Across our district, for a variety of different reasons, there are people who live on the roadside in vans and caravans. These communities occupy County Council-owned land and roads, and so it is Somerset County Council are responsible for any enforcement action.
But that being said, I believe that as a District Council we should do everything we can to support these groups of people, including providing housing support to those who are eligible. We need a satisfactory solution for roadside residents and local people.
At the end of last year, we commissioned a research group who engaged with local residents as well as those living on the roadside in Glastonbury to better understand their unique circumstances. At that point in time, there were just over 80 people living on the roadside in Glastonbury. That number had increased to 112 by August this year.
When I was elected as leader of the council, I vowed that ‘nobody would be left behind.’ I was very happy therefore to recently announce that Mendip is going to appoint a full-time, specialist housing advisor to work directly with roadside communities. One of the main aims of this government-funded role will be to build relationships with these residents and support them in finding suitable, alternative accommodation.
In addition, a part-time officer will be employed to co-ordinate between the various organisations responsible for housing across the county and district.
We know how important it is to have honest conversations so that realistic housing options can be found. I really hope these appointments will help improve the lives of those who end up sleeping in vehicles by the road.
If you, or someone you know, are at risk of homelessness, there are local services and support available. Call 0300 303 8588 or make a homeless application online www.mendip.gov.uk/housing.
Another topic I wanted to address with you – one that I know really gets people cross, including myself – and that’s the dumping of waste, or fly tipping.
Over the course of the pandemic we saw an increase in fly tipping across the district as some sought quick, unlawful, solutions to waste problems. It was encouraging to learn this week that Mendip has managed to enforce and issue fines totalling more than £5,000 this year for fly tipping and littering.
Mendip is responsible for making sure litter is cleaned from our streets, but if waste is dumped on private land, it becomes the responsibility of the landowner, which I know seems very unfair.
If you come across fly tipping anywhere, please use this web link to report it via the Mendip website: https://www.mendip.gov.uk/streetclean
Finally, I hope you are managing to enjoy the last of the late Summer sun. I’ve enjoyed hearing from so many of you. Please get in touch either on my Facebook page @Ros.Wyke or you can send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.