Saturday, 27 December 2008

Large crowds turn out for traditional Boxing Day hunt meet

MINEHEAD Harriers traditional Boxing Day was switched for the first time this year to the town’s seafront and took place in the freezing cold yesterday.
Several hundred hunt supporters turned out for the occasion, which was held outside the Beach Hotel.
Despite a hunting ban introduced four years ago, meets by the Harriers and other hunts across West Somerset have continued to prove to be just as popular, if not more so.
Harriers secretary Tim Holt said following the sale by Barry Richards of the town centre Wellington Hotel, where the Boxing Day meet had been held for many years, it was decided to host it instead at the Beach Hotel, which Mr Richards still owned.
Mr Holt said the change was hugely popular with a larger than ever public attendance.
He said: “There must have been one of the biggest crowds I have ever seen at a meet and it was all good-natured.
“None of the ‘antis’ were there to cause any nonsense and we had a great send-off.”
Harriers vice-president Mike Padgett said: “It was tremendous to see the support we get from the ordinary public of West Somerset.
“It just goes to show what an important part the hunt plays in the local community and how valued it is as a part of everybody’s lives.”
The West Somerset Vale hunt met in Nether Stowey and also saw larger than usual crowds gather at The Cross to see them ride out, bringing traffic in the village centre to a halt as they did so.
The Countryside Alliance said Boxing Day meets across the country had generally enjoyed their largest turnouts since the hunting ban was introduced.
Countryside Alliance spokesman Tim Bonner, who leads a campaign to repeal the hunting ban, said: “There seems to be a very large turnout at all the meets.
“There is a feeling that people are coming out just to support their local hunt and the campaign for the repeal of the act. It is a very positive feeling across the country.”

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Firefighters investigate Christmas Day blaze on Exmoor

FIVE fire engines from four towns were called to a Christmas Day house fire on Exmoor.
Crews attended the incident from Dulverton, Wiveliscombe, Williton, and Bampton.
The blaze in Brompton Regis was spotted by neighbours after smoke detectors in the The Old Waggon Works activated just before 3.20 pm this afternoon.
Owners Peter Page, who is a parish councillor, and his wife Babs, were understood to be away at the time for a family Christmas celebration.
One bedroom was almost entirely destroyed in the fire, which also spread to the loft of the house and to a downstairs utility room as firefighters used breathing apparatus to enter the property and tackle the blaze.
The whole of the groundfloor and first floor of the house suffered smoke damage, but The Post understands nobody was injured in the incident.
Six sets of breathing apparatus, two hose reel jets, and one covering jet were used in the firefighting operation.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation this evening but was beleived to have been an electrical fault.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

New council code aims to reduce busking complaints

BUSKERS and street entertainers in West Somerset are being given more protection from complaints under a new code of practice which has been launched by the district council.
The new code is intended to help performers avoid complaints and stay on the right side of the law.
Council licensing committee chairman Councillor Jenny Hill said buskers were sometimes reported as a public disturbance or annoyance, quite often without the buskers realising there was a problem.
If a performer was the subject of recurring complaints, the council would take action under the Environment Protection Act 1990 which could include seizure of musical instruments and amplifiers.
Councillor Hill said: “We would only resort to these measures if other forms of action had failed, as busking and other forms of street entertainment provide pleasure to many people. We want to see that continue.
“Our role is to ensure buskers maintain their place in creating a vibrant atmosphere and providing entertainment while staying within the law.
“That way, we are fulfilling our obligation to the performers and public alike.”
Under the new code of practice, anybody who is disturbed by busking should first approach the buskers to politely explain their concern before resorting to complaining to the council.
Councillor Hill said street entertainers were often unaware of the problem they might be causing, and most would happily reduce noise levels once alerted.
Street entertainment should only be reported West Somerset Council’s Licensing Team if a problem persisted.
Reports can be made by calling 01643 703704.

Police drink-drive crackdown catches nearly 150 motorists under the influence

POLICE have renewed their appeal to motorists not to drink and drive over the festive period and especially today, Christmas Eve.
It follows the arrest of more than 140 drivers since the December 1 launch of a Christmas anti-drink and drive campaign across the Avon and Somerset Constabulary area.
Nineteen of the motorists were caught in checks conducted in the West Somerset policing area.
A total of 146 drivers have so far been arrested during the campaign, of which almost one-third (41) were aged under 25 years.
The arrested drivers either gave a positive breath specimen or refused to provide a specimen, or were driving while unfit through drink or drugs.
Supt Andy Pullan, head of the force’s road policing unit, said: “There is no failsafe guide as to how to stay under the legal drink drive limit, or how much you can drink and still drive safely.
“That is why we urge people not to drink at all if they are driving.”
Supt Pullan said officers would continue to carry out high visibility roadside checks across known drink-drive hotspots throughout the force area.
He said they would also be taking the opportunity to provide car crime prevention advice.
Police estimate by the end of the Christmas drink-drive campaign up to 10,000 motorists will have been stopped by officers.
The crackdown on drink-driving is part of a nationwide initiative led by the Association of Chief Police Officers throughout the month of December.
Although there is a focused campaign throughout December, Supt Pullan said the drink-drive message applied across the 365 days of the year.
He said: “It is recognised that over the festive period there is a greater risk, but we will remain relentless in our campaign against drink-driving in Avon and Somerset.”
Anybody with information about drink-drivers should contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
They do not have to give their name and they could receive a reward.
In urgent cases where it is suspected somebody is driving or about to drive while drunk, thereby putting life at risk, people should call 999.
  • Our photograph shows a police officer preparing to carry out a roadside breath test. Photo submitted.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Magistrates order benefits cheat to carry out unpaid work

A CONTINUING clampdown on benefits cheats by West Somerset Council saw a third man prosecuted in the space of a month.
Jameel Khan, aged 31, of Townsend Road, Minehead, claimed nearly £3,000 in housing and council tax benefits to which he was not entitled.
His fraud was conducted over a period of eight months this year, from March to October, after he failed to tell the council he had been working.
Khan carried on claiming housing and council tax benefits after finding work in March, and although the job ended in May, he found further employment in July and again failed to declare it to the council.
As a result, Khan received £2,168.38 in housing benefit and £698.44 in council tax benefit between March and October to which he was not entitled.
Khan pleaded guilty to the offences when he appeared before West Somerset magistrates.
The magistrates gave him credit for his guilty plea and the fact that Khan had already started to repay the overpayment.
They decided a community order was appropriate and sentenced Khan to carry out 50 hours of unpaid work.
After the case, West Somerset Council finance portfolio holder Councillor Doug Ross said: “It is essential that people claiming benefits report changes in their circumstances to our benefits team immediately.
“We are keen to help those facing genuine hardship, and encourage people in difficulty to seek our help and not to risk getting themselves into trouble.”

Spot-checks operation on taxis to ensure public are safe at Christmas

A PRE-Christmas clampdown on taxi and private hire operators saw two vehicles taken off the road immediately for failing safety checks.
The operation was carried out jointly last week by West Somerset Council, police, and vehicle inspectors.
A total of 25 taxis and private hire vehicles were randomly stopped for spot-checks which were carried out at Minehead police headquarters.
Police motorcyclists rounded up hackney carriages up to eight-seats in size, and engineers from the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) made safety checks.
Of the two prohibition notices which were issued - preventing the operator trading immediately - one was lifted on the same day after minor remedial works by qualified mechanics.
Council licensing committee chairman Councillor Jenny Hill said: “Taxis are very much in demand at this time of year so we were pleased to discover the vast majority of operators are keeping their vehicles in a safe and sound condition, and meeting the strict standards for public hire vehicles.
“It is vital that there is no compromise in ensuring public safety, and that people can trust in the reliability of hire transport.”
Police, who conduct roadside checks on all vehicles to ensure they are roadworthy, taxed, and insured, urged motorists to conduct regular checks on their vehicles to ensure they complied with manufacturer and use regulations.
Inspector Carol Pearce said: “These checks are a regular occurrence in West Somerset.
“By working together with all agencies, we can ensure that when a member of the public gets into a taxi in West Somerset, it is completely roadworthy.
“I would urge all drivers of motor vehicles to regularly check their lights and ensure that the windscreen washes are topped up
“Keeping your vehicle safe and roadworthy is the best Christmas present you can give yourselves, your family, and your fellow humans.
“Stay safe over Christmas, if you drink - don’t drive.”

Seasonal advice given to shop owners to keep staff out of danger

A CHRISTMAS health and safety swoop has been carried out on shop premises in Minehead in an effort to protect staff during the festive season.
West Somerset Council’s health and safety team visited 20 shops in the town to give owners and managers advice on the risks to staff, especially at this time of the year when extra stock movements usually occurred.
Warning letters were issued to two businesses for serious contraventions of health and safety legislation.
Council health and well-being portfolio holder Councillor Kate Kravis said the contraventions would be followed up by officers.
Councillor Kravis said: “We have a duty to keep risks to staff and customers to a minimum.
“Our team found most businesses were pleased with the advice.
“The team revisited three shops the following day to ensure that businesses had complied with the advice for minor contraventions, such as removing damaged ladders and clearing fire exits.
“Our aim, in the first instance, is to educate the owners or managers of premises.
“However, we will not tolerate any undue risk to staff or to the public, who should be able to use local premises with confidence.”
The council team gave advice on slips and trips, stock movement, ladders, employment conditions, training needs of young people, and training and translations needs of migrant workers.
Councillor Kravis said during Christmas and the New Year shops had to manage more stock movement, which increased the risk of manual handling and slips and trips injuries.
The health and safety team also provided advice on how improvements could be made, including advising where safety knives were not in use.
Information concerning the use of ladders and stepladders was also provided.
Councillor Kravis said: “The majority of owners welcomed the officers’ visit, and most managers were managing the increase in stock movement well.
“The visits have given the team a good snapshot impression of health and safety in town centre premises.
“We will continue to be vigilant to ensure public safety.”
Any business owners or managers who would like health and safety advice can contact the council by calling 01643 703704 or by emailing

Supermarket staff and customers help raise £2 million for cancer care

STAFF and customers of the Somerfield store in Minehead have helped the supermarket firm to raise more than £2 million to improve the lives of people living with cancer.
The total has been raised since Macmillan was voted as Somerfield’s charity partner in March of last year.
The Minehead store, in The Avenue, contributed £1,131, which will be put toward the cost to the charity of employing a head and neck cancer nurse specialist in Somerset.
Somerfield head of press and charity Pete Williams said: “We are very excited to have raised £2 million for Macmillan.
“We set ourselves an ambitious target at the start of the partnership and I am very proud to see us exceed it.”
Macmillan provides practical, emotional, and financial support to people affected by cancer.
The money raised by Somerfield stores will help to fund a range of cancer services throughout the country, providing valuable support in local communities.
It has been collected through fund-raising in-store, sales promotions and gift items such as the Little Book of Treats, and a collection of recipes from supporters and celebrities across the UK.
Somerfield involved all of its 42,000 employees in its fund-raising efforts across its 850-plus network of stores nationwide and hoped also to raise awareness among its 10 million customers of the work and services provided by Macmillan.
Mr Williams said: “From big picnics to sponsored head shaves and cycling challenges, the support we have had for Macmillan has been incredible.
“It has been fantastic to know that every penny raised will help support people living with cancer in local areas.”
Macmillan Cancer Support chief executive CiarĂ¡n Devane said: “This is a phenomenal achievement and is a testament to the commitment of Somerfield staff and customers to improving lives in the local community.
“We are grateful to everybody involved.”
With more than two million people living with cancer in the UK, the money raised by Somerfield will help Macmillan with its commitment to reach everybody affected by cancer by 2010.

Four stars out of five for hospital food outlets

CATERING outlets in Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, have been awarded four stars by environmental health inspectors.
Musgrove achieved an ‘excellent’ mark for its food handling and management, and a ‘good’ mark for the condition of the premises.
Overall, the four star award meant the inspectors considered the level of hygiene practice to be ‘very good’.
The borough council team of inspectors looked in particular at three areas involved with the hospital's catering services:
  • Food handling practice
  • Condition of the premises
  • Management systems
Musgrove catering manager Phil Shelley said: “This is excellent news.
“Our staff have worked incredibly hard to improve standards in everything we do.
“The four star award is a great Christmas present for us and an incentive to get that fifth star next year.
“We will now be working hard with the council and the estates team here at Musgrove to do all we can to further improve the facilities we have.”
  • Our photograph shows Musgrove catering staff (left to right) Marion Collins, Jon Smith, Rose Cooke, Sandra Hall, Daniel Shelley, Jenny Grant, and Colin Frost. Photo submitted.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Barrage campaigners call on Government to 'come clean' over jobs and economic impact

CAMPAIGNERS against a proposed Severn Barrage are calling on London-based civil servants and consultants to ‘come clean’ over the economic impact of such a project on the area’s maritime industry.
The Stop the Barrage NOW campaign wants to see reports published which it claims reveal the ‘true costs’ of a proposed barrage (artist's impression shown) across the River Severn.
The call follows meetings organised by the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study Group, a team of civil servants based in the Department of Energy and Climate Change, to brief stakeholders.
Analysts from consultancy DTZ, which is carrying out an economic impact assessment of different options for the barrage, are alleged to have said during the meetings that a Cardiff to Weston-super-Mare barrage would cost thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds to the regional economy.
Ports and other maritime businesses in the Westcountry were said to be extremely worried about such a prospect.
However, neither DTZ nor the study group has allowed them comment on, or even to see, the economic impact assessment report before the Government decides in January on a shortlist of renewable energy options to take forward.
Ten potential schemes are currently being looked at, including conventional barrages, tidal fences, tidal lagoons - and a tidal reef.
The 12-mile tidal reef idea has been put forward by Cornish engineers Joseph Evans and Sons Ltd and would run from Minehead to Wales.
Evans and Co owner Rupert Evans said the tidal reef would cost less than a barrage, have less environmental and economic impact, and generate more power more reliably.
It is an alternative favoured by the Stop the Barrage NOW campaign, which says the reef, lagoons - possibly built ‘sequentially to achieve the maximum environmentally benign energy extraction’ - a tidal fence (described as a ‘compromise between conservation, commercial interests and renewable targets’), and wind farms at sea would all be better options than an ‘all or nothing’ barrage.

Closure date is confirmed for Woolworths in Minehead

ADMINISTRATORS overseeing the winding-up of the Woolworths chain of stores have confirmed that the Minehead branch will be among the last to close.
Deloitte has published individual dates for the final closure of each of the 807 stores nationwide
Up to 200 are due to close as early of December 27, and all of the remainder will be shut by January 5 at the latest.
The Minehead store, in The Avenue, is among those which will remain trading until January 5.
A countdown poster showing the remaining number of trading days for the store is on display in the shop window.
Woolworths has traded in Minehead since 1937 and the branch employs nearly 30 staff, most of them part-time and some of whom have worked in the store for more than 20 years.
The staff are due to be kept on for an additional three days after the closure before their jobs come to an end along with the other 30,000 Woolworths employees.
Woolworths went into administration in November with debts of £385 million and Deloitte has been unable to find a buyer for the group, although expressions of interest have been made for parts of it.
It is likely that up to 300 of the stores will be reopened by other retailers which want to buy the leases of certain locations, but there has been no confirmation of the future of the Minehead site.
Deloitte partner Neville Kahn said it was unclear how much of the company’s debt would be paid, but it was ‘clear the creditors and suppliers will not get paid in full’.
Woolworths’ staff will be entitled to compensation under the statutory redundancy payment scheme.
Ironically, Woolworths has been enjoying record sales in the past few days as bargain hunters flock to the stores to take advantage of the firm’s biggest ever sale with discounts of up to 50 per cent on offer.
Some trade press reports have suggested former Woolworths chief executive Sir Geoff Mulcahy could be talking with the company’s largest shareholder, Ardeshir Naghshineh, about a last-minute rescue package for the group.
Sir Geoff was earlier critical of the way Deloittehad handled Woolworths, describing it as ‘disgraceful’.
It was also suggest Mr Naghshineh had approached the Government about the possibility of bailout funding to save Woolworths.
The shopworkers’ union Usdaw has also criticised Deloitte’s decision to close all the stores and make staff redundant without allowing them an opportunity to transfer to any news owners who may purchase individual store leases.

Estate agents turn Father Christmas for hospital children's unit

STAFF from the Minehead and Watchet branches of estate agent Wilkie, May and Tuckwood have delivered piles of goodies to the children’s unit of Musgrove Park Hospital, just in time for Christmas.
Watchet branch manager Steven Loveday decided to do something to show support for the hospital after his baby daughter Molly spent four days in the children’s unit during the summer.
Mr Loveday said: “The care Molly received was fantastic and I just wanted to do something to say thank you for that.
“I talked to my colleagues and we decided to appeal to our local community for toys and games that we could take along to the unit at Christmas time.
“Both I and Kevin James, who manages the Minehead branch, have been really pleased with the reaction we have had from our local clientele, who donated lots of traditional wooden toys and games as well as the more modern choices of DVDs and Playstation games.
“We would like to thank them all for their support at this busy time of year for everybody.”
Musgrove hospital play specialist Jane Horn said: “Steven and Kevin arrived absolutely laden with toys which made a lovely surprise for the children.
“We are always really grateful to receive good quality toys and games as it is essential to have a good selection of items to help make our young patients feel relaxed when they are in unfamiliar hospital surroundings.
“We know that having access to toys and games that occupy children really helps with the healing process.
“Wilkie, May and Tuckwood have worked really hard to provide new toys and we are delighted that they made the time and effort to do this.”
  • Our photograph shows (left to right) Steven Loveday, Jane Horn, and Kevin James with some of the toys given to Musgrove children’s unit. Photo submitted.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Police hunting two men after armed robbery fails

POLICE are appealing for information and witnesses after an armed man tried to rob a Spar shop in Alcombe, Minehead, last night.
The man used a hand gun in the attempted robbery, which happened at about 6.30 pm.
He entered the store in Alcombe Road and pointed the gun at a shop assistant’s face while demanding money.
The man made repeated demands for money but the assistant was unable to open the till.
The robber then panicked and left the store empty-handed.
He was described as white, 5 ft 10 ins tall, of average build, with fair coloured hair and was wearing a light coloured jacket.
The raider’s face was hidden under a ski mask which he wore during the attempted robbery.
It is believed he had an accomplice waiting outside, who was described also as white, 5 ft 10 ins tall, of average build, and with dark hair and wearing a dark coloured jacket.
Anybody who witnessed the incident, or saw two men matching these descriptions acting suspiciously in the area, should call police on 0845 456 700 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, where they do not have to give their name but could receive a reward.
Alternatively, they can contact police through the secure Crimestoppers contact form which can be found on the internet at