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.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Hunt for van arsonists as flames threaten thatched cottage

AN arsonist gang was being sought in Minehead early today after a parked van was set alight in the centre of the town, putting a nearby thatched cottage at risk.
Firefighters from the Minehead station were called to deal with the early hours blaze, which happened in Bampton Street.
Police were also quickly on the scene and three men wearing hoods were seen running away from the scene and into Selbourne Place.
Both of the Minehead fire appliances were needed at the incident because of the risk the flames and sparks posed to the thatched property.
The silver colour Transit van was well alight when the fire and rescue crews reached the scene shortly before 2.45 am.
It suffered damage to the passenger and engine compartments by fire and smoke and also to the rear of vehicle as the firemen extinguished the flames using two hose reel jets.
The cause of the fire was found to be deliberate.
Anybody with any information about the incident should call PC Mark Potter at Minehead Police Station on 0845 4567000 or use the anonymous Crimestoppers free number 0800 555111.