT systems and anticipate that full service will be resumed from 10 am on Monday, September 8.
“We urge anybody who feels this may cause them hardship to get in touch with our customer services team on 01643 703704 as soon as possible so we can help to resolve any issues.”
Information on services will be available on the council’s website at throughout the weekend as this will not be affected by the move.
However, the telephone service will be limited and staff from all service sections, with the exception of customer services, will not be available on September 5.
Mr Dyer said: “We would appreciate it if people who need to make payments or need appointments with service staff call us now to arrange a convenient time.
“We ask people only to phone or visit the offices on Friday, September 5, if their call is urgent. We would like to thank people in advance for their patience.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to reassure people that the customer centre in Minehead is not closing.
“Like the new offices in Williton, it will be open for business on Monday, September 8.”
The council’s main contact number will remain the same - 01643 703704 - although the postal address will change to West Somerset House, Killick Way, Williton, Somerset, TA4 4QA.
West Somerset House will be open for business from 10am on Monday, September 8, and will then revert to its usual opening times of 8.30 am to 5 pm on Monday to Thursday, and 8.30 am to 4.30 pm on Fridays.
The customer centre in Summerland Road, Minehead, will be open from 9 am to 5 pm daily and can be contacted on the same telephone number.
  • Our photograph shows West Somerset House under construction in Killick Way, Williton. Photo submitted.