Wednesday, 8 April 2009

National award for controversial temporary council officer

THE work of West Somerset Council’s controversial temporary chief officer Dr Jack Neal has been recognised with a national award from the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE).
Dr Neal’s appointment hit the headlines because he was costing £3,500 a week at a time when the council was already in a financial crisis after Independent councillors took control from the Conservatives at local elections.
The council had lost its chief executive and deputy chief executive in quick succession after the coalition of Independent councillors began running the authority.
Dr Neal, aged 61, who lives near Honiton, Devon, was given a temporary contract to try to turn around the management of the council.
Now, his work has been recognised at the prestigious SOLACE interim manager of the year awards, held in Claridge’s Hotel, Mayfair, London.
He received the runner-up award in the strategic management category.
West Somerset economic development portfolio holder Councillor Michael Downes said: “It is no mean feat given that we are a small council and the winners came from larger London authorities.
“I am delighted that the work he did with us has been acknowledged.
“He has fantastic management skills and I am pleased these have been recognised on a national scale.”
Adrian Dyer, who has since become the council’s chief officer with the title executive director, said: “I am absolutely delighted for Jack.
“He is an inspirational manager and excellent problem-solver who is not phased by anything.
“I have learned a lot from him, and the council as a whole has seen marked and lasting improvements thanks to his help.”
  • Our photograph shows Councillor Michael Downes (left) and Dr Jack Neal. Photo submitted.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

BUSINESS NEWS: Skills workshop to boost future business prospects

UNDERSTANDING West Somerset employers’ skills and employment needs and providing good training opportunities to ensure competitive futures for local firms are some of the themes of a free workshop being held later this month.
The ‘Skills and Employment Workshop’ takes place at the Regional Rural Business Centre (pictured), off Junction 24 of the M5, on Monday, April 20, from 5 pm to 7 pm.
Businesses in West Somerset and Sedgemoor can discuss the upcoming training needs of workforces to help their businesses cope through the recession, and to capitalise on opportunities when the economic climate eventually changes.
The networking event has been jointly organised by West Somerset Council and Sedgemoor District Council to ensure local businesses are equipped for the future.
Councillor Michael Downes, West Somerset’s economic portfolio holder, said: “Fresh information in the face of the changing economic climate is needed so that we can, by working with other organisations, provide the skills and training local businesses want.
“By working with employers and skills providers to identify and address needs, we can help to put in place meaningful, targeted support and training.
“The evening is friendly and informal and all businesses are welcome, from the smallest to the largest local firms.
“Anybody can attend, in fact, who wants their business to grow and is willing to help us plan a better future for the local economy as a whole.”
Places at the workshop can be booked before April 15 by calling West Somerset economic regeneration officer Corinne Matthews on 01984 635287 or emailing
Anybody who cannot attend, but would still like to make the needs of their business known should contact Corinne Matthews to request a questionnaire.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Cabinet considers funding boost for Minehead EYE

PLANS for Minehead EYE - a place young people in West Somerset can call their own - could take a step forward next week.
West Somerset Council’s cabinet is meeting to look at agreeing a partnership deal which would be worth nearly £250,000 to the project.
The new multi-million pounds facility will be aimed at youngsters aged 13 to19 years and will feature a two-storey skate and BMX park with a viewing gallery overlooking the 6,000 sq ft facility.
It will also have a recording studio and DJ booth, a multi-media suite with rehearsal space, a computer area, an exhibition area with an art-graffiti wall, a café, and a shop.
A report being put to cabinet members on Wednesday, April 8, proposes removing a requirement for capital receipts to be received prior to funding the project.
It also recommends the cabinet to hand over the balance of a grant for the project amounting to more than £239,000.
The council has already given Minehead EYE more than £6,000 funding.
The concept of Minehead EYE originated about 10 years ago but was recently fast-tracked through the Government’s myplace programme and last year secured more than £3.2 million of Big Lottery funding.
It is one of 21 projects awarded funding to provide world-class facilities 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 obtain information and advice from people they trust.
  • Our image shows an artist's impression of how the Minehead EYE could look. Image submitted.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

New tourism partnership could boost local economy

A NEW tourism industry partnership to promote West Somerset and Greater Exmoor is to be considered by West Somerset Council cabinet members next week.
They will be asked to work with potential partners to establish the form of any partnership before a further report comes back to cabinet later in the year.
If the cabinet agrees at its meeting on April 8, then council executive director Adrian Dyer and tourism portfolio holder Councillor Michael Downes will start the partnership ball rolling.
The partners could include the Exmoor Tourist Association (ETA), Exmoor National Park Authority (ENPA) and Active Exmoor.
The mix of private and public sector organisations have been working together to see if pooling resources and co-ordinating tourism services could underpin and enhance this important area of the West Somerset economy.
The idea of the new partnership evolved following the disbanding of Visit Exmoor in 2007, which came after disagreements between its numerous partners undermined its effectiveness.
Since then, the council has supported tourism through event co-ordination, providing a new Visitor Information Centre on Minehead seafront, and funding the district’s tourism guide Exmoor Coast and Country, which was produced in partnership with the ETA.
Active Exmoor, which is also part-funded by the council, has developed outdoor activities for visitors and the ENPA through its management plan and is committed to sustainable tourism projects to develop and enhance the visitor experience.
Now, through ‘a coming together of minds’, the group will explore what each partner can bring to the table by way of resource and/or money to deliver four essential tourism themes:
  • Marketing the area to attract visitors
  • Providing information on accommodation options
  • Letting visitors know what activities are available
  • Maintaining a good product by looking after and enhancing the local environment
Cabinet members will also consider approving the proposed partnership’s aim, which is to develop the area as a leading tourism destination based on providing a sustainable, quality experience for visitors which will, in turn, support and enhance the economy.
The partnership’s objectives will also be considered.
These include increasing visitor numbers and the duration of stays, ensuring the area is a leader in sustainable tourism, encouraging professional standards and consulting with the private and public sectors and local people.
Deciding resource and financial contributions, and the operation of a viable and professional partnership to achieve a vibrant industry are also seen as key objectives in delivering successful tourism services.
Councillor Downes, who will present the report next week, said: “I think this targeted, objective approach is very timely as the local economy needs all the support it can get at the moment.
“The recently approved economic strategy singled out tourism as an important sector to develop in order to underpin the local economy.
“The priorities and aims of the strategy dovetail with the propositions in the report.
“The input of private sector organisations such as the ETA, which is a very constructive and proactive partner, along with public sector commitment is important in making sure the visitor experience is enhanced so that people keep coming back to the area for holidays.
“In these uncertain economic times, I feel it is an excellent opportunity to combine the skills and knowledge of committed private and public sector agencies in a firm partnership.
“The partnership will consult with other local tourism operators to consolidate the area’s position as a quality tourism destination, and will be a key strength in leading this sector in future economic growth for the benefit of all local people.”

Council honours amateur photographers of the year

WINNERS of Westlabb’s West Somerset Amateur Digital Photographer of the Year 2008 have received their prizes at a presentation ceremony held in the district council chamber, in Williton.
They were welcomed by council chairman Councillor Eddie May, and were praised by the competition’s organisers and sponsors, Westlabb Ltd, and West Somerset councillors.
The competition was supported by West Somerset Council and Somerset County Council.
Westlabb director Jon Summers said: “I am delighted at the response to the competition.
“It was hard to choose the winners out of many excellent entries.
“The photographers took some amazing pictures and I would like to thank everybody who took part.”
The overall title of Amateur Photographer of the Year went to Philip Sanderson for his image of a kite surfer in Minehead Bay, which won the senior ‘Favourite Landscape/Seascape’ category.
Mr Sanderson said: “I was very surprised but really happy to win. I had been out kite surfing with a friend when I took the picture of him.
“I enjoy photography as a hobby so I wll definitely be entering again this year.”
The title of Junior Amateur Photographer of the Year was awarded to Daisy Maddison, aged 17.
Her picture, ‘My granddad, Clifford, on Blue Anchor Beach prawning with his dog, Scrumpy’, won the junior ‘Favourite Landscape/Seascape category.
Daisy, who has finished her A-level examinations and is heading off to Newport University to study for a degree in documentary photography, said: “The picture is like my granddad through and through - he enjoys fishing and prawning on the beach, so I am pleased to have the picture of him doing what he loves.
“I would really like to thank my mum for driving me to all my photography classes at Bridgwater College.”
Category winner for ‘Promoting Your Local Business’ was Terry Aldred for his image of Chris Cracker’s Junk Shop, in Carhampton.
Shirley Turner won the ‘Your Favourite Event/Village’ category with a picture taken in Dunster of the Tour of Britain cycle race.
Bob Druitt, also a Westlabb director, said: “We had great fun setting the competition up and we have enjoyed seeing the marvellous results.
“However, we are now handing the competition over to West Somerset Council to run in future years.
“We hope it will grow in popularity and that local people will continue to give it their full support because the images submitted are fantastic, and really show the range and depth of local talent.
“I would also like to thank local press photographer Steve Guscott for helping us to judge the competition.”
Councillor Michael Downes, the council’s tourism portfolio holder, said: “I would like to thank Westlabb for setting up the competition and we are delighted to be taking on such a successful project.
“We have started some new categories and we are looking forward to the competition.”
To view the winning photographs or to find out about this year’s competition, go to
Anybody who is interested in entering the competition but feels they need to learn more about digital photography, can attend a Bridgwater College IT course held in its skills centre in Minehead, as well as on its main campus.
Courses include ICT for beginners to advanced, including digital cameras and enhancing photo courses. For more information call 01643 707008.
Digital photography courses are also available at the Exmoor Community Computer Centre, in Winsford.
More information can be obtained by calling the ECCC on 01643 851594, or from Somerset Skills and Learning by calling 01643 702986.
  • Our photograph taken at the awards ceremony shows (left to right) back - Carole Murphy, Aisha Knight, Phil Brown, Bob Druitt, Jon Summers, Nick Hosegood, Stephen Paul, and Angela Lamplough. Front - Councillor Michael Downes, Philip Sanderson, Terry Aldridge, and Daisy Maddison. Photo submitted.

Gas Safety Register ID now required for gas repairs

A CHANGE in the law affecting homes and businesses with plans to have gas appliances serviced, upgraded, or installed, is being highlighted by West Somerset Council
From tomorrow, the Government is introducing the Gas Safe Register to replace the familiar CORGI gas registration system.
The Gas Safe Register is the official industry stamp for gas safety under the new scheme which is overseen by the Health and Safety Executive, the organisation responsible for regulating gas safety in Great Britain.
The council’s housing portfolio holder, Councillor Kate Kravis, said: “The Government has changed the legislation, and from April 1 anybody carrying out gas work within the scope of the regulations must be on the Gas Safe Register.
“The new law states that if somebody other than a Gas Safe registered engineer undertakes regulated gas work in your home, you could be risking the safety of your family and your property.
“Many contractors now registered with Gas Safe may not have had the chance to update their vans and literature, which may still display the CORGI symbol.
“However, public safety is paramount and we urge people to make certain by asking engineers to show their new Gas Safe identity badges.”
The new register will provide enhanced levels of service and clearly written rules of registration.
There will also be new services and benefits designed to improve the registration scheme and promote gas safety.
Gas Safe registered engineers are listed at or details can be found by calling 0800 408 550.
West Somerset building control manager Jayne Hall said: “Building control is all about ensuring public safety in homes, offices, and other buildings.
“It is important that people know about this change in legislation and contact Gas Safe if necessary.
“If you are considering any building or renovation work on a property, West Somerset’s building control team would be happy to advise you on any aspects that may need building control regulations.
“Initial advice is free and can save homeowners problems later on, especially when coming to sell.”

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Rescue mission launched for snowbound Exmoor residents

RESIDENTS on Exmoor who remained cut off by heavy snow after almost a week were hoping to be rescued this evening.
The village of Upton (pictured), near Wimbleball Lake, saw nearly two feet of snow block roads and lanes, making them impassable.
The result was that a number of families living in remoter properties were unable to move from their homes.
One couple, Peter and Julie Bowker, who live nearly a mile from the village centre, resorted to calling the BBC today to highlight their predicament.
They said their cocker spaniel, Bramble, had broken a foot and needed to be taken to a veterinary surgery.
But they were snowbound in their home, which was about 1,000 feet above sea level and six miles even from the nearest shop.
Somerset County Council responded by saying it was sending a snow plough to the village and hoped to reach Mr and Mrs Bowker and other trapped families tonight.
Mr Bowker, aged 70, told the BBC the snow was so deep that only a tractor could reach them.
He said five other local families were also trapped in their homes by the snowfall.
Mr Bowker said: “I am looking out of my window and there is still no sign of the snow plough.
“We are hoping it is on its way.
“We live on the top of a hill and the snow has turned to thick ice and shows no sign of melting.
“The main road and the public highway are clear and most of the lanes in the area are clear but we are here and unable to get out.
“It all looks very beautiful but after a day or two you just want it to be cleared.
“Some friends took pity on us. They drove as far as they could and then donned skis and brought us some emergency provisions.”

Exmoor man held by police investigating Devon 'bilking' offences

POLICE in Devon today arrested an Exmoor man on charges of ‘bilking’ - which is when a customer leaves without paying for goods or services.
The 57-year-old, from Dulverton, was accused of filling his car with petrol and then driving off without paying at a number of garages across Devon.
He was arrested following a Tavistock police investigation into a series of bilking offences which occurred at supermarket filling stations in Devon.
On each occasion a Rover 600 car was filled with unleaded petrol and then driven off by a man without paying for the fuel.
Only supermarket filling stations were targeted and police said the culprit seemed to be aware of CCTV monitoring as he took care to conceal his face, while different registration numbers were used on the car.
Two offences happened in Tavistock exactly a year apart, on November 29, 2007, and November 29, 2008, while other offences occurred in Totnes, Exeter, and Barnstaple.
The arrested man was being held in custody at Exeter Police Station.

Youth Parliament debates school measures to help save the environment

PUPILS from schools across West Somerset have formed their own Youth Parliament to encourage the district council to be more involved in the activities of local youngsters.
The ‘Parliament’ met in the council chamber at the authority’s new offices in Williton and issues surrounding the environment proved to the main topics up for discussion.
The youngsters were welcomed by council chairman Councillor Eddie May before other councillors gave them a tour of the new offices to show them the building’s carbon-reducing and environmentally-friendly features.
The students made presentations to their fellow pupils and to councillors to explain what they were doing in their schools to help the environment, as well as their future plans.
Projects already running included the West Somerset Community College, Minehead, funding schoolchildren in Uganda to fence off an area of their school to grow tea.
The tea is then sent to DJ Miles and Co, in Minehead, which packages it for the college students to sell as Free Trade tea at the college.
Funds raised are returned to Uganda to enable the African students to build new facilities at their school.
Minehead Middle School had been clearing soft wood trees to improve a local habitat for wildlife, while Knights Templar School, in Watchet, had its own vegetable patch.
Danesfield School, Williton, had paper recycling bins, composting facilities, low energy light bulb,s and a school woodland, while Dunster First School recycled its paper and had made a number of bird feeders, helping it to receive an EcoSchool Bronze Award in 2008.
For the future, community college students were to investigate how they could recycle plastic bottles, while St Peter’s First School, Williton, was going to carry out a lunch box survey to find out how healthy the contents were, and then produce a leaflet to provide recycling and food ideas for lunch boxes.
Minehead Middle School was looking at improving its composting site, planting trees in the school grounds, and keeping chickens to help students to learn how to look after animals.
Knights Templar wanted to use rainwater to flush toilets, put up signs to ask students to turn off taps, and to increase the amount it recycled.
Dulverton Middle School was going to refurbish its pond and make it deeper to take fish, while Danesfield School wanted to achieve its EcoSchool Bronze Award, and Old Cleeve School was interested in holding a Fair Trade tasting event and encouraging pupils to use Fair Trade products.
Minehead First School was also organising a healthy eating day on April 1, with smoothies, dips, and soups, and promoting waste-free lunch boxes, while Dunster First School was delivering a campaign to encourage students to walk to school and their parents to car share on the school run.
Ecoschool status was high on the schools’ agenda.
Porlock First School already had its silver award, and other schools were working toward their silver and bronze awards.
They unanimously agreed that every school in West Somerset should aim to achieve a minimum of bronze award before the next ‘Parliament’ session.
Councillor May said: “The pupils were a real inspiration.
“The environmental future of the planet is in their hands and they are taking the matter seriously.
“They are very well-informed, and I think it is fair to say that we learned a lot from them on the day.
“Their knowledge and enthusiasm is very impressive, and they are a real credit to their schools.”

  • Our photograph shows Councillor Eddie May with some of the youngsters who attended the Youth Parliament. Photo submitted.

Help keep out New Year chill with council heating efficiency grant

RESIDENTS of West Somerset feeling the chill in the New Year are being urged to take advantage of a newly-launched scheme to help them with keeping their homes warm.
The Warm Streets programme is just one of a number of grant and discount schemes available to help residents to heat their homes more efficiently while saving money.
West Somerset Council housing portfolio holder Councillor Kate Kravis said: “We help fund Warm Streets because it directly benefits people who need to make savings and heat their homes effectively.
“Homeowners and privately-renting tenants can get free cavity wall and, in many cases, loft insulation if they are over the age of 70 or in receipt of a qualifying benefit.
“Qualifying benefits include disability living allowance and attendance allowance.
“Householders over 60 and families with children under 16 with low savings and income of less than £20,000 before tax may also be entitled to free measures through a council grant.
“Discounts often apply for households who do not qualify for free installation.
“It is an excellent scheme, and we hope people will ’phone to see if the team can help.”
Warm Streets manager Helen Richardson said: “Insulating your walls and roof can make a dramatic difference to both your fuel bills and the comfort of your home. An uninsulated house will lose approximately 35 per cent of its heat through its walls and 25 per cent of its heat straight through the roof.”
Other grants and discounts, such as Warm Front, Warm Front 300, and the Magic Boiler Scheme, are also available to help fund the installation of heating or repairs to existing systems.
Anybody who wants more information on any of the above schemes, or other energy-related matters, should contact the South West Energy Saving Trust advice centre on 0800 512 012.
Its team of advisers can help people access a range of local and national energy efficiency grants and discounts as well as offering free, impartial advice on how to reduce fuel bills through low-cost and no-cost measures.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Air rescue for Exmoor patient as rain and melting snow cause flooding

FLOODING was the new hazard for West Somerset today, as a result of melting snow combining with heavy overnight rain.
One victim of the change in weather conditions was a 76-year-old Exmoor man who had to be airlifted to hospital.
The man, who lives in Exford, complained of chest pains during the night but a road ambulance was unable to reach the village.
Instead, a Sea King air-sea rescue helicopter was sent from RAF Chivenor shortly after 1 am to pick up the patient and take him to the North Devon District Hospital, in Barnstaple.
Elsewhere, the B3227 was blocked by floodwater more than 20 inches deep in Norton Fitzwarren, between Manor Park and the A358.
The A358 was also partially blocked in boith directions by flooding at Combe Florey, between Watts Lane and New Road, near the railway bridges, while a fallen tree also partially blocked the A358 near Crowcombe.
Communities on a stretch of coast from Porlock all the way to Avonmouth were put on alert as strong winds and high tides threatened to overrun sea defences.
Rivers across the district were at risk of breaching their banks and the Environment Agency warned immediate action was needed in several areas to protect homes and businesses from likely floods.
In Watchet, the morning high tide was predicted to be more than 14 feet, occurring at the same time as pressure from strong northerly winds were likely to push the water higher.
However, coastguards in Swansea reassured residents that such conditions were ‘not exceptional’.
An Environment Agency flood alert was issued for Doniford Stream, affecting properties around Swill Bridge in particular, but also in Doniford itself.
Properties in Sampford Brett and upstream were also at risk from the Doniford Stream, including the Sampford Mill farm area.
An alert was also issued for the Monksilver Stream upstream of Williton.
A ‘flood watch’ - where flooding of low lying land and roads was expected – was issued for the Horner Water, Aller, Washford, Monksilver, and Doniford streams and their tributaries.
Overnight alerts were stood down and the ‘all clear’ given early this morning for the upper River Exe, between Exford and Exebridge, including The Green, and Chapel Street, in Exford, Winsford, Bridgetown, Chilly Bridge, the B3224 at Exford, and the B3223 at Exebridge.
Similarly, there was relief when the ‘all clear’ was sounded this morning for the River Barle at Dulverton, especially around Bridge Street, Pound Walk, Kemps Way, High Street, Northmoor Road, and the Exmoor House Caravan Park.
Also out of danger were areas along the Barle from Simonsbath to Brushford, and including Withypool, New Bridge, Exebridge, and the B3222 at Dulverton, plus the River Bray, at Challacombe, and the River Tone from Waterrow to Bishops Hull.
Separately, Lydeard St Lawrence Primary School was closed yesterday when the weather caused problems for people trying to park or turn vehicles on the site, while heating problems meant Wiveliscombe Primary School also had to shut.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Now Government should help pensioners, says Theo

AN urgent income tax cut to help pensioners has been called for by West Somerset Parliamentary candidate Theo Butt Philip (pictured).
The Liberal Democrat candidate last week said pensioners’ lost income from interest on savings due to Bank of England rate cuts was a price worth paying for the greater good of the country.
Now, Mr Butt Philip, of Wells, wants the Government to help pensioners who will lose income on their savings as a result of the record-low interest rate.
He said: “While the Bank of England was right to cut interest rates for the sake of the economy as a whole, the Government must take action to help those who will lose out.
“Pensioners who supplement their State pensions with personal savings will be badly hit by the latest interest rate cut.
“The Chancellor should raise the income tax personal allowance so that those on low incomes pay no income tax at all.
“This, combined with abolishing the unfair council tax, would provide much needed relief for those who are suffering.”

Hope Centre and Dreamscheme to feature in neighbourhood policing roadshow

TWO award-winning community initiatives in Minehead will take centre stage at a pioneering Somerset County Council and Avon and Somerset Police event this week.
The Hope Centre project and Dreamscheme are among successful schemes being showcased through a ‘Safer Stronger Neighbourhood’ roadshow.
The partnership event, organised by the county council and the police, is the first of its kind and aims to influence the future of neighbourhood policing.
It takes place on Thursday morning at Bridgwater and Albion Rugby Club, and will bring together police, local authority councillors and officers, and other agencies to share information about some of the most inspirational community work going on in Somerset.
The Hope Centre is run by volunteers through Minehead Baptist Church and provides drop-in facilities for hard to reach members of the local community, such as the homeless, alcoholics, and drug abusers.
It offers support, hot food and drinks, and help in avoiding reoffending, making medical appointments, and linking with other agencies.
Finance for the project has been provided by the county council via the Somerset West Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership.
It won an award last November for an outstanding contribution to reducing re-offending.
The Dreamscheme initiative, on the Seaward Way estate, enables young people to carry out community projects to earn points which are then exchanged for activities and trips.
The projects, such as community clean-ups and gardening, have helped engage young people on the estate and reduce incidents of anti-social behaviour.
Dreamscheme won the Neighbourhood Watch youth award and a commendation in the police’s children and young people awards for its contribution to the local community.
County council leader, Councillor Jill Shortland, and Avon and Somerset Police Authority chairman Dr Moira Hamlin, will give presentations at the roadshow and take part in a question and answer session to generate ideas on how to improve neighbourhood policy through partnership working.
The county’s community safety portfolio holder, Councillor Henry Hobhouse, said: “We are committed to providing safer communities for all our residents, through partnership work and prevention.
“This event will showcase some of the many excellent examples of inspirational projects which are having a real impact on improving community safety and reducing fear of crime.
“It is also an opportunity for people to contribute new ideas that could influence the future of neighbourhood policing.”
Head of the Somerset West police district, Chief Superintendent Sandy Padgett, said: “Neighbourhood policing has come along in leaps and bounds over the last year and I am really proud of how my teams have worked together with partners and communities to tackle local issues in a proactive and positive way.
“The ‘Safer Stronger Neighbourhood’ roadshow will allow us to showcase just some of this work and kick start a productive 2009.”

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Electricity is restored to 1,000 properties after two days

ELECTRICITY supplies were restored to more than 1,000 homes and businesses in the Wiveliscombe area last night.
Many of the properties had been without power for two days after heavy snowfalls brought down overhead cables.
However, some homes and businesses in the centre of Wiveliscombe were only receiving power from a portable generator and were not due to be switched back to mains electricity until this afternoon.
Western Power Distribution said engineers had been working around the clock tocarry out repairs to cables and other equipment damaged by snow and ice.
A spokesman said extra engineers were drafted in from other parts of the country to relieve those who hat had been working extra-long shifts in arduous conditions.
Poor road conditions and additional faults discovered when the original problem was fixed had contributed to the length of time taken to repair the grid.
All electricity supplies were back on by 9 pm last night.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Snow leaves hundreds without electricity for up to 24 hours

UP to 1,000 homes and businesses in the Wiveliscombe area were without electricity today because power cables had been brought down by the snow.
Western Power Distribution warned the difficult weather conditions could mean it would take all day before all repairs were fully carried out.
A spokesman said engineers were working flat out to reach the trouble spots and restore power as quickly as possible, and the company had even drafted in staff from other areas to help.
The power cuts followed on from the loss of electricity yesterday to hundreds of properties in Bishops Lydeard and the Roadwater area.
Across Somerset, the power company dealt with 500 incidents affecting 15,000 people yesterday, while today it was aware of about 100 incidents.
Elsewhere in West Somerset, the big freeze which followed yesterday’s heavy snowfalls turned many road into icerinks.
Near Williton, even a 4x4 vehicle found the conditions too treacherous and overturned on the A358 between Crowcombe and Bicknoller.
Earlier in the day, the road had been blocked by the snow at Flaxpool Hill.
Exford resident Jacquie Stares, aged 58, told the BBC she had two feet of snow in her front garden, although it was ‘thawing fas’.
She said: “It is so deep that it is going to take some time to thaw, but it is on its way.
“The village shop has been rationing supplies but everybody around here has been sensible and has stocked up on items like bread and Calor gas, just in case.”

Friday, 6 February 2009

Income cut for pensioners is price worth paying to save economy says Lib Dem candidate

PENSIONERS and others in West Somerset who had managed to put away money in savings would have to suffer a loss of income for the greater good of the country, the district’s Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate said today.
Theo Butt Philip (pictured) was speaking after yesterday’s Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee’s decision to cut interest rates to a record low of one per cent.
Mr Butt Philip, who lives in Wells, said: “The bank was right to cut interest rates.
“It is a desperate, but necessary, measure.
“The current economic situation is a very difficult one, and this cut will not help savers.
“However, for the sake of the economy as a whole, it is imperative that we get people spending again.
“The interest rate cut alone will not be enough to see us through these difficult times.
“The Government must do everything it can to increase the flow of credit.
“That means temporarily nationalising those banks which are already majority owned by the taxpayer and directing them to increase lending.
“Furthermore, the Government should bring forward investment in capital programmes and in projects to protect the environment.
“By building more social housing, insulating our current housing stock, and investing in railways, the Government could create jobs, stimulate the economy, and create assets which will be of real long-term value to the country.”

Chaos in the snow: Schools and roads close, electricity cut off, house catches fire ...

HEAVY overnight snowfalls brought more chaos to West Somerset today as schools closed, people were unable to travel to work, and many homes lost their electricity.
Up to five inches of snow fell across a wide area in just a few hours, with as much as 20 inches reported in the highest areas, while the windy conditions led to deep drifts.
Buses were cancelled and some roads became impassable while others remained extremely difficult to negotiate.
Electricity supplies were cut off for several hours in the Roadwater area and also in Bishops Lydeard after a series of power outages across Somerset and Devon left Western Power Distribution engineers struggling to keep on top of the situation.
The A396 Dunster to Dulverton road was closed because trees and power lines had been brought down by the weight of snow.
The A358 was impassable at Crowcombe, and the B3190 was closed between Sticklepath and Ralegh’s Cross.
Bus and coach services operated by First, Webberbus, Cooks Coaches, Quantock Motors, Berry’s, South West Coaches, and Stagecoach were all cancelled.
Somerset County Council said staff were working hard to maintain essential services, although many services had been disrupted.
Snow ploughs were on the roads working continuously, with 23 gritters with snow ploughs attached and six additional highway vehicles operating round-the-clock.
Farmers and contractors were also helping clear the roads - helping to shift a total of 1.4 million cubic metres of snow across the county since last night.
In areas of West Somerset where the road conditions were particularly bad, county council staff were using Somerset 4x4 Response - a group of volunteers who assist in emergencies - to visit people needing support.
The county council warned yesterday it had only a week’s supply of salt left, but it was expecting a delivery of 1,500 tonnes today to replenish stocks.
Libraries were closed in Dulverton, Minehead, Williton, Porlock, Wiveliscombe, and Bishops Lydeard, and all mobile libraries and vans were off the road today.
Waste collection crews were unable to reach their depots, meaning all household waste recycling centres were shut and waste or recycling collections were not taking place.
People expecting their collection today were requested to take their waste off the highway and to put it out again for collection on Monday instead.
A total of 184 out of Somerset’s 284 schools were closed today, including the following primary and first schools: Bishops Lydeard, Cannington, Crowcombe, Cutcombe, Cutcombe, Dunster, Exford, Knights Templar, in Watchet, Lydeard St Lawrence, Minehead, Spaxton, St Dubricius, in Porlock, Stogumber, Stogursey, Timberscombe, Wiveliscombe, and also Kingsmead School, in Wiveliscombe.
Minehead and Dulverton were two of only four middle schools in Somerset to stay open, while the West Somerset Community College, in Minehead, was one of just 10 secondary schools in the county to remain open.
The county council said essential services to vulnerable people were being maintained despite the weather conditions and staff were linking with home care agencies to ensure people could be contacted and provided with the necessary support.
Almost all adult social care and learning disability day centres were expected to be closed for the day, although the West Somerset Leisure Centre, in Minehead, was open.
County council staff who were unable to reach their normal place of work were advised to go to their nearest county council facility, where they could be deployed to help maintain essential services.
Both the Crown Court and Magistrates Court in Taunton were closed today because of the weather.
Police urged motorists not to make any non-essential trips anywhere in Somerset or Devon today as the weather had made driving conditions on many roads extremely dangerous.
Those drivers whose journeys were essential were advised to take ‘tremendous care’ and to allow plenty of time for the journey, as well as plenty of space between themselves and the vehicle in front because stopping distances would be greater.
Police said windscreens should be cleared of snow and ice, and the roof should also be cleared because snow could easily slip and obscure the windows.
Motorists were advised to stay on main roads, as they were likely to be easier to navigate, and to routinely test their brakes.
Essential items to carry on any journey included de-icer, food, a hot flask, a blanket, and appropriate footwear and clothing.
Anybody heading for the M5 was advised that a 30 mph speed limit had been imposed at 7.35 am today throughout Somerset.
As if the weather was not bad enough, one family in Rodhuish, near Withycombe, also suffered a fire in their home in the early hours of today which resulted in one person being taken to hospital
The blaze happened just before 6.30 am and when firemen arrived they found the ground floor was filled with smoke.
They used breathing apparatus to rescue one occupant of the property who was suffering from smoke inhalation and required oxygen before being taken by ambulance to Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton.
The fire was put out with one hose reel jet, and its cause was not yet known.
Forecasts suggested that temperatures would fall this evening, which could result in the snow and slush currently on the roads turning into ice and making them even more hazardous.
Avon and Somerset Police Deputy Chief Constable Rob Beckley said: “All the relevant agencies are working very closely together, supporting each other and putting into place plans to deal with the challenges posed by the wintry weather.
“Public safety is the paramount concern of all the agencies involved and we are doing everything we can to make local residents safe.
“But it is extremely important that local people play their part, too, and only take to the road over the next 24 hours at least, if it is absolutely necessary.
“If the temperatures drop as predicted, and the snow turns to ice, then even those roads which have been treated with salt and grit could become increasingly dangerous.
“Efforts are being made to treat as many roads as possible but clearly the priority must be main arterial routes, and there will undoubtedly be many routes which will not be treated.
“All the agencies within the ‘local resilience forum’ are in regular discussion, sharing resources and ensuring that all critical services are maintained.
“I am very grateful to the staff of all the relevant agencies for all their dedication and professionalism in working so hard to help protect the safety of local residents.
“I would advise people to keep monitoring weather forecasts during the course of the weekend for updates and developments.
“If, and only if, your journey is absolutely necessary, you should take every possible precaution to make it as safe as possible.
“The best possible advice we can give is quite simply do not travel at all during the next 24 hours.”
More sleet and snow was forecast to fall across Exmoor tomorrow as another weather front moved from the Atlantic toward the UK.
Taunton Deane Borough Council said its offices would close at 10 am today, but neighbouring Sedgemoor District Council said more than half of its staff had been able to turn up for work and its offices would stay open until 5 pm.
  • Our photographs show (TOP) snow-covered cars and (BELOW) one of the Western Power Distribution helicopters used for spotting downed electricity cables and transporting engineers to the scene. Photos submitted.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Weather warning for West Somerset as more snow on way tonight

ANOTHER weather warning for West Somerset has been issued by the Met Office as two-and-a-half inches of snow was expected to fall on Exmoor tonight.
People living in some of the highest areas were likely to receive even heavier snowfalls.
It was also forecast to be a windy night with gusts of up to 25 mph in some areas, which would make the air feel even colder.
Met Office spokeswoman Sarah Holland said most of the rest of the Westcountry was likely to escape the worst of the winter weather, and slightly warmer temperatures should move in overnight.
She said: “If people are out and about, they should still take extreme care.”
Earlier this week, there was chaos on the area’s roads with a string of minor accidents, people unable to travel to work, bus and coach runs cancelled, and schools closed in Stogumber, Crowcombe, and Milverton.

'Too many Vicky Pollards in Somerset' say Conservatives

SOMERSET has more ‘Vicky Pollard’ (pictured) young people than almost anywhere else in the country, it has been revealed.
The ‘Little Britain’ television comedy character typifies NEETs - young people ‘Not in Employment, Education or Training’.
Now, Government figures have shown in Somerset the number of NEETS - or Vicky Pollards – rose by 167 per cent between 2003 and 2007, the third-highest county increase in the country.
Nationally, the increase in NEETS was just 12 per cent during the same period.
Somerset County Council Conservative group leader Councillor Ken Maddock said there was no sign on the horizon of any improvement.
Councillor Maddock said: “These figures show there is a problem facing young people nationwide.
“But it is much, much worse in Somerset.
“And that is before we entered the recession.
“Now that the boom has turned to bust, we will pay a huge price for failing to fix the roof when the sun was shining.
“The county council needs to look urgently at measures to help these young people.
“If we fail, we shall be wasting the talents of the next generation.
Somerset cannot afford to let that happen.”

£60 on every Somerset council tax bill 'pays for Lib Dem borrowing'

HIGH-spending Somerset County Council was today criticised for locking itself into uncompetitive borrowing rates for years to come - just as the Bank of England cut rates to their lowest ever level.
The Liberal Democrat-run county has long-term high interest rates on more than £300 million which it has borrowed to fund its spending spree in recent years.
The average rate was about 4.3 per cent - which previously looked good, but not with a base rate now down to just one per cent.
Conservative group finance spokesman Councillor David Huxtable (pictured) said the council could now borrow at rates of less than one per cent.
Councillor Huxtable said: “We have been warning the Lib Dem administration about their huge borrowing and now it has come back to bite them.
“The difference in rates could mean the council paying up to £11 million over the odds this year alone.
“This would put an extra £60 on the council tax for every hard working family in Somerset.”
Somerset Conservative group leader Councillor Ken Maddock said: “The Lib Dems have slipped up big time here.
“They have trebled borrowing in the last six years. Who do they think they are - Gordon Brown?
“We need to act like a responsible council - not like a dodgy hedge fund.
“The Conservatives would reduce Somerset’s dependence on debt and borrow less.
“This is as important to a county council as it is to everybody’s personal finances.”

LETTERS: Tips for dog owners to save costs in recession

Dear Editor - In recent weeks, Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, has been very saddened to hear of a number of instances in which people are struggling with the costs of owning a dog, especially when the pet needs veterinary treatment.
Sadly, we have seen an increase in the number of dogs needing to be re-homed because people have lost their jobs and homes in the credit crunch.
Dogs Trust recognises how important dogs are to people’s lives and appreciates that many are struggling to keep them.
We are keen to stress that owning a dog does not have to be expensive and there are many ways that you can keep the cost of ownership down including:

  • Bulk buying food for your dog
  • Feeding dry biscuits rather than tinned food
  • Maintaining pet insurance premiums if you can - insurance may seem expensive, but potential veterinary fees will be more so

For dog owners forced to move into rented accommodation, Dogs Trust will also be launching a ‘Lets with Pets’ campaign this spring to encourage landlords and letting agents to accept tenants with pets.
Dogs Trust is always available to offer advice and assistance where it can.
Anybody struggling to care for their dog in the current economic climate should contact us at 020 7837 0006.

Clarissa Baldwin
Chief executive officer
Dogs Trust
17 Wakley Street

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

LETTERS: Hunting Act 'still alive' despite High Court ruling

Dear Editor - Contrary to what the Countryside Alliance would like us to believe, today’s judgment on the Hunting Act from the High Court is in fact a very positive step forward in ensuring illegal hunters are brought to justice.
Instead of being a ‘new blow to the Hunting Act’, this will clarify the law and clear up any confusion around what is legal hunting and what is illegal hunting.
There is absolutely no suggestion anywhere in the judgment that the Act is unenforceable.
More importantly, this will clear the way for a backlog of cases to pass through the courts which will no doubt see the number of prosecutions rise even further.
The League has always believed the law to be sound and effective and with any law the problem is with enforcement not with the law itself.
Testament to this is the fact nearly 100 MPs have signed a new Early Day Motion calling for better enforcement of the Hunting Act.
Seventy five per cent of the people in the UK do not want to see a return to cruelty when killing wild animals for fun was legal.
It is time the Countryside Alliance et al accepted this and stopped complaining about a law which prevents them enjoying their so-called sport.

Douglas Batchelor
Chief Executive
League Against Cruel Sports
New Sparling House
Holloway Hill


'Nail in coffin' of hunting ban as foxhunter wins High Court ruling

TONY Wright, the first huntsman to be prosecuted under the Hunting Act, today won a High Court ruling which was immediately hailed as a new blow to the Labour Government’s anti-hunting legislation.
The two judges found in favour of Mr Wright (pictured) and rejected an appeal by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), meaning the prosecution of many Hunting Act offences will now be more difficult.
The League Against Cruel Sports brought a private prosecution against Mr Wright after he led out the Exmoor Foxhounds in April, 2005, just a few weeks after the Act came into force.
He was alleged to have signalled the hounds to pursue two foxes at Drybridge, on the Devon side of the county boundary, twice allowing them a ‘prolonged period of pursuit’.
Under the law, only flushing out foxes to be shot is still legal.
Mr Wright, now aged 54, of Simonsbath, was convicted in Barnstaple Magistrates Court in August, 2006, and was fined £500 and ordered to pay £250 costs.
However, the conviction was overturned by in Exeter Crown Court in November, 2007.
Now, a CPS appeal against his acquittal has been lost in the High Court.
The CPS argued it should have been for Mr Wright to prove that he had been hunting legally, and that ‘hunting a mammal’ includes ‘searching’ for it.
After the case, Mr Wright said he was relieved it was now all over and he hoped the case had put one of the final nails in the coffin of the Hunting Act.
He said: “This prosecution has now dragged on for over three years and during that time I have been living under the threat of a criminal conviction.
“If this judgment, though, makes it less likely that other people will face the sort of vindictive prosecution that I have been through, then it has all been worth it.”
Countryside Alliance chief executive Simon Hart said: “Even before today’s judgment only five people connected to hunts have been convicted of any offence since the Act came into force.
“The CPS argued in court that if it lost this appeal ‘prosecutions under the 2004 Act would rarely be viable’, so there should now be even fewer prosecutions.
“The Hunting Act is an increasingly pointless piece of legislation that offered little and has achieved less.
“Politicians of all parties are coming to realise that it has failed and it is now a question of when, not if, the Hunting Act is repealed.”
The ruling means those accused of breaching the hunt ban will be innocent until proven guilty, with the burden of proof lying with those bringing a prosecution.
Legal expert Tim Hayden, chairman of Taunton law firm Clarke Willmott, said: “This decision will reduce the risk of people being convicted where they are unable to recall or to prove the events that may have happened many months earlier.
“I would expect a reduction in the number of such cases being brought before the courts.”

Refuse collectors beat the snow in West Somerset

REFUSE and recycling services in West Somerset were running almost as normal this week, despite the heavy snowfalls.
Somerset Waste Partnership said it was fortunate that collections in the more rural areas, such as on the Quantock Hills and on Exmoor, were not scheduled until later in the week.
Dustbin lorries had instead been able to concentrate on the urban areas, where it was easier to cope with the weather conditions.
However, the household waste recycling centres in Minehead and Dulverton were both closed yesterday as staff had difficulty in travelling to work.
The partnership’s strategy and communications leader David Mansell said yesterday: “There has been a little bit of disruption, mostly in the rural areas.
“We are going to try and catch up as quickly as we can, which could include working over the weekend, but that obviously depends on how the weather turns out.”
Elesewhere in Somerset, there was widespread disruption as refuse and recycling lorries were taken off the roads, particularly in rural areas, because of the danger of accidents.
In West Somersetr, the waste partnership’s collection fleet was fully back on the road again this morning and was focussed on today’s scheduled rounds before looking to tackle the backlog later.
Extra vehicles, such as green waste lorries, had already started on the task of clearing the backlog.
The partnership was advising residents to leave out their refuse containers and it would try to clear them as soon as possible.
The Minehead and Dulverton household waste recycling centres had also reopened today.
However, the partnership warned some garden waste might not be collected this week as the vehicles had been deployed to help catch up on missed refuse collections.
Garden waste would be collected as normal in the next cycle.
Anybody who experiences serious problems because of the deferred garden waste collections should contact West Somerset Council by calling 01643 703704.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Fire crews discover gas cylinder in blazing garden shed

THE potential danger of an exploding gas cylinder was faced by fire and rescue crews who attended a blaze in a garden shed in Watchet this evening.
The seemingly minor incident is Brendon Road turned into a more major alert when a Calor gas cylinder was discovered inside the shed.
Fire crews attended the incident from Williton, Minehead, and Taunton just before 5 pm.
After putting out the blaze, they remained on scene for some time, using two ground monitors.

Shoot owners and opponents set for parish council 'showdown'

A ‘SHOWDOWN’ which had been anticipated tomorrow between residents of Chipstable and the owners of a pheasant shoot has been delayed because of bad weather.
Both sides were due to put their viewpoint to parish councillors holding their bi-monthly monthly meeting in Waterrow Village Hall (pictured).
However, with the heavy snowfalls of the past 48 hours and more forecast, the council has now postponed the meeting until Tuesday, February 10.
The meeting, to be chaired by Councillor David Grandfield, will start at 7.30 pm and anybody is entitled to attend.
Residents have been angered and become upset in recent months because they claim the Chipstable shoot has been responsible for bringing down telephone lines resulting in some properties being left without a service for up to four days.
However, the shoot has refused to take any responsibility for the problem or make an offer to pay towards the damage.
Residents have also complained that local roads were frequently blocked by the shoot and that horses and riders were frightened by the noise of the guns.
The complaints will be aired at the parish council meeting, when representatives of the shoot are expected to attend, after which councillors are likely decide on any appropriate action to take.
  • The council also has a vacancy for a parish tree warden and is urgently seeking volunteers to join its community Speedwatch team.
    The tree warden job would include consultation on tree felling and attending various seminars and information days.
    Training for the Speedwatch team is provided by Avon and Somerset Police and involves use of a mobile radar gun to spot speeding motorists and report them to the police.
  • Anybody interested in either role should contact the parish clerk, Sheila Newman by calling 01398 361346.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Food festival support organisation winding down after decade of success

THE organisation behind the Exmoor Food Festival and the emergence of Somerset as the number one local food county in the country is winding down its affairs after a decade of successful work.
Somerset Food Links has been offering support and advice to a growing number of small start-up food and drink producers since it was formed in 1999.
Now, the not-for-profit company will become dormant at the end of the financial year.
However, the infrastructure and intellectual assets of Somerset Food Links could be utilised by the food and drink sector if new funding streams became available.
The company has created a rich legacy of food and drink events and resources which stretch from one end of the county to the other.
Its achievements include setting up Somerset Farmers Markets Ltd, which now runs 16 farmers markets each month, in communities across the county. It also founded the annual food festivals on Exmoor, the Quantock Hills, in the Mendips, on the Blackdown Hills, and in South Somerset, as well as being integral in the formation of the Wellington Food Town project.
Other huge success stories for Somerset Food Links include:
Somerset Community Food, a charity educating people about growing and cooking food
Levels’ Best, now a premier landscape brand, for marketing quality food and drink produced from the Somerset Levels and Moors
Somerset Local Food Direct, a web-based food and drink home delivery service offering produce from more than 80 local producers
Somerset Food Links’ work has mainly been project based with an aim of creating sustainable organisations.
All of these enterprises are independent and are run by their own boards or members.
The three remaining employees of Somerset Food Links will be pursuing other interests.
Somerset Food Links managing director Andrew Moore said the decision to wind down the operation had been taken reluctantly and with sadness, but the board recognised the organisation needed a new focus and would not be able to achieve this in the current economic climate.
Mr Moore said he was extremely proud of Somerset Food Links past and present staff who were largely responsible for the organisation’s achievements.
He said: “There has been an enormous amount of goodwill from fellow food and drink producers, who we have all enjoyed working with, and have helped form the embryo of a network of businesses that produce some of the best products in the country.
“We are also very grateful to all the other individuals and organisations who have contributed to Somerset Food Links.
“In particular, we are grateful for the grant funds and sponsorship without which we would not have been able to achieve our outputs.
“They include councillors and officers of Somerset County Council, the five district councils in Somerset, Natural England, The National Trust, and in particular Exmoor National Park Authority, which facilitated much important work on Exmoor.”
Somerset Food Links deputy director, Elaine Spencer-White said: “A measure of the resounding success of Somerset Food Links is the fact that during our 10 years we have seen the number of recognised food and drink producers in Somerset more than double.
“Somerset’s food and drink producers produce a fantastic range of goods that is now more easily available to residents, which creates both direct and indirect employment as well as a healthier population.
“However, there is still much work which could be done if the funding was available as the food and drink sector is never static and there is still growth to be achieved and better infrastructure to be developed.
“If you look at the bigger picture of climate change and rising food prices around the world, then you appreciate that local food supplies need to be nurtured.
“They can play a substantial role in the economy of a rural county like Somerset by providing employment, improving the health of the population, and reducing food miles, which is good for the environment.”

Somerset was judged by UKTV Food to be the county with the greatest number of local food producers in 2007.

  • Our photograph shows Somerset Food Links deputy director Elaine Spencer-White. Photo submitted.

Breakfast saved as Quaywest axes local programmes

WEST Somerset’s commercial radio station Quaywest FM has been allowed to axe all but its breakfast programme from locally-produced broadcasts.
The Watchet-based station was saved last year from administration by a buy-out by Bath businessman Paul Roberts.
Now, it has received permission from broadcast regulator Ofcom to share 20 hours’ a day of programming with its sister Quaywest station in Bridgwater.
Although the Watchet and Bridgwater stations were required to provide at least 10 hours a day of local programming, changes to the format agreed by Ofcom mean six of the hours can be shared.
Mr Roberts told Ofcom: “We believe that the move will not only be imperceptible to the local market place, but will also allow us to provide a better quality of service through the economies of scale that this change would allow.
“It will also allow the services to compete more effectively in the local market place.”
A statement from Ofcom said: “There is a clear logic in allowing these two small stations to create regional broadcasting outside breakfast.
“They have been linked through their history and the regionalisation of the drivetime show is most unlikely to create a substantial change to the character of service of either station, or become problematic for listeners.”

Friday, 30 January 2009

Theo blasts Government for refusing crisis loans to hard-up families

THE Government has been criticised for refusing crisis loans to thousands of people, many believed to be local to West Somerset.
It follows the discovery the Liberal Democrats that applications for the loans, aimed at low-income families and pensioners unable to obtain credit elsewhere, rose by more than a third last year to 117,760.
But in the Westcountry, 35,200 people had their application turned down by the Government last year.
The figures come at a time when the Government has been encouraging banks to increase lending.
Theo Butt Philip (pictured), Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Bridgwater and West Somerset said: “People who apply for crisis loans are desperate and have nowhere else to turn, yet too often they get turned away when they need to get help.
“It is very worrying that with the recession hitting the South West hard, even more people will turn to the Government for help.
“Yet, the evidence for the past year is that more and more people will be turned away by Government-run JobCentre Plus.
“At a time when the Government is demanding that the banks lend more, here we have the Government itself doing the opposite.
“The Government has got to practice what it preaches to the banks and make more cash available to families through these loans.”

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Man injured as A39 crash causes traffic delays

A MAN was taken to hospital this evening after being trapped in a three-vehicle crash on the A39 at Cannington.
He was cut free from the wreckage of his vehicle by fire and rescue crews who removed the roof of the vehicle using road rescue equipment.
The collision happened in Main Road, near the Tincknell Mitsubishi dealership and Bridgwater Mowers, and the casualty’s car ended up in a roadside hedge.
Paramedics then used a spinal board to out the injured man in an ambulance and take him to Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton.
One lane of the road was blocked and queues of traffic travelling toward Bridgwater built up during more than two hours while the rescue was carried out and the highway cleared after the accident, which happened shortly before 5 pm.
A fire appliance from Bridgwater and a rescue tender from Taunton attended the incident.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Sam's three-year marathon quest to support charity

YOUNG chef Sam Sheasby has signed up for not one, but three incredible challenges to raise funds for Marie Curie Cancer Care in Somerset.
Sam, aged 23, who lives in Minehead, works in a residential care home which is supporting him on his first challenge by enabling him to have two weeks off work in October to take part in the Kosice Marathon, Slovakia.
He will cycle more than 1,200 miles to France, where he will also run the Reims Marathon.
Sam will be covering his own event costs with the help of private company sponsorships so that money he raises can go directly towards nursing care in Somerset.
The £5,000 Sam hopes to raise for his marathon-to-marathon cycle challenge in 2009 will be acquired from a raffle he plans to hold in March, and sponsorship from family, friends, and colleagues.
Sam hopes to continue to fund-raise during the following two years with his second and third challenges.
Sam’s 2010 efforts will see him take on the Marathon de Sables, a running event across the Sahara desert, during which he will run the equivalent of five full marathons in as many days in exhausting heat.
It sounds impossible, but Sam intends to then go one step further and take on the extreme Polar Challenge in 2011, an event previously completed by world famous explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who lives on Exmoor and who has raised more than £10 million for charities.
Sir Ranulph, who is supporting Sam on his forthcoming challenges, said: “As an adventurer I know how hard it is not only to plan and complete extreme challenge events but also to try to raise the much needed funds for Marie Curie Cancer Care, my own chosen charity.
“I fully support Sam in all that he is trying to achieve through his running events and Polar expedition for this very worth while cause, and I wish him all the best”
Sam chose to raise funds for Marie Curie because his late grandfather was nursed by the charity, and this enabled him to pass away in his own home.
All monies raised during Sam’s three-year campaign will be kept locally to provide nursing care to others in the community who have terminal cancer and other life-limiting illnesses.
Sam said: “I am excited about all three challenges, but am taking each event and its specific training one step at a time.
“I will be getting married in February and starting a new college course after my return from the Marathon 2 Marathon challenge, so life could not be busier.
“I am a local lad, having grown up in Porlock before moving to Minehead two years ago.
“I am hoping the community will support my fund-raising efforts for Marie Curie Cancer Care.”
Anybody who wants to support Sam or to give a raffle prize should call Amy Llewellyn in the Marie Curie Somerset fund-raising office on 01460 271230 or visit Sam’s online sponsor page at

Help available for recession victims and council tax strugglers

PEOPLE in need of benefits or who are who are having problems meeting council tax payments are being urged to contact West Somerset Council for help.
The council’s finance portfolio holder, Councillor Doug Ross, said: “The economic crisis is having an effect on the local economy and some jobs have already been lost.
“Some businesses are also cutting employees’ hours to try to reduce operating costs.
“We appreciate that people may be struggling to meet payments, and that includes council tax bills.
“If this is the case, benefits may be available and we actively encourage local people to get in contact to see if we can help.
“We would rather work with people who are struggling to pay, so we can advise people on what benefits may be available.
“We can also help people who are living alone to claim the single person’s council tax discount, which reduces their bills by 25 per cent.”
Councils are obliged to take all necessary steps to recover unpaid council tax to support essential services, and this includes applying to the magistrates’ court for liability orders to enforce recovery.
“We would rather avoid court proceedings, and would always try first to work with people who are struggling to pay, as well as during any proceedings.
“We know more people than usual are experiencing changes in circumstances and we want to help if we can.
“We can also supply details of organisations that specialise in providing free, confidential advice for people in debt or facing financial difficulties.”
These organisations include:
  • Adviceguide, an on-line CAB service providing practical, up-to-date information on a wide range of topics, including benefits housing, debt and tax issues -
  • West Somerset Advice Bureau, Market House Lane, Minehead - 01643 704624
    Consumer Credit Counselling Service, which gives a wide range of free debt advice – freephone 0800 138 1111 or visit
  • National Debtline, for free, confidential and independent advice on debt issues – 0808 808 4000 or visit
  • Payplan, the UK's largest provider of free debt solutions, including free debt management plans and IVAs - freephone: 0800 917 7823 or visit
  • UK Insolvency Helpline, for free, confidential, independent debt information – 0808 074 6918 or visit
The district council can be contacted by calling 01643 703704 for people to find out if they are eligible for benefits or to seek guidance if they are having problems paying council tax bills.

Chance to have your say on future housing strategy

RESIDENTS of West Somerset are being invited to have their say on future housing needs across the district.
West Somerset Council will hold a public consultation in Minehead Methodist Church on Wednesday, February 4, between 9.30 am and 12.30 pm.
The council’s portfolio holder for housing, Councillor Kate Kravis said: “We are developing a new housing strategy and we want to make sure that it draws on the views of a wide range of people living in West Somerset.
“Residents have valuable knowledge on the reality of the local housing market and of their own housing needs.
“We are urging as many people as possible to speak to us, so we can ensure the views of people of all ages and backgrounds are taken into account during the development of the plan.”
The council hopes to explore what types of housing are needed, how it can extend the choice of housing available, and how it can help young people buy and rent homes.
It will also review how it can help local people keep their homes in good repair, help homeowners keep their homes through the recession, and look at the needs of the district’s older population.
Councillor Kravis said: “The council supports sustainable development across the district and we would like to encourage more eco-friendly initiatives so that future housing stock is not completely dependent on fossil fuels where this is possible and practical.
“We have already examined a lot of existing information and held discussions with a number of organisations involved with housing and related services.
“However, we value local residents’ knowledge and we would like to draw on their housing experience to make sure the housing strategy meets the needs of all people, and helps us to develop healthy sustainable communities.”

Hospital teddy bear fund-raising supports moon bears charity

STAFF in Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, have helped to raise almost £500 to save moon bears from a life of caged torment on bear farms in Asia.
The money has gone to the charity Moon Bear Rescue, which works to rescue farmed bears in China and give them a better quality of life.
The hospital’s speech and language therapy team in partnership with Moon Bear Rescue Somerset organised a teddy bear picnic and auction in December.
Staff and friends gave teddy bears and made cakes to be auctioned to raise money for the Asiatic moon bears.
Esther Corrick, deputy head of Musgrove’s speech and language therapy team, said: “We were all thrilled at the outcome of the auction and cake sale as we raised £473.
“This money will go to Moon Bear Rescue to help them in their campaign against bear farming in China and Vietnam.
“Thank you to everybody who was so generous with their time, enthusiasm, and support.”
Anybody who would like to become involved in the Somerset support group should call Lee Gibbons on 01278 741648.
More information about Animal Asia Foundation, which the group supports, is available on website
  • Our photograph shows (left to right) back row - Karen Dockings, Anne Baker, Lee Gibbins, and Rick Tillet; and, front - Laura Codrington, Helen Bernades, and Esther Corrick. Photo submitted.

Shock as Somerset kebabs are labelled among unhealthiest in UK

DONER kebabs from Somerset have been found to be among the unhealthiest in the whole of the country.
Three of the top 10’ unhealthiest doner kebabs’ in the UK came from Somerset during a national food testing exercise.
Somerset County Council’s trading standards Team took part in the exercise, but it was not known if any of the kebabs tested were from West Somerset as the identities of the kebab houses remained confidential.
Despite the three kebabs in the top 10 being described as ‘small’, they had more calorie content than medium and large kebabs from other parts of the country.
The average kebab in Somerset was found to contain 124 per cent of the recommended daily in take of salt and 216 per cent of the recommended daily intake of saturated fats.
One of the offending ‘small’ Somerset kebabs contained 87 per cent of a woman’s recommended daily intake of calories.
It also contained 316 per cent of the recommended daily intake of saturated fats and 167 per cent of the recommended daily intake of salt.
Somerset trading standards group manager Howard Burnett said: “We carry out checks on many different food products to check their quality, content, and the correct labelling.
“It is important people know exactly what they are eating so they can make informed choices about enjoying a healthy and controlled diet.”
County council community safety portfolio holder Councillor Henry Hobhouse said: “The results of these checks are quite shocking.
“All the kebabs tested in Somerset were described as small, yet we had some of the worst results in the country.
“We will be working with the Local Authority Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services and Somerset businesses to develop guidance aimed at improving the labelling of products used by kebab producers so they are aware of what they are selling.”

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Students' views help to shape future of district economy

HUNDREDS of young people have been having their say on the future shape of West Somerset by taking part in a major consultation on the district’s economy.
About 240 sixth form students gave their views to the experts working on West Somerset Council’s long-term economic ‘masterplan’ at a series of workshops held yesterday.
The event at West Somerset Community College, Minehead, was organised by the council and consultancy EKOS, which is developing the plan for the authority.
It is the first time young people have been consulted on the plan in this way.
Last year, the council asked EKOS to develop a 15-year strategy to help regenerate the local economy, retaining and creating jobs in West Somerset and supporting enterprise, training, tourism, and business growth.
EKOS director Adrian Dawson said: “We have been speaking to businesses, community groups, and many other people with an interest in the long-term future of West Somerset.
“It was important to get the views of the young people too, as they will be in work or training in the future and will be directly affected by economic developments in West Somerset over the next 15 years.
“It is vital for them that we get this right, and that is why we have sought their views now.”
The consultation event saw young people take part in two workshops led by EKOS, Somerset Rural Youth Project, and local councillors.
Their views will be used by EKOS to develop an action plan which will form part of the council’s strategy.
The plan’s action will be funded by the Government’s Working Neighbourhoods Fund, the South West Regional Development Agency, European Union funds, and other sources.
The college’s head of sixth form, Jerry Hardingham, said: “This event was well attended and the students found it extremely worthwhile.
“They contributed a number of excellent and imaginative ideas with real enthusiasm.
“They were a real credit to the college.
“Young people are the future of West Somerset, and the best way to ensure that the council’s plans meet their needs is to seek their views now.
“I am pleased that young people have been given the chance to be included in this important consultation.”
Council leader Councillor Keith Ross said: “We aim to create an economy that serves all of our residents and provides high quality, sustainable employment and business opportunities.
“Young people are key to maintaining sustainable communities, so we need to know what economic opportunities we should be providing to help keep our communities healthy, as well as boost the district’s future business prospects.
“This event has played an important part in developing our strategy, and I would like to thank the students and teachers for their enthusiasm and ideas, and for giving us a valuable insight into their aspirations for West Somerset’s economic future.”
The council’s economic development strategy is due to be finalised in March.
Our photograph shows Councillor Keith Ross (right) with college sixth form head Jerry Hardingham. Photo submitted.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Police make urgent appeal to trace missing pensioner

AN urgent appeal was made by police today for people in West Somerset to help find a Westcountry pensioner who has gone missing from a care home.
Police said they were becoming increasingly concerned for the welfare of Isabel Macdonald (pictured), aged 71.
She was last seen leaving her care home in Lindridge Road, Torquay, South Devon at 8.30 am on Saturday.
Now, Avon and Somerset Constabulary has circulated an appeal on behalf of the Devon and Cornwall force in an effort to widen the search for Mrs Macdonald.
She was described as white, 5 ft 2 in tall, of slight build, with wavy grey hair.
Mrs Macdonald was last seen wearing a light coloured grey mac and carrying a shoulder bag.
She walks with the aid of a stick.
Anybody who has had a sighting of Mrs Macdonald, or has any information as to her whereabouts, should contact Devon and Cornwall Police by calling 08452 777444 and quoting log number 837 24/01/09.

Minehead 'tidal reef' fails to make Government shortlist for Severn estuary renewable energy plans

A SHORTLIST of five schemes for creating renewable energy with tidal power in the Bristol Channel has been drawn up by the Government - but it does not include a proposed ‘tidal reef’ between Minehead and the Welsh coast.
Instead, a controversial Severn Barrage from Weston-super-Mare to Cardiff heads the shortlist, on which the Government will now consult during the next three months.
Also included on the preferred list was a Bridgwater Bay Lagoon scheme next to Hinkley Point nuclear power station.
Lagoons are radical new proposals which would impound a section of the estuary without damming it.
The scheme has been proposed off the shoreline between a location east of Hinkley Point and Weston-super-Mare.
It would cost an estimated £3.8 billion to construct and could generate 1.36 gigawatts of electricity per year, or nearly one per cent of the UK's total demand, while saving 1.1MT of CO² emissions.
The Government said it would be the best-perfoming of the Bristol Channel lagoon proposals in terms of cost of energy.
The shortlist was announced today by Energy Secretary Ed Miliband following a 12-month Government consultation on a longlist of 10 options for producing electricity from the tidal range of the Severn.
The longlist included a 12-mile tidal reef idea put forward by Cornish engineers Joseph Evans and Sons Ltd which would run from Minehead to Aberthaw.
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 was an alternative favoured by campaign group Stop the Barrage NOW, which has expressed fears a barrage would devastate the estuary’s environment and wildlife.
However, the Government said tidal reef technology was not yet ready, although it could be revisited before any final decision was taken.
The Cardiff-Weston Barrage option would dam the estuary from Brean Down, near Weston-super-Mare to Lavernock Point, near Cardiff.
It would cost an estimated £20.9 billion but would have a capacity of more than 8.6 gigawatts, meeting nearly five per cent of the UK’s electricity demand.
The three other shortlisted schemes were:
Shoots Barrage at a narrower point further upstream, spanning the estuary near English Stones, which would produce 1.05 gigawatts – about equal to a large fossil fuel plant.
Beachley Barrage - the smallest barrage on the shortlist - just above the Wye River, generating 625 megawatts.
Fleming Lagoon, an impoundment off the Welsh shoreline between Newport and the Severn road crossings which could also generate 1.36 gigawatts.
Mr Miliband said: “The five schemes shortlisted today are what we believe can be feasible, but this does not mean we have lost sight of others.”
He said public consultation would continue on all 10 long and shortlisted schemes until April 23.
Mr Miliband said: “Fighting climate change is the biggest long-term challenge we face and we must look to use the UK’s own natural resources to generate clean, green electricity.
“The Severn estuary has massive potential to help achieve our climate change and renewable energy targets.
“We want to see how that potential compares against the other options for meeting our goals.
“The largest proposal to harness the power of the tides on the shortlist could save as much carbon dioxide as all the residential emissions from Wales.”

  • Our images show (TOP) a map of the 10 longlist schemes and (BELOW) the sluice and turbine caissons of a lagoon. Images submitted.