Category Archives: Uncategorized

Police appeal to victim of Bridgwater assault

An unknown man was struck over the head with a glass bottle during disorder in Bridgwater on Thursday 27 October. It happened in Penel Orlieu, close to the rear of the Palace nightclub, sometime between 2.30am and 3am.

Avon & Somerset police have arrested a 20-year-old man from London in connection with this incident. He has been released under investigation and Police enquiries continue.

Police are now appealing for the victim of the assault to come forward and speak with us. If you were the victim, or if you know who it was, please call 101. Give the call handler the reference number 5222258301.

Yeovil fans say they need answers

Yeovil Town fans have written an open letter to the club’s owner and Chairman Mr Scott Priestnall. The letter which is signed on behalf of The Glover’s Trust, Ciderspace, The Green Army and Gloverscast is reproduced below:

Dear Mr Priestnall

As supporters of Yeovil Town FC, we have become increasingly concerned about the state of our club under your ownership.

We have seen our ground and the land that surrounds it sold to South Somerset District Council with no obvious plan on how to buy it back, whilst at the time of writing our team languish just outside the relegation zone.

Moreover, we are worried that matters could get worse. The proposed development of the land around the ground potentially threatens the very existence of our club.

We now write to you to ask that you urgently provide clarity in respect of the following;

  1. Please provide a breakdown of how the money raised by the sale to South Somerset DC has been spent/ allocated.
  2. You have informed us that architects have been engaged to draw up plans for the land around the ground, and that supporters will be consulted.  We call upon you to start this process immediately and to share the initial plans with supporters and local residents. 
  3. You have also said that the development of land previously owned by the holding company will benefit the club and provide a revenue stream.  Could you now please set out your vision for how this will be achieved and give a firm commitment to this process.
  4. You have made a public commitment to holding an open meeting with fans, we ask now that you set a date as soon as possible for that meeting.

We look forward to hearing from you

Green candidate welcomes Frome constituency

You’ll find a detailed article in the November Leveller about the constituency boundary changes in Somerset. At the time we went to press, these were still technically proposals. However on the 8 November they were officially firmed up and awaiting final sign off by Parliament.

There will be two new constituencies in Somerset, centred around the towns of Frome and Bridgwater. Currently Frome is part of the Somerton and Frome constituency. The official Green party candidate for Somerton & Frome is Martin Dimery. Today he put out a press statement giving his views supporting the creation of a new constituency of Frome: “I’m hugely excited by the prospect of a new Frome constituency which unites the town with our near neighbours Radstock and Midsomer Norton to the north, and Bruton in the south. Politically, it is interesting, combining those bits of the constituencies of Jacob Rees Mogg and David Warburton that don’t have strong Conservative support. It would be a four horse race, and given the exceptional Green support in Frome and Bruton, this constituency could be sending a Green MP to Westminster at the next General Election.

Mr Dimery feels there are lots of treasons why a separate Frome constituency makes sense: “Frome residents use schools in Radstock and Bruton, there are bus and train connections between our towns, and clear historic and cultural links. The constituency will be more compact geographically and have a slightly smaller population. It would mean our elected MP would have a more manageable area to serve. It will be less easy to hide from constituents. It makes much more sense for both the Somerton and Frome communities to be linked to their closest neighbours.

The Boundary Commission’s proposals are due to be adopted by Parliament next summer and would come into effect for the following General Election.  Martin Dimery is hoping to test his electoral appeal even earlier. He says: “With current MP David Warburton facing a Parliamentary enquiry, there’s a possibility of a Somerton and Frome by-election before then. My enthusiasm for the new constituency is based on what is best for Frome. I would certainly like to be considered for the Green Party nomination if a new Frome constituency is approved. In the meantime, we are focussed on the possibility of a Somerton and Frome by-election.

 Optimism from the Green Party is not unfounded. There has been a mini “Green Wave” in recent years with the election of Green councillors in Frome and the surrounding parishes, winning 10 seats on Mendip District Council in 2019. The party won four of the six Frome seats in the Somerset Unitary Election elections this year. At the very south of the new constitituency is Bruton where the Green Party have also done well. Their candidate for the Unitary Council, Ewan Jones, is the mayor. 

More details of the new seat can be found here: https://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/fcgi-bin/calcwork23.py?seat=Frome

Taunton Academy “Requires Improvement”

An Ofsted school inspection has rated Taunton Academy as “Requires Improvement”. This was, according to Ofsted, their first inspection of the school since 2018. The inspection took place in September but the report was issued today. Ofsted rated the Academy as Require Improvement in all sections except for personal development of pupils for which it was rated “Good”.

The school was told that safeguarding arrangements were effective and pupils know what to do if they have concerns. The Academy was also praised for making pupil well being a priority. The new team including a new head are also praised, but the inspectors note that planned improvements are still at an early stage.

On the downside, the curriculum was found to lack ambition in some areas. Teachers are “not clear about what knowledge pupils need to take the next step in learning. This means that pupils’ learning is hindered.” Pupils are not always offered a rich enough variety of curriculum subjects and SEND pupils do not always get teh level of support that they need.

The Academy is also criticised for the rate of absenteeism. Added to which the inspectors noted that pupils were not as well behaved outside of lessons as when they were in them.

On a more positive note the inspectors say: “Pupils behave well in lessons. Typically, lessons are calm and orderly.” Which does at least provide for an environment conducive to learning.

Bridgwater accident – man charged

Following the collision in Bridgwater which we reported yesterday, a man has now been charged. A young woman was killed in the collision which involved four cars. The collision took place at the A38 Broadway junction with Monmouth Street, St John Street and Eastover.

Luke Hawkes, 29 of Wadham Close, Bridgwater, has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving. He was also charged with failing to provide a sample of breath when asked.

Hawkes appeared at Taunton Magistrates’ Court today (Thursday 10 November). He has been remanded into custody and will next appear at Taunton Crown Court on Friday 9 December.

A second man, who was arrested following the incident, has been released under investigation.

The family of the young woman killed in the collision has asked for privacy so they can grieve for their loss. They are being support by specially trained police officers.

Police are still appealing for witnesses to come forward. If you have any information and have yet to speak to an officer, please call 101 and quote reference 5222269365.

Musgrove and Yeovil merger official

If you read The Leveller, this will not be a big surprise, it was our 15 October headline. But yesterday (Tuesday 8 November) the board of directors at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust met . They approved the business case to support the merger between the two NHS trusts. The result was not a massive surprise either. Since January of this year, the majority of members of the board of each trust have been the same people! They were hardly likely to disagree with themselves.

The merger should in general terms, streamline the NHS in Somerset. Removing artificial barriers to providing a single service and reducing waste and cost. Though we won’t know how effective it has been until the new merged body produces a first year of accounts.

The new NHS trust will provide acute care and treatment from Yeovil and Musgrove Park Hospitals. It will also run community-based services, including the county’s 13 community hospitals. These include the hospitals at Bridgwater, Chard, Minehead and South Petherton. Finally it will run the mental health and learning disability services for the Somerset County Council area.

In addition, it will run 16 GP practices through the Symphony Healthcare Services subsidiary.

The business case describes a series of plans that set out the benefits of the merger for patients and what it will mean in practice. Following this approval, it will be reviewed by the regulatory body, NHS England.

If the business case is given the go-ahead by NHS England, then it’s intended that the two trusts will merge, subject to feedback, on 1 April 2023.

Arrests follow fatal accident in Bridgwater

A 19-year-old woman died in a collision in Bridgwater last night (Tuesday 8 November) at around 9.50pm. The next of kin have been notified and are being supported by officers. 

The incident involved four cars at the A38 Broadway junction with Monmouth Street, St John Street and Eastover. A further three people sustained minor injuries. One was taken to hospital where they were later released to recover at home.

Arrests

Two men, aged 35 and 28, have been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. The 28-year-old was “further arrested” on suspicion of failing to provide a specimen.

Were you in the area at the time of the collision and witnessed the incident? Or perhaps saw the cars immediately prior to or after the incident? Do you have have dashcam or CCTV footage? If you have yet to speak to the police, please contact them on 101.

Sexual assault in Street

A woman was attacked by a man off Sharpham Drove near Street at around 2.45pm on Sunday (6 November). The victim was subjected to a sexual assault. She described the offender as white, aged in their 30s or 40s, of slight build with pitted skin. He wore dark trousers, a dark fleece jacket, a black beanie hat and dark black sunglasses. He also wore black gloves and carried a small green bag – similar to those pictured.

(These are samples that look like the items described, but Police do not know the exact makes of the items.)

Avon & Somerset Police have released an E-fit (below) of a man they’d like to identify in connection with the assault. Detective Inspector Rachel Whelan said: “We’re doing everything we can to support the victim of this incident who is understandably shaken by what happened. We’re keen to hear from anyone who recognises the man depicted in the image well as anyone who was in the area around the time who saw anyone acting suspiciously.

Neighbourhood officers will be carrying out patrols of the area to provide reassurance to the local community. If you have any concerns please do approach them.

If you can help, please call 101 and give the call handler the reference number 5222267347.

Carnival decision “unlawful”

The Leveller has run several pieces over the course of this year looking at plans to build a Carnival Park near Ilminster. The plans were eventually passed by South Somerset District Council’s (SSDC’s) Area West Committee. CPRE, the countryside charity, took the decision to a judicial review.

The plans involved building large scale industrial units in open countryside with difficult road access. The purpose was to allow carnival floats to be built, worked on and stored in the units.

The decision was controversial as two apparently conflicted councillors took part in the vote. These were LibDem councillors Hamilton and Baker. A third LibDem, councillor Cllr Val Keitch who was also conflicted, declared her interest and took no part in the proceedings. However this action simply drew attention to the two councillors who failed withdraw.

This mattered as the vote was 6-5 in favour of development. Without the two councillors who were conflicted, the vote would have been lost 5-4.

Mr Justice Chamberlain ruled today (8 November) that SSDC had unlawfully approved the planning application. He stated the two councillors Baker and Hamilton, were ‘ tainted by apparent bias ’. 

In a press release issued after the judgement and commenting on it, CPRE noted “Cllr Brian Hamilton is a town councillor and deputy mayor at Ilminster town council. He also sits on SSDC’s Area West planning committee. The town council had voted to become the applicant, and to indicate its support by letter. The judge ruled that taking these facts into account, a fair minded person would conclude that there was a real possibility that he would be biased in favour of the town council’s application. Therefore he automatically had a prejudicial interest, and so was disqualified from voting. Cllr Jason Baker also sits on SSDC’s Area West planning committee. He has a long standing association with both Chard Carnival Committee, which was said in the planning application to be supportive of the planning application, and with Chard based Eclipse carnival club, which was a beneficiary of the planning application. He was personally pictured among a group of individuals appearing to support the carnival park committee, which was the agent for the application.”

Hugh Williams, Chair of CPRE Somerset told The Leveller “CPRE Somerset is pleased that the High Court has agreed with us and quashed the decision. Ensuring planning decisions are taken lawfully is crucial for everyone involved in the planning system, and we look forward to seeing this matter re-addressed in the correct way by SSDC in due course “.

However it is important to note that the judge concluded that neither of the two councillors (Baker and Hamilton) attempted to hide their associations, and had declared their interests openly. Both followed the advice of SSDC’s Monitoring Officer, which the judge ruled was wrong in law. So to that extent the councillors had acted in good faith. As to SSDC’s monitoring officer, she “went wrong in law, as many public decision-makers and most judges do at some point, but was not otherwise at fault.

The Judgement may yet have consequences for South Somerset tax payers when costs are assessed. Initially SSDC failed to file a defence and refused to respond to CPRE in the usual pre court exchanges. This can be taken into account when assessing costs at the end of the case. CPRE will be seeking full payment of their costs from SSDC.

Strike suspended but no trains anyway

Late this afternoon the RMT Union announced a suspension of strike action planned for 5, 7 and 9 November. The RMT explained the decision as follows: “Through a strong industrial campaign so far, RMT has secured unconditional talks on Network Rail. There is also the promise of an offer from the train operating companies who up until this point, have made no offer of any kind to our members.

The Union explain that originally Network Rail had declared discussions and consultations closed. That they were intent on imposing changes to maintenance procedures without agreement with RMT. The RMT say the new position is that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” That they say, takes away the reason for the current phase of action. Talks will now continue without pre-conditions.

The Union added that the current dispute remains very much live. They will continue to re-ballot members to secure a fresh mandate for action. The result of that ballot is due on 15th November.

However reacting to the news the train company GWR have said all service cancellations will continue as planned. GWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood said: “Unfortunately, with less than 12 hours’ notice before the strike was due to start, it is too late to restore normal timetables and spare customers from disruption tomorrow and the early part of next week. Our advice remains to only travel by rail if necessary.” 

The Leveller says:

The logic is undeniable for services planned for tomorrow (5 November). However it is surely nonsense to apply that to 7 and 9 November. The train companies do not have to reinvent the wheel, merely get rolling stock in the right place and restore a timetable, that is identical to the timetable they usually run. If a train company cannot restore normal services to its network with 3 days notice, should it be a train company?

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