Saturday, 10 January 2009

New woman takes the helm for constituency's Lib Dems

FORMER Sedgemoor district councillor Marilyn Wallace (pictured) has taken over as chairman of Bridgwater and West Somerset constituency Liberal Democrats.
Mrs Wallace succeeds Janice Beasley, who lives in Cannington and who had been chairman for the past three years.
She was elected at the branch’s annual meeting of Bridgwater and West Somerset LibDems held in Nether Stowey.
Mrs Wallace, who lives in Chedzoy, said: “This will be an exciting and busy year as there will be both county council and European elections.
“We must also be prepared for a General Election when it comes.
“I am looking forward to working with our Parliamentary candidate Theo Butt Philip, our members, and supporters, and hope to encourage new people to join us in our social and campaigning events.”
Mr Butt Philip said: “Marilyn has been involved in the Lib Dems locally for many years as both an activist and a district councillor.
“Her experience will be invaluable.
“I would also like to pay tribute to Janice Beasley for the sterling work she has done as chairman for the last year.
“She has been a great source of strength and support to me and to the whole of the Bridgwater and West Somerset Liberal Democrats.”

Friday, 9 January 2009

Iceland moves to turn Woolworths into frozen food store

THE now-closed Woolworths store in Minehead is to be reopened as a branch of the Iceland frozen food chain.
The property, in The Avenue, is among 51 former Woolworths stores which are being bought nationwide by Iceland, and one of only two in Somerset, the other being in Frome.
Iceland said it planned to create 2,500 new jobs across the country – as against the 27,000 jobs which were lost when the last of 807 Woolworths stores was shut on Tuesday.
The Minehead Woolworths was in the final batch of stores which remained open until the very end.
Woolworths had traded in Minehead since 1937 and had nearly 30 staff at the premises, some of whom had worked there for more than 20 years.
The staff are understood to have been offered an opportunity to move across to Iceland as their new employer.
An Iceland spokesman said: “We are confident we can help to support the local community in these towns who have lost a major High Street retailer in Woolworths.”
Woolworths went into administration with debts of £385 million in November and administrators Deloite were unable to find a buyer to take over the chain.
Iceland, which already has 682 stores, previously offered to buy all of the Woolworths chain last summer but the bid was rejected as ‘unacceptable’.
The frozen food retail business was founded in 1970 and was taken over by a consortium led by Icelandic investment group Baugur in 2005.
The firm already has stores in Taunton, Bridgwater, and Barnstaple.

Woman airlifted to hospital after lorry crash closes A39

A WOMAN was airlifted to hospital this morning after being injured in a two-vehicle crash which closed the A39 near Williton.
A lorry and a car were in collision on a stretch of the road near West Quantoxhead shortly before 10 am.
The woman driver of the car was trapped in her vehicle with her two dogs, and the HGV driver was also trapped in his lorry.
Fire and rescue crews attended from Williton, Minehead, and Glastonbury, as well as a rescue tender from Glastonbury and a control unit from Wiveliscombe.
The rescue crews cut off the roof of the car to release the woman and her dogs.
She had suffered chest, head, and leg injuries and was flown to hospital in Weston-super-Mare for treatment.
The lorry driver was freed when the firefighters used a 135 ladder to reach his cab, and he was then taken by ambulance to Musgrove Park Hospital, in Taunton.
The situation was brought under control in little more than an hour, and the road was completely cleared and the fire and rescue crews stood down by 1.22 pm.

Lock up village homes warning from police after spate of attempted burglaries

RESIDENTS of Nether Stowey were being warned to take extra precautions to secure their homes after a burglary and a series of attempted break-ins were discovered in the village.
The incidents all occurred during a single night and were thought to be the work of the same gang of thieves.
They all happened in the Banneson Road area during the early hours of yesterday.
Police are anxious to trace a group of men who were seen repeatedly driving along the road shortly before 5.30 am yesterday.
Their presence coincided with a break-in at one property, which the householder said had happened some time between 10.50 pm on Tuesday and 8.40 am yesterday.
The intruders searched cupboards and drawers, although it remained unclear whether anything had been taken.
During the same timeframe, several other properties were disturbed as somebody tried the locks on doors and windows after entering people’s gardens.
Police said although such incidents were rare, residents should be extra careful to ensure they secured their homes and kept any valuables out of sight.
Anybody with any information about the incidents should contact police by calling 0845 4567000 or using the confidential free Crimestoppers number 0800 555111.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Butlins goes child-free for 1960s music fans

EUROPE’S largest domestic holiday centre, the Butlins resort in Minehead, will become a child-free zone at the end of the month.
Only people aged 18 years and older will be allowed to stay during a weekend music festival which runs from January 30 to February 2.
And guests will have to be at least in their 40s to actually remember any of the acts playing at the Festival of the 60s.
The event is part of a series of Big Weekend Breaks being staged by Butlins this year with tickets starting at £63 for the weekend.
Among the big names from the 1960s who will be appearing live at the retro-weekend are Gerry and the Pacemakers (pictured), Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, Herman’s Hermits, Swinging Blue Jeans, Dave Berry and the Cruisers, The Fortunes, Marmalade, and Brian Poole and the Dreamers.
Tickets can be bought by calling 0845 070 4730 or logging on to

'Exmoor Beast' or 'grey seal' debate over carcass found on beach

CLAIMS that the remains of the ‘Exmoor Beast’ may have been washed up on a beach have been dismissed by animal experts.
The carcass of a creature was spotted on rocks at Croyde, in North Devon, by people out walking on Tuesday and the police were alerted.
Although badly decomposed, the body of the ‘beast’ was described as being ‘the size of a calf’ but with jaws containing ‘canine teeth’.
The creature was five feet long with black fur and its teeth were said to make it look ‘quite beastlike’.
Opinion on the identity of the remains has been divided, with initial excitement generated by suggestions it could be the fabled ‘Beast of Exmoor’, which first hit the headlines 30 years ago after a series of mysterious sheep killings.
But now experts believe it is more likely to be a marine creature, possibly a seal or a sea lion
Its size and dental formula with a mammalian teeth structure and the spacing of the ribs and skeletal bones pointed to it being a grey seal, and certainly a marine-dweller.
Exmoor Zoo education officer Stephen Eddy said: “My guess is a seal, looking at its teeth and shape of the limbs.”

Missing teenager sparks public appeal for help by police

POLICE have appealed for help from the public in finding a teenage girl who has gone missing from Minehead.
Thirteen-year-old Nafisa Diyar (pictured) has not been seen since Sunday, January 4.
She was on a trip to an activity park in Devon when she left the park without anybody knowing she had gone.
It was thought that Nafisa boarded a train to London and tried to contact a relative who lives in the city, but she failed to arrive at the woman’s address.
Police believe Nafisa headed to the Southall area of London, but she is also known to have links to Leicester.
Nafisa was said to be ‘vulnerable’ because of her young age.
She is described as having brown eyes and black afro-style hair and when last seen she was wearing blue jeans, a black and white striped hooded top, and a grey scarf.
Allyson Murray, who is co-ordinating the search for Nafisa, said: “I want to appeal to Nafisa to get in touch with me so that we know she is okay.
“If anybody has seen Nafisa since Sunday I would urge them to call me so that we can piece together Nafisa’s movements and find her.
“Please be vigilant when you are out and about and if you see Nafisa or have any other information about her, please call Avon and Somerset Police on 0845 456 7000.”

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Anger as Hinkley sends more nuclear waste for recycling in America

A SECOND batch of radioactive waste from Hinkley Point is to be shipped to America for reprocessing.
Hundreds of tons of metal from the decommissioning of the Hinkley Point A nuclear power station will be recycled by a smelting facility in Bear Creek, Tennessee.
The metal, classified as low level waste (LLW) will travel overland from Hinkley Point to docks in Liverpool, and then by ship to Virginia, US, and then on by road to its destination at the Energy Solutions plant in Bear Creek.
There, it will be processed and recycled into shielding blocks for use at other nuclear stations. Energy Solutions will dispose of any material which cannot be recycled.
The operation is part of a groundbreaking means of recycling valuable nuclear power station metals which has been devised by the team carrying out the Hinkley A decommissioning.
It resulted in the Environment Agency authorising the shipment of up to 235 tonnes of contaminated steel from Hinkley A to the US between September, 2007, and August 2010.
The Hinkley A decommissioning team set up a decontamination plant in the power station’s former laundry building to recover and ‘clean’ the 1,725 skips holding nuclear waste in ponds and dry storage.
More than 95 per cent of the skips contained intermediate level waste which could not have been recovered without the new operation.
In just 18 months, the project team retrieved 564 skips from the dry skip store and processed almost half for the metal smelting project, with the remainder kept in temporary storage before decontamination.
A further 110 tonnes of low level rubble and debris was also removed from the dry skip store and packed into more than 500 drums.
A spokesman for Magnox South Ltd, which owns Hinkley A, said: “This will allow the continuation of a metal melt process, with up to 400 tons of LLW metal authorised to be shipped to the US for smelting and reuse within the industry.
“To gain approval, the site had to provide various facts and figures including the types of materials the site would be shipping and activity levels.”
However, the movement abroad of waste from Hinkley Point has been criticised by the anti-nuclear group Stop Hinkley.
Group co-ordinator Jim Duffy said: “This radioactive metal should be isolated from the environment.
“Magnox might save money from the long-term management of this waste by sending it for use in US nuclear power stations, but those who handle it during smelting and nuclear construction may inhale dangerous radioactive particles.”
Mr Duffy said safety issues were raised by the recycling process and there were fears that the by-products could be used for household goods.
He said: “The nuclear industry has lobbied hard to loosen the regulations on radioactive waste metal to the point where, if they succeeded, we would be cooking with slightly contaminated pots and pans made from recycled radioactive metal.
“The UK scrap metal industry has voiced its concerns at handling it, but this move takes us a step further in a process where the public may unknowingly get contaminated.
“This adds to the new risk from allowing low level radioactive waste being dumped in local council landfill sites.
“The Government has run out of options for securing this waste, mainly concrete, which is accruing in huge volumes from cleaning up nuclear sites like Hinkley A.
“So, the Environment Agency has appallingly caved in and granted licenses to dump the waste in our municipal landfills."
“Shipping contaminated waste thousands of miles might be one of the reasons the Environment Agency says the nuclear industry’s carbon footprint increased by five percent last year.”
More than 950 skips were sent from Hinkley A to Bear Creek in the first phase of the LLW recycling initiative.

Our photograph shows work on the decommissioning of Hinkley Point A. Photo by Maxnox South Ltd.

Impressive line-up for electronica festival's Minehead debut

FANS of electronica will be flocking to Minehead in March for a weekend festival which brings together more than 100 emerging artists and old favourites.
The BLOC Weekend is being held in the Butlins holiday centre for the first time and is expected to attract several thousand visitors.
It takes place from March 13 to 15 and features names such as Rob Da Bank, Future Sounds Of London, Skream And Benga, Kode 9, and Beardyman.
It will Future Sound Of London’s first appearance in 10 years.
Also confirmed is Green Velvet, the house DJ famed for his hit 'La La Land' as well as for some more quirky and experimental tracks, and Russell Howard, who will play the Cocodisco arena.
BLOC has five arenas in total, ensuring there will always be something to which festivalgoers will want to listen or dance.
There are also two large stages, a pub warm-up stage, an Un:BLOC stage for non-electronic music, and an interactive arts arena.
Weekend ticket prices start at £125 plus a £5 booking fee, and festivalgoers must book rooms as self-catering or room-only apartments in groups of two, three, four, five, or six – seven-berth apartments have already sold out.
Tickets are available by visiting
  • Our photograph shows house DJ Green Velvet. Photo submitted.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Free expert advice for trust members on keeping eyes healthy

A FREE meeting to look at how people can have healthy eyes is being organised for Musgrove Park Hospital Foundation Trust members.
It is part of the hospital’s Medicine for Members series and is for staff and public members of the foundation trust.
The session offers an opportunity to hear an expert from the trust give advice and information on the latest research and evidence on a key issue of health interest.
Consultant ophthalmologist Roger Gray will present on the subject ‘How to have Healthy Eyes’ on Tuesday, January 27, at 7 pm.
Many causes of sight loss are preventable if caught early.
The event will look at the effects of age-related disease and illness on eyesight, such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and macular degeneration, and show people what to look out for and what can be done.
There will be an opportunity for questions and the meeting will end at 8 pm with a free wine and nibbles buffet.
Places can be booked by emailing or calling 01823 342460 and leaving a message.
Joining the foundation trust is free and gives people an opportunity to have a say in the future of the hospital.
Members receive regular newsletters from the hospital, invitations to exclusive meetings, and can take part in elections for a members’ council.
The members’ council has a majority of publicly-elected members and makes key decisions about the future of Musgrove Park.
Anybody who would like to join should call the membership office on 01823 342460 or join online by going to

Partnership wants to help elderly stay well and warm in their homes

A SCHEME to help elderly West Somerset residents stay warm and well and financially independent is being given a New Year push by the district council.
The council is supporting the Warmer Improved Somerset Homes (WISH) initiative, which aids people aged 60 years or older.
WISH can provide insulation, heating upgrades, and adaptations to homes to make people’s lives easier, as well as advice on what benefits are available to them.
Much of the help is free, and even those not entitled to free help could still be eligible for grants or a substantial discount.
The council’s portfolio holder for housing, Councillor Kate Kravis said: “This scheme enables people to access free, confidential advice so they can find out exactly what they are entitled to, and what help they can expect to receive.
“The WISH team supports people though the application process, and trusted, reliable workmen carry out the work.
“The council inspects samples of the work undertaken to ensure they are completed to a good standard.
“Homeowners aged over 70 are also eligible for free cavity wall or loft insulation.
“Our advice is free and we are encouraging people to call, especially with the recent fluctuations in fuel prices.”
More information about how the WISH team might be able to help is available by calling free on 0800 512 012.

Fitness and gym sessions are linked to creche facilities for first time

PARENTS who want to become fit before the summer are being invited to a free open morning at the West Somerset Sports and Leisure Centre (pictured), in Minehead.
Taster sessions in the sports centre’s gym are being offered on Tuesday, January 13, from 9.30 am to11 am.
The centre provides an opportunity for parents to exercise while their children are safely looked after and can enjoy learning in a local crèche.
It is the result of work by West Somerset Council’s community team to link the leisure facilities with the neighbouring West Somerset College and the Alcombe and Dulverton Children’s Centres.
Council community portfolio holder Councillor Neil Parbrook said: “This is a great opportunity, especially after the indulgences of Christmas, for parents to try free mini gym taster sessions and to see what else the centre has to offer.
“While parents work out, their children will be cared for by students and qualified staff at nearby crèche facilities at the new skills and enterprise centre.
“This is the first time crèche facilities have been linked with fitness facilities in Minehead and, if the taster sessions prove popular, they could become regular events.
“We may even be able to extend the scheme so that parents can use other elements of the skills centre, such as visiting the hairdressers.
“The mini gym taster sessions are overseen by qualified instructors who will advise people on the best exercise for their level of fitness.
“It is a fantastic opportunity for couch potatoes to put their New Year resolutions into practice, or to just train up in time for a trimmer summer.”
The gym is open to all members of the community daily from 8.30 am to 11.30 am.
More information is available by calling Rob Odams on 01643 700030 or Jayne Lethaby on 01643 708815.

Council partnership offers low cost home improvement loans for low earners

LOW interest loans for essential home improvements are being offered to West Somerset residents of all ages who have a low income.
The initiative is the result of a partnership between West Somerset Council and the Wessex Reinvestment Trust, which helps communities to become more sustainable.
Under the scheme, homeowners can borrow from £1,000 to £15,000, depending on the cost of the work, at an interest rate that is fixed at three per cent for the entire lifetime of the loan.
Projects which could be considered for loans include repairs to leaky roofs, replacing boilers and radiators, installing central heating, replacing rotten windows or doors, and updating bathrooms or kitchens more than 20-years-old.
The council’s housing portfolio holder, Councillor Kate Kravis, said: “Interest rates are currently low so it may seem like a good time to borrow from high street lenders to carry out vital home improvements.
“However, these rates are likely to rise again when the economy recovers.
“The beauty of these low cost loans is that they will never rise.
“We also have trustworthy, experienced advisers who will help people choose a scheme that is right for their circumstances.
“The loans can help homeowners of all ages on low incomes to meet the decent homes standard.
“The work is carried out by trusted local tradesmen, and it is inspected by the council to ensure it is completed to a good standard.”
More information about the scheme is available by calling 0845 241 7243 or visiting the Wessex Reinvestment Trust website at

Disability group opens party doors to secret Santa

SECRET Santa paid a visit to the Open DAWS Christmas lunch party in Minehead last week.
Members of the activities group for people with disabilities were handed their gifts by volunteers - treasurer Joe Magill and his helper Jess - as part of the annual get-together at the seafront Beach Hotel, and enjoyed a Christmas lunch with all the trimmings.
West Somerset Council community portfolio holder, Councillor Neil Parbrook, said: “Christmas is a time for people to gather together in festive good cheer, and it is heartening when any group is meeting with those aspirations.
“In providing people of all abilities the opportunity to enjoy activities and excursions they might not otherwise do, Open DAWS offers a valuable service to the local West Somerset community.”
Open DAWS, which stands for Disabled Activities in West Somerset, was launched by the district council in 2001 and has grown to a total of 30 members.
Transport for excursions, activities, and outings is provided by community transport group AT West, and events planned for January include swimming, sea fishing, dance aerobics, and a sauna visit.
Anybody interested in joining Open DAWS or who would like to talk about the activities should call Gail Sloman on 01984 635208 or West Somerset Council leisure and community officer Liz Stewart on 01984 635330.
  • Our photograph shows Santa with members of Open DAWS at their Christmas party. Photo submitted.

Eclectic mix of musicians for double festival weekend in Minehead

TENS of thousand of music fans are set to descend on Minehead for music festivals taking place on two weekends in May.
Both events are being organised at the town’s Butlins holiday centre by All Tomorrow’s Parties (ATP), an organisation promoting festivals and concerts worldwide.
The first festival is being held on the weekend of May 8 to 10 and has been titled The Fans Strike Back (TFSB).
Half of the bands and performers taking part will have been chosen by the fans themselves, with everybody who buys a ticket being entitled to vote, while ATP selects the other half of the line-up.
For TFSB, ATP has already booked Health, Shearwater, The Acorn, and The Pink Mountaintops, while among those the the fans have voted so far for are The Jesus Lizard, Devo, Sleep performing Holy Mountain, selections from Dopesmoker and more, Spiritualized, / Young Marble Giants performing Colossal Youth, Antipop Consortium, Grails, Sleepy Sun, and The Cave Singers.
The second event, Breeders, runs over May 15 to 17, and is curated for ATP by the legendary Breeders
So far the fans have picked Beirut, and offers to play have been sent to My Bloody Valentine, Flight Of The Conchords, and Electric Wizard.
CSS (pictured) and Supersuckers are among the latest additions to the Breeders, and will line up with the likes of Throwing Muses, Bon Iver, Foals, Teenage Fanclub, Kimya Dawson, Pit Er Pat, and The Soft Pack.
Both festivals are for over-18s only and ticket prices start at £300 and are on sale from
Performances start mid-afternoon with more than 40 acts set to play live across each weekend.
There are also four pubs and DJ sets playing through until late.

Extra day for Woolworths to sell off stock before closure

STAFF in the Minehead branch of Woolworths have been given a 24-hour reprieve on the store’s closure.
The shop, where prices have been slashed to mere pennies during a closing down sale, was last night due to be among the final 200 to close their doors to the public for the last time.
But administrators Deloitte said it was allowing the stores to remain open for an extra day in an effort to sell off the last of its stock - and even fixtures and fittings if people would buy them.
Deloitte said the additional day’s trading would also allow more time to make ‘final arrangements’ for winding up the business.
Woolworths went into administration in November with debts of £385 million and efforts by Deloitte to find a buyer came to nothing.
More than half of the 807 stores nationwide have already closed, and the Minehead store is in the final batch to be shut.
Woolworths, which has nearly 30 staff in Minehead, first opened in the town in 1937.
All 27,000 remaining Woolworths employees nationwide will be made redundant after the closures.
Deloitte has been in talks with other retail chains with a view to selling the leases on some of the Woolworths premises, and rumours have surfaced in Minehead of a clothing company showing an interest in the store once it has shut.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Biomedical scientist Katie juggles work and university studies to gain degree

A BIOMEDICAL Scientist at Musgrove Park Hospital, in Taunton, has been awarded a first class honours degree by the Open University.
Katie Redgate studied for the degree in environmental studies while working full-time in Musgrove’s pathology department.
She also continued as a union representative for the trade union Unite and as health and safety representative for the department.
Katie said: “It was hard work, but I was determined to do it.
“It was really interesting and very varied, and proved that if you are committed you can achieve your goals.”
Somerset Pathology Services general manager Steve Yates said: “Katie has done fantastically well and we are all very pleased for her.
“The biomedical scientists and their colleagues in pathology are the backroom team in the hospital.
“They analyse blood and other samples to help monitor treatment and confirm diagnoses.
“Not many people know what they do, but they are absolutely essential to the day to day work of the hospital.”
  • Our photograph shows Katie Redgate at work in the pathology laboratory of Musgrove Park Hospital. Photo submitted.

More than 200 arrested in drink-drive crackdown

A TOTAL of more than 200 drivers were arrested in a Christmas drink-drive crackdown by Avon and Somerset Police.
The arrested drivers included 30 from across the West Somerset policing area.
The campaign was part of a national move to target irresponsible and dangerous drivers, and ran from December 1 to January 1.
The total of 202 arrested motorists was slightly down on last year’s campaign, when there were 216 arrests.
Of those arrested this year, 62 were under the age of 25 years.
Supt Andy Pullan, head of the constabulary’s road policing unit, said: “This campaign was about reminding people that drinking alcohol and driving is a lethal combination.
“Everybody is aware of the dangers, but there are still the reckless few who are prepared to gamble on others and their own lives.
“Each year, 3,000 people are killed or seriously injured nationally on our roads in drink-drive related crashes.”
This year’s campaign saw about 2,000 drivers stopped across the force area every week.
Those arrested now face a criminal record, a fine of up to £5,000, a 12-month minimum driving ban, and an 11-year wait for a clean licence.
Supt Pullan said: “Campaigns like this reinforce the message that drinking and getting behind the wheel of a car is unacceptable.
“However, I would like to remind drivers that the message of not drinking and driving applies all year, not just at Christmas.
“It is very important that the public do their bit by telling us about people they suspect regularly or intend to drink and drive.”
Police have urged people to report drink-drivers by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Reunion party for Land Girls 60 years after leaving graffiti on Exmoor farm

EXMOOR farming couple Roger and Penny Webber (pictured) are to throw a reunion party for a group of women who worked there 60 years ago.
The women were Land Girls who helped to keep the country’s agricultural industry running during and after the Second World War.
All but one of the five Land Girls has been traced by Mr and Mrs Webber after they uncovered graffiti on a white-washed wall in one of their barns at Hindon Organic Farm, Selworthy.
The graffiti was created in 1948 by Land Girls Greta-Merle Williams, Margaret Routley, Audrey Owen, Hilda Coles, and Jacqueline Ferris, who dated their work and gave names and ages.
Mr and Mrs Webber have now been in contact with four of the women - who all still live locally to West Somerset - but have not yet been able to track down Jacqueline Ferris.
For Mr Webber, aged 61, there is a special significance to the occasion, as his father Colin married Enid Burt, who was also in the Women’s Land Army and was one of the first Land Girls to work on the farm, which has been in the Webber family for generations.
The five Land Girls whom he wants to invite to the reunion were in a second batch to work on the farm after the war.
They were part of a Land Army Corps barracked in Old Cleeve, and they worked on several local farms.
Mr Webber said: “Because of my mum, I know what a wonderful job these incredible women did for the country.
“They did every job a man was expected to do and most of them had never lifted so much as a bucket before in their lives.
“We thought it would be nice to get them all back together so they can meet each other again and have a chat about old times.”
Mr Webber said the reunion party would be held in the spring when the weather was warmer.
One of the former Land Girls, Greta-Merle Williams (nee Edge), is now aged 79 and living in Watchet.
She was only 19-years-old when she worked at Hindon Farm, and recalled the day when the women left their writings on the barn wall: “We had been collecting hay and were sat on top of it on a cart.
“It was incredibly hard work but it was a lovely farm, one of the nicest I worked on, and we decided to make our mark on it.
“We never thought it would last, I was amazed to find out it was all still there.”
Anybody with any information about the Land Girls who worked at Hindon Farm can call Roger and Penny Webber on 01643 705244.