Wivey voted for Dave & Mark

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:

ELECTED

Dave Mansell (Green) – 1,070 votes (64%)
Mark Blaker (Independent) – 893 votes (53%)

NOT ELECTED

Christopher Chanter (Conservative) – 430 votes (26%)
Phillip Thorne (Conservative) – 383 votes (23%)
Danny Clark-Lowes (Liberal Democrat) – 318 votes (19%)
Bryn Wilson (Independent) – 248 votes (15%)

Voters in the ward each had 2 votes and 3,342 valid votes were cast. Percentages above show support by all voters and assume each cast two votes (actually a few only cast one vote). Also assuming that two votes were cast per voter, the turnout was 41%. The total ward electorate is 4,050.      Continue reading “Wivey voted for Dave & Mark”

Approval for mixed use development at Sandys Moor in Wivey

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.

The planning committee’s consideration of the application and officer’s report was unsatisfactory for several reasons, as covered well in a West Somerset Free Press report.

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.

Wivey library’s new future

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.

Somerset West & Taunton declares a climate emergency

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.

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2018 and into 2019

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 “2018 and into 2019”

Saving our library

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”

We can save 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

Keep park and rides

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.

Unwanted housing proposed for business site at Sandys Moor

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.

Gladman appeal for housing off North Street

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.

New Somerset West and Taunton Council

TDBC + WSC

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”

Save Wivey library

Friends of Wiveliscombe Library prepared a comprehensive joint response to the County Council’s consultation on proposals which threaten to close Wivey library. FoWL’s 40-page response was supported by the town council, five parish councils, local schools and churches, the business group, civic society and Wiveliscombe Area Partnership.

The response, along with a book of protest signed by 650 local people, was presented by Pauline Homeshaw, Kiran Narang and myself to our County Councillor, James Hunt, at the start of Wiveliscombe Town Council’s meeting on 11th June 2018.

FoWL’s response shows Wiveliscombe library is one of the best used in Somerset, offers good value for money and its closure would transfer costs to our community which are larger than the savings that would be made by the County Council.

A high level summary of the consultation is due to be presented to a County Council Committee on 10th July. The consultation results and recommendations on the future of Somerset libraries should then be published on 27th September. These will be considered by a Scrutiny Committee on 9th October, followed by a final Cabinet decision due on 17th October. Community Library Partnerships proposals will be considered from Nov 2018 to Jan 2019, followed by implementation up to April 2019.

Dave Mansell

Early days as a new borough councillor

Within days of being elected, I was given papers to sign and a briefing from council officers. I also received a copy of the council’s constitution and a pack of reports (235 pages) for a full meeting of all councillors, which was held on the Tuesday after the by-election.

Amongst items considered at the full council meeting was a proposal to borrow money to invest in developing ‘a new high quality mid-market hotel at Firepool’, which I voted against but saw the motion carried by the Conservative majority.

Since, I have attended further meetings and briefings, including on the council merger and staff transformation programme, new National Planning Policy Framework and a scrutiny meeting, which considered the process for small grants awarded to community groups.

Locally, I have been asked to assist people with a number of problems, including on waste collections, council house repairs and planning matters. It has been rewarding to be able to help where I can and I have found Council officers mostly very helpful and welcoming.

I work with the ward’s other borough councillor, Eddie Gaines, and have joined the independent group on the council, which has given me a seat on the Community Scrutiny Committee.

I will continue to support the campaigns to save Wiveliscombe library and reverse bus cuts, which are county council responsibilities.

As a borough councillor, I will speak up for the interests of Wiveliscombe and West Deane, as well as what I see best for Taunton Deane as a whole. I will also be looking for opportunities, including by working with others, to introduce more green thinking, that looks after people and our planet, into council policies and strategies.

However, over the next year, it is clear that a lot of our time will be taken up preparing for the merger between Taunton Deane and West Somerset Councils from May 2019.

By-election 2018

I was elected to Taunton Deane Borough Council at a by-election for the Wiveliscombe and West Deane ward held on 5th April 2018. This followed the resignation of Independent Councillor, Steve Ross, due to work commitments.

It was a hard fought campaign. I was pleased to have the support of many local people and the backing of leading people in our community, including Eddie Gaines (other Independent Councillor for ward), Steve Ross, Pauline Homeshaw and Julian Mellor.

The result (with a high turnout for a by-election at 43%) was:

Dave Mansell (Green) – 600 votes (45%)

Sue Levinge (Lib Dem) – 389 votes (29%)

Phillip Thorne (Conservative) – 352 votes (26%)

Wivey WD Election Leaflet 2018
Click to view my election leaflet