For this week’s column, I want to talk about the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, (AONB), one of 46 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
AONBs cover 18% of the countryside and include 12,000 miles of footpaths and bridleways. The land within them is protected by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, conserving the area to enhance its natural beauty. To become an AONB, Natural England considers a number of ‘natural beauty’ factors, such as the landscape and scenic quality, relative tranquillity, and the cultural heritage (e.g. archaeological remains).
There was a packed agenda at Mendip’s Full Council meeting, with financial business dominating matters. We may be dealing with a national pandemic, but your District Council is getting lots of business done! I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some of the highlights.
Despite Covid, we’ve continued to deliver essential services including, licensing, planning, enforcement, waste collection and protecting the homeless. Your Council Tax supports all this vital work. But to maintain these services, we need to raise the Mendip element of the Council Tax by around £5 extra compared to last year.
Heather Shearer is standing as the Lib Dem candidate for Avon & Somerset's Police & Crime Commissioner election taking place on 6th May 2021.
Heather is Vice Chair of Somerset's Police & Crime Panel, the Mendip District Councillor with special responsibility for Community Health & Safety and a member of the Safer Somerset Partnership.
We all recognise the enormous pressure the NHS and care system have been under during the past 12 months. There’s been much praise, appreciation and love for these critical workers. And rightly so. But this week I wanted to dedicate the column to the unsung heroes of the pandemic who’ve made our daily lives that little bit better.
They are our postmen, postwomen and delivery drivers who work around the clock bringing mail and parcels to our doors. The retail staff serving in shops, helping us stock up with those essential items.
Somerset’s Lib Dems are celebrating a big win for local residents in need of help after the County Council agreed a grant of £400,000 to fund Citizens’ Advice freephone ‘Somerset AdviceLine’.
At the County Council’s yearly budget meeting yesterday, a proposal prepared by Lib Dem Deputy Leader Councillor Liz Leyshon to direct emergency Covid funding towards the freephone county-wide ‘Somerset AdviceLine’ project was supported by every Councillor present.
Sedgemoor Councillor Nick Bayliss, who represents residents in the Highbridge & Burnham Marine area, said:
“I was absolutely devastated reading the news of this morning’s fire at the Motorsports base at Bridgwater College.
It would have been hard for you to miss the recording from Handforth Parish Council’s zoom meeting that went viral a week or so ago. I was sent the link many times, and there has been widespread coverage of the somewhat chaotic meeting across the national daily newspapers and social media.
I see Andrew Lloyd Webber has even composed a spoof musical song (the newspaper headline read: “Don’t cry for me Jackie Weaver”!) about Handforth Parish Council’s clerk because, he said, the council meeting was “sort of operatic.”
There seems to be an increase in the amount of litter around at the moment, cluttering and damaging our wonderful landscapes and countryside. I witness the evidence myself when I go walking in the Mendip Hills. And on returning home, I see debates unfold on social media.
Since Covid, a new type of waste has been appearing amongst the usual rubbish. We are increasingly seeing masks, gloves and other PPE littering the streets, roadsides and countryside, which is such a shame. Just when we were getting on top of the plastic carrier bag problem too.
Sustaining our economy and supporting local people are key priorities for your District Council. When this Covid crisis ends – and it will – we’ll need to work with our communities, to build back better, one street at a time, one family at a time, one place at a time.
And I am happy to report some positive steps on the road to recovery have begun to take place already.
Last week outline planning permission, subject to conditions, was approved for a major development in Frome. The site – ‘Saxonvale’ – is a high quality, exemplar project, featuring contemporary and sensitive design, local features and quality materials to create character, identity and I know it will fill people with civic pride when completed.
The Covid crisis continues to impact our communities. No sooner did I hear the wonderful news that more than 4,000 people had now been vaccinated at our council offices in Shepton Mallet, when word came out that Glastonbury Festival was cancelled, for the second year running. Both stark reminders of the highs and lows we are experiencing at the moment.
So many of our plans have been called-off or placed on hold, but the Glastonbury announcement was nevertheless a huge disappointment. Let’s hope 2022 will be a golden year for the festival, the fans, and the many Mendip businesses and charities who benefit from it.