Friday, 31 October 2008

Appeal for information after Subaru is stolen

POLICE are appealing for information about a car theft from Minehead which happened overnight on Saturday-Sunday, July 26 to 27.
A red Subaru Imprezza was stolen from Selbourne Place, and recovered later that morning in Tiverton.
The Subaru was damaged by the time it was found, and there were items stolen from it.
Police would like anybody who may have any information about the incident to contact PC Creech at Minehead police station by calling 0845 4567000 or to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, where reports can be made anonymously.
  • Our photograph shows a Subaru Imprezza (illustrative only).

Exmoor Beast riders return for end of season challenge

SEVERAL hundred cyclists will be hitting the roads and lanes of Exmoor on Sunday for the second annual Exmoor Beast, a 100-mile end-of-season race.
This year, the start and finish is at Wimbleball Lake, and the routes takes in Wheddon Cross, Dunster, Minehead, Lynmouth, and Simonsbath.
The event is already considered one of the best and most challenging cyclo-sportives of the year and offers a choice of routes over either 100 miles or 100 kilometres.
The Exmoor Beast has been devised by professional event co-ordinators and experienced sportive riders, who have been observing and learning from the varying organisational standards of UK promotions.
Chief organiser, ex-Royal Marine Marcus Di Vincenzo, said: “The domestic sportive scene needed a spectacular fixture, which is a fitting finale to the annual calendar and we will provide all the trimmings that will form the ideal climax to the season.
“We have the expertise and highly-trained manpower to enable the Exmoor Beast to be safely and successfully tamed, providing you give it the respect it deserves and have prepared properly.
“If the awesome climbs do not take your breath away, then the fantastic scenery certainly will and our aim is to make the journey from entry to post ride recovery smooth, enjoyable and truly memorable.”
Exmoor Beast is being held in partnership with BikeSomerset and this year has attracted nearly 1,000 competitors.
The first riders set off at 7 am on Sunday and the first to arrive back at Wimbleball are expected at about 1.30 pm.
The race will be raising money for the charity National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
  • Our photograph shows riders crossing the finishing line in last year's Exmoor Beast. Photo by Active Exmoor.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Computer problems delay regional fire control opening

THE controversial scrapping of Westcountry county fire brigade control rooms to be replaced by a single centre in Taunton has been indefinitely delayed.
The new centre (pictured) will direct firefighters to incidents across the counties of Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Avon, Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall.
It was due to be operational in October of next year, but the Government has now said ‘technical problems’ mean its opening will have to be delayed.
A spokesman for the Communities and Local Government Department (CLG) blamed computer and display problems for causing delays.
The CLG was unable to give a new date has been given for the regional control centre to start operating.
The delay has caused concern that individual fire brigades may see their costs increase through having to continue to fund their own control rooms for longer.
The centralised control centre will be able to handle up to 165 calls an hour and one of its walls will feature a giant screen detailing all ongoing incidents and the locations of all crews.
South West Fire Control Services Ltd chief executive Julie Burnett said: “The time-span we had left to us was not sufficient.
“We are actually quite pleased that the CLG has listened to us and given us the time we need to make sure the data we use is correct and reassure the public of their safety.”

New faces and boundaries for West Somerset police beat teams

CHANGES have been made to the faces of police neighbourhood teams across West Somerset as a result of retirements and officers moving on.
Minehead police Inspector Carol Pearce said: “I welcome our new appointments, who each bring additional skills to the local policing teams.
“Over the next few weeks the new beat managers will be getting to know their areas and making contact with local residents and key individuals.
“We are all committed to keeping West Somerset a low crime area, and to follow on the excellent work undertaken by all the staff over the last year.
“The neighbourhood teams are now tackling low-level crime and anti-social behaviour with the support of other agencies.
“It is important that all residents have their say, and they can do so via our website or by attending any of the area panel meetings which provide an opportunity at the start for the public to raise any concerns regarding how their neighbourhood is run.
“I am sure our new members of staff will be welcomed by their local communities.”
As part of the changes, boundaries of some of West Somerset’s beat areas have also been slightly altered to provide improved police cover for local residents.
The changes include:
Williton beat - PC James Holdsworth replaces Paddy O’Sullivan, who is due to retire in the near future.
PC O’Sullivan will remain at Williton to assist in the handover of his beat, which now solely covers Williton.
PC Holdsworth previously worked in Weston-super-Mare on the child abuse investigation team before transferring to West Somerset.
In addition, PCSO Mark Middleton-Smith moves across from Watchet to cover Williton with PC Holdsworth.
The new PCSO for Watchet is Linda Brooks, who has transferred from Taunton.
Old Cleeve and Crowcombe and Stogumber beats - PC Fiona Clopet takes over from PC Dave Masters, who has moved across to cover West Quantocks, in turn replacing PC Steve Woodward, who has transferred to Taunton.
PC Clopet worked in Williton several years ago and had recently been working in the road policing unit until her appointment as the beat manager.
The beat is another which has also been changed slightly, by taking in Crowcombe and Stogumber, while Carhampton moves back under the management of the Exmoor team.
Dunster, Aville Vale, and Carhampton and Withycombe beats - PC Mark Curren joins the team from Bristol, replacing PC Clare Adams, who stays with the Exmoor team but now covers the Dulverton and Brushford and Brompton Ralph and Haddon beats, where she takes over from recently-retired PC Colin Haddrell.
Minehead beats - PC Jamie McCall has been appointed to a new beat manager’s position within the Minehead town beat team.
He will take responsibility for the town centre and the commercial heart of Minehead, including Butlins.
It means the Minehead town beat team increases to three PCs, supported by four PCSOs.

Wetherspoons takes over town centre hotel

ONE of West Somerset’s best-known hotels has been bought by pub chain J D Wetherspoon as part of a £5 million investment by the national group.
The Wellington Hotel (pictured), in Minehead, will now be converted to the Wetherspoons brand and should be reopened in early December, time for the run-up to Christmas.
The hotel freehold, which includes a nightclub, was sold by owner Barry Richards for an undisclosed fee, although the asking price had been in excess of £2 million.
The three-storey building has 25 bedrooms, two public bars, a karaoke bar, and a 100-cover restaurant.
There is also a separate apartment and a manager’s flat which could be converted into further letting bedrooms.
Mr Richards, who also owns the Beach Hotel and the Queen’s Head, in Minehead, and the Masons Arms, in Williton, has run the Wellington Hotel for 23 years but now wants to concentrate on oversees interests.
The sale was handled by Michael Easton, of Christie and Co, Exeter, who said: “The Wellington Hotel is a well-organised and highly profitable business, and is particularly well supported by the local community.
“A Wetherspoons outlet is perfect for the location, and I am sure it will be a benefit to the town.”
Wetherspoons is also opening new premises in Bodmin, Doncaster, Oldham, and Sutton, and creating around 200 news jobs, including those in Minehead.
The chain has more than 700 pubs and 17,000 employees nationwide.
Its founder, Tim Martin, lives near Exeter.

New website helps people search for an ‘affordable home’

SOCIAL housing organisation Somer Housing Group, which has properties in West Somerset and Taunton Deane, has launched a new website aimed at people looking for affordable housing options.
The site,, has details of all the properties on offer from the group’s members through the ‘New Build HomeBuy’ scheme.
It allows people to move in to a new home which they part-buy, part-rent - buying a percentage of the home and paying rent on the rest of it.
As people’s circumstances change, they can buy further shares until they own the whole of their home.
Some developments have homes available through ‘rent to buy’.
The new scheme is aimed at people who cannot afford or cannot obtain a mortgage, or who have simply been put off purchasing in the current economic climate.
They receive the best of both worlds, renting a home at 80 per cent of the local market rate and at a later date they will be given the first chance to buy the property through ‘New Build HomeBuy’.
The website currently has properties available in parts of Somerset, Bristol, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, and the Cotswolds.
Somer sales and marketing manager Sarah Turton said: “This is a very difficult time for people who are frustrated because they want to find a home, but are still having difficulty finding somewhere they can afford or getting a mortgage.
“We have some great homes for sale and rent and these schemes give you lots of flexibility about how you commit yourself now, with the possibility that one day you will own all of your home, without ever having to move.”
The group includes Somer Community Housing Trust, which is the largest social landlord in the Westcountry, Bristol-based Redland Housing Association, young people and homeless charity Shape Housing Association, and Lantern Homes.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

'Running for fun for beginners' starts next week

PEOPLE who want to make themselves fitter before the festive season - and possibly hoping to shed a few pounds afterwards - can enjoy a 12-week ‘Running for Fun’ course which starts on Thursday, November 6.
The weekly evening fun run at Minehead Sports and Leisure Centre is funded through the Active Somerset project, which includes West Somerset Council and Somerset Primary Care Trust among its partners.
The scheme is aimed at anybody who wants to start becoming fitter in a friendly and social environment.
Council community portfolio holder, Councillor Neil Parbrook, said: “I think there are quite a few people who might enjoy getting fitter in a relaxed enjoyable way rather than being fast-tracked into a serious sporting environment.
“The aim of this course is to get fitter and enjoy the experience.”
Somerset PCT spokesman Paul Harwood said: “Exercising at this level is enjoyable and brings benefits to the heart, lungs and to health in general.
“Running in groups is more fun than running alone, promoting good mental health, and the social aspect means people are more likely to stay the course.”
The weekly sessions cost £1.70.
More information is available by calling Jayne Lethaby or Mandy Godsell on 01643 708815.

EXCLUSIVE: Quaywest radio has new owners after parent put into administration

QUAYWEST 102.4 FM Radio was under new ownership this week after parent company Laser Broadcasting sold the Watchet-based station and four others in its stable.
It follows Laser going into administration last week to avoid a winding-up order which had been filed in the High Court by one of its creditors.
Business rescue specialist Begbies Traynor was called in to sell off the Laser’s assets, which included subsidiary Laser South West, the owner of the five loss-making stations.
Begbies Traynor quickly arranged for property developer John Roberts to buy the five Laser South West stations though his Exeter-based company South West Radio Ltd.
The news will be a blow for Quaywest station manager Dave Englefield, who had put together a rescue deal to temporarily run it along with Bridgwater sister station Quaywest 107.4, with a view to buying both once Laser’s affairs were straightened out.
Mr Englefield created Bridgwater Broadcasting Services to keep the two stations going and had teamed up with Bridgwater firm Southwest Media Consulting.
The other Laser stations sold to South West Radio were Bath FM, Brunel FM, and Warminster-based 3TR, all of which were only acquired by Laser in June of this year.
South West Radio spokesman Paul Roberts, son of John Roberts, said: “We are very excited.
“From a business point of view we really believe that the station can continue to be a vital part of the local community.
“We have some excellent skills already situated in the station and are working closely with the staff to help them out of the tough period that they have experienced recently under the previous arrangement.
“We aim to continue and improve on what works so well, maintaining quality local radio.”
In Bath, the Laser station was also being run temporarily by a local business, Triple Media, which said it was ‘looking after’ the station with a view to purchasing it.
Triple Media chief executive Gary Cottier-Jansen said he been running the station ‘on Laser’s behalf’ for the several weeks and that he still wanted to acquire it.
Other stations owned by Laser are Sunshine 106.2, Sunshine Gold, Sunshine AM, and Fresh Radio. There was no word on their future.

Real-life 'Casualty' from Musgrove returns to TV for third series

STAFF in the accident and emergency department of Musgrove Park Hospital, in Taunton, are being featured for a third time in a fly-on-the-wall television documentary for ITV.
Award-winning film maker Andrew Brown has spent three months in the department, filming the real-life action of a modern NHS A&E department.
He said: “The first two series have been seen by over 500,000 people.
“These programmes show what A&E is really like - both sadder and happier than the television dramas.
“All life is here, and the programmes show the nature of the people and amazing range of conditions treated in an A&E department.
“The staff and patients were extremely welcoming and I am grateful for their help in making these films.”
Dr Paul Baines, a consultant in emergency medicine at Musgrove, said: “This is an excellent department and the staff do an astonishing job every single day.
“Andrew works very professionally and after a while staff almost forget he is here.
“Most patients are happy to be filmed and very happy with the results.
“I hope that these films help the public understand what a modern A&E service is like.”
The accident and emergency department at Musgrove sees about 1,000 patients a week.
The third series of ‘Emergency: Medics’ will be shown on ITV on Monday nights at 10.30 pm, starting next week on November 3.
Series one and two are currently being shown on satellite television on the Discovery Channel.
  • Our photograph shows Dr Paul Baines (left) with Andrew Brown. Photo submitted.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Free seafront fireworks display for November 5 festival

A FREE fireworks festival on Minehead seafront gets underway at 4.30 pm next Wednesday, November 5.
The new community initiative by Butlins holiday centre in partnership with West Somerset Council also offers free fairground rides (subject to the weather), an arts and crafts market, street entertainment, and fun for all the family.
The fireworks finale to the evening will be lighting the skies at 7 pm.
Butlins resort director Julian Highfield, said: “The people of Minehead have supported us throughout the year and the festival is our way of saying thank you.
“Family fun is high on the agenda at Butlins and we want to share this with the local community.
“We hope lots of people will come along and enjoy the entertainment.”
A variety of refreshments will be on sale including whole hog roasts, hot dogs, traditional toffee apples, and popcorn.
The market will be stationed on the Warren Road upper car park opposite the BlueSkies building, which will also be the best vantage point for the fireworks being set off from the beach.
Visitors can use the free parking at the nearby Butlins West car park.
Council’s community portfolio holder Councillor Neil Parbrook said: “Butlins has put a lot of work into organising this for the community and we are delighted that we have been able to help.
“We are hoping for good weather as fireworks night is great time for families to get together to enjoy these events.”
Collections will made for Children in Need in advance of a pillow fight record breaking attempt at Butlins on Friday, November 14, in conjunction with BBC’s Children in Need appeal, which will be broadcast live on BBC Points West.
More information is available by calling Butlins on 0845 070 4760.

MOTORING NEWS:From Motor Show to Cannington comes the stunning new Alfa Romeo

ALFA Romeo’s new, compact and sporty Alfa MiTo (pictured) is coming to Longstones Alfa Romeo, in Cannington, this weekend.
From the beginning of November, Longstones will be exhibiting a static example of the company’s brand new Alfa MiTo, a full two months before its official UK launch on January 24, 2009.
For hundreds of local Alfa MiTo fans and Alfisti, this is the first chance to see the car at close quarters since its world debut at this year’s British International Motor Show.
While sharing styling cues with the Alfa 8C Competizione supercar, the Alfa MiTo is also equipped as standard with features and technology, not previously available in this segment.
These include a special electronic control system DNA (Dynamic, Normal, All Weather) which adjusts the response of the car depending on driving style and conditions, and LED rear lights.
Together with an eye-catching price of £10,975 for the entry level Alfa MiTo 1.4 16V 95BHP Turismo, comes news that industry experts CAP expect the Alfa MiTo 1.3 JTDM Veloce to retain a massive 47 per cent of its value after three years and 60,000 miles - the second highest in its segment.
So, the new MiTo is set to appeal to heads as well as hearts.
Drivers who want to be first behind the wheel of the Alfa MiTo next year can place orders from November 1 and take advantage of competitive financial offers available at Longstones.
For further information contact Longstones Alfa Romeo on 01278 652233 or visit
Photos submitted.

More jobs go as second Minehead business in a week collapses

WELL-known West Somerset printing firm Friday Print went into liquidation yesterday with the loss of around 12 jobs.
The Minehead company, based in Mart Road, ceased trading immediately when Taunton insolvency experts Albert Goodman were called in.
Friday Print was owned by former West Somerset district councillor Mike Padgett, who is also a vice-president of Minehead Harriers.
Mr Padgett, a former newspaper executive, had run the firm since relocating to West Somerset nearly 30 years ago.
He was undergoing treatment in Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, for a heart condition when the company’s liquidators were called in.
Through Friday Print, Mr Padgett was well-known for its support of local community and charitable causes, often helping by subsidising the printing of programmes and tickets for fund-raising events.
Last week, 14 staff lost their jobs in Minehead with the closure of the seafront Queens Hall, owned by district Councillor Kate Kravis and her husband Marcus.

Police chase anti-social ghosts and ghoulies

POLICE in West Somerset will be chasing mischievous ghosts and ghouls this Halloween as Operation Relentless turns its attention to those using the occasion as an excuse to be anti-social.
Halloween is traditionally the busiest night of the year for police, with a massive increase in calls from the public around anti-social behaviour.
As part of Operation Relentless, extra patrols including Special Constables and partner agencies will be out on October 31 to target the anti-social behaviour hot spots across the area.
In the run-up to the day, officers have also been working with retailers, schools, and Neighbourhood Watch groups to give out personal safety advice on how to have a safe and fun Halloween.
Retailers are once again linking up with the police and refusing to sell flour and eggs to under-18s.
Police are particularly asking parents to take responsibility for where their children are on the night and what they are doing - both for their own safety and the safety of the people they visit.
Assistant Chief Constable Rod Hansen said: “This is not about criminalising Halloween or trick or treating.
“It is about ensuring everybody enjoys the night safely.
“For most young people, the evening is all about having fun, but for some older children they use Halloween as an excuse to act in an anti-social manner causing misery to vulnerable local residents.”
On the evening, police will have extra patrols around the dispersal zones in towns and villages.
Mr Hansen said: “From experience, when officers have returned children to their homes, many parents are unaware of where they have been or have been told a different story.
“It is really important that parents work with us to target anti-social behaviour so that everybody can enjoy the evening.
“I would ask parents - do you know where your child will be on Halloween? If not, then check it out. Are you satisfied they will be safe?
“We do not want to spoil anybody’s fun but what we will not allow is anti-social behaviour to be masked under the name of Halloween.
“This is behaviour which, on any other night of the year, is clearly unacceptable.
“While some of the ‘tricks’ seem like harmless fun, some people can go too far and act in a manner which some vulnerable members of the community find very frightening.
“They should not have to tolerate this, so nor will we.”
Halloween postcards will be given to young people in the run up to the day giving advice on how to trick or treat safely.
Advice includes:
  • Always go trick or treating with an adult
  • Only go to houses where you or your friends know the residents
  • Stay in areas that are well lit and take a torch with you just in case
  • Stay with your friends – don’t get split up unless an adult goes with you
  • Don’t knock on doors where there is a sign saying ‘No Trick or Treat here'
  • Don’t talk to strangers on the street and don’t enter any house - stay on the doorstep

Information appeal as arsonist torches empty cottages

POLICE have issued an appeal for witnesses following a suspicious fire which destroyed two homes on the edge of the Quantock Hills during the early hours of today.
The properties, two cottages in Stockham, near West Bagborough, were believed to have been empty for several months.
The alarm was raised at 2.30 am, but police are keen to hear from anybody who may have been driving along the lane between West Bagborough and Triscombe and the junction of Rock Lane and Kennel Lane - where the cottages were located - any time from 8pm onwards last night.
In particular, officers would like to hear from anybody who may have seen a vehicle parking in the area, especially if it was near to the cottages.
Fire and rescue crews from Williton, Wiveliscombe, Taunton, and Bridgwater, as well as two officers, were called to the blaze
They started to arrive from 2.28 am and found two adjoining derelict properties were well alight.
The crews used compressed air foam and three hose reel jets to extinguish the fire and dampen down the buildings.
Arson was suspected, although officially the cause was unknown and was said to be still under investigation.
Anybody who may have any information about the incident is asked to contact Taunton police by calling 0845 4567000, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, where reports can be made anonymously.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Car crime appeal at old people's home

POWER tools and a purse and keys have been stolen from a vehicle parked at an old people’s care home in Periton Road, Minehead.
The white Renault Kangoo was broken into some time between 8 am and 11 am on Monday, October 20.
At about the same time, an unsuccessful attempt was made to break into a white Peugeot Partner van.
Police would like anybody who may have any information on the incident to contact them at Minehead police station by calling 0845 4567000 or to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, where reports can be made anonymously.
  • Our photograph shows a Renault Kangoo (illustrative only).

Administrators of Quaywest parent Laser look to sell off radio stations

ADMINISTRATORS have been appointed to Laser Broadcasting, which owns West Somerset station Quaywest 102.4 FM, based in Watchet, and Bridgwater’s Quaywest 107.4 FM.
The Darlington-based parent company applied to High Court, in Leeds, to be placed into administration in order to pre-empt an attempt by a creditor to have it liquidated.
A winding-up petition had been sought by Capital North East No1 Ltd Partnership, a Gateshead-based venture capitalist.
Laser Broadcasting owns seven other stations in the UK, including Bath FM, Brunel FM, in Swindon, and 3TR, in Warminster.
Solicitor Robert Abblestone, of CW Harwood and Co, in Leeds, who presented the winding-up order, said: “Laser has now been placed into administration with immediate effect.
“I cannot comment on what that will mean for the nine radio stations they own.”
However, experts from business rescue firm Begbies Traynor were appointed on Friday as administrators for the failed radio group.
Andy Haslam, of Begbies Traynor, said: “The radio stations will now go under an extended marketing period, where companies can bid for them.
“I understand that Brunel FM will be part of three radio stations in the South West, and two others, which will be sold together as a group.
“We have successfully rescued the radio stations. It is up to the new owners to take it from here.”
The other Laser stations are three Sunshine-branded studios in Ludlow, Hereford and Worcester, and Hereford and Monmouth, and Fresh Radio, based in Skipton, in the North Yorkshire Dales.