The following post summarises key points from budgets set by Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT), Somerset County Council and other local authorities, including how much Council Tax we will pay to each. The fate of a budget amendment I proposed for energy and climate protection projects is also covered. Continue reading “Council tax, budgets and an amendment”
The following is a look back on 2019 as district councillor for the Wiveliscombe and District ward and a look forward on what may be to come in 2020.
Last May, I was pleased to be re-elected as one of the two district councillors for our ward, alongside Mark Blaker. My aims, then and now, are to represent the best interests of our ward, to help people with local issues, and to be a green voice on the council. Continue reading “REVIEW: 2019 and into 2020”
Events are being held in January and February 2020 to consult on a Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience Plan and a new Local Plan for Somerset West and Taunton (SWT) and on a Climate Emergency Strategy for Somerset.
These include a roadshow with displays at Wiveliscombe Community Centre from 10am to 3pm on Thursday, 20th February 2020. Council staff will be on hand to discuss the plans and to record your ideas.
- Somerset Climate Emergency Framework
- SWT Climate Emergency and Draft Plan
- SWT Local Plan Issues and Options
Following the first consultation stage, climate emergency action plans will be produced for both SWT and Somerset. There should then be another short public consultation before final plans are adopted by the summer.
Caroline Lucas has been Britain’s only Green Party MP since 2010 and has made tremendous efforts in helping to push forward a Green agenda in parliament.
For the General Election on 12 December 2019, the Greens agreed an electoral arrangement with the Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru, with the help of Unite to Remain. The Greens stood aside in Taunton Deane, while the Lib Dems stood aside in others seats, such as Bristol West.… Continue reading “Green general election vote increases”
To plan for the future, it is important to understand what is needed to achieve carbon neutrality or net zero carbon emissions.
Key elements of the Net Zero scenario (see my summary) are:
HEAT – Improved home insulation, smart control systems and widespread use of efficient electric heat pumps; together with hybrid hydrogen boilers, particularly in older homes that cannot be insulated to the highest standards. In suitable areas, bio-methane gas and district heating may be used.
TRANSPORT – Reduce car use by walking, cycling, using buses and trains, and travelling less. Also switching to electric cars and flying more efficiently and less frequently. Trains and lorries to be either electric or hydrogen powered.
ELECTRICITY – Fully decarbonise the power supply through more large-scale renewables, together with some gas power combined with new technologies for carbon capture and storage. Also more local renewable energy and storage, together with a flexible smart grid, which is able to better manage demand.
DIET – Reduce meat (especially beef and lamb) and dairy consumption, which have high methane emissions.
WASTE – Reduce waste, especially food waste, and reuse and recycle more.
LAND – Low emission and efficient farming practices, more energy crops and less productive agricultural land switched to other uses, particularly more woodland and peatland restoration.
INDUSTRY – Decarbonise industrial operations and phase out the use of fluorinated gases in medical inhalers, refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps.
OFFSETTING – Any remaining greenhouse gas emissions to be offset through carbon capture and storage.
We should choose to adopt carbon-saving habits and technologies whenever we can. As well as reducing our carbon footprints, better diets, warm homes and more walking and cycling improves our health too.
Widespread adoption of changes needed to achieve net zero carbon will require new policies and programmes by government and local councils. These need to be introduced and developed as quickly as possible. They also need to be implemented fairly, so that changes are affordable for all and extra assistance is provided where needed.
Many of the changes should reduce our impact on the natural world and be accompanied by plans to increase biodiversity and wildlife habitats. Continue reading “Living carbon free”
New fibre broadband possibilities have emerged for rural parishes, following the cancellation in September 2019 of Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) contracts with Gigaclear.
Gigaclear themselves are close to completing a fibre network around Croford, which extends from Langley Marsh along Grant Lane, Quaking House Lane to Spring Grove and Bindon Farm. They expect to start connecting customers by next March, and may then extend the network further if there is demand. In future, they plan to install fibre cables overhead on telegraph poles and in Openreach ducts where possible.
A new entrant to the local market is Technological Services, who are building a fibre network from Shillingford and up to Skilgate, where they are already signing up residents. Working with Parish Councils, they plan to extend to the Upton area in Spring 2020 and then on to Huish Champflower by Summer 2020.
Technological is a small company providing internet services for rural businesses, with residential broadband a new market for them. To avoid the cost of digging up roads, they are working with landowners to mostly lay their cable in fields (using a mole plough as shown in photo above). If there is demand, they could eventually cover all rural areas in the 10 Parishes.
A potential provider on a bigger scale is Openreach, who have a Community Fibre Partnership scheme, which involves working with a local community to build a customised solution where there is demand.
All these network providers rely on there being enough interest and funding from Government Gigabit Vouchers, which contribute £2,500 for small businesses and £500 for residents towards installation costs. Vouchers are paid to a registered supplier once connections are confirmed. Continue reading “Sign up for rural broadband”
With regret, I resigned from Wiveliscombe Town Council. Unfortunately, some on-going issues made this role difficult and it seemed better to focus on my role as a district councillor.
As a town councillor, I particularly contributed to retaining our public toilets and library over the last couple of years, which were threatened with closure due to cuts by the former Taunton Deane Borough Council and Somerset County Council, respectively. In particular, progressing library decisions through the Town Council was at times challenging and exposed problems.
There have been improvements since the elections in May, when many good new people were elected, especially through Wivey-Community-Together. Most are new to the Town Council and, with some good old hands, I know will aim to build a positive and forward looking town council for Wiveliscombe and our community. One of my last contributions was to propose a governance review and to start on this with others on a working group, which has already led to beneficial changes and it would be great if it led to more.
I will continue to work hard as district councillor serving the people and communities of the Wiveliscombe and District Ward on the new Somerset West and Taunton Council. The District and County Councils are the principal local authorities and provide most of our local services.
Work will be starting soon on preparing plans to tackle the climate emergency at both Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT) and jointly by all five Somerset principal councils, including the county council.
This follows climate emergency declarations we all made earlier this year, including as a result of the motion I proposed at SWT, which was one of the first.
Working groups are being set-up for the district council and jointly county-wide. I have a seat on the all-party working group for SWT and the joint scrutiny group for Somerset.
I am a little frustrated at the time it has taken to get the working groups established, but am very keen to see work get underway, and hope to contribute to the development of effective plans and to see good policies adopted and projects started. Continue reading “Achieving carbon neutrality”
Good candidates were elected to Wiveliscombe Town Council, including all eleven standing as Wivey-Community-Together (W-C-T). This like-minded group wishes to see a positive and forward-looking town council and to work well and constructively with all town councillors. W-C-T was set-up to jointly campaign for the election and not to continue as a separate group.
The full result, declared at about 6:30am on Friday 3 May 2019, was:
Dave Mansell (W-C-T) – 750 votes
Mark Blaker (W-C-T) – 730 votes
Gaby Bellamy (W-C-T) – 705 votes
Ele Laker (W-C-T) – 652 votes
Eddie Gaines – 585 votes
Patrick Boyle (W-C-T) – 492 votes
Martin Keane (W-C-T) – 487 votes
Ruth Irvine (W-C-T) – 481 votes
Julie Mitchell (W-C-T) – 474 votes
Pauline McNichol (W-C-T) – 473 votes
Cath Irvine (W-C-T) – 470 votes
Jon Burgess (W-C-T) – 451 votes
Brian Collingridge – 339 votes
Roger Wilson – 313 votes
Peter Berman – 305 votes
Bryn Wilson – 283 votes
Fodo Higginson – 275 votes
Adrian Woollaston – 274 votes
Stephen Shopland – 269 votes
Tim Parker – 237 votes
Alison Woollaston – 234 votes
Martin Rook – 187 votes
Jill Berntsson – 177 votes
I am very pleased to have been re-elected to serve the Wiveliscombe and District ward on Somerset West and Taunton Council, along with Mark Blaker (Independent).
The full result, declared at about 3am on Friday 3 May 2019, was:
Dave Mansell (Green) – 1,070 votes (59%)
Mark Blaker (Independent) – 893 votes (49%)
Christopher Chanter (Conservative) – 430 votes (24%)
Phillip Thorne (Conservative) – 383 votes (21%)
Danny Clark-Lowes (Liberal Democrat) – 318 votes (17%)
Bryn Wilson (Independent) – 248 votes (14%)
The total electorate was 4,050, who could vote to support two candidates, although some only cast one of their two votes. The turnout for the ward was 45.0%. Continue reading “Wivey voted for Dave & Mark”
At the last meeting of TDBC’s Planning Committee on 27 March 2019, approval was given to a planning application for mixed housing and light industry at Sandy’s Moor, off the Taunton Road in Wiveliscombe.
This was despite the proposal being contrary to the Council’s Local Plan, which allocated the site for business use only and not for housing. The extra housing will add to pressure on the town’s infrastucture, including increasing parking difficulties in the town centre.
Before proceeding, the developer will have to meet a number of conditions and supply further details for prior approval by the district council. There are no realistic avenues for challenging the Council’s decision, so the best that can be done are improvements to the final details and to seek funding to improve Wivey’s infrastructure, such as better pedestrian access and crossings to the site and along Taunton Road and Church Street, as well as funding for our schools and to improve central parking in Wivey. I plan to press for these.
UPDATE (March 2020) – See: Sandys Moor – approved plans for 94 new homes
Contracts were signed today between Somerset County Council, Wiveliscombe Area Partnership and Wiveliscombe Town Council to secure the future of our library.
This marks a new beginning and the end of a long campaign to save our library from closure.
Wiveliscombe Area Partnership will manage the new Community Library Partnership, which will take over from April. Karen, our wonderful librarian, will continue in post and stay employed by the County Council. Staffed opening hours will also stay the same. The library will remain part of the Somerset network and be serviced by LibrariesWest. Funding will come from the County Council, Town Council and neighbouring Parish Councils.
It’s been a long and difficult path to this point. Many have contributed and Wivey has shown time after time that we want to retain our library. I have done my best to help as an active member of the Save Wivey Library group, the Town Council and the Area Partnership. I was directly involved in the negotiations with the County Council and, alongside others, helped to finalise the contracts for the Town Council.
Wivey library is already well used and highly valued. It can continue to provide the same services and will now have added freedom to develop in new and exciting ways. It’s Wivey’s library, serving the town and all parishes around. Continue to make the best of it and please help positively to make it even better.
A motion I proposed to declare a climate emergency was unanimously agreed on 21st February 2019 by the Shadow Full Council for Somerset West and Taunton, which will soon take over as our new district authority.
The motion noted the stark scientific warnings on the growing impacts and risks from global warming to our environment, economy and social systems.
Work will start towards making Somerset West and Taunton carbon neutral by 2030. A cross party working group will work with council officers to develop a Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience Plan. A small provisional budget has been established and costed proposals will be prepared for a range of projects, which could include:
- Enabling more cycling, walking and use of shared and public transport.
- Providing electric car charging points in car parks and other suitable locations.
- Adopting high energy efficiency standards for new buildings.
- Developing a programme to retrofit energy saving and insulation in council buildings, including housing.
- Promoting waste reduction, reuse and recycling on the go.
- The Council using electricity generated from renewable energy.
- Supporting green businesses, social enterprises and investment in local renewable energy and infrastructure, as well as divestment from fossil fuels.
- Adapting for flooding, coastal erosion and other impacts of climate change.
The leader of the Council said funding would be provided for new projects, but committed councillors will be needed to push it all forward.
The Government will be asked to provide guidance, the powers and resources. The motion noted that individuals cannot make the reductions necessary on their own. Society needs to change its infrastructure, incentives, regulations and taxation to make low carbon living easier and a common social norm.
Already, average global temperatures have increased by 1°C. Scientists and the United Nations say we need to do all we can to limit the increase to no more than 1.5°C. Current projections will take us past this to 3°C of global warming and more.
We need to do all we can to prevent this. Some good progress has been made, but we need to do much more. Declaring a climate emergency, backed by action, is a start.
The motion (see full text) was seconded by Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts and had cross-party support from seven other Councillors for the new Shadow Authority.
Sign the petition here to call on Parliament to declare a climate emergency.
As we move into 2019, my first nine months as Borough Councillor for Wiveliscombe and West Deane are briefly summarised below.
Since being elected in April, I have been asked to help with more than 40 issues by local people. I have been able to assist with a good number or have tried to do so by providing suggestions or contacts. Planning concerns have been most common. Other issues raised have included council house repairs, waste collections, street cleaning, noise and car parking. Continue reading “REVIEW: 2018 and into 2019”
Wiveliscombe Area Partnership (WAP) have been confirmed as the lead partner to negotiate with the County Council to run a Community Library Partnership (CLP) for Wiveliscombe library.
As proposed at the community meeting on 25 October, the County Council will be funded to manage and staff the library with WAP taking responsibility for managing the building. SCC will also provide the books, back office systems and £9,000 per year. The Town Council has committed £8,500 and further contributions are being sought from neighbouring parish councils.
Time to complete the arrangements is tight and need to be put in place by mid-February. Continue reading “Saving our library”
Somerset County Council library recommendations have been published today (16/10/2018). Wiveliscombe library is to be closed unless a community partnership can be agreed.
There are still options to save our library which will be discussed at a public meeting at 7:30pm on 25 October at Wiveliscombe Community Centre. This has been organised by the Friends of Wiveliscombe Library campaign group.
UPDATE (26/10/2018) – There was a packed meeting, with about 80 people, at the Community Centre last night. We looked at options for saving our library by setting-up a community library partnership with Somerset County Council, who have offered support (see: slides presented). Strongest support and near unanimous backing was given to asking the Town Council to be the lead partner with SCC, with the additional funding needed to be met by adding £5-8 (Band D) on our Council Tax, as well as by asking neighbouring parishes if they can contribute too. I offered to present a report to the next Town Council meeting on 12 November. To stop our library being shut from January, approval will be needed to submit a detailed expression of interest to SCC by 15 November.
TOWN COUNCIL REPORTS – See: Library reports
SCC UPDATES – See: SCC’s Libraries Redesign programme 2018
Taunton Deane Borough Council are working with Somerset County Council to save Taunton’s park and ride sites from closure.
This is one of the latest cuts proposed by SCC, which is suffering from increasing financial difficulties. These result from the government’s removal of the Revenue Support Grant and failure to provide a fair funding system for local authorities. Also SCC should have raised more from Council Tax in previous years.
I support measures to allow the park and ride sites to be maintained and welcome TDBC’s initiative. Park and ride provides an important service for commuters, shoppers and hospital users from Wivey and other areas outside of Taunton. The loss of these sites would also increase traffic and parking problems in the town.
UPDATE (7/9/2018) – GOOD NEWS: The park and rides are saved for now, although there could be the possibility of higher charges in future.
A press release issued today says: “Taunton Deane Borough Council is stepping in to save the town’s two park and ride schemes following talks with Somerset County Council”.
TDBC “has pledged a one-off contribution to keep the park and ride sites at Silk Mills and Gateway open until at least September 2019 … TDBC will provide the initial financial support that will allow the service to continue to operate while a commercially viable service is developed by the authorities and First Bus to complement existing parking provision.” TDBC’s funding is coming from reserves for unexpected events or emergencies.
UPDATE (18/12/2018): Unfortunately, fares are now to rise from Christmas Eve, but it is still a convenient and good value service, which is worth using and maintaining. Click here for service details and costs.
UPDATE (23/7/2019): Following a report to SWT Executive today, further funding will allow Taunton’s park and ride car parks to continue until March 2020, while further measures are to be explored and implemented to put the services “on a more commercial and sustainable long term footing”. These measures focus on promotion and incentives, such as a scheme for staff at Musgrove Park Hospital. It is noted SWT sets charges for town centre car parks which influences use of the park and ride. Use has increased. There is an ambition for two more sites and interest in weekend opening, but saving the current sites from closure by SCC is clearly the current priority.
UPDATE (20/2/2020): As part of the Council’s annual budget, agreed yesterday, £230,000 has been allocated to continue the Park and Ride service for drivers to Taunton. It was also agreed to increase charges for car parks by 10%, partly to encourage use of Park and Ride where parking is free. A strategy for parking in the district is to be prepared later in the year.
UPDATE (18/2/2021): SWT is to discontinue funding to maintain the park and ride sites from April 2021, as Somerset County Council have reversed their 2018 decision to close the sites and will take them back on again. It’s an odd reversal but should be good news. There are still no firm details for SWT’s parking review and strategy, although we are told it is now expected to start in 2021/22.
UPDATE (6 July 2021): Somerset County Council have awarded a five-year contract to Buses of Somerset to run Taunton’s two park and ride sites.
A planning application has been submitted for a mixed use development of housing and light industry units at Sandys Moor, off Taunton Road in Wiveliscombe. See report for details and how to submit comments to Taunton Deane Borough Council.
On current evidence, I have the following views on this proposal:
- Sandys Moor should be retained for business use development only. The site has not been allocated for housing in TDBC’s Local Plan.
- The developers claim that housing should be allowed because business-use applications have not been made for the site; but, at the current time, planning permission has been given at Sandys Moor for a new Enterprise Centre, which is due to be built soon, to EPS Saws, who plan to move into the old abattoir and to Brendon Powerwashers, who are currently building new units to expand. So new business-use applications are being submitted and approved for Sandys Moor, and more may follow, especially with these developments underway or due to proceed soon.
- Conflict could arise from the close proximity of housing and industrial units, including from noise and vehicle movements.
- Housing at Sandys Moor would be in addition to the extra 200 houses already allocated in Wiveliscombe at sites off Styles Road (completed), Burges Lane (application submitted) and Croft Way (no application yet submitted).
- Infrastructure in Wiveliscombe, including schools, doctors surgery and parking, is already under pressure and this would increase with additional housing on top of the amount already planned.
- If there is not a clear business use need for the whole Sandys Moor site, then this planning policy should be reconsidered. A habitat survey has shown that part of the former abattoir site would make a great nature reserve, which would be a welcome addition to Wiveliscombe.
See report for further information and how to submit comments online to TDBC. This includes results of a survey on your views.
The inquiry into Gladman Development’s appeal to build 95 houses on the field of elephant grass off North Street in Wiveliscombe started on 31 July 2018, but adjourned the same morning. Both TDBC and Gladman said they needed time to update their cases in light of the new National Planning Policy Framework published on 24 July, which was accepted by the inspector.
Just before the inquiry started, concerns heightened following the collapse of TDBC’s case for a similar inquiry on Gladman’s application at Rockwell Green. Assurances have been given that TDBC has a stronger defence for the Wiveliscombe inquiry and a team of specialists to be provide evidence will be involved. For further information see report on Gladman – predatory developer targets Wivey.
UPDATE – GOOD NEWS (7/11/2018): Gladman have withdrawn their appeal and the inquiry into their housing scheme will not proceed, with no further action to be taken.
Over the summer, the county council withdrew their highways objections to the Gladman proposals, which prompted the town council to submit 24 pages of new evidence prepared by Bill Whitman, Tim Parker and myself. Our evidence included photographs of existing traffic problems before the further impact of the development and showed the landscape that would be harmed.
The Government recently announced technical changes for assessing land supply for housing which may have made it more difficult for Gladman to argue against planning refusal.
Taunton Deane and West Somerset Councils are merging.
Since 2013, there has been shared officer management and joint working arrangements between the two councils. In 2016, a transformation programme was agreed with changes to staffing, processes and technology to support new ways of working. These included the creation of a single, new, district council, with the aim of modernising and streamlining council services and their delivery to achieve savings.
The Secretary of State supported the merger of the two councils in November 2017, with parliamentary approval following and the change order signed in May 2018. Continue reading “New Somerset West and Taunton Council”