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.