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.

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