Latest Stories

Council refuse to disclose planning consultant cost

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Somerset County council said hiring a team of specialists to deal with a backlog of planning applications is neither “sustainable or cost efficient”, but would not say how much the extra staff were being paid for their six months of work.

A council spokesman said this was due to “commercial confidentiality”.

As a result of delays the council has been subject to a number of appeals, including one which led to a £600 fine after an Ombudsman complaint about the time being taken to process the application was upheld.

Due to a backlog of key planning functions which the council has a statutory duty to deliver, the decision was taken to contract a team of specialists for a fixed term of six months in order to clear this.

Spokesperson for Somerset County Council

'Consultants' hired to clear Somerset planning backlog

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Kate Wilson

Somerset County Council has hired a team of specialists to help with a backlog of more than 100 planning applications at an undisclosed cost to taxpayers.

The authority says the planning department has been struggling over recent years to keep up with demand with fewer resources, as well as retaining experienced staff.

Currently there is a backlog of around 140 applications, so in an attempt to deal with the backlog the council has hired a firm of specialist consultants to deliver decisions on many of the applications that are currently being held up.

Somerset County Council
Nudefest: Inside UK's naturist festival
Europe’s largest gathering of naturists has descended on a quiet campsite in Somerset.

Closure warning over rubbish left at beauty spot

The new owner of a Somerset beauty spot has threatened to close it to the public, unless people clean up their act.

Warleigh Weir in Claverton has been popular for years, but with the growing popularity of wild swimming, the huge influx of visitors is putting the site at risk.

Owner Johnny Palmer said if visitors continue to leave large amounts of litter and illegally park on nearby roads, then he will close the site.

The new owner of a Somerset beauty spot has threatened to close it to the public

Air Ambulance charity wants to buy Almondsbury base

View more on twitter

The Filton-based charity will move to a new air base in Almondsbury this autumn and has been given the opportunity to buy the base.

The charity needs to raise £1.25m to secure its future there.

Register for the 2019 FA People's Cup


Have you been blown over by the World Cup? Fancy yourself as the next Harry Kane?

Enjoy some of the best moments from the 2018 FA People's Cup and register to play in the 2019 FA People's Cup, the biggest five-a-side tournament in the country...

FA People's Cup 2019: Registration open for biggest five-a-side tournament in the country

Badger cull challenge reaches high court


The Badger Trust is to challenge part of the government's badger cull policy at the high court today.

More than 30,000 animals have been killed in various regions in the UK since the cull began in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset in 2013.

Ecologist and trust member Tom Langton, who has brought the action, claims the government did not properly assess the original pilot cull, and has not assessed the impact on the new areas before culling.

Culling is part of the government's 25-year strategy to eradicate TB in cattle, but opponents say there is no evidence it works.

The hearing in London is expected to last for three days.

Two boys from the West nominated for BAFTAs

Two young game designers have been nominated for BAFTA awards.

Anish Raja from Bradley Stoke and James Lindsay from Ashill in Somerset will discover on Saturday if they've won.

Two young game designers from the West have been nominated for BAFTA awards.

It's the 40th anniversary of the Taunton train fire

Watch: 40th anniversary of the Taunton train fire p06d130m

Today marks the 40th anniversary of one of the worst ever rail disasters in the West Country.

The Taunton sleeper train fire claimed 12 lives and led to big changes in the design of carriages.

BBC Points West's Clinton Rogers, who reported on the fire at the time, has been looking back on the tragedy that could have been prevented.

Radstock murder investigation officers seek help in identifying clothing

Items similar to ones police want to identify
Avon and Somerset Police

Police conducting a murder investigation in Somerset are appealing for help in identifying items of clothing believed to have been discarded after the victim’s death.

Philip Jones, 50, was found by officers at a property in Huish Court, Radstock, on Saturday 16 June.

He died at the scene and a post-mortem examination concluded he had been stabbed multiple times.

The items in question include a green/khaki tracksuit, possibly North Face brand.

Meshach Caven-Thompson, 32, of Abbey Church Yard, Bath, has been charged over Mr Jones's death.

If you believe you may have seen these items discarded by a road, in a garden, a bin or anywhere, we would like to hear from you. If you noticed anything suspicious or out of place in a street around Writhlington, Radstock and towards the Frome area, particularly in the hours and days after Saturday 16 June please get in contact with us.

James RiccioSenior Investigating Officer, Avon and Somerset Police

South West to get dozens of new ambulances

BBC Spotlight

The South Western Ambulance Service is to get dozens of new ambulances.

The government has announced £6.7m of funding which it says will improve winter resilience.

The money will pay for more than 60 vehicles across Devon, Cornwall, the Isle of Scilly, Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and the former Avon area.

Police in Somerset catch and release a swan going for a walk down the M5 motorway.
The swan was captured by police after landing on the M5 in North Somerset.
Police officer Jon Owen recalls how a road traffic incident affected his mental health.
Police officer Jon Owen recalls how a road traffic incident affected his mental health.

Plans for new tunnel to link Somerset and Heathrow

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Somerset residents could be able to get to Heathrow Airport within two hours if a new railway project goes ahead.

Network Rail has been consulting on proposals for a new 6.5 km rail tunnel between the Great Western mainline and Heathrow Terminal 5.

The tunnel is designed to reduce congestion at London Paddington station by allowing rail passengers from the west to reach the airport direct from Reading or Slough, rather than having to change and use the existing underground system.

If the government approves the scheme – which is backed by councils in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall – it could mean that Taunton station will be only two hours from the country’s biggest and busiest airport.

Network Rail will be submitting its formal plans for the scheme – known as a development consent order – in 2019.

If approved, the project is expected to take five years to complete, with 24-hour tunnelling for 15 months at a cost “in the region of £1bn”.

This rail link would reduce rail journey times by delivering a new, faster, frequent, more reliable direct train service to Heathrow with four trains per hour in each direction. This would ease congestion on roads, including the M4, M3 and M25 , resulting in lower CO2 emissions equivalent to approximately 30 million road miles per year.

Network RailSpokesperson

Gun fired at house window in Bristol

View more on twitter

Police are seeking a gunman who shot at a family home in Bristol in the early hours of Sunday.

A window at a house in Gorse Hill, Staple Hill, was shot at around 04:30 BST and a witness reported hearing several loud bangs.

Investigating officer Det Insp Roger Doxsey said the damage was thought to have been caused by a firearm.

He said: “There were three people inside the property at the time of the incident, including a young child, but all were thankfully unharmed.

“I know this will be concerning to the local community but I’d like to reiterate that we are treating this as an isolated offence."

A thorough forensic examination is taking place at the property and we’re carrying out house-to-house enquiries and searches of the local area.

Det Insp Roger DoxseyAvon and Somerset Police

Brexit and Hinkley Point C 'to blame for Somerset bin staff shortage'

Daniel Mumby

Local Democracy Reporter

Hinkley Point C construction site

The Somerset Waste Partnership has admitted that there are “daily shortfalls” in bin collection staff in the region.

Its comments come after Kier, which carries out bin collections across the county, said it is struggling to recruit permanent staff in light of uncertainly about EU nationals’ right to remain in the UK.

The company also cited competition from the Hinkley nuclear power plant site which is currently under construction.

To remedy the situation, new incentives are being offered to drivers, including a £300 recruitment bonus and flexible working hours.

We are in daily contact with Kier and its recruitment agency are in daily contact as we work very closely together to serve the needs of every resident in Somerset by seeking solutions to this shortage, whose causes were not of our making.

Somerset Waste Partnership spokesman

Disproportionate number of minorities pulled over in Somerset

Kate Wilson

Local Democracy Reporter

A black man is handcuffed

A disproportionate number of ethnic minorities are being stopped and searched by police in Somerset, according to a new report.

It showed on average the force carried out just under 500 searches per month over the past year.

There were 917 searches of white people across the region between January and March of this year.

A fifth of these searches took place in Bristol East, but there was a much smaller percentage of white people searched across Somerset.

Only 7% of white people were searched in Bath and North East Somerset Council and the same percentage for South Gloucestershire.

In comparison, more than half of the 234 searches of black people took place in the Bristol East Central area. Figures showed 7% took place in North Somerset and 5% in Somerset East.

The Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Panel described the findings as "stark".

The disproportionality is now very significant in Somerset and it’s something the constabulary will want to address.

Sue MountstevensPolice and Crime Commissioner

Murder suspects in court over Redcliffe death

Redcliffe, Bristol

Two men have appeared in court charged with the murder of a 21-year-old man who died following a botched burglary in Bristol.

Korie Hassan, 25, of Croydon, and Leon Eaton, 37, of Lambeth, London, appeared before Bristol Magistrates' Court earlier today.

They are charged with murdering Yasin Salah Ahmed, 21, at a flat on Prewett Street in the Redcliffe area of the city.

Mr Ahmed was declared dead at the scene while two other men, both aged 22, were treated in hospital for serious injuries but were later discharged.

The men will remain in custody. The next hearing is expected to take place at Bristol Crown Court on 29 June.

Don't be a heatwave wildfire starter

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service

Firefighters have come up with a range of advice for people to prevent wildfires during the hot spell.

With the Army now called in to help battle a huge fire on Saddleworth Moor, near Manchester, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is urging people to:

  • extinguish cigarettes and other smoking materials properly
  • never throw cigarette ends out of car windows
  • never leave bottles or glass in woodlands – sunlight shining through glass can start fires; take them home or put them in a waste or recycling bin
  • avoid using open fires in the countryside
  • report fires immediately
  • not attempt to tackle fires that can’t be put out with a bucket of water – leave the area as quickly as possible

Drug gang jailing 'sends strong message'

Andrew Segal

BBC Local Live

Cannabis. Pic: South West Regional Organised Crime Unit.
South West Regional Organised Crime Unit.

The jailing of a gang who flooded Devon and Somerset with cannabis sends a strong message to those in organised crime "that they will be pursued and brought to justice", Devon and Cornwall Police say.

Seven members of the group, aged between 21 and 72, were jailed at Exeter Crown Court on Monday, with the remaining three receiving suspended sentences or unpaid community work.

The court heard that the drugs were delivered to "high-level dealers" in Exeter, Crediton and Tiverton in Devon and Wellington in Somerset before being distributed locally between last April and October.

The sentencing was the culmination of Operation Corinth, led by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit.

Highways England apologise for M5 traffic delays

Traffic backed up on M5
Julian Clode

Highways England has apologised after a motorway was closed for hours after botched overnight resurfacing work went wrong because of the hot weather.

The M5 was closed between Weston-super-Mare and Burnham-on-Sea during the morning rush hour, leading to long delays for commuters.

We sincerely apology to everyone who was involved in the disruption this morning and assure them we are doing everything we can to make sure a delay like this does not happen again. The resurfacing work started late as heavy traffic volumes on the M5 prevented us putting a road closure in place and as a result the work planned for the night was reduced. Despite this, supplies reaching the work site towards the end of the night caused a further delay and we were unable to reopen the road on time. There was clearly an error of judgement on our part and we are very disappointed that this resulted in delays for our customers. We are looking into what happened last night and will do everything we can to ensure delays are kept to a minimum in the future.

Highways England