Somerset West & Taunton is urging owners of public buildings and volunteer-run premises to service their water and air conditioning systems before re-opening to staff and the public.
Any water systems lying dormant during the COVID-19 emergency are likely to have increased levels of bacteria present, which means there’s a heightened risk of Legionnaires' disease.
Shops and offices, hairdressers, beauty salons, hotels, pubs and restaurants, sports centres, gyms, residential buildings, campsites - anywhere that has a water supply and is currently shut down - are being reminded to check and maintain their systems.
The Council’s environmental health team is contacting local businesses directly to advise that whilst it may not be high on their priority list during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important ensure all water systems are managed safely at this time.
Water systems that are not being used and maintained effectively are very likely to have increased levels of bacteria present. Experts say that it is far better to maintain a water system than to try and treat a water system which has gone out of control.
Legionnaires' disease is a lung infection caught by inhaling droplets of water from air conditioning units, shower heads or hot tubs.
Symptoms of Legionnaires' disease are similar to COVID-19 and include high temperature, feverishness and chills, cough, muscle pains, headache, and pneumonia. Its name originates from a deadly 1976 outbreak of the disease at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia.
More about the symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease can be found here: www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/symptoms.htm
Guidance and procedures by the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease on how to best manage Legionella in building water systems during the COVID-19 outbreak can be found here:
Word Gets Around Networking - Meet the Business - Federica Smith-Roberts - Leader of Somerset West & Taunton Council
In these series of short videos, we chat with Somerset business owners to find out what they do, how they do it, and more importantly, why they do it. Informal chats are recorded via Zoom and offer a chance to share tips, information, and advice.
In this video, we chat with the Leader at Somerset West and Taunton Council. It has been a year to the day that Federica took the position and the task to work her team to shape a new-look council. It has been a year of change and many challenges along the way.
The Coronavirus pandemic has rocked the world, and for the council, the focus has been on supporting local businesses and the community. We discussed some of these issues and how the future may look as adapt and evolve through this crisis.
Visit their website: https://www.somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk/
SEE ALL THE VIDEOS ON THE CHANNEL:
Word Gets Networking has been active in Taunton for over 8 years at local venues, giving people a chance to promote your business at a convenient time, working around the busy lives they lead. In a relaxed environment, they get a chance to build relationships, share ideas, and develop your network, with like-minded people.
Our business network group is open to anyone who embraces the idea of support, learning, and a ‘together we’re stronger’ attitude. Now more than ever it is about sharing skills and experiences which help build relationships and in time, trust. Everyone has value and you can take away as much as you put in.
If you would like to take part in 'Meet the Business' then please send us a message or email firstname.lastname@example.org #MeetTheBusiness
Somerset West & Taunton Council plans to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) despite Coronavirus restrictions, and wants as many people as possible to join in the virtual commemorations by sharing stories, photos and videos on its social media platforms.
The Council had been hoping to help communities run a host of activities on VE Day, Friday 8 May 2020, to remember the sacrifice so many made in the fight for our freedom.
However, these were cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak so SWT is hoping that people can still get involved and show their support while following social distancing advice.
It wants to encourage everyone to hold their own celebrations at home, create their own decorations and make their own memories then share stories, photos and videos with SWT on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram tagging @SWTCouncil #VEDay75.
It is also encouraging people to take part in The Nation’s Toast to the Heroes of WWII from the safety of their homes. It hopes households will stand at 3pm, raise a glass or cup of refreshment and undertake the following toast: “For those that gave so much, we thank you.”
The Chair of SWT, Cllr Hazel Prior-Sankey, said: “This is an ideal opportunity to gather with those in your household and pay tribute to the many millions in the United Kingdom and overseas who sacrificed so much to secure the freedom we have today.
We would love to see via social media the ways in which you are marking this important anniversary while in lockdown, from how you’ve decorated your home, to how you are celebrating with or remembering friends and family.
This will be the first time such a tribute has ever taken place so please encourage others to join in and share their stories, photos and video clips with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram tagging @SWTCouncil #VEDay75.”
SWT plans to collate all the photos and video clips to create a documentary which it hopes to share. The film will be saved in the archives so when generations look back, they will see that even through a pandemic the residents of Somerset West and Taunton still managed to mark a poignant day in history.
There are many ways people can get involved - get creative and use materials already at home in keeping with the “make do and mend” spirit of WW11; download a home decorating toolkit including bunting, posters and colouring in templates from the VE Day 75 website which has more resources to help make this VE Day 75 special.
Please note that by posting your videos/photos onto our social media platforms you are giving permission for Somerset West and Taunton Council to use that footage and share it. Remember, where possible, to film in landscape not portrait mode (make sure your phone or device is on its side) and that your audio is loud and clear.
The Mayor of Taunton, Cllr Fran Smith, has sent messages of support during the Coronavirus pandemic to the residents of twin towns in France and Germany.
Cllr Fran Smith contacted the civic leaders of Lisieux and Königslutter on behalf of the people of Taunton saying she hoped everyone was keeping safe and well.
Taunton has strong ties with both towns because of the long twinning links between them and the many exchanges that have taken place over the years, where lasting friendships have developed.
Cllr Smith said: “We look forward to a time that we will once again be together and have the opportunity to visit your wonderful town and experience the friendliness of your community and also welcoming you back to Taunton in the future.”
A reply from the Mayor of Königslutter, Alexander Hoppe, echoed her sentiments. He said “In these times it is good for friends to think of each other.
The effects of the crisis can be felt everywhere. Shops are closed, administrative operations are restricted, people keep their distance and daily life is completely different. But there are also positive things: people are increasingly helping each other again, be it shopping or sewing masks for others.
I am sure that we will get through this emergency situation together and look forward to our future meetings in Taunton and Königslutter - let us remember the true values in life and what makes our communities!”
Somerset West and Taunton Council has moved to dispel fears that the iconic avenue of trees in Vivary Park has been felled.
The Council is working in partnership with the Somerset Wildlife Trust to create a number of wildflower meadows across the district.
Work is already under way at Taunton’s Vivary Park where a new wildlife area is being created on the site of the old aviary.
As part of this work one diseased Horse Chestnut tree and one damaged Conifer have been felled, along with five Poplar trees which were removed on health and safety grounds.
The Council will be replanting with more trees than have been removed and creating a family friendly wild flower area with a new small hedge.
Cllr Peter Pilkington, Executive Member for Climate Change, said: “Contrary to inaccurate information being circulated, SWT has not felled the avenue of trees in Vivary Park and has no plans to do so. These historic trees are untouched and still very much in place. The Council is committed to creating a more sustainable future for everyone, putting climate and environmental responsibility at the heart of everything it does.
In establishing ‘wilder’ areas on council owned land and within its parks, the wildflower meadow project hopes to help boost biodiversity, supporting pollinator species in particular.”
Somerset West & Taunton Council is throwing a lifeline to commercial fishing vessels and businesses moored in Minehead.
These business pay mooring fees but are exempt from paying rates and don’t qualify for any of the support grants set up by the Government.
The Council has decided to implement a local scheme to help them stay afloat during the Covid 19 outbreak and aid their post Coronavirus recovery.
It will give them a three month reduction on their annual mooring bill. The invoices would normally be issued for the financial year from 1 April but will now go out on 1 July instead requesting payment for just the remaining nine months.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, said: “The Council is keen to support the commercial vessel skippers and their businesses with relief on the Minehead mooring fees.
This is in recognition that a number of government schemes would not be accessible for these businesses who are being impacted by the current Covid 19 emergency.
We are doing our best to support businesses across Somerset West and Taunton, and are keen to do whatever we can stop any of them slipping through the net. I hope this will be welcome news for those affected.”
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advice and Information page of our website contains the latest links to wider advice, support and guidance for businesses.
SWT has paid out over £23m in grants to support local businesses while the UK is in Coronavirus lock down and is now reaching out to those who may be eligible for help but haven’t claimed.
Although the offices are closed staff have been working from home to ensure Small Business Grant Fund and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund payments are processed as soon as possible.
The Council has received 2,663 registrations for COVID19 business grants. To date, 1,938 of these have been completed resulting in grants paid totalling £23,385,000.
SWT is now using a combination of texts, e-mails & automated phone messages to ensure local businesses who have not yet applied are aware and can get the help they need.
Councillors are also reaching out to identity businesses in their SWT wards who may not be aware they could qualify.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, said: “I am proud of our officers for working round the clock to help our local businesses and ensure that so many have already received grants they are entitled to.
There remains a significant number of organisations that we believe to be eligible for a grant who have not yet been in touch to register.
I would encourage remaining eligible businesses to register for the grant that they are entitled to, particularly for small independent businesses and organisations. If you are a business that would benefit or you know one that might, the Council is asking you to visit its website for guidance”
The application process is straightforward using the secure online form at https://www.somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk/business-rates/business-grants-covid-19-response/
Our aim is to get payments into the bank accounts of the eligible businesses within 7 working days of us receiving the required information.
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advice and Information page of our website also contains the latest links to wider advice, support and guidance for businesses.
The Live in Somerset 2020 concerts at Vivary Park have been cancelled due to ongoing Coronavirus restrictions.
SWT will be offering refunds for all Live in Somerset tickets purchased at the Taunton Visitor Centre as soon as possible.
The Visitor Centre is currently closed in line with Government advice but the Council is monitoring the situation carefully and will reopen when it is safe to ensure the health and wellbeing of customers and staff.
Refunds can only be processed in person at the Taunton Visitor Centre, upon receipt of the Live in Somerset tickets and the original receipt of purchase.
Councillor Marcus Kravis, Executive Member for Economic Development, said: It is disappointing that another of the most popular weekends on our event calendar has been impacted by the effects of Coronavirus. We will be issuing refunds as soon as it is practical to do so, and ask that you bear with us during these unprecedented times. Our priority as always is the health and safety of our staff and residents.”
Please keep an eye on our social media platform ‘Visit Taunton’ for updates. If you have further enquiries regarding refunds for tickets purchased from the Taunton Visitor Centre please contact:
Somerset West and Taunton Council are running a free webinar to help small businesses and self-employed people learn quick and simple ways of selling online, new ways to generate income overnight and serve existing customers. The webinar will be followed by 3 further free workshops on specific digital themes and subjects to help small businesses at this time.
The event is on the 23rd April from 2.00-4.00 and people can register online at the following link.
The Mayor of Taunton, Cllr Fran Smith, has made her first virtual appearance at the opening of the Wilton and Sherford Community Shop.
The Mayor appeared by video link at the opening in the Churchill Meeting Hall, Middleway, on Easter Monday. The shop, registered as a Community Interest Company, is being run by volunteers to help local residents with access to basic provisions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was established with a grant of £1,500 from the Charter Trustees for Taunton Unparished Area Grant Fund. A further £1,000 from the Somerset Community Foundation will be used to provide much needed stock.
Cllr Smith said: “This is a much needed local shop in an area with a high number of older members of the population.
It’s wonderful to see people rally round to support each other and those in need during the current crisis, and I was delighted to be able to take part in the official opening while still observing advice on social distancing.”
Wilton and Sherford CIC Director, Natalie Dyson, said: “It really is utterly unbelievable to think what our little team has achieved in under two weeks.
We set up a not for profit Community Interest Company, obtained start-up funding, recruited volunteers, opened a business bank account, appointed accountants, built relationships with stockists, begged and borrowed from all over Taunton and were met with incredible kindness by the people who donated things,
Really I am humbled beyond belief at the amazing skill set we have between us and the camaraderie we have developed. I’d like to give a big shout out to every individual and all the businesses and organisations that have helped to make this happen.”
The shop will provide a convenient local drop-in facility for residents to pick up basic provisions including groceries, household items and toiletries
The volunteers can also arrange to deliver items to the community of Wilton and Sherford which has a high proportion of older members of the population.
All items will be sold on a not for profit basis.
SWT is inviting anyone struggling to pay their Council Tax due to the pressures of Coronavirus to get in contact.
The Council has a range of measures in place to help people having difficulty with payments.
It can work with residents who have permanently, or temporarily, lost their job; stopped their self-employment or had their pay cut, to help find a solution.
Further information on the support available can be found on our website https://www.somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-and-information/
In addition SWT has suspended bailiff action and won’t send any reminders until the end of June. It will be reviewing this as the crisis evolves.
The Council has also received funds from the Government to award an extra reduction of up to £150 to Council Tax payers of working age who receive Council Tax Support during 2020/21,
Customers who can pay their Council Tax must do so in the usual way. SWT will still collect direct debit payments, and although the offices are closed payments can be taken over the phone.
All Council Tax payers can opt to pay Council Tax over 12 months (rather than 10), from April through to the following March, reducing the amount paid each month.
Anyone wanting to take up this option or struggling to pay their Council Tax should contact SWT on 0300 304 8000.
Somerset West and Taunton Council is working in partnership with the Somerset Wildlife Trust to identify and create a number of species-rich wildflower meadows across the district.
The meadows will initially be created as part of a pilot project on Council owned land in Grange Drive, Leycroft Grove and Moorfields, Taunton; Gay Street, Wellington; and at Seaward Way, and Culvercliffe, Minehead.
The Council will also be setting aside wild areas in its Green Flag accredited parks at Taunton’s Vivary, Victoria, Comeytrowe and French Weir parks, Wellington Park. and Swains Lane Nature Reserve in Wellington.
The initiative is part of the Council’s commitment to protecting and improving biodiversity, identified as a priority in the emerging climate change strategy.
In establishing ‘wilder’ areas on council owned land and within its parks, the wildflower meadow project hopes to help boost biodiversity, supporting pollinator species in particular.
It will also help to connect existing green spaces which will improve the resilience of the district’s landscape as a whole in the face of a warming climate.
The pilot areas are amenity spaces that are traditionally cut every few weeks during the summer months.
Cllr Peter Pilkington, Executive Member for Climate Change, said: “The Council is committed to creating a more sustainable future for everyone, putting climate and environmental responsibility at the heart of everything it does.
We are excited to be developing this project with the Somerset Wildlife Trust who share our belief in the need for ownership and involvement around climate change.
The Council currently cuts an area the size of Belgium in the course of a season, but we are looking to let some of these areas ‘rewild’ by letting the grass grow longer and sowing wildflowers.
This taller grass will allow a range of grass species to develop, increasing the biodiversity in the area. Tall grass is just as important for wildlife as wild flowers, as it gives animals shelter and somewhere to hunt, breed and feed.”
Wild flower meadows provide shelter and food for important pollinators, and in particular, bees. There are over 250 species of bee in the UK and they play a vital part in supporting the ecosystem. The UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadow since the 1930s.
Jolyon Chesworth, Head of Engagement at the Somerset Wildlife Trust, said: “There are around half a million football pitches worth of gardens in the UK, plus parks, playing fields, road verges and roundabouts. If managed correctly, our towns and cities can act as havens for wildlife, creating Nature Recovery Networks that connect urban and rural areas to help restore wildlife. Insects, including bees and butterflies, are dying out up to eight times faster than larger animals and 41% of insect species face extinction. However, this initiative to help sow wildflower meadows and ‘rewild’ our parks can play a crucial part in stopping declines. Importantly, these areas won’t just provide a rich source of food but will provide habitat throughout the year for animals to shelter.
“It’s not just good for wildlife but for people as well, the sight of a wildflower meadow, teeming with bumblebees and butterflies, enhances our green spaces and our enjoyment of them and all the evidence suggests that towns rich in wild places and wildlife also boost our own wellbeing. We hope this initiative will be just the start of turning Taunton Garden Town into a place where people and wildlife thrive together.”
More information on the Wildflower Meadow Project can be found on our website https://www.somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk/meadow-pilots/
Somerset West & Taunton Council is consulting on a proposed new Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) to allow it to deal more effectively with anti-social behaviour.
A PSPO is a power under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, that allows a council to impose restrictions in particular areas to tackle nuisance or problem behaviour.
SWT is reviewing its policy in a bid to make it easier to identify and address issues in Taunton and surrounding open spaces as part of its Streetwise initiative
to ensure a joined up approach to anti-social behaviour.
The revised Public Space Protection Orders will allow the Council to tackle a broader range of anti-social behaviour in conjunction with partners, particularly the Police.
The proposed conditions would set the boundaries of what can be regarded as unacceptable behaviour, and the areas it covers which means the Council and Police can enforce measures decisively and quickly.
The new Orders could result in fixed penalty notices of £100 or fines of up to £1,000 if convicted of breaching the PSPO in court. They are not designed to make money for the Council, however, any money received in penalties is ring-fenced for Streetwise work.
Cllr Chris Booth, Executive Member for Community, said: “PSPOs are designed to ensure the law-abiding majority can use and enjoy public spaces, safe from anti-social behaviour.
We’ve been working with partners including the Police, to identify issues that could have a detrimental impact on people who live, work or visit the town, many of which are linked to alcohol and drug dependency.
Our aim is always to make an early intervention, and to take the opportunity to engage and improve behaviour, but no-one should have to endure behaviour that has a negative impact on them, their environment or the community in which they live or work.
The existing PSPO has been ineffective as it was unfortunately often unenforceable. We are now restarting this process and want public feedback to be a key part of helping to improve our district through enforceable rules.
We hope people will engage with the consultation process to revise the PSPO powers and help to make our county town and associated open spaces safe and welcoming.”
The consultation runs for six weeks from today (2 March) and will give members of the public a chance to put forward comments and suggestions including other locations.
The full consultation document is available to view on our website www.somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk/pspo
Paper copies are also available at Deane House, Taunton, and West Somerset House, Williton.
Responses can be made using the online consultation portal https://yoursay.somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk/or by returning the paper questionnaire by freepost.
SWT is working to deliver more affordable homes across the district and has recently purchased 10 new properties for social rent in North Taunton.
The two and three bedroom properties with private parking were built to a high specification by Summerfield Homes.
Tenants who live in the homes at Pyrland Fields will benefit from affordable rents and a secure council tenancy which means they have a settled home.
Cllr Fran Smith, Executive Member for Housing, said: “SWT is committed to increasing the number of quality affordable homes in the district to try to reduce the number of people requiring accommodation. These wonderful homes along with those we are building at Laxton Road and our large development in North Taunton are great examples of our commitment. Over the coming months we hope to announce more developments.”
Summerfield Homes Divisional Director, Ed Khodabandehloo, said: “It has been great dealing with the team at Somerset West and Taunton on this transaction.
We are very pleased to be contributing to the Council’s directly owned affordable housing stock and are confident that these houses will provide great homes for the community.”
The Council is increasing its affordable housing stock in line with the approved
30 year business plan for its housing service. The plan includes a commitment to build 1,000 new homes over the next 30 years but some acquisitions from the market are taking place to accelerate provision.