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Consultation on fire station closures nears end

Protesters in Porlock

A public consultation on controversial plans to close eight fire stations across Devon and Somerset is due to end on Sunday.

Several protests have been held across the region against the proposals.

Fire Service bosses say they need to save money and bring an outdated service into the 21st century.

International gathering to celebrate Frome twinning


A total of 95 visitors from Germany, France and Poland are in Frome from today.

They're all representatives of towns twinned with each other.

An opening ceremony took place in the Memorial Theatre this morning.

Frome's Twinning Association said the weekend will provide a chance to make new connections.

Climate Strike: Plastic woman part of Taunton protest

Several hundred people have turned out in Taunton to protest against climate change.

They gathered on Castle Green earlier this morning and marched through the town centre, with placards and a nine-foot model made out of waste plastic in the shape of a woman.

plastic woman
Climate change protest in Taunton on 20th September 2019
Climate change protests on 20th September 2019

'Eco-anxiety' is affecting more children says researcher

Children marching in a climate change protest
Children marching in a climate change protest

A University of Bath researcher has revealed 'eco-anxiety' is affecting more and more young people.

As millions of people around the world protest against climate change today, psychotherapist Caroline Hickman is warning anxiety about ecological disasters now affects more children than ever before.

Eco-anxiety predicated on climate change, she suggests, is a very rational fear based on events and stories from around the world, underpinned by the weight of evidence that our climate is changing.

As part of her research, Ms Hickman, from Bath’s department for social and policy sciences, interviewed children in the UK and the Maldives – one of the parts of the world already severely affected by climate change.

With the Climate Psychology Alliance, she facilitates workshops in the UK for young people to share their concerns about the ecological emergency, including going into schools; and for parents and teachers looking for advice on how to support children.

Talking to children about climate change gives a fresh perspective on the absurdity of doing so little about the climate emergency and also highlights for young people the troubling disconnect between what politicians say and what they do.

Caroline HickmanUniversity of Bath researcher

Global event highlights climate change impact

Climate change banner

Events to draw attention to the impact of climate change are taking place across the West today.

It's part of a "global climate strike" organised around the world.

It's estimated there will be 2,500 events in 150 countries including dozens in the UK.

In Bristol, wildlife film-makers will dress in black and carry coffins to illustrate the number of species made extinct or endangered by climate change.

Hinkley Point C: Building the UK's new 'epic' power plant
Hinkley Point C, the UK's new nuclear power plant in Somerset, is due to open in 2025.

People evacuated from workshop fire

Congresbury fire
Clive Burlton

Three people were evacuated from a workshop in Congresbury after it went up in flames during the early hours of this morning.

Fire crews from Clevedon, Winscombe, Yatton, Weston and Southmead were called to Bristol Road at 02:41 BST.

The nearby A370 was closed as a result of the fire and Bristol Airport, located six miles away, tweeted to warn travellers to seek an alternative route.

A spokesman for Avon Fire & Rescue said the cause was thought to be accidental.

Plans for 150 homes in Somerset rejected

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Plan for the homes
Clifton Emery Design

Crewkerne residents applauded as councillors rejected plans for a major new housing development on the edge of the town.

James Tizzard of Land Value Alliances LLP applied to build 150 homes between Kithill and the railway line, at the town's southern edge.

South Somerset District Council’s area west committee voted in August to refuse the plans, claiming it would create a “death trap” on the busy Cathole Bridge Road.

The council’s regulation committee – which has the final say on major housing developments – upheld this decision on Tuesday, prompting residents at the meeting to break out in applause.

To mitigate the extra traffic the housing would generate, Mr Tizzard proposed putting in a new junction, improving passing places and widening sections of Cathole Bridge Road where it was physically feasible.

But councillor Robin Pailthorpe – who represents Crewkerne – said he was doubtful whether this could be achieved.

The committee voted to refuse the plans by a margin of eight votes to two (with one abstention), prompting applause from residents in the public area.

Workplace mental health campaign set to launch

Image of woman at window
Getty Images

Businesses in Somerset are being encouraged to sign up to a new mental health campaign which launches next week.

It's being run by the charity MIND in Somerset and is aimed at preventing poor mental health in the workplace.

Stress and depression or anxiety accounted for 40 per cent of work-related ill health, according to the most recent figures for 2017.

Jess McKeith said businesses will benefit from this because when they sign up to the pledge "they will have access to lots of free resources".

Pilot knife crime scheme could be extended

Image of a person holding a knife
Getty Images

A pilot scheme looking to reduce the number of teenagers getting involved in knife crime could be extended by Avon and Somerset Police.

It's been run by the force with help from NHS staff and the courts with the aim of tackling the root causes and help young people make better decisions.

Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens, says she has been impressed with the scheme and it could be cost effective to extend it further.

Ms Mountstevens said it costs police services more than £1m for murder investigations.

As a result, she wants to invest in projects like this which work with young people so they do not become "victims or perpetrators".

Students taught to mind their 'pees and poos'

A water company is hoping to help students keep their digs blockage free, by teaching them 'toiletiquette'.

Wessex Water is visiting UWE Bristol and the University of Bath to encourage freshers to only flush "paper, pee and poo" down the loo.

Up to 75% of sewer blockages are caused by disposable items, such as wet wipes, being flushed down the toilet, the firm said.

Freebies to "help" students out will be handed out at UWE Bristol on Friday and University of Bath on 27 September.

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Appeal to find HMP Leyhill absconder

Paul Easby
Avon and Somerset Police

Police have launched an appeal to help them find an absconder from HMP Leyhill.

Paul Easby, 42, was last seen at the prison in South Gloucestershire at about 6pm on Sunday

He is currently serving a custodial sentence for GBH.

Easby is described as white, 6ft 1ins tall with short brown hair.

He is believed to be wearing a white t-shirt and black Adidas tracksuit bottoms which have three white stripes down the legs.

Easby is thought to have travelled to the Plymouth area where he has links.

Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact Avon and Somerset Police.

RAF veteran gears up for island survival challenge

An RAF veteran from Somerset is preparing for a challenge which will see him dropped on an island and left to survive for five days.

Darren Squires, 38, is the chairman of the Chard branch of the Royal British Legion and will be raising money for the charity.

He said he and the other 19 people taking part in the survival challenge have been given very little information and will be dropped on the island with the bare minimum of kit.

Mr Squires left the RAF in 2007 and said the Legion helped him when he was struggling to adapt to civilian life.

The challenge starts on 20th September.

Man treated in hospital following house fire

A man has been taken to hospital after a fire at a house in Curry Rivel, near Langport.

A vehicle fire spread to the building in the early hours of this morning and seven crews - including fire engines from Somerton, Taunton and Martock - were called to tackle the flames.

Fire crews gave first aid to an elderly woman and a man - he was taken to hospital for further treatment after possible smoke inhalation.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service says the cause is still being investigated.

Hospital's four-hour performance drops

Weston General Hospital
Weston Area Health NHS Trust

The number of patients seen and either admitted or discharged within four hours at Weston General’s A&E has fallen by more than 16 per cent in a year.

The hospital trust blamed increased demand and the number of patients waiting to be discharged into the community.

It is struggling to recruit doctors but said this is due to a nationwide shortage which is not linked to Brexit or the overnight closure of its A&E.

The trust has started exploring different ways to recruit specialist doctors, including offering additional training and unpaid leave.

Phil Walmsley, director of operations, told the trust this week: “Our performance in A&E was 16 per cent lower than last year.

Last August was particularly good, but this August was particularly difficult. “Our four-hour performance has declined steadily since July last year.

“We regularly get 10 or more patients overnight. It’s taking all morning to clear that backlog.

“By October 10 we will be working on 2.5 whole-time equivalent middle grade medical staff in post. We’ve struggled to maintain the pipeline of middle grades. That’s a significant concern.”

A trust spokesperson said the shortage of middle grade medical staff would not affect patient care as it has regular locums and agency staff and its own staff who work additional shifts to ensure “seamless” care.

Ambulance collision numbers rise


The number of collisions involving ambulances in the West has risen.

Nearly 800 were recorded last year, around 200 more than in 2016.

South Western Ambulance Service says it has invested in technology to help learn from accidents and support drivers.

It added the overall figure represented less than 1% of the calls the service attend each year.

Campaigners protest to save fire station

Anna Varle

BBC News Online

People in Ashburton have been campaigning to keep their fire station open.

People in Ashburton took to the streets again to campaign to keep their fire station open.

It is the latest demonstration over planned changes to the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service which could see eight stations close.

The fire service says it needs to focus more on prevention and that there is a big drop in the number of incidents.

However, the Ashburton crew claim they were called out six times in the past week.

Half way through the march, they got another call to go to Ivybridge as standby because of a shortage of appliances in the area.

A consultation is underway looking into the proposals.

Kev Lewis, the officer in charge of Ashburton Fire Station

It just emphasises the case for keeping every appliance and every station in the service open and hopefully keep us fully crewed so that they're all available to do these kind of moves."

Kev LewisOfficer in charge of Ashburton Fire Station

Burning car found on roof in Buckfastleigh

Charley Adams

BBC News Online

burnt out car on roof
Buckfastleigh Fire Station

Fire crews were called to reports of a car on fire in the early hours of Sunday morning.

On arrival, the crew from Buckfastleigh found a car on Church Hill that was on its roof and on fire.

All passengers had fled the scene.

The crew put out the fire and searched the area.

car on fire
Buckfastleigh Fire Station

BBC local radio headlines for the West

Radio studio

Radio Bristol: A BBC investigation has found a waste company, close to fly-infested homes in Avonmouth, breached environmental rules 16 times in a year.

BBC Somerset: Avon and Somerset Police are trying something new in an attempt to reduce knife crime. It is putting teenagers through an intensive week-long course in which they are shown the brutal reality, often in shocking detail.

Radio Gloucestershire: A new scanner is being donated to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital that will revolutionise treatment for thousands of children. The AccuVein is being donated by the family of nine-year-old Henry Bromberg who died in 2016 from a rare heart condition.

BBC Wiltshire: There's been a cyber attack at Swindon College. Bosses say the hackers got access to information about former staff and students after breaking into the computer system. Police are investigating.

'Desperate need' for special school places

A Weston-super-Mare special school has been given the go-ahead to expand to meet a "desperate" need in North Somerset.

Westhaven is the only school in the south of the district for children with complex learning difficulties and currently takes 120 pupils aged seven to 16.

Finding somewhere for the first three years of education causes real struggles for parents so the Ellesmere Road school will swell to 138 spaces and start taking children as young as four.

Councillor Catherine Gibbons, who is responsible for children’s services and lifelong learning, told Wednesday’s executive meeting there was a shortage of SEND provision in North Somerset.

“This school has worked tirelessly to offer an excellent provision for our children," she said.

“They have identified the need to extend the age range. It will provide 12 new key stage one places.

"This has been a problem for parents with younger children. It’s been a considerable difficulty.

“Demand is increasing. The cohort has grown by 40 per cent since 2015. We have an ongoing need.”

EU rights group raises concerns about Settled Status for EU workers

Maike Bohn
Maike Bohn says people are struggling to understand the implications of Settled Status

Just under half of Bristol's 21,000 EU citizens have applied to try and secure their rights after Brexit.

EU citizens in the city are being offered free help and are being encouraged to apply for Settled Status.

But the government's scheme has been criticised by a campaign group called the 3million, who fight for EU citizens rights. They say people are struggling.

Co-founder of 3million, Maike Bohn said: "Settled status is neither secure nor permanent, nor that easy to understand or maintain.

"There's so much uncertainty and confusion and that's why people panic and that's why people are deeply worried for one reason or another."

Home Office MP Brandon Lewis, says the system is "working very well" and thousands of people are applying to gain this status.

More than 130 council jobs lost over past year

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Protesters outside the meeting in 2018

More than 130 county council staff have lost their jobs since last September.

It’s one year on since Somerset County Council held an emergency budget meeting, where £15m of cuts of services up to April 2020 were approved despite strong public criticism.

The council began a consultation with staff in August 2018 about possible redundancies, indicating that around 130 jobs could go.

The authority has now revealed a total of 134 staff have left the organisation since September 1, 2018 – though not all may have directly left as a result of the cuts.

The cuts were agreed by the council’s cabinet at Shire Hall in September 2018 – a meeting which lasted all day and was attended by vocal protesters.

Delays to superfast broadband 'short-changing' rural Devon

BBC Spotlight

Campaigners are reacting angrily to further delays in bringing superfast broadband to the most rural parts of Devon and Somerset.

The company responsible for the publicly funded roll-out, Gigaclear has lost its contract.

The Connecting Devon and Somerset Partnership says it will now start the process of finding a new provider.

It means the scheme is potentially four years behind schedule.

In a statement, it said it was working hard to agree a revised plan and it was "disappointed" not to be able to progress.

Graham Long

For businesses to do things like tax returns, VAT etc - the government expects it to be done online these days. Again, it's this dichotomy between rural and urban areas where rural areas are being short-changed."

Graham LongBroadband campaigner

Funding available for young people's campaigns

Somerset County Council logo
Somerset County Council

Charities and community groups in Somerset are being invited to bid for a share of £50,000 for projects that inspire young people into social action.

Somerset County Council says it will also invest £25,000 from its prevention fund into projects chosen by the Somerset Youth Parliament.

Councillor Frances Nicholson, the County Council’s Lead Member for Children’s Services, said: "It’s fantastic that children and young people will have the chance to take part in campaigns and projects or volunteer to help improve the lives of others.”

The fund is open to applications on Monday 16 September and the closing date is Friday 25 October.

Seven people rescued from two 'deliberate' fires

Fire engine

Seven people have been rescued from two fires in Yeovil, which are both believed to have been started deliberately.

The first blaze broke out shortly after midnight in a stairwell at a block of flats.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said three fire engines attended and four people were led to safety.

Two of them were treated for smoke inhalation, and one of them was taken to hospital.

The second fire happened shortly before 4am at a property in Houndstone, Yeovil.

Three fire engines attended and three people were assessed by paramedics at the scene.

The fire service said the ground floor front door was completely destroyed, and the front hallway and first floor living room were damaged.

A spokesperson said a fire investigation officer attended both incidents, and police were asked to attend, as the cause of both fires was believed to be deliberate.

Father 'delighted' Batten disease drug made available

Max and Simon Sewart

The father of a Somerset boy with Batten disease says he's delighted NHS England has announced it will offer a drug to treat it.

Eight-year-old Max Sewart moved to the Netherlands with his dad Simon to get treatment - because it wasn't available here.

Now NHS England has announced it will offer a drug - which slows the progress of the rare incurable condition - after it agreed a deal with the company that manufactures it.

New homes on former caravan park in Weston set to be approved

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Homes in Weston

Amended plans to build 125 homes at a former Weston caravan park could be approved before some residents have their chance to comment.

Councillors called for a number of changes to the application when they visited West Acres Farm last month and Bloor Homes submitted a revised application on 4 September.

Nearly 40 residents objected to the original scheme. They should have until September 23 to comment but the new plans will come before North Somerset Council’s planning and regulatory committee on 18 September.

The 4.5-hectare site off Wolvershill Road was used for storing caravans as long ago as 1982, and then as a touring caravan site from 1997.

The developer, Bloor Homes said: “The proposed development would provide a range of high quality housing enabling North Somerset Council to meet the local need and improving the immediate context.

“The green infrastructure will deliver an open space and landscaped areas that are accessible to the wider community.

The site is at risk of flooding but the plans measures that have satisfied the Environment Agency.

The application was met with 38 objections, prompting town councillors to call for it to be considered by North Somerset councillors.

Residents said the access from Wolvershill Road was inadequate, patient safety would be compromised and the development would be too close to existing homes.

They also pointed to a lack of spaces in schools, at GP surgeries and on the roads.

Recommending approval, officers said the site has been allocated for housing since at least 2007 and the homes would “create a good quality living environment for residents whilst protecting biodiversity and the living conditions of neighbours”.