Category Archives: Uncategorized

BT fined for Somerset road works

BT has been fined £12,000 by Taunton Magistrates Court. The company was also ordered to pay costs of £3,158, plus a £2,000 victim surcharge. The total penalty was £17,154.

BT pleaded guilty to offences under the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 and Traffic Management Permit Scheme (England).

The company carried out work last March on Ilminster Road in Ruishton. It had neither an adequate traffic management or a valid street works permit.

Councillor Mike Rigby, Somerset Council’s Lead Member for Highways and Digital praised the outcome: “The Council has a statutory duty to co-ordinate street works in and around the county. That’s to protect the public from unsafe street works. Also to minimise inconvenience to road users…. If we’re going to carry out this duty we need utilities onside. Their contractors must uphold safety standards and communicate properly with us. In undermining the process and potentially putting the pubic in danger they leave us with no choice. We have to take action – and we will continue to do so if operators”

Threats outside South Somerset school

On Friday afternoon a woman was threatened outside Stanchester Academy in Stoke sub Hamdon. The incident happened between 2.30pm and 2.45pm. The woman  was threatened by the occupants of a dark coloured vehicle as it was driven past her.

Police are appealing to the public for anyone who witnessed the incident to come forward.

Anyone who witnessed the incident, or has information which could help is asked to phone 101. Please provide the call handler with the reference 5223218474.

2 Somerset sites win solar bids

The government today announced successful bids for green energy projects. Each year it awards a Contracts for Difference round. This is where green energy projects can bid to supply energy at a fixed price to the grid. It is effectively an auction. The lowest bidders are given the contracts to supply energy at the strike price they bid for it. Government says that by agreeing a strike price up front, potential suppliers have certainty. This enables them to make capital commitments knowing what revenue stream they can rely on.

A total of 95 clean energy projects were successful with their bids – up from 93 in the previous round. The latest round had budget funding of £227 million and has secured enough to power the equivalent of 2 million homes. Half of this year’s total capacity has been secured by new solar projects, and two are in Somerset.

Aller Park Solar Farm was one of the smaller projects to win a bid. This is on land next to the existing Aller Court Solar Farm to the west of the village of Aller. With 10MW capacity the owners, Aller Langport Solar Park Limited, bid £47 per MW hour and expect that the energy will come on stream by 2025/26.

The other successful Somerset site was in North Petherton and owned by Enso Green Holdings H Limited. The site is to the east of North Petherton between the M5 and the Bristol/Taunton railway line. This site is much larger with 40MW capacity. They too bid £47 per MW hour for supplying power to the grid. However the estimated start date for the project generating power is a bit further out in 2027/28.

EY update on Pittards

Ernst & Young, administrators to Pittards released a statement to The Leveller this evening.

Unfortunately it is not good news for the company or it’s employees. They confirm the facts as reported earlier today on LevellerLive.

They add: “Extensive discussions were held with an interested party to achieve a sale of the Company’s business and assets but, unfortunately, the prospective buyer was unable to conclude an agreement with its debt funder to allow a sale to proceed.”

That leaves a sale of the business as a going concern looking increasingly unlikely.

The administrators told us: “As no other party has expressed an interest in acquiring the business, the Company has now ceased to trade with immediate effect and sadly, the majority of the Company’s UK employees have been made redundant.”

For now the best they can say about the future is this: “The Joint Administrators will assess options over the coming days to realise value for the company’s creditors and wind down the Company’s business. Employees that are affected by redundancy are being offered appropriate advice and support in making claims for redundancy and notice pay and will receive information from Jobcentre Plus for help with finding employment, claiming benefits and improving skills.”

Pittards of Yeovil to delist

On Monday (4 September) administrators, Lucy Winterborne and Daniel Hurd, from Ernst & Young were finally appointed to Pittards plc. The Yeovil leather goods company had been struggling financially for some time. When the administrators were appointed they claimed they were at an advanced stage in negotiations to sell the Company. Including its Ethiopian subsidiaries.

At the time they suggested the transaction would be completed no later than 6 September 2023.

That date has no come and gone and there is no news of a transaction. Staff were sent home at midday on Tuesday 5 September. The company website no longer functions and the company announced on Tuesday that it had ceased to trade.

The company has also accepted the resignation of its nominated advisor and that there is no intention to replace them. This is a technicality, but means that Pittards will be delisted from the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange. This is where the companies shares were traded until Monday.

The administrators warned that if the transaction could not be concluded they would assess all available options to realise value for the company’s creditors.

The future of the 135 workers in Yeovil and the 900 in Ethiopia remains unclear. Until the administrators issue a statement the future of the business will remain in doubt.

In a statement to The Leveller, Adam Dance, the LibDem PPC* said: “I am very sorry to hear that Pittards, one of Yeovil’s most prestigious manufacturing companies has fallen into administration. I am sure they tried their utmost to maintain the future of the company. Their rescue efforts were, of course, affected by a declining economy defined by an energy crisis.

These are very difficult times for industries who are fighting a very high level of business rates, rising inflation and a general downturn in the economy. Only a year ago Liz Truss’ government pushed borrowing rates through the roof. The results of these policies are now seen in the demise of industries like Pittards.

A reduction in VAT from 20% to 17.5% would result in a 1% reduction in inflation within one month and yet this government fails to act.

However, my priority now is to help to safeguard the future of Pittards 135 employees.

Somerset Council are even now talking to the Administrators offering help to the employees who suddenly find themselves without a job. Working with our partners, DWP and the Job Centre Plus we can offer help to those in need. Access to training opportunities, providing opportunities for start-up businesses, sign-posting vacancies within the Council are just some of the ways we can help.

If none of these are relevant then we will, of course, provide access to welfare support.

Somerset Council will be doing all it can to mitigate the effects of Pittards sad closure.”

*Prospective Parliamentary Candidate

Petition over Glastonbury Pharmacy closure

There is growing concern in Glastonbury over the closure of the Boots pharmacy on the High Street. The store has announced that it will close on 13 October. That will leave the town with just one pharmacy, Knights on Feversham Lane.

The pharmacy is already experiencing a heavy workload and the closure will only add to that. The Leveller ran a lead story in our June issue highlighting the closure of pharmacies and the impact it had on communities. Unfortunately this seems to be part of a national trend. And just at the point when government is suggesting pharmacies can be used to take pressure off GPs.

Campaigner Emma King has started a petition to save the pharmacy. She says that Somerset NHS recognise the importance of local pharmacies. In fact there is some evidence for this. In an article on the NHS Somerset website, published on 23rd September 2022, Dr Bernie Marsden, NHS Somerset’s Chief Medical Officer says that residents should be: “using our NHS Somerset GP Community Pharmacy Consultation Service which offers patients a same-day appointment for over 40 minor conditions at a community pharmacist of their choice, when they are offered an appointment for this service by their surgery.”

However Emma King says that when you talk to Somerset NHS it is a different matter. They have an action plan: “which presumes that people will be able to access online services. This is simply unacceptable for people in a rural area, where internet access is often poor.”

She adds: “Glastonbury has a large number intravenous drug users, and subsequently a lot of users who require methadone or other substitute opioids. The closure of the Boots pharmacy is going to be a risk to patients and the community as a whole.”

To date the petition against closure has attracted 400 signatures.

If you want to sign the petition and find out more, you can do so here:

Man dies after collision near Frome

A man has died following a four vehicle collision near Frome yesterday(3 September)

Officers were called to the scene at around 5pm to the A361 in the Rode area. The collision involved a motorbike and three cars: a Kia Kona, an Audi A4 and a VW T-Cross.

The 51-year-old motorcyclist was pronounced dead at the scene. His family are being offered support by a specially trained family liaison officer.

The road was closed while officers attended the scene. However it had been reopened by 3am today (Monday 4 September).

f you were in the area and witnessed the collision, or have any relevant footage, please contact 101 and quote reference 5223213702.

Teenager attacked in Yeovil

Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward after a teenager was attacked in Ninesprings Country Park. The incident happened on a footpath going through the park last Wednesday (30 August) between 7.30pm and 8.00pm.

The victim was attacked by a man using a blade as a weapon. The attacker is described as 16-18 years old and approximately 5ft 10in to 6ft tall. He was of slim build, with a full but thin beard. He was wearing a branded black tracksuit.

The victim was taken to hospital with multiple cuts. Thankfully, his injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.

Officers from the Neighbourhood Policing Team are conducting additional reassurance patrols in the area. Anyone with concerns can speak with any of the officers.

Police would like to hear from anyone who was in the area at the time of the incident. They’d also like to hear from anyone who recognises the description of the attacker an may know who it is. Please contact 101 and quote reference 5223210574 to the call handler.

Somerset Council consults

It is always good when a council, indeed any body that spends public money consults. Especially when they consult with the public whose money they are spending.

Today Somerset Council have launched a consultation on the principles on which communities should be created. It is broadly about creating the background for the a new county-wide Local Plan. This will, in due course, replace the four existing district council Local Plans.

In short this is important.

It will determine what housing will be built, what considerations will be taken into account and how the housing will fit into the community.

The outline principle are as follows:

  • The principles should offer substantial benefit to people in Somerset by improving air quality; reducing carbon footprints; creating safe and easy access to schools; and places that are more resilient to the impacts of climate change while protecting and enhancing nature and wildlife.
  • Creating connected, safe and healthy places will also help to improve quality of life and wellbeing. The Council is proposing to prioritise active travel – cycling, walking and wheeling – along with public transport to reduce reliance on using private cars.
  • Places should be designed to allow easy access to shops, services and facilities that meet residents’ needs, with streets linking to existing communities and services. Most new development comes forward in or on the edge of our towns, and for those there would be more emphasis on enabling active travel – bike and e-scooter hire, car clubs and public transport – with less on parking provision.
  • While Somerset is a largely rural county, at present rural roads are the most hazardous for users, per mile travelled, so the principles would aim to provide safer streets and lanes for rural communities and the opportunity for sustainable travel.
  • The principles are intended to make it easier for those able to walk, wheel, cycle or take public transport to do so, leaving space for those less able to make active travel trips or journeys by public transport, to continue to drive.

The consultation launches today and will run for six weeks until 16 October. People can take part via Citizen Space

Paper copies containing further information and the online survey questions will also be available to the public at the following locations:

  • Bridgwater House, Bridgwater, TA6 3AR (Monday – Friday 8.45am to 5.00pm)
  • Council Offices, Cannard’s Grave Road, Shepton Mallet, BA4 5BT (Monday – Friday 8.30am to 5.00pm
  • Petters Way Council Offices, Yeovil, BA20 1AS (Monday – Tuesday and Thursday – Friday 9.00am to 4.00pm, first Wednesday of the month 11.00am to 4.00pm and every other Wednesday 9.00am to 4.00pm)
  • Deane House, Belvedere Road, Taunton, TA1 1HE (Monday – Friday 8.30am to 5.00pm)
  • West Somerset House, 20 Fore Street, Williton, TA4 4QA (Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.00pm)
  • County Hall, Taunton, TA1 4DY (Monday – Friday 8.00am to 6.00pm, Saturday 09:00am to 4.00pm)
  • Libraries including: Taunton, Minehead, Frome, Bridgwater, Yeovil and Glastonbury

The Leveller would like to offer up one obviously missing principle. Communities need affordable housing. There is no point to making nice planning noises about cycling and air quality if those who grow up here, can’t afford a house. The single most important principle that should inform development is that housing should be built that local people can afford.

False alarm at Milford Infants School

Concern was raised for pupils at Milford Infants School today, by local MP Marcus Fysh. The MP for Yeovil posted on social media that the school would face significant disruption. Not the sort of message parents, carers and students want to hear with a new term due to start next week. Mr Fysh said he had spoken to education ministers and had learned that the state of the concrete used in the building posed a significant risk.

The MP went on to say he would speak to the CEO of Huish Academy Trust. Milford is on the north side of Yeovil but according to the MP is part of the Huish Academy Multi Academy Trust. The MP stated that his aim was to ensure disruption was kept to a minimum.

He added that he was sorry for the disruption that would be caused and that his heart went out to the children. He offered to stand ready to help in any way he could, especially those children with Special Educational Needs.

With the new term now on the horizon the message was alarming for parents. Large numbers tried to get in touch with the school to find out what was going on. Specifically, why were they only being told about a problem at the last minute. However having seen the social media posting the school promptly put out a message of their own.

It appears to completely contradict the warning from the MP.

“Dear Parents and Carers,

With regard to the incorrect post that has been made on social media, we would like to assure you that Milford Infants’ School will not be closed and we are looking forward to welcoming our families back to school as planned on Tuesday 5th September.

We have been assured by the Local Authority that the school is safe and they will be providing a statement in response as soon as possible.”

Subsequently the MP changed his original post. He now says there is no issue with the concrete and no risk of the school not opening on time.

Meanwhile The Leveller checked with Somerset Council and they have assured us there is not a problem with the concrete. The school is considered safe and will open on schedule for the Autumn Term next week.

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