February newsletter

by adamboyden on 15 February, 2024

Somerset Council budget:

Somerset Council’s meeting agenda for Full Council on 20th February, at Canalside Conference Centre near Bridgwater, are now online – (see here). The main item is the budget for 2024/25 and setting the year’s Council Tax, in item 11.

The Executive recently passed amendments to withdraw or change a number of savings proposals to allow alternative funding models to be explored (see item 13 here). The savings linked to highways maintenance, RNLI lifeguard provision, school crossing patrols, and savings linked to important democratic functions, such as Scrutiny committees, have been removed. Some services previously proposed to be cut will also now be protected by working in partnership with City, Town and Parish Councils, including Somerset’s CCTV service and public toilets. Please see here for more.

The original proposed cuts, and proposed changes, were also discussed at a Scrutiny Committee I attended. I raised concerns about proposed cuts to public toilets, school crossing patrols and highway maintenance, which have since been addressed.

The report of the public consultation on priorities and services is found here, as Appendix 8 to item 13 of the Executive meeting on 7th February. It shows what residents’ priorities are within each service area, and helped shape councillors’ responses and amendments to the original proposed cuts – so thanks to everyone who responded.

The £5m increase in support from the Government (out of £600m for local authorities in England) helps, although that was only 15% of the £4bn funding recommended by the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee to stop more councils falling into effective bankruptcy. My thoughts on this are here

Somerset Council’s portion of Council Tax is again proposed to increase by £82.14 a year (4.99%) (see item 11 Appendix 16. Some parish and town councils have also increased their precepts to contribute more to saving local services or taking over local assets. Here in Frome North the parish precepts are increasing by the following amounts a year for a Band D property in 2024/25 (and % from 2023/24): Frome: £56.90 (26%), Beckington £7.60 (9.95%), Berkley £8.00 (31%), Norton St Philip £1.31 (1%), Rode £9.63 (19.6%), Lullington: no increase, Tellisford: no precept (see Appendix 16C).

If you pay Council Tax but have a low income, you could be eligible for Council Tax Reduction – please see here. Please let me know if you have any concerns.

Police face cuts despite precept increase:

Earlier this month the Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Panel met to consider the Police and Crime Commissioner’s proposed increase in the council tax precept – the money collected from council tax specifically for policing – and approved the maximum increase possible (an annual increase of £13 (4.88%) for an average Band D property in the Avon and Somerset police area), after agreeing this was needed to deliver an ‘outstanding police service’ (see here). See item 8 of the agenda here. A consultation that preceded the decision warned that even with such as increase, savings will still need to be made, likely resulting in about 250 staff roles being cut across the next few years, with an impact on front line services such as visible policing and the ability to investigate crime (see January news).

Liberal Democrat Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Benet Allen said, “Somerset has put up its precept for the police as far as possible – but it’s still a real-terms cut, and this is going to mean cuts to police investigators. Not good, when you consider that last year’s Inspector of Constabulary report said the force ‘Requires Improvement’ in four out of nine areas, including important things like investigating crime and responding to the public.  Avon and Somerset police isn’t good enough, and thanks to government cuts, it’s likely to get worse.   I will stand up for our police force in the face of our cynical government.”.

Mendip Local Plan housing sites:

Somerset Council’s Planning and Transportation Subcommittee meeting on Wednesday 14th considered a report on the proposed site allocations to update the Mendip Local Plan in item 6 – see here. None of the sites put forward by landowners/developers in Beckington, Rode, Norton St Philip or northern edges of Frome have been taken forward as sites proposed for inclusion in the Local Plan (see pages 4-7 and 39-44 of Appendix 3).

Two sites in Frome have been included – North Parade car park (site FRO227, for 18 homes, and which has a live planning application not yet determined) and Land off Adderwell Road (site FRO218, for 25 homes). A public consultation on the plan will follow shortly.

Housing development between Oldford and Frome:

A planning application is being finalised for 420 new homes, associated infrastructure, access, roads, drainage/utilities, public open spaces and landscaping, on 34 hectares of land east of Oldford Hill, between Windsbatch Lane, Oldford, and Gypsy Lane, Frome. A request for Somerset Council’s formal opinion on whether the proposal should require Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was submitted on 2nd February, accompanied by a Screening Report (which summarises the results of the applicant’s initial surveys and assessments) – see here. Vehicle access would be off Oldford Hill and Gypsy Lane.

The site was put forward by the landowner in the Mendip Local Plan update ‘call for sites’ last autumn but was not considered suitable by the Council’s planning policy team as a proposed allocated site (see here, page 6, as site FRO233). I have asked the agents to consider pre-application consultation with the local community and Parish/Town Councils, and the potential for this is being discussed. It is likely that a planning application will be submitted later this year.

HGVs using narrow lanes north of Frome:

Concerns have been raised by local residents about HGVs continuing to use narrow rural lanes including Limerick Lane (Beckington), Whitechapel Lane and Windsbatch Lane (Berkley) from the A36 to access Andros Dairy. After several requests, Somerset Council’s Highways team have now agreed to order some ‘unsuitable to HGV’ signs in the next financial year (from April 2024) off the A36 and at Oldford (see red dots on the map), and will contact National Highways about signs on the A36. Parish Councils also have the option of supplying and erecting their own signs sooner.

Berkley Lane and Dark Lane public inquiry in April:

The delayed public local inquiry into Somerset Council’s proposal to extinguish vehicular rights along Dark Lane and a section of Berkley Lane to the north of Frome will now be held on 9 – 11 April 2024 from 10am at Somerset Council’s offices at Cannards Grave, Shepton Mallet BA4 5BT. The proposal, previously by Mendip District Council, aims to reduce flytipping in the area at this historic hotspot – see here for the background.

If you have any statement to make (to support of object), please email your statement (with any evidence, and whether you wish to speak at the inquiry) by 4th March 2024 to case officer Paul Harrison at nationalcasework@dft.gov.uk or by post to National Transport Casework Team, Tyneside House, Skinnerburn Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 7AR, quoting reference NATTRAN/SW/S249/4967.

Rode speed limits:

Speed limits in and around Rode village are going to change, after a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) was issued in January for a public consultation (see Traffic Regulation Orders (somerset.gov.uk) and here for the plan). Rode village will have a new 20mph limit, and main roads around it (including the A361, Rode Hill and Bradford Road) will have lower speeds with extended 30mph and 40mph limits. The changes were requested by Rode Parish Council several years ago. I understand there has been no objections, so the new speed limits should be implemented by Somerset Council some time after April. There have been several serious accidents on higher speed roads in the area last year. The new locally-set speed limits are an indication of the community’s desire for safer roads, so I hope these will be respected, for everyone’s safety.

I have reported the potholes and poor road surfacing along parts of Bradford Road to the east of Rode. You can report problems on the highway online at https://www.somerset.gov.uk/roads-travel-and-parking/report-a-problem-on-the-road/.

Rode street lights turn off:

Rode Parish Council recently consulted residents of the village on a revised proposal to turn off street lights from midnight to 5.30am, after discussions with Somerset Council’s highways lighting team. This would save energy and conserve the dark sky. There were 99 replies, with 65 agreeing and 33 against turning lights off. Rode Parish Council now plan to progress this by requesting Somerset Council come round and fix a timer to all affected lights, which is all those within the village except those on Bradford Road, Church Lane, High Street and Rode Hill.

D2 bus capacity and timings:

Concerns have been raised by bus users and parish councils over a lack of capacity on the D2 bus during the morning school run from Frome to Bath, which results in bus users in Norton St Philip, Woolverton and villages in B&NES being unable to board the D2. So I met with other councillors and the Somerset Bus Partnership’s Peter Travis to raise and discuss the issues earlier this month, and a submission has been made to First West of England outlining the issues and potential solutions, before new timetables are agreed. I will report back when there is any news.

New Old Showfield playground to open early Spring:

The opening of the new childrens playground at the Old Showfield in Frome will be in early Spring before Easter, Frome Town Council has announced, due to wet winter weather – please see here.

Frome Victoria Park toilets are open:

Frome Town Council’s new improved toilets in Victoria Park are now open for business. These are in the same toilet block as before but with entrances from the main path between Somerset Road and Park Road, which improves access visibility and safety, with two lockable cubicles and an accessible disabled loo and shower – please see here.

Frome Town Council funding for local organisations:

Frome Town Council has announced the latest round of community grants awarded to local organisations for activities that benefit our community, with a total of £35,000 awarded in grants of between £1000 and £3000 awarded to 16 organisations – see here for details.

Work begins on Frome Safer School Streets trial:

Work is starting on the Frome Safer School Streets trial scheme, which aims to restrict and reduce traffic, improve air quality, and create a safer and more pleasant environment for pupils travelling to and from four schools (Oakfield Academy, Trinity First School, Critchill School, and Avanti Park, which have over 1500 children) in the ‘school streets’ of Oakfield Road, Nunney Road, Critch Hill and Park Road in Frome. The work involves installing courtesy crossings, dropped kerbs, tactile paving, updated road markings outside schools, benches, cycle stands and planters. All streets in the area will become part of a new 20 mph zone. 

During the 18 month trial, starting in April 2024 in the summer school term, sections of Oakfield Road, Nunney Road, Critch Hill and Park Road will be closed to traffic for defined periods each morning and afternoon Monday to Friday during term time, but exemptions for public transport, blue badge holders, and residents will apply. A 20mph limit will also be introduced along all roads in the School Streets area. The Town Council will collect feedback during the trial to inform their decisions. Please see here for the news and here for details.


There are several meetings next week, all are public meetings so please go if you can:

  • Somerset Council, Full Council, Tuesday 20th Feb 10am at Canalside Conference Centre, Bridgwater and online – see here, including budgets and council tax setting (see above)
  • Beckington Parish Council, Tuesday 20th Feb, 7pm at Beckington Memorial Hall – see here, including the Neighbourhood Plan, HGV signage, hedgehog highways, a S106 agreement, the cricket club and allotments.
  • Frome Town Council, Full Council, Weds 21st Feb, 7pm at Frome Town Hall – see here, including invigorating the town centre, Badgers Hill stadium and School Streets.

Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Frome & East Somerset:

Local businesswoman Anna Sabine has been selected as the new Lib Dem prospective parliamentary candidate for Frome & East Somerset – please see here. Please email Anna’s team if you would like to help the campaign, to find out about events and canvassing sessions, or for more information.

Community chat, Saturday 9.00-10.30am at Cheese & Grain cafe:

My next informal ‘community chat’ councillor advice surgery is at the Cheese & Grain café in Frome on Saturday 17th February from 9am to 10.30am (no appointment necessary). Please just come along with your concerns or issues that need addressing.

   Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>