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February / March newsletter

by adamboyden on 23 February, 2021

Covid-19 update – Roadmap to re-opening:

After a year of restrictions, the Government has set out plans to end the current lockdown – please see here. The current rules remain until 8th March, and support is available here, and at the end of a phone – the Somerset-wide Coronavirus Helpline 0300 790 6275 and Citizens Advice’ Somerset Advice Line 0808 278 7842.

From now until March or beyond Mendip District Council is focusing on new priorities – saving lives, delivering statutory services, and economic recovery, to help support the vaccination rollout at its offices.

Frome still has several volunteering opportunities for people able to help others – in schools, being community drivers, shopping for people, and helping children – please see here. Across Mendip and Somerset, you can sign-up here to be added to a ‘volunteer bank’. Thank you.

Over 60s can book a vaccination:

The Chair of Mendip District Council Helen Sprawson-White, also a health worker, has alerted us that anyone over 60 can now book your vaccination against Covid-19 here online. You don’t need a serious health condition to do this. The website says ‘over 64s’ but will allow you to proceed. You need, name, date of birth and postcode, and also the postcode of the Mass Vaccination Centre you would like to go to, e.g. Bath & West Showground at Shepton Mallet which is BA4 6QN.

Updates from Council meetings:

These recent council meetings may be of interest –

  • Mendip District Council’s Full Council meeting on Monday 22 February covered the Council’s capital investment, financial plan, annual budget and Council Tax setting, and a report on the Council’s climate and ecological action plan. As explained below we secured the Real Living Wage for all council employees, and approved the first fund to support the creative industries in 10 years (see below). We also passed cross-party motions on trialling Universal Basic Income, and using local planning policy and guidance to better tackle climate and ecology issues. I was also appointed to be one of MDC’s two reps on the Somerset Waste Board Joint Scrutiny Panel. You can see the agenda and all the reports and watch the meeting again here.
  • MDC’s Asset of Community Value Panel met on Wednesday 24th February to decide whether to approve the nomination by the Friends of Easthill to include the land at Easthill, Frome on the register of assets of community value. The meeting was live streamed and can be watched again here. What Assets of Community Value are is explained here. A SomersetLive article on this is here. The application was refused, as explained here.
  • Frome Town Council’s Council Matters Meeting on Wednesday 24th February included items on Site management plans for the Old Showfield and New Road, Covid-related improvements at the Cheese & Grain, FTC’s financial position, and what has been happening recently in the parks and green spaces and at the Town Hall. Please see the agenda reports here and a report of the meeting here.
  • Frome Town Council’s next online Full Council meeting is Wednesday 17th March at 7pm – the agenda will be published here a week in advance.
  • MDC’s Cabinet meets on Monday 1st March at 6.30pm, and will discuss supporting the delivery of cycle and footpaths throughout the district (including Frome, such as the Frome’s Missing Links), the Groundcare and Streetscene contact, and (in confidential session) an update on the Berkley Lane PSPO (which I will be speaking about, see below). The meeting will be live streamed here.

Mendip restores arts funding after 10 years:

Mendip’s Full Council has approved the creation of a £40,000 Creative Mendip earmarked reserve fund, paid for by a reduction in staff and member expenses. This is the brainchild of cllr Barry O’Leary, and will be used to support the many varied creative industry organisations and venues in the district, including to apply for larger funds.

This is the first creative industry funding from Mendip District Council since the previous administration (and Somerset County Council) withdrew support for the arts back in 2011, which reduced the ability of Somerset organisations and artists to apply for funding from the Arts Council. Creative organisations and practitioners can now look forward to more council support and investment after a 10-year funding gap. Please see here for the report.

Mendip to be a Real Living Wage Employer:

Mendip’s Full Council also approved our Pay Policy Statement, including our commitment to pay all lower paid employees at least the Real Living Wage from 1st April 2021. This is calculated by the Living Wage Foundation to reflect the true hourly cost of living, and is higher than the statutory living wage.

Mendip District Council will register to be a ‘Living Wage Employer’ and will work towards achieving the Real Living Wage for contractors. This fulfils a commitment in the Corporate Plan, and will encourage local employers to follow the council’s lead to make Mendip a fairer place to work.

Citizens Advice – £400,000 of funding secured by Somerset Lib Dems

Somerset residents in need will now have more help available, after the County Council agreed a grant of £400,000 to fund Citizens Advice freephone ‘Somerset Adviceline’ at the yearly budget meeting, when the proposal by Lib Dem Councillor Liz Leyshon to direct emergency Covid-19 funding towards the freephone county-wide ‘Somerset Advice Line’ project was supported by every councillor.

At the start of the pandemic, Citizens Advice changed the way it operates, so that Somerset residents could access advice and guidance by phoning for free. Special arrangements mean that whenever a call to the Advice Line comes from Somerset, it is directed to a local volunteer advisor. Demand for Citizens Advice services are expected to rise over the next year as furlough ends, residents and businesses hit harder times and evictions re-commence. If you need assistance from Citizens Advice please call the Somerset Advice Line at 0808 27 87 842. Somerset County Council’s news on this is here.

Census 2021 is coming:

Census Day is on Sunday 21st March 2021. The census is a unique survey that happens every 10 years and gives us a snapshot of all the people and households in England and Wales – the most detailed information we have about our society. By taking part, you will help inform decisions on services that shape your community, such as healthcare, education and transport. It is vital you fill in your census questionnaire so central and local government understand our community’s needs and can plan and fund public services – please see here.

Berkley Lane PSPO:

Many residents have received a letter from Mendip District Council explaining why the Council had to remove the concrete blocks from Berkley Lane to the north of Frome on Monday 22nd February. The blocks were installed under a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) in order to prevent vehicle access and reduce flytipping. I am encouraging the three levels of councils (parish, district and county) to agree a way to close the road to vehicles again soon, and to prevent flytipping increasing in the area. Please see here for more on that, a link to a petition, and a copy of the letter here.  

Commerce Park: planning application submitted for industrial and business development:

A planning application has been submitted to develop all but one of the last remaining vacant plots on the south side of the Commerce Park. The application is for 61 small business units (B2/B8 units with ancillary office space, in nine buildings), and a single industrial building in two 15,000 sq.ft. units (use class B8 and E(G)(i) (formerly B1a)) with a height to eaves up to 7m and ridge 8.82m – please see the planning application documents and comments here.

The site is on the other side of the noise bund and fence along the boundary with Priddy Close, Blagdon Walk and Compton Gardens. The consultation period has been extended by the case officer until 12th March. I and the Coalway Lane Residents Association are looking through the documents and I would encourage people living near the site to have a good look. Residents commenting here already have expressed concerns about the B2/B8 units being proposed within a zone previously restricted in the former outline planning permission to the former use class B1 Business, and about potential noise and visual impacts. The potential job creation is the headline in this week’s Frome Standard, and on the SomersetLive news online. More on this next week.

Acheson & Acheson propose expansion at Commerce Park:

In addition, beauty products developer and manufacturer Acheson & Acheson (which expanded its facility after planning permission was granted in 2016 – see here), proposes to expand again into the other remaining vacant plot along the southern boundary of the Commerce Park. A leaflet is being delivered to residents on Monday 1st March to explain – please see here for details.

Mendip calls on homeowners to put Empty Homes to use:

Mendip District Council’s Housing Team has put out another callout for homeowners to get in touch and take up the free help and advice available to bring any empty properties they own back into use. The call marked this year’s National Empty Homes Week (15th-21st February). The Frome Area Community Land Trust are now working with Mendip towards providing more socially rented homes for local people in Frome, but this will take time. In the meantime if you know anyone with an empty property, ask them to get in touch, please see here for the support available.  

Homeless Emergency Provision activated:

Mendip’s Severe Weather Emergency Provision emergency overnight accommodation for homeless rough sleepers (now in Frome as well as Wells) was implemented on 7th-13th February during the cold weather. This has two aims; to ensure that no one dies on the streets due to severe weather, and to ensure that every effort is made to engage individuals with support; please see here.

Consultation on Unitary Councils in Somerset:

The Government has begun a public consultation into changing the way local councils work in Somerset. It gives everyone the chance to have your say on setting up a unitary council approach to governing Somerset.

The County Council’s ‘One Somerset’ proposes a single unitary council for the county. The alternative ‘Stronger Somerset’ submitted by the four District Councils would see one unitary for Western Somerset, and one for Eastern Somerset (based on the districts of Mendip and South Somerset), which should be more locally accountable and responsive than a large single council based in Taunton (see here), with potentially greater devolution of services and assets to parish/town councils. Somerset’s district councils welcomed the consultation and are encouraging people to take part.

The consultation will run for 8 weeks until Monday 19 April. See here to take part and have your say on how you are governed. The final decision by Government is expected this summer, with any new authority starting in 2023.

Somerset County Council elections postponed:

Because of the unitary consultation, the Government has deferred the Council County elections that were due in May 2021, until May 2022 – when either the delayed county council elections, or elections to the new emerging unitary council/s will take place. The election of a new Police & Crime Commissioner for Somerset will still go ahead though.

Heather Shearer pledges to improve community policing:

Heather Shearer has been selected to stand as the Lib Dem candidate for Avon & Somerset’s Police & Crime Commissioner election on 6th May 2021.

Heather Shearer

Heather is Vice Chair of Somerset’s Police & Crime Panel, the Mendip District Councillor with special responsibility for Community Health & Safety, a member of the Safer Somerset Partnership, a Parish Councillor and an active member of her own community, playing an important part in her local Community Support Group during the pandemic. She’ll bring a wealth of experience and passion to the role of Police & Crime Commissioner. You can find out more about Heather’s plans for better policing here and here or please email heather4betterpolicing@gmail.com.

Rainbow flag flies from Mendip on Valentine’s weekend:

Mendip District Council flew a rainbow flag from its buildings in Shepton Mallet on Valentine weekend, to signal love, kindness and hope. The council offices are currently transformed into a GP-lead medical hub and are central to the vaccination roll-out programme in Mendip. The rainbow symbol has been adopted by the public as an emblem of hope and a ‘thank you’ to our NHS heroes, and the rainbow flag has also been long-associated with LBGTQ+ communities. As February is LBGTQ+ History Month, it seemed doubly appropriate to display it – please see here.

Missed recycling collections:

Several roads in Stonebridge had missed recycling and food waste collections last Monday, due to Covid-related staff shortages. Somerset Waste Partnership has issued an apology and advice here on what to do here. They are advising people to either keep their recycling safe (and secure from the wind) until next week, or bag it up and take it to the Recycling Centre, and if need be put food waste in the main refuse bin, double bagged. Please do let me know if this has affected you. 

Climate: Tough measures needed to drive down district’s emissions:

A major shift in current behaviours is required by Mendip communities to reduce CO2 emissions by 2030. These are the frank findings of a Future Emissions Pathways report commissioned by the District Council to identify the most suitable roadmap towards carbon neutrality. The first report of its kind ever carried out in Mendip reveals the urgency and scale of intensity required. Please see here.

Funding granted for School Streets initiative in Frome:

The ‘school corridor’ scheme promoting safe access to three schools around Oakfield Road and Somerset Road in Frome, by giving priority to cycling and walking and limiting vehicle access, has been allocated Active Travel funding, overseen by Somerset’s Active Travel Group, representing the county and district councils, police and health. The scheme was launched in the autumn (see here) but paused to allow more local consultation, and will be co-designed by the community.  Please see here. To be part of the stakeholder group who will shape this please sign up to http://bit.ly/activetravelfrome.

Planning: Councils publish Phosphates Calculator:

Somerset’s four Districts Councils and the County Council have been working to reduce delay and uncertainty around planning applications elsewhere in the district following recent guidance over unacceptable amounts of phosphates in the Somerset Levels and Moors Ramsar site – see here.

Planning: Landscape consultation ends 28th February:

MDC recently extended the deadline for comments and contributions to its revised District Landscape Character Assessment. The study divides Mendip District into 8 main landscape areas and then 56 individual character areas. Details of how to submit your comments can be found here. The consultation ends on 28th February 2021.

Frome’s Saturday Market reopens:

As a result of Mendip District Council prioritising helping the NHS run the local vaccination programme, including at MDC’s offices in Shepton Mallet, a number of services were reduced, including Mendip’s markets which were reduced in extent for several weeks – please see here. This was reviewed following feedback from market goers, Frome Town Council, local councillors and others, and on 9th February MDC restored its outdoor market opening times and reinstated its Saturday markets in Frome and Wells – please see here.

Mendip weekly column:

The leader of Mendip District Council cllr Ros Wyke issues a column to local press every week to round up what the Council is doing. In February her columns are titled ‘To our everyday heroes – Thank You’, ‘In praise of parish councils’, ‘Targeting the tippers’, and ‘Road to recovery’, and you can find them all here. Monthly MDC news roundups are also now here.

Other Council news:

Other Council news can also be found here:

  • Somerset County Council news
  • Mendip District Council news
  • Frome Town Council news

Any Questions?

I have also been working on and talking to affected residents about a few local matters, including:

  • Arranging the repair of the broken street light outside Stonebridge shops
  • Trees and open space at Mendip Drive/Selwood Crescent
  • Lorry washing in a residential area
  • Hedgerow removal near Packsaddle Way/ Leys Lane

Please let me know what needs doing, and any questions, by email to cllr.boyden@mendip.gov.uk and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Best wishes,

Adam Boyden with Cllr Drew Gardner,    
Mendip District Councillors for Frome College ward

Adam – email aomboyden@gmail.com cllr.boyden@mendip.gov.uk
Drew – email drewgardner@me.com / cllr.gardner@mendip.gov.uk
https://adamboyden.mycouncillor.org.uk/
https://www.somertonandfromelibdems.org.uk/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/somertonandfromeLD/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/CllrAdamBoyden

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