News from BATCOMBE
Coronavirus Advice for Allotment Holders
Current advice (March 26th) from the National Allotment Society is that allotment holders can visit and work on their allotments, but should do alone or only with members of the household. They should keep away from other allotment holders and avoid sharing tools. Further advice can be found on the National Allotment Society website.
Playing Field Closed
In light of the most recent Government advice on measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the Parish Council has had to close the Playing Field. We know this will be disappointing to many in the parish, but would ask all residents respect the restrictions that have been introduced in an attempt to save lives. If one group ignores the restrictions, it encourages others to do so as well. Please note that no safety inspections will be undertaken during the period the Playing Field is closed.
A local support group for residents of Batcombe has been set up to help those who are self-isolating with shopping, collecting prescriptions, etc. If you have not received a leaflet with the telephone numbers of the organisers and need help, please contact the Clerk who will put you in touch.
For most people, COVID-19 produces mild symptoms which include a cough, high temperature (fever) and shortness of breath and you will be fine after plenty of rest. However, for some (mainly older people or those with an underlying health condition), it can lead to severe respiratory disease requiring hospitalisation.
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself and others is to wash your hands for twenty seconds or more on a frequent basis and comply with the advice to stay home. To protect others, especially the vulnerable, anyone displaying symptoms (a high temperature or a persistant cough) should self-isolate for 14 days.
To keep up to date with the latest information visit the NHS website. Further advice can be found on the gov.uk website and the latest information from the County Council - with more useful links - can be found on the Somerset County Council website.
Recycling Centres Closed
All of Somerset's recycling centres are closed because of the difficulties of ensuring physical distancing at busy sites. Recycling and refuse collections are currently continuing, despite dozens of staff being off work because of the coronavirus. However bulky collections have been suspended to allow staff to be transfered to other collections. The garden waste collection has also been suspended along with any new requests for bins or recycling boxes.
Beware of Covid-19 Scams
Trading Standards have issued a warning to be aware of fraudsters who are trying to exploit fear and uncertainty surrounding Covid-19. The outbreak of coronavirus has seen an increase in scams that include counterfeit medical kits that claim to prevent or cure the disease and fake online coronavirus resources which can contain damaging software. Counterfeit goods such as hand sanitiser, face masks and swabbing kits are also being widely advertised online.
Financial scams, both online and by telephone, have also increased as criminals seek to take advantage of the financial uncertainty many people and businesses face due to the coronavirus. These include calls pretending to be from your bank or mortgage provider and an increase in loan shark activity.
Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards are urging people to remain vigilant and to watch out for scams in their neighbourhood, which often target elderly and vulnerable people within the community. Communities are also being urged to look out for doorstep traders. Whilst there are many genuine community groups and charities that are helping those who are most isolated, it is important to be aware of those who may be taking money under the false pretence of helping with day-to-day tasks.
A full list of identified scams can be viewed on the National Trading Standards website.
April Parish Council Meeting
The April meeting of the Parish Council has been cancelled due to the coronavirus restrictions and the Parish Council is awaiting legislation that will allow it to meet remotely. Any concerns that would have been brought to a Parish Council meeting should be raised by e-mailing the Clerk. The Minutes of previous meetings can be downloaded from the Minutes and Agendas page.
Annual Parish Meeting
The Annual Parish Meeting has been cancelled due to the coronavirus restrictions. Parishioners wanting to raise any concerns can do so by e-mailing the Clerk or the Chairman. Last year's Minutes can be downloaded from the Annual Parish Meetings page.
The Alham road will be closed at Higher Alham to allow the desilting of culverts. The Closure Order came into effect on February 24th and will remain in force for 18 months – the works were expected to last for 33 days, but have now been extended to April 3rd.
New Play Equipment
Thanks to our County Councillor, Nigel Hewitt-Cooper, we have been awarded a grant of £1,250 from the County Council’s Improving Lives Grant Scheme. This brings the total raised for the new play equipment to just over £10,000. The Parish Council has obtained a number of quotes for the new equipment and after looking at these in detail will be asking the play equipment suppliers to admend their quotes slightly so that there are three comparable quotes for the grant making body.
At its January meeting the Parish Council agreed a small increase in its precept of £200 to £9,950. The 2% increase in the precept will allow the Council to cover increasing costs of administration (this year it has to ensure that the Parish Council website complies with accessibility standards) and has reserves to meet any contingencies, such as paying for additional road salt in a bad winter.
Details of the winter salting routes for 2019/20 have now been published. The County Council has reversed many of last year’s cuts to the salting routes and the Bruton-Evercreech road will be salted this winter. However, the road through Batcombe and the Evercreech-Westcombe road will again not be salted, so great care will be needed in on the roads in the parish during icy weather. The Parish Council has arranged for large dumpy bags of road salt to be placed at the top of Hincombe Hill and Mill Lane; and at the top of Spargrove Lane and by the War Memorial in Westcombe. Please note that any volunteers applying the salt do so at their own risk.
Bingo Evening and Bonfire Night
Many thanks to all who supported the Bingo Evening on December 7th and especially to Clare Kingston who organised the evening to raise money for new play equipment in the Playing Field. The evening raised a total of £502 for the new play equipment.
The Parish Council would also like to express its grateful thanks to those who helped with and supported the Bonfire Party despite the wet weather. After expenses, the event raised £617.30 for the new play equipment. Cllr Jayne Cox writes on behalf of the Parish Council:
I feel I have to write this letter to express how proud I am to be a resident of this parish and to thank all of the people (adults and children) who contributed in many different and important ways: from the planning stage; the use of the venue; the donations of wood and building the bonfire; donating fireworks; catering; selling tickets; providing and manning the bar; and the all-important clearing up afterwards! And also all the people who turned out in the cold and rain to support this event.
We not only raised money for the new play equipment, but proved what an amazing community team effort we can achieve. Credit where credit is due - to everyone who has helped in anyway and everyone who has donated to the Playing Field fund. Thank you. You are all brilliant!
Removal of the Multi-play Equipment from the Playing Field
Following a recent act of minor vandalism, the Parish Council decided that the multi-play equipment in the Playing Field was no longer safe for children to use and so have removed this piece of equipment. Removal of the equipment revealed that all the main supports, apart from the one under the central bridge, were rotting badly.
The Parish Council is aware that some questions have been raised as to how the multi-play equipment, which was installed in 2013, has deteriorated so quickly. The money for the equipment – the multi-play and the zip wire – was raised by a group of young mothers who called themselves “Keep on the Grass”. This group wished to use a local company to design and install the multi-play equipment rather than one of the large play equipment manufacturers and the Parish Council agreed to this.
The company produced an innovative design for the multi-play equipment that incorporated some locally-donated tree trunks as the main supports (as well as a small bridge designed by Richard La Trobe Bateman). Unfortunately, within a couple of years it became clear that the wood for the main supports had not been properly treated before being installed and the supports began to show evidence of rotting where they entered the ground.
Attempts were made to correct this, including painting the supports with rubberised paint, but there is only a limited amount that can be done if the wood is not properly treated before installation. It should be noted that the support for the central bridge was made of treated wood and showed no sign of any rot on removal.
The Parish Council is planning to replace the multi-play with a new piece of equipment. To avoid the problems with the equipment just removed, the Parish Council will purchase the new equipment from a recognised play equipment manufacturer and will install metal equipment so that there is no danger of it rotting. It is worth noting that the metal swings were installed in the 1950s and show no signs of deteriorating.
All ten allotments are now taken. If anyone would like to join a waiting list for when an allotment next comes vacant, please contact the Clerk.
Parish Council Accounts for the Year Ended 31st March 2019
The notice of the period for the exercise of public rights to inspect the Annual Governance and Accountability Return (AGAR) can be found on the Audit and Transparency Code page. The various sections of the AGAR: the Certificate of Exemption; the Internal Audit Report; the Annual Governance Statement and the Accounting Statements for 2018/19 can also be found on the same page.
Batcombe Telephone Kiosk
BT have now removed the telephone kiosk in Batcombe, which had not been used for a year. The Parish Council adopted the telephone kiosk in Westcombe, which is now a listed building - but decided not to adopt the Batcombe kiosk, as this was a modern replacement.
Somerset County Council - New Telephone Number
0300 123 2224 is now the single telephone number for all enquiries to Somerset County Council. This number replaces the previous 0845 numbers including the number for reporting safety defects on the roads.
Priority Services Register
Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution have a Priority Services Register for anyone who needs electricity for home medical equipment, or who is disabled, has a young baby or receives a state pension. Those on the Register are promised support during a power cut. To register call 0800 294 3259 from a landline or 0345 072 1900 from a mobile or see the webpage for more details of the Register: www.ssepd.co.uk/PriorityServices/
Details of all applications the Council considers can be found by following the link to the District Council's planning search page from the Planning Applications page.
Guide to Information Available from the Parish Council
The Freedom of Information Act requires the Parish Council to publish "A Guide to the Information Available from the Parish Council." Now that the Council has a website, this guide is available to download from the Parish Council Documents page along with the Parish Council's Standing Orders and other policies and papers that the Parish Council is required to publish.