Saturday, 29 November 2008

Mystery woman in sea is missing Herefordshire pensioner

A WOMAN found dead in the sea off Watchet has been identified as a pensioner from Herefordshire who disappeared from her home in the early hours of November 7.
Marion Warwick (pictured), aged 75, was spotted floating 550 yards off Watchet Harbour a week ago by Scooby Doo Too fishing boat skipper Steve Yeandle.
Police appealed for any information which might help to identify her, and cross-checked missing persons reports before dental records revealed her identity.
The West Somerset Coroner, Michael Rose, yesterday opened an inquest into Mrs Warwick’s death, and adjourned the proceedings to a date to be fixed.
A post mortem examination has been carried out on Mrs Warwick to determine a cause of death, but the results were said to be inconclusive.
Mrs Warwick, who lived in Wilton, Ross-on-Wye, was last seen by her husband Christopher at about 3 am on November 7 when she got out of bed.
When Mr Warwick woke again later in the morning, there was no trace of his wife, who was known occasionally to suffer loss of memory and who was on medication for a heart condition.
He immediately called the police.
The couple’s home was not far from the River Wye, which eventually empties into the River Severn close to the original Severn Bridge.
A spokesman for the coroner said the inquest was likely to be transferred to the coroner in Ross-on-Wye, where it was thought Mrs Warwick entered the water.
Police said they were not looking for anybody else in connection with Mrs Warwick’s death.
Mr Yeandle said: “I am pleased she has been identified and her family are aware. I am pleased we did the little we could and my thoughts are with the family this Christmas. I am sorry for their loss.”

Friday, 28 November 2008

Lottery £3.2 million funding means skatepark and youth centre can be built at last

YOUNG people in West Somerset will soon have a world-class youth centre and skatepark available in Minehead after the Government pledged more than £3.2 million for the project.
The money will go to Minehead EYE Community Interest Company, which successfully bid to the Government’s myplace programme.
It will be used to create the Minehead EYE facility on land beside the West Somerset Railway Station.
The youth centre and skatepark will be aimed at 13 to 19-year-olds and will feature a café, shop, and computer area with a viewing gallery overlooking a 6,000 sq ft, two-storey skate and BMX park.
It will also boast a recording studio and DJ booth, a multi-media suite with rehearsal space, and an exhibition area with an art-graffiti wall.
The myplace programme is funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund (BIG).
Minehead EYE was one of 21 projects awarded funding to create world-class projects across England which work to create safe places for young people to go, where they can become involved in a wide range of exciting activities and receive information and advice from people they trust.
Minehead EYE, like all of the projects funded through myplace, has actively involved young people in its design and development, and will continue to involve them in future running.
The Minehead facility will enable young people to take part in a wide range of activities such as skate school and skating competitions, music and DJ training, battle of the band events, and console competitions.
Skills and training activities will also be offered by local organisations, including Active Exmoor, as well as local artists and musicians.
CLOWNS (Creating Learning Opportunities in Western Somerset), one of the project’s partner organisations, will be based on the ground floor alongside a number of support services such as youth workers from Somerset County Council and the local primary care trust, who will be on hand to offer young people advice and guidance.
Other partners in the project are West Somerset Council, which has promised £250,000 to the EYE, and Somerset County Council.
Minehead EYE director Naomi Griffith said: “We are absolutely thrilled we have been successful in our bid.
“Many, many people have worked for years on Minehead EYE and it is amazing that we will now see this dream become a reality.
“There is a lot of work ahead of us but we are ready and raring to get started so we can finally deliver this project which is vital for the young people of West Somerset.”
The Children and Young People’s Secretary, Ed Balls, said: “The vast majority of young people are good citizens, play by the rules and just want better things to do and places to go after school and at the weekend rather than hanging around in the street or in the local park.
“They enjoy getting involved in exciting projects such as myplace, so I hope that this scheme will help change the way communities view our young people.
“Myplace will transform positive activities for young people who will be able to decide what kind of facilities they want, and when they want them, such as on Friday and Saturday nights.
“In the Children’s Plan we said we want all young people to have the best opportunities whatever their circumstances and myplace will give young people across the country a chance to enjoy new experiences, learn new skills, and become a valued member of their own community.”
Big Lottery Fund regional head Mark Cotton said: “This facility is really going to transform what is on offer for young people in the area, giving them a safe and inviting place where they can have fun and socialise with friends and also access information and advice.”
Driven by the active participation of young people, myplace is part of the Government’s Aiming High strategy.
The 10-year youth strategy was announced in July of last year to help young people, particularly those in deprived areas, take part in positive activities which will help them develop new skills and raise their aspirations.
  • Our photograph shows an artist’s impression of the Minehead EYE youth centre and skatepark. Image submitted.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Mountain biking partnership wheelie taking off in Watchet

FIVE top-of-the-range Marin mountain bikes have been given to Watchet Children’s Centre after it teamed up with West Somerset Council to secure £5,000 of funding.
The bikes will allow mums and dads of children using the centre (pictured) even more opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.
A total of 21 mountain bikes have now been acquired for the children’s centres in Watchet and Williton.
District council community portfolio holder Councillor Neil Parbrook said: “This is a fantastic scheme.
“Parents can join the dads or mums groups while their children enjoy learning and play activities at the centres, and there are also family cycling events.
“The scheme is great at improving fitness and it gives people confidence in learning new skills as well as a good chance to socialise.
“It is so popular at Watchet and Williton that we are now going to trial it at Alcombe and Dulverton Children’s Centres.”
The council’s community officer, Liz Stewart, worked in partnership with the Watchet centre’s family support co-ordinator Sam Fahey to win funding for the bikes from Awards For All, Big Lottery Fund, and the South West Community Foundation Comic Relief Fund.
Councillor Parbrook said: “I would like to thank local cycle experts, Pompey’s, in Minehead, for helping to secure a good discount on the new bikes, essential equipment, and parts.”
The scheme includes beginners, intermediate, and advanced groups, and caters for all levels of fitness and skills.
As well as the groups currently running from the Williton and Watchet Children’s Centres, the scheme is being trialled at Alcombe Children’s Centre on December 10, with an open morning from 10 am to 12 noon when people can try out the bikes and have an informal chat.
Further taster sessions start in Alcombe on January 12. Free bikes, transport, and crèche facilities will be available.
Details of the taster sessions at Dulverton will be made available shortly.
Philip Sylvester, a member of the dads’ mountain biking group, said: “I needed something to get me away from the stresses of bringing up three kids on my own.
“I was reluctant at first but it has given me the lift I really needed and I have never looked back.”
Hayley Lake, a mums’ mountain bike member, said: “It is good fun and it is my free time to enjoy.
“I also feel like I now have more energy for my children and it is something I will be able to share with my boys in future.”
More information about the scheme or any other services running from the children’s centres is available by calling Sam Fahey on 01984 633655.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Woolworths asked to protect Minehead jobs over Christmas

WOOLWORTHS was reported this evening to be going into administration, putting 30,000 jobs under threat in more than 800 stores, including in Minehead.
Accountancy consultants Deloitte was being appointed as administrators to the company, which would have celebrated its centenary in 2009.
A spokeswoman said Minehead and the other stores would remain open and keep trading for the time being.
Money had been ring-fenced to ensure staff would be paid as normal on Friday.
It was understood that Woolworths had been asked to do what it could to protect its pension fund, and to keep the stores open if possible during over Christmas.
Woolworths had £385 million of debt and had been in ongoing discussions with its two main bankers.
Usdaw, the shopworkers’ union, called the collapse of Woolworths ‘devastating for staff’.
A spokesman said: “We were hopeful that a last minute deal would be done and will want to meet with the administrators as soon as possible.”

Council receives glowing IIP praise for supporting staff

WEST Somerset Council has been praised for the way it supports staff and encourages initiatives, in a report by Investors in People specialist assessor Richard Sloane.
Mr Sloane renewed the council’s Investor in People (IIP) status for a further three years, commenting on the authority’s ‘outstanding ethos that encourages and supports initiative at all levels’.
He also said the authority was ‘welcoming and friendly, yet disciplined’ and ‘continuous improvement is at the heart of this excellent council’.
Mr Sloane said: “The council is bucking the trend where there is more evidence of an increase in poor management behaviour across many sectors, often as a result of concentrated focus on targets to the exclusion of valuing staff.
“It was a privilege to review this council in terms of its culture and commitment to investing in people.”
Investors in People UK is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Education and Skills.
It works in partnership with organisations throughout the UK to improve their productivity and performance to help them realise their full potential.
Reviewers look at an organisation’s processes, conduct staff interviews, and monitor developments aimed to benefit staff, customers, and the organisation as a whole.
Council leader Councillor Keith Ross said: “We are delighted that IIP assessors and other external organisations recognised that throughout the changes of the last 18 months, the council has remained committed to investing in its staff.
“The council’s RECO training programme was praised for bringing staff together, while the advances under the council’s improvement plan, such as better leadership, management, and communication, closer cross-party working and an ongoing commitment to our staff’s continuing professional development, have been key to improving staff morale and providing a positive environment in which to work.
“The assessors also acknowledged that uniting staff in the new offices is bringing about further positive changes for the organisation itself, as well as for its customers.
“We are justifiably proud of our IIP standard being renewed and of what staff have achieved in the past 18 months.”
Staff said the council was compassionate and supportive in difficult domestic circumstances.
Because of this, staff went ‘the extra mile’ to support the council in times of need.
Workers felt appreciated and valued as individuals and as part of the team.
Acting head of paid service Adrian Dyer said: “Our staff are important to us and our customers.
“They have supported customers, senior staff, and members loyally and it is only right that they receive equal investment for their efforts.
“We have a hard-working team of professional people and we are delighted that the IIP assessors have acknowledged this.
“We are pleased to have retained the IIP standard and to have achieved such an excellent report.”

Five stars for six more food establishments

ANOTHER round of food scores for businesses in West Somerset has been announced by the district council’s environmental health team.
Local businesses which prepare, cook, or sell food have their food hygiene standards rated on a star system.
An award of five stars demonstrates excellent compliance, while an award of no stars indicates there are major breaches in food hygiene standards.
Top of the scoreboard after the latest environmental health checks with five stars were:
  • Andrews on the Weir, Porlock Weir

  • Blenheim Lodge, Minehead

  • Bridge Cottage, Winsford

  • Broadlands, Minehead

  • Burger King, Butlins Skyline, Minehead

  • Castle Coffee House, Dunster
Earning a commendable four stars were:
  • Alcombe Tandoori, Alcombe

  • Amoy Noodle Bar, Butlins Skyline, Minehead
  • Binham Grange, Old Cleeve

  • Chives, Watchet
  • Dulverton Middle and Community School, Dulverton

  • Finnigans, Butlins Skyline, Minehead

  • Hathaways, Dunster

  • Holnicote House, Selworthy
  • McDana's, Minehead

  • Minehead Middle School, Minehead
Portfolio holder for well-being, Councillor Kate Kravis, said: “Whether it is a takeaway or top restaurant, your children’s school dinners or your grandparents’ care home, this scheme can help people decide where they want to spend their hard-earned money.
“Food scores aims to raise standards of food hygiene and I would encourage people to check out how well their favourite food retailer fares.”
Businesses are required to display a sticker on their premises which shows the number of stars awarded, and the food scores are also available online at

More bad news for Woolworths employees as shares suspended

EMPLOYMENT fears among dozens of West Somerset shopworkers worsened today with the news that shares in troubled retailer Woolworths have been suspended.
A Woolworths statement said the firm had requested the suspension of trading of its shares on the London Stock Exchange while it continued discussions relating to a potential sale of its retail business.
Woolworths, which has a branch in The Avenue, Minehead, said it was also discussing the possible sale to the BBC of its 40 per cent interest in the 2 Entertain joint venture with BBC Worldwide.
The firm said both sales were subject, among other things, to winning approval from the group’s lending banks.
Restructuring firm Hilco was said to have offered to buy Woolworths for £1, but could not agree how much of the retailer’s £385 million debts it would take on.
Analysts have said Woolworths was likely to go into administration with the loss of 20,000 of its 30,000 jobs unless some kind of a rescue deal could be agreed.

Bird charity backs Minehead reef as greenest option for Severn Estuary tidal power

A CORNISH company’s plan to build a ‘tidal reef’ from Minehead to Wales has won the backing of charity the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
Engineering firm Joseph Evans and Sons Ltd, of Launceston, has proposed a 12-mile ‘Severn Tidal Reef’ (illustrated, right, and below) as an alternative to a 10-mile barrage from Weston-super-Mare to Cardiff.
The RSPB asked engineering consultancy Atkins to look at the feasibility of a ‘greener’ alternative to the barrage.
Now, the Atkins study has shown a reef a would be less damaging to the environment, would generate more power than a barrage, and would also be cheaper to build.
It found a reef would hold back about 6 ft 6 in of water without altering tidal patterns as much as would a barrage.
The Cardiff to Weston-super-Mare barrage is claimed to be able to generate 17,000GW of clean energy each year, equivalent to nearly five per cent of the UK’s electricity needs.
However, the research for the RSPB concluded the reef would produce 20,000GW of electricity while also costing about £2 billion less to construct.
Both the barrage and the reef would generate electricity as water flowed through turbines, but the reef would not hold back the full height of the tide as would a barrage.
The reef would also generate electricity for longer periods than the barrage, making it better able to meet peak demand times for electricity.
The RSPB said it preferred a reef because it would keep intact most of the estuary’s bird feeding grounds, while its slower-moving turbines would reduce danger to migrating salmon and eels.
Evans and Co owner Rupert Evans said: “It is much more in tune to the way the estuary works.
“Its construction would mean far less road traffic because of rail connections, and would require less material and cost significantly less than other tidal options or nuclear power.
“It is a compromise which works, it is considerably more efficient than tidal stream turbines but does not have the environmental impact that great monolithic barrages have.”
RSPB conservation director Mark Avery said: “The Government must crack the problem of how to use the Severn’s tidal power without harming its wildlife.
“We already know a Cardiff-Weston barrage would cost far more than almost any other form of green energy and seriously damage sites protected by law.
“A tidal reef could reign in that damage, cost the taxpayer much less, and be built more quickly.”
Professor Rod Rainey, who prepared the report for the RSPB, said: “We believe this scheme could be more powerful but less costly than other plans being put forward, particularly the Cardiff to Weston barrage.”
The Government and the Welsh Assembly began a feasibility study into harnessing the estuary’s tidal power in January, and consultation is expected to begin next year on which projects should be shortlist.
Ten schemes are being looked at, which include conventional barrages, tidal fences, tidal lagoons, and a tidal reef.
A group of 10 environmental organisations has been opposing the idea of a barrage because they believe renewable energy could be generated more cheaply using other technology.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Woolworths employees in West Somerset fear for their jobs

DOZENS of shopworkers in Minehead were this week left to fear for their jobs as troubled retailer Woolworths fought to avoid going bust.
Woolworths, which has a branch in The Avenue, Minehead, is said to have been offered for sale for £1 to restructuring firm Hilco.
But it has debts of £385 million and has been holding emergency talks with its two main banks.
Analysts said Woolworths was likely to go into administration with the loss of 20,000 of its 30,000 jobs unless some kind of a rescue deal could be agreed.
Minehead is just one of 840 stores in the Woolworths UK portfolio, which also includes a distribution business and a DVD publishing business.
The company’s shares have fallen by 92 per cent in the past year as it suffered record first-half pre-tax losses of £90.8 million in September and scrapped its dividend to shareholders.
Only in August, Woolworths rejected a £50 million takeover bid for its stores from a group headed by the founder of the Iceland frozen food chain, Malcolm Walker.
Woolworths was due to celebrate its trading centenary in 2009.
A statement issued by Woolworths said: “The board can confirm it is in preliminary discussions regarding a possible offer for the retail business. There can be no assurance that any offer will be forthcoming.”

Monday, 24 November 2008

Police find missing mother and five girls in Germany

A MISSING mother and her five daughters, whom residents and visitors in West Somerset were asked to watch out for, have been found today in Germany.
The family disappeared from their home in Sunderland six months ago and a nationwide search was launched for them.
Now, Natalie Bracht, aged 34, who was said to suffer from a personality disorder, and her daughters aged from five to 13 years, have been found safe and well in Germany.
Northumbria Police were supported by the Avon and Somerset Constabulary and other forces across the country and in Europe before the family was discovered in Munich.
The five children have been placed in the care of German authorities.
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said they were working with their German counterparts and would speak with Ms Bracht ‘in due course’.
The spokesman said: “I am happy that the girls have been found safe and well.
“I would like to thank the public and the media for their help and assistance in this matter.”
  • Our photographs of the family were released by police from CCTV taken at a London train station. Photos submitted.

Villagers to give police thoughts on quality of life issues

RESIDENTS of Nether Stowey and Over Stowey are being invited to attend a meeting later this week to discuss any issues they feel are affecting their local communities.
The Partners and Communities Together meeting (PACT) will be held in Nether Stowey Village Hall, on Friday at 7.30 pm.
PACT allows local people an opportunity to have their say on matters affecting their neighbourhood - anything from litter or noise to street lighting or anti-social behaviour.
In short, anything that impacts on their quality of life.
The meetings are designed to bring communities together with local police teams and key representatives from various partner agencies and organisations.
Everybody is welcome to go along with ideas on how their neighbourhood could be improved.
Anybody who would like to discuss any policing issues affecting their area, but is unable to attend the PACT meeting on Friday, can instead contact their rural neighbourhood policing team at Bridgwater Police Station on 0845 456 7000 or visit

Police appeal for help to trace 'vulnerable' missing man

POLICE are appealing for help from the public in West Somerset in tracing a missing man from Ramsden, Chipping Norton.
Andrew Wallis (pictured), aged 51, was last seen on November 12 and it is now thought he could be in the Avon and Somerset Constabulary area.
Mr Wallis is described as white, around 6 ft 4 ins tall, of muscular build, and was clean shaven.
Sgt Phil Bennett, based at Chipping Norton police station, said: “We are concerned for Mr Wallis’ welfare as he is extremely vulnerable.
“I appeal to anybody who has seen a man of this description or knows of his whereabouts to please contact police immediately on 0845 8 505 505.”
Anybody with information which could assist police inquiries is urged to contact Thames Valley Police on 0845 8 505 505.
Or, if they do not want to speak directly to police and do not want to leave a name, they can contact the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Plans being laid for next 10Parishes Festival

ARTISTS, venue and parish organisers, and volunteers are being invited to an open meeting in December to discuss next year’s 10Parishes Festival.
The meeting will take place on Tuesday, December 9, at 7.30 pm in the Silver Street Centre, Wiveliscombe.
The 2009 festival will run over nine days from Saturday, September 12 to Sunday, September 20.
The annual festival has become a major biennial arts and community event in Wiveliscombe and the nine surrounding parishes, involving more than 100 artists and more than 150 events.
This year’s festival finished with a town centre celebration in The Square, Wiveliscombe, when thousands of people thronged the area to enjoy local food, drink, and entertainments.
More information about the festival can be found by logging on to or calling 01984 624564.

Mystery of woman found dead in the sea off Watchet coast

POLICE are appealing for help to identify a woman found dead in the sea off Watchet by the crew of a fishing boat yesterday.
The partially-clothed woman is believed to be aged between 40 to 60 years and may have been in the water for several days.
She was spotted about 550 yards from the coast area at about noon and was recovered from the water by the Coastguard and Minehead Lifeboatmen.
Police are liaising with neighbouring forces along the Bristol Channel to see if the woman’s description matches any reported missing persons.
The dead woman was described as white, about 5 ft 7 ins tall, of medium to plump build, with short collar-length brown hair.
She was wearing calf length black zip-up leather boots and a brown coloured T-Line branded fleece jacket.
Police said a post mortem examination to determine her cause of death was due to be held later this week.
A spokesman said police were keeping an open mind on the woman’s death, pending the outcome of the post mortem.
Police want to hear from anybody who recognises the description of the woman or who has had a female family member or friend go missing during the past week.
Anybody able to help is asked to contact Taunton CID by calling 0845 4567000.
  • Our photograph shows the lighthouse on Watchet Harbour sea wall. Photo by Ian Chilton.