Every time I drive through Rodney Stoke – the neighbouring village to where I live in Westbury-sub-Mendip – I am reminded of the notion of a ‘Thankful Village.’ You can’t miss it. They proudly state this on the signage.
The term was first used in the 1930s by writer and journalist, Arthur Mee, in his ‘King’s England’ guide book of the counties of England. Of the 16,000 villages across England and Wales, just 41 carry this poignant notation. They are ‘thankful’ because all the servicemen who fought for ‘King and country’ in the First World War, returned to their homes safely.
I’m amazed that we have not one, but two, Thankful Villages in Mendip, the other being Chantry, near Frome. I thought it apt to highlight this with Remembrance Sunday approaching.
Mendip will of course commemorate all those who lost their lives in conflict. We will pause for the traditional two-minute reflection, and there will be some limited laying of plastic-free poppy wreaths at war memorials across the district. But as with other annual events that have come and gone during the pandemic, we will have to mark the day differently in 2020. There will be fewer crowds, social distancing will be observed, and the wearing of face coverings.
Just as they marched with purpose to protect us, we must also remember to protect each other, and our NHS, during these challenging times.
On to another topic close to my heart. There’s a dire need for people to have better access to affordable housing in Mendip. We’ve seen a five percent increase in the number of residents on the waiting list for affordable homes in recent weeks. I’m therefore happy to report that at Monday’s Council Cabinet meeting, we discussed plans to build more social housing provision – the first in the district for nearly two decades.
Five sites for future housing have been identified, totalling 160 in the first phase. Formal planning approval will need to be sought of course, but we hope to start building homes as soon as possible next year. It means the Council will be able to provide housing for social rent or shared ownership. Social rent is more secure and costs significantly less than open market rentals, and shared ownership helps first-time buyers get a foot on the property ladder.
Finally, I know you’ll be absorbing news of the latest Covid restrictions. We’ve been watching the numbers of infections rise but still for many of us, a winter lockdown is not an appealing prospect, for lots of different reasons. Please remember, there is help available, do call the Somerset Coronavirus Helpline on 0300 790 6275 if you need support during the coming days and weeks ahead.
Written by Cllr Ros Wyke, Leader of Mendip District Council
Please get in touch either on my Facebook page @Ros.Wyke or you can send me an email: [email protected].