Friday, 14 November 2008

PROPERTY NEWS: Prices slashed to stimulate new homes sales

PROPERTY prices in a new development on Minehead’s North Hill have been slashed in a bid to stimulate house sales in the otherwise current gloomy economic situation.
Housebuilder Barratt is offering a ‘Buy of the week’ at its Clanville Grange development (pictured) which is 25 per cent less than the original asking price.
Using the company’s Dream Start scheme, plot 37, a Lytham-style apartment with two bedrooms, carpets, curtains, and parking, is available for £128,962 instead of its original price of £171,950.
Barratt Exeter managing director Tim Larner said: “Barratt is committed to getting first-time buyers onto the property ladder.
“Using our Dream Start scheme, they can buy a new home at 75 per cent of the price, with the other 25 per cent being deferred for up to 10 years.”
Mr Larner said in the past four weeks Barratt had reserved more 30 homes throughout the South West using the scheme.
He said: “We are still selling homes at a good level, and we have schemes in place to help everybody move to the home of their dreams.”
Further details about Clanville Grange are available from the sales office, which is open daily from 11 am to 6 pm, by calling 01643 709738 or logging on to

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Beaches fail bathing water standards because of wet summer

THE exceptionally wet summer weather has resulted in some of West Somerset’s most popular bathing waters failing advisory water quality standards.
Blue Anchor West and Dunster North West both failed to meet the ‘guideline’ standard which the beaches would be required to achieve to qualify for a Blue Flag award.
It follows one of the wettest summers on record which has led to many beaches around the Westcountry failing even the mandatory basic water quality standards.
The Environment Agency said heavy rainfall increased storm overflows from sewers, diffuse pollution, and run-off from farmland and urban areas.
This resulted in an increase in pollutants entering rivers and streams and flowing into some bathing waters around the coast.
According to the Meteorological Office, the period between May to September, when 20 water samples were taken from each of the bathing waters, there was more rain in the South West than anywhere else in England.
Environment Agency regional director Richard Cresswell said: “There is a direct link between rainfall and bathing water quality.
“We saw an extraordinary amount of rainfall during the summer and this caused an increase in the amount of pollution in some of the region’s bathing waters because of diffuse run-off, both from farmland and towns.
“Pollution is caused by, or attributable to, a number of sources.
“These include sewage from combined sewage overflows, which occurs when heavy or persistent rainfall can lead to the capacity of the sewage system being exceeded.
“There is also run-off from urban areas that is polluted with dog faeces or bird droppings and run-off from farms and fields carrying farm animal faeces.
“Our monitoring of bathing water quality identifies where improvements are required and helps in our understanding of the causes of failure.
“We will continue to work closely with the water companies, local authorities, the agricultural community, and others involved in the water environment to find solutions where bathing waters have failed to meet the required standards.”
The Environment Agency has been working with farmers to help tackle the issue of water pollution from agricultural land and has already called on the water industry to make appropriate investments in its infrastructure.
Poorly maintained and ageing sewage pipes are a key cause of water pollution, particularly during flooding.
Water companies must also ensure critical infrastructure, such as sewage treatment plans, are resilient to flooding to help prevent pollution.
  • Our photograph shows the beach at Blue Anchor. Photo submitted.

Minehead Hospital admissions suspended after virus outbreak among patients

ADMISSIONS to Minehead Hospital (pictured) have been stopped after an outbreak among patients of the extremely unpleasant gastric illness Norovirus.
The hospital announced today that no patients would be admitted to its inpatient ward until the virus had been eradicated.
Norovirus was discovered in the 22-bed hospital yesterday after five patients fell ill with symptoms of the common, but infectious viral gastroenteritis.
Hospital Matron Sue Meade said the suspension of inpatient admissions was a precautionary measure carried out to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to other patients or staff.
She said additional cleaning was being carried out on the ward, and the affected patients would not be discharged until at least 48 hours after their symptoms had stopped.
Mrs Meade said visitors could help prevent the spread of infection by following these simple infection control measures:
  • All visitors should wash their hands before going onto ward or patient areas and remember to use the alcohol gel hand rub available throughout the hospital
  • Anybody who has had gastric illness themselves within the last 48 hours should not visit
  • Visiting to the ward should be limited to two people at a time
  • Young children should not be taken onto the ward
  • People visiting patients on the affected ward should not then visit a patient in another part of the hospital

The hospital’s outpatient clinics, x ray, physiotherapy department and its minor injury unit were operating as normal and were unaffected by the infection control measures.
Norovirus exists in the community and although not usually serious, it is extremely infectious.
Nursing homes, hospitals, and schools are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks.
The virus can be spread by contact with an infected person or surfaces or objects contaminated with it.
Thoroughly washing hands is an essential means of reducing the spread of the virus.

  • Three wards of Musgrove Park Hospital, in Taunton, were closed to new admissions yesterday because of a similar outbreak of norovirus.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Campaign to lobby for alternative tidal energy schemes

A SURVEY has found many people in the Westcountry were unaware of proposals to build a tidal barrage across the Severn Estuary.
A huge 37 per cent of people said they were ‘totally unaware’ of the plans to create a tidal power-generating barrage from the Somerset coast to Wales.
A vast majority of those questioned - 85 per cent - were unaware such a barrage would generate power for less than six hours a day.
Only one-quarter believed that the extra cost of a barrage - almost 10 times as much as a new coal-fired power station - would be worth the expenditure.
The findings came from an independent survey commissioned by organisations and individuals campaigning to persuade the Government to focus on alternative tidal energy schemes in the estuary.
They believe plans for a barrage across the entire estuary from the Westcountry to Wales should be abandoned due to the high economic and environmental impact - already highlighted in a recent report from Frontier Economics.
The campaigners are also extremely concerned that a barrage, despite its expense, would not provide a secure power supply to the region because it would only generate power for six hours a day.
They support a range of alternatives, such as wind farms at sea, lagoons, or a tidal reef from Minehead to Wales as suggested by a Cornish engineering firm, Joseph Evans and Sons Ltd.
Over the next few months the Stop the Barrage NOW campaign will lobby to persuade the Government and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) that a barrage is not economically or environmentally viable.
Campaigners want any form of barrage to be excluded from a shortlist of proposals to generate renewable energy from the Severn, due to be published later this month.
Stuart Ballard, chairman of Save Our Severn, which supports the Stop the Barrage NOW campaign, said: “Very little has been done to tell the public in the Westcountry about the plans for a Severn Barrage, even though it would have a massive impact on the region.
“We want to inform the public and ensure that there is a proper debate about the consequences of building a barrage across the Severn Estuary.
“While people are generally in favour of renewable energy, they clearly believe the cost of a barrage is too high.
“And despite its cost, a barrage will not provide a secure power supply for the region - it will need to be supported by ‘conventional’ power stations.
“Businesses and the public need to understand the potential impact of a barrage, and if they are concerned, they need to make their voices heard now, before any more taxpayers’ money is spent.
“While we totally support the need to explore and develop more sustainable forms of energy, we believe that there are more elegant ways of generating tidal power from the Severn.”
More information is available from the Stop the Barrage NOW website at
Research carried out by Frontier Economics on behalf of 10 environmental groups, including the National Trust, the RSPB, and the WWF, found a barrage would destroy almost 86,486 acres of highly protected wetlands.
A study by the Sustainable Development Commission concluded a barrage in the Severn Estuary would result in the loss of up to 75 per cent of the existing intertidal habitat, which is internationally protected.
The Government is currently carrying out a feasibility study into renewable energy possibilities in the Severn Estuary with 10 schemes under consideration, including four barrage proposals - Brean Down, near Weston- super-Mare, to Lavernock Point, near Cardiff; Minehead to Aberthaw; and Aust to Beachley.
A short list of the proposed options is due to be drawn up this month.
A barrage will generate power for only 23 per cent of the day during two irregular periods, according to the Sustainable Development Commission’s report Turning the Tide: Tidal Power in the UK, 2007.
The costs of a Severn barrage are currently estimated to be £20 billion.
In comparison, two conventional power stations generating the same amount of power (17 terawatt hours) would cost £3 billion - 15 per cent of the cost of a barrage.

Virus closes three wards to admissions at Musgrove Park

AN outbreak of Norovirus has forced Musgrove Park Hospital (pictured), in Taunton, to stop admitting new patients on three of its wards.
The restrictions were put in place to manage the outbreak of viral gastroenteritis on Eliot and Fielding wards, in the Duchess Building, and Ward Five in the old part of the hospital.
Hospital spokesman Mark Wall said: “Musgrove Park has detailed and well-established procedures to manage outbreaks such as these to minimise the risk of cross infection.
“Management of the outbreak is led by our specialist infection control team and other senior staff with ongoing review of the situation.”
Musgrove has more than 700 beds on 30 wards plus 15 operating theatres, and a fully-equipped diagnostic imaging department, and employs more than 4,000 staff.
To help reduce the risk of further infection being taken into the hospital, visitors were being asked not to visit if, in the previous 48 hours, they had symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting or had been in contact with anybody who had.
Visitors were also being asked to ensure their hands were thoroughly cleaned before leaving a ward.
Mr Wall said: “If you are in any doubt about whether to visit or not, please talk to the ward sister.
“If you are visiting a ward which has an outbreak of Norovirus, please do not visit any other wards.”
Norovirus exists in the community and although not usually serious, it is highly infectious.
It is estimated that between 600,000 and one million people in the UK are affected each year.
Nursing homes, hospitals, and schools are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks.
The virus can be spread by contact with an infected person or surfaces or objects contaminated with it.
Mr Wall said information about Musgrove’s Norovirus outbreak would be updated daily on the hospital trust website at

Trio reach regional finals of countryside business awards

THREE West Somerset businesses have reached the regional finals of this year’s prestigious Countryside Alliance Awards.
The awards celebrate the characters, skills, traditions, and enterprise of the countryside through the people who work so hard to make it tick.
Countryside Alliance regional director Alison Hawes said: “There are some cracking finalists in this line up and I am very confident that there are a few who are in with a chance of going all the way in the all-UK final.
“This list represents the best of the region’s produce, skills, enterprise and community spirit.
“Choosing a winner in each category is going to be very hard.”
Among the finalists from West Somerset is the George Inn, Brompton Regis, which has been nominated for the Daily Telegraph ‘Best Traditional Business Award’.
With the village shop in Brompton Regis having to close earlier this year because of the loss of its Post Office, pub landlords Paul and Trish Randell decided to open a shop in their skittle alley.
It meant elderly people faced with having to drive into Dulverton could continue to obtain local deliveries, newspaper rounds, and locally-sourced food.
Another award finalist is the Winsford Stores, run by Paul and Jenny Lawson and nominated in the ‘Best Village Shop or Post Office’ category for commitment to keeping a vital village business going.
Despite the threat of closure of their Post Office, floods, and a bad tourist season, the couple invested in the refurbishment of the stores and continued to deliver a friendly, helpful, and much needed service in the village.
Nominated in the ‘Rural Enterprise Award’ category was Stockland Lovell Equestrian, in Fiddington.
Owners Michael and Hill have developed a 1,200-acre dairy farm into one of the top equestrian facilities in the country while continuing to milk 250 cows.
They host two major events a year, run schooling events, clinics, lectures, and demonstrations, host Pony Club and Riding Club camps, and provide facilities for individuals to spend quality time with their horses.
In addition, they have their own tack shop and treat their volunteers exceptionally well with ample food and drink supplied, as well as vouchers which may be used for schooling or in the tack shop.
Regional judging in the competition takes place between now and January, with the regional winners announced shortly afterwards.
The overall UK winners will be announced at a House of Lords reception next March.
  • Our photographs show (TOP) Stockland Lovell owners Lavinia and Michael Hill, with their sons Martin and Mark and dogs Bob and Marley, and (BELOW) Winsford Stores. Photos submitted.

Visitor centre staff supporting charities for Christmas

STAFF in Minehead’s new Visitor Information and Interpretation Centre (VIIC) (pictured) have teamed up with local representatives of 12 charities to support good causes during the Christmas season.
West Somerset Council tourism portfolio holder Councillor Michael Downes said: “The new centre on the seafront is proving popular with visitors, and we hope that local people will also support the staff’s tradition of selling charity Christmas cards.
“Unlike some outlets, every penny raised goes back to the charity concerned.
“As a coastal town with a strong maritime history, the visitor centre is continuing to support the local RNLI to show appreciation for the fantastic service it provides all year round.”
Minehead Lifeboat Station press officer Matt Thresher said: “It is great to have the support of the VIIC staff on the seafront.
“Our volunteer crews often pass the centre on exercise or rescue launches.
“Local goodwill and support are essential because we get no central funding and depend on fund-raising activities like these.
“I am pleased that the community spirit is alive and well in Minehead.”
The Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance and St Margaret’s Hospice are among the other deserving charities being supported by VIIC staff.
The centre also offers local gifts and a wealth of information on up-and-coming seasonal activities, such as Dunster by Candlelight, along with all the latest coach and travel information.
Councillor Downes said: “Information on things to do and places to go is also available through the interactive touch-screen display units.
“Local people and visitors are welcome to use the centre to find out just how much West Somerset has to offer.”

Call for budding amateur photographers to show their talent

BUDDING amateur photographers have less than a month to enter their sharpest shots for a chance to clinch the prestigious title of West Somerset’s amateur digital photographer of the year 2008.
The annual competition has again been organised by Westlabb Ltd, which has been working with West Somerset Council to bring broadband to rural communities.
The contest aims to recognise top local talent in the field of digital photography.
Westlabb director Jon Summers said: “People have submitted some great pictures already and have until December 8 to submit the rest of their snaps online to win a category prize or the junior or senior amateur photographer of the year 2008 titles.
“We want to promote our great local talent by showcasing the best pictures taken in the district during this year.”
The four prize-winning categories are:
- Your Favourite Landscape/Seascape
- Your Favourite Event or Village
- Promote Your Local Businesses
- Rural Communities
Bob Druitt, also a Westlabb director, said: “Each category winner will receive a £50 voucher except for the last category, rural communities, which is open to parishes or towns with populations not exceeding 2,000 residents.
“This category attracts prize money of £500 which will be used to develop or upgrade the winning parish or town’s website.”
Entrants must be bona fide amateur photographers who are resident in West Somerset, and any images submitted must have been taken within the district’s boundaries.
Each entrant can submit up to five images, but no single image can exceed 10 megabytes in size.
A panel of judges led by local press photographer Steve Guscott will judge the entries and award the prizes early in the New Year.
Images must be submitted via the competition’s online form which can be found at, along with handy hints and tips, more information on the prize-winning categories, and the full terms and conditions.
  • Our photograph shows district council rural facilitator Angela Lamplough being photographed by Westlabb directors. Photo submitted.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Exhibition shows how wars touched lives on Exmoor

A FASCINATING insight into two world wars told from the perspective of the ordinary people of Porlock will be revealed in an exhibition in the village hall.
The exhibition on November 15 and 16 unites local accounts with previously uncollated information to weave the story of what the wars actually meant to, and how they touched the lives of, local people.
Both British and German fighter planes crashed in the vicinity of Porlock during the Second World War, bringing tragedy as well as stories of survivors.
The experiences of those who left the sleepy Somerset village to fight in the front lines for their country, and those who stayed at home to help the war effort are beautifully documented in this major exhibition.
The role of local women in the war effort, how villagers dealt with the influx of troops who were billeted locally, the feelings of the conscientious objectors, and the wars viewed through the eyes of local and evacuated children make this hitherto unseen collection one of the most diverse, yet personal, accounts of war.
Newspaper reports, Army and Navy records, information about ranges and chemical warfare testing on Exmoor, are also part of the wealth of information built up over years by four local enthusiasts to tell poignant, true, and sometime tragic stories, as shown on the memorial to those who lost their lives.
Denise Sage, who manages Porlock Visitor Centre, said: “The amount of information and its detail is unprecedented in my experience.
“Because the accounts are so personal and vivid, it captures real feelings and insights into how a small village coped with the challenges and tragedies of war.”
The exhibition runs from 10 am to 4 pm on b oth days and the entrance fee is £2 for adults, with children free.
More information is available by contacting Porlock Visitor Centre on 01643 863150 or emailing

New scheme gives tenants freedom of choice over social housing

A NEW service to give people on housing waiting lists more freedom to find suitable homes for themselves is set to go live across the county next month.
Currently, anybody on a council or housing association register is allocated a property according to their individual need, which is based on a point-scoring system.
From December 10, Homefinder Somerset, however, will replace existing council and housing association waiting lists.
It will scrap the points system and instead put tenants into three different priority bands - gold, silver, and bronze - according to need.
Tenants will be able to see every housing association and council house property in Somerset as it become available to let and can bid for the one they want.
West Somerset Council is a member of the partnership of local authorities and housing associations which have joined together to create the Government-led scheme.
Tenants need to register for social housing in order to be able to join the scheme, and anybody already on the housing register will need to re-register with Homefinder Somerset.
West Somerset housing portfolio holder, Councillor Kate Kravis, said: “Homefinder Somerset is a fairer scheme as it gives house hunters a wider choice of rental homes and more freedom to select properties that suit their needs.
“Previously, people were allocated homes and they had little say in the matter.
“From December 10, all other housing waiting lists and registers close.
“We have written to our customers to let them know of the changes but we would like to remind them, and new applicants, to contact the council so that we can help them register with Homefinder.
“It is easy to register and we are here to help.”
More information about Homefinder Somerset is available by visiting or emailing the council at or calling 01643 703704.

Police investigate as poster campaign brands six youths as 'murderers'

POLICE have begun an investigation after posters naming six West Somerset youths under the heading ‘Minehead Murderers’ were found displayed in several areas of the town.
The six young people were all questioned by police earlier this year during inquiries into the killing of Minehead gardener Tim Chilcott (pictured), aged 36.
Mr Chilcott was attacked in the town centre in the early hours of Sunday, January 20, and died 36 hours later in Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, after being on a life support machine.
Daniel Cain, then aged 16, of Porlock, and Sean Wylds, 20, of Minehead, were originally arrested on suspicion of Mr Chilcott’s murder but were only charged with the reduced offence of manslaughter.
An Exeter Crown Court jury found them guilty in July of the alcohol-fuelled killing and both were later sentenced to three years in custody - Cain to serve his sentence in young offenders’ institution because of his age, while Wylds went to prison.
Now, Fred and Sylvia Chilcott - Tim’s parents - have expressed their disappointment and regret at the posters which have appeared in the town with references to their beloved son.
They appealed for those responsible for the posters to stop their campaign and let Tim’s memory to ‘live in peace’.
Police appealed for anybody with information about the posters to contact Taunton Police Station on 0845 456 7000, or to use the anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111.
Alternatively a secure Crimestoppers contact form was available at

Monday, 10 November 2008

A-level student Grace is one of top six in the country

A NETHER Stowey student is to receive a national award next week from the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) after gaining four A grades at A level as well as one A grade at A/S level.
Grace Elizabeth Chesterton (pictured), of Bishop Road, was aged 18 when she took the examinations in Richard Huish College, Taunton.
She is one of six top-performing students to become AQA award winners, each of whom will receive a solid silver medal and a framed diploma to mark the occasion at a prestigious ceremony in London on Monday.
Grace said: “I have many hobbies and interests which I have been pursuing both in and out of college.
“I love playing the violin, both classical and folk music, and played in my college orchestra.
“Over the past four years I have also loved helping at a local children’s club and in many other community-related events.
“As a life-long enthusiastic reader, I am really pleased to have been offered a place at Oxford University, where I am reading English.”
Grace won her award in a new category introduced this year, the AQA Baccalaureate Syllabus.
AQA director general Dr Mike Cresswell said: “This event recognises outstanding performance in A-level examinations and celebrates the success of our young people.
“Our award winners have achieved outstanding success, and I congratulate them and wish them every success in the future.
“We are delighted to introduce an award for our AQA Baccalaureate (Bacc) qualification this year.
“The AQA Bacc is an inclusive qualification which recognises and celebrates the achievements of well-rounded students with A-levels and more.”
Also at Monday’s ceremony, the A-Level ‘Student of the Year’ will be chosen from among the six award winners, who will additionally receive a trophy and a framed diploma and a cheque for £500.
The awards are co-sponsored by AQA and a number of companies with an interest in the field of education.
The award winners come from 330,000 full A-level examination entries taken with AQA.

Lucky escape as five-ton boulder falls from cliff onto house

STORMS which wreaked havoc across Exmoor and other parts of the Westcountry nearly proved fatal for a Dulverton pensioner.
A five-ton boulder was ripped from a rock face and crashed 60 feet into the back garden of Gwyneth Jarman’s home.
The rock fall flattened two sheds and a fuel tank containing 1,000 litres of inflammable heating oil, squashing the tank against the side of the house.
Fortunately, the boulder then came to rest beside the house in North Moor Road without structurally damaging it.
Mrs Jarman, aged 65, was asleep in bed at the time but was woken by the crash just before 4 am.
Although she escaped any injury, she was ‘extremely shaken-up’ by the incident.
Mrs Jarman said: “I heard the rumbling and the house shook.
“I woke up and did not realise what had happened.
“The boulder would have been in the kitchen if the shed had not been there.”
Devon and Somerset fire and rescue crews were called to check the area and the house itself were safe.
An investigation of the incident was started but it was not yet known how the boulder came loose