Somerset MP says Taunton is like a war-torn Syrian city!

Does a constituency REALLY get the MP it deserves? Well ….

“One is an English county town with an eighth-century castle, pleasant high street and national park right on its doorstep. The other is a Syrian city left in almost complete ruins after eight years of brutal civil war.

But these distinctions appear to have failed to register with the MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, who chose to liken Taunton to Aleppo during a House of Commons debate on Thursday.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, whose own constituency neighbours the town, was attempting to draw attention to its boarded-up shops during a discussion about the high street.

The Tory said: “Exeter city has just brought out an excellent report looking 20 years ahead for the security and the growth of their city centre. Across the border, my county town Taunton is more like Aleppo than anything else.”

It is understood Mr Liddell-Grainger has never visited Syria’s second city but a quick perusal of pictures could have shown him it bears very little resemblance to the ancient Somerset town. …”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/taunton-aleppo-conservative-mp-ian-liddellgrainger-somerset-deane-council-a8758211.html

“Housing developer backtracks on promised Yeovil road improvements despite signing contract to honour work”

Remember what Owl said only yesterday after the news that Persimmon and Crown Estates demanded 200 extra houses (from 650 to 850) in Axminster to be able to afford to build a new road?

“A housing developer is trying to get out of making improvements to Yeovil’s roads, claiming they are no longer required.

Barratt Homes has been constructing the Wyndham Park development on Lyde Road at the north-eastern edge of the town, for which outline planning permission was granted in 2008.

As part of a legal agreement with Somerset County Council and South Somerset District Council, the developer promised to make improvements to the junction of Lyde Road and Mudford Road, as well as the junction of Combe Street Lane, Mudford Road and Stone Lane.

However the developer, that recorded a pre-tax profit of £835.5 million in 2018, has now applied for these conditions to be removed, claiming these junctions are “under capacity” and therefore the improvements will no longer be necessary.

Planning manager Andrew Cattermole wrote to the district council on December 12, laying out the company’s reasons for not undertaking the work.

He said: “The implementation of these elements has not been completed to date and it is considered, having discussed this with Somerset County Council, that neither of these works are required.

“The existing junctions are under capacity, meet the required safety performance and no junction improvements are required.”

The Lyde Road/ Mudford Road improvements were due to be undertaken before the 400th home on the Wyndham Park site had been occupied.

The Combe Street Lane project, meanwhile, was required to be completed before the 500th dwelling was finished and occupied.

A traffic assessment carried out for Barratt Homes concluded that “the additional demand created during the completion of development can be accommodated on the existing high way network”.

A spokesman for Somerset County Council said: “We have discussed this matter informally with Barratt Homes and advised that we would not object to modifying the S106 conditions and removing the junctions if they provided sufficient evidence that they were no longer required.

“Now the application has been submitted, we will review the evidence and provide a formal response.

“This will then be considered by South Somerset District Council as the local planning authority, which will make a final decision.”

A spokesman for the district council added: “This application was received on December 13 and we are awaiting the key views of Somerset County Council as the highways authority on this matter.

“It would be inappropriate to make further comment until these views have been received and our officers have completed their reports.”

The district council is expected to make a decision on this matter by February 7.”

https://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/somerset-news/housing-developer-backtracks-promised-yeovil-2483395

“Lack of government lawyers [due to Brexit work] delaying preparations for council merger”

“A lack of government lawyers as a result of Brexit is to blame for delays in producing the necessary orders for a merger of two local authorities in the South West of England, it has been claimed.

The County Gazette has reported that three orders from central government are needed to transfer all the necessary legal powers to the authority that will take over from Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset District Council.

An apppendix to a paper presented at a meeting of Taunton Deane’s scrutiny committee last week said: “Still waiting on MHCLG [the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government] finalising – Brexit impacting on MHCLG’s ability to access lawyers in a timely fashion.

“As long as final version is very similar to draft sould not cause too great an issue. The uncertainty is the concern however.”

The appendix said a general order had been due to be published on 24 July this year.

The merger of Taunton Deane and West Somerset was backed in March by the then Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid.”

Source: Local Government Lawyer

Stuff that “growth” – Devon, Dorset and Somerset best places to retire to!

Top 10 best places for retirement

Prudential analysed data in 55 counties in England and Wales to come up with its retirement ranking for 2016 (research lag).

West Sussex
Dorset
East Sussex
Isle of Wight
Norfolk
Devon
Worcestershire
Oxfordshire
Somerset
Shropshire

…”if you were looking to move to an area which has the highest number of similarly-aged denizens, Dorset is the place, with some 28% of the 422,000 people living in the county are aged over 65. …”

https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/09/revealed-the-best-places-to-retire-in-england-and-wales/ – Which

Greater South West Local Enterprise Partnership – partnership!

Another GREAT to add to GREATER EXETER – the GREAT South West Partnership!

For this one, Dorset now holds the purse strings (thanks to Oliver Letwin?) but developer Steve Hindley still holds on to the Chairmanship. Somerset County Council seems to have lost its financial control role – hardly surprising now it’s in a financial crisis.

And all still unelected, unaccountable and non-transparent.

Rather confusingly, in one part of the press release there is a reference to high productivity in this new LEP region but then it goes on to say: “When productivity in the South West matches current levels in the South East, the region will add more than £18 billion a year to the UK economy.” Do they really expect it to overtake the south-east? They could just as well have said “when productivity in the region the region overtakes China it will add £18 trillion to the UK economy”!

“Press release from Heart of the South West, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, and Dorset Local Enterprise Partnerships:

A campaign to highlight the South West’s economic potential and make the case for Government investment on a par with other UK regions has been launched at Westminster.

An alliance of business leaders, local authorities and higher education chiefs formally launched its Great South West vision that aims to put the South West on the UK economic map, to Parliament.

The delegation of the Heart of the South West, Dorset and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnerships) were in London to promote the South West’s economic development ambitions.

They are calling on the government to give their vision for growth the same high-profile backing as other initiatives like the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine.

Great South West Partnership Chair & Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, Steve Hindley CBE DL said: “The Great South West already has an economy twice the size of Greater Manchester’s and the West Midlands’. We have the largest building project in Europe underway at Hinkley Point C, as well as unrivalled natural assets that attract more visitors than anywhere outside London.

“This partnership stands out from the other UK public-led economic partnerships, as ours heavily backed by the business and university sector, and by working together we have the benefit of scale that gives us the chance to really show what we can do, given the right backing from Government.

“We’re now on the verge transformational growth in productivity, and we’re looking forward to realising our full potential and increasing our contribution to the UK economy on the back of increasing the prosperity of our local communities and businesses.”

Mark Duddridge, Chair of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly LEP, said: “The government’s recent review of LEPs acknowledged their vital role in developing ambitious strategies for growth and driving investment and job creation.

“The Great South West is about cross-LEP collaboration on a shared agenda, such as transport and infrastructure that can deliver real growth in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as well as the wider South West.”

Dorset LEP Chair, Jim Stewart, said: “The South West economy is nationally significant and is larger than any combined authority – double the size of both Greater Manchester and West Midlands.

“Yet we are not receiving the same financial investment from the government as these regions.

“Our Great South West alliance of regional business leaders, academic heads and local authorities is determined to win backing for our plans that will put the region on the economic map.”

In July a government review of LEPs said the partnerships played a crucial role in ‘supercharging’ economic growth and the delivery of its Industrial Strategy.

Representatives from the three LEPs met with South West’s MPs at a meeting in Westminster to launch Great South West.

The MPs received a presentation, which set out the economic significance of the region.

In addition to having double the size economy of Greater Manchester and West Midlands, Great South West also contributes more to UK Gross Value Added than both Thames Gateway and Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor.

It also has a bigger productivity than both the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine but lags behind the English average.

When productivity in the South West matches current levels in the South East, the region will add more than £18 billion a year to the UK economy.

In addition, the South West is home to the single largest infrastructure project in Europe – the new Hinkley Point nuclear power plant in Somerset, which will generate billions of pounds worth of new business opportunities.

Tourism is a huge industry, with the region attracting more visitors than anywhere outside London.

And the region is also home to the largest aerospace sector in the UK, with pioneering automotive, nuclear and marine renewables and microelectronics industries. It also has a growing creative and digital sector.

Dorset West MP Sir Oliver Letwin worked with the LEPs on arranging the meeting with members of Parliament. He said: “This meeting provided a great opportunity for south west MPs to be properly briefed about this exciting proposition, which could grow to deliver a significant step-change in productivity for the south west.

“It is highly encouraging to see the diversity and number of stakeholders, even at this early stage – with Local Enterprise Partnerships, local authorities, universities, the CBI, Chambers of Commerce and many others all involved in the Great South West project.

“I hope that this project can continue to move forward with ever increasing momentum, and to help further realise the extraordinary economic potential of the South West.”

The Great South West partnership faces a number of challenges, including transport and connectivity, large dispersed populations and some of the country’s most deprived areas. This results in low productivity.

To tackle these challenges Great South West is calling the government to support it to improve transport connectivity and strategic routes, drive productivity in trade and build supply chains and increase economic connectivity in the rural sector.

A letter has been sent to James Brokenshire MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to seek formal government support and investment for Great South West.”

https://heartofswlep.co.uk/news/great-south-west-set-rival-northern-powerhouse-midlands-engine/

Somerset is ‘more developed’ than ‘transitional’ Devon

The Government is offering various grants from the European Union (probably amongst our last ones) channeled through Local Enterprise Councils.

Here in the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership area ALL three types of grants are offering less money to the “more developed areas of Somerset” and more to the (presumably less developed areas of) ‘Transition’ areas of Devon.

So should Devon be putting less into the LEP than more well-off Somerset? Or is ut just that Hinkley C is sucking up all the dosh now?

“EUROPEAN SOCIAL FUND (ESF) INFO EVENT ON 12TH SEPTEMBER IN EXETER:

The session will particularly focus on the following live ESF calls for project proposals in the Heart of the South West:

Young Opportunities (OC16S18P1151) –
A £1.98 million (£0.98 million for the ‘More Developed’ area of Somerset and £1 million for the ‘Transition’ area of Devon, Plymouth and Torbay) ESF call for projects to support young people to access good quality careers and employment thereby avoiding Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) status in Heart of the South West LEP area.

Skills in Employment (OC16S18P1152) –
A £7 million (c. £2.33 million for the ‘More Developed’ area of Somerset and c. £4.67 million for the ‘transition’ area of Devon, Plymouth and Torbay) ESF call for projects offering employed individuals the opportunity to progress their skills, with a particular focus on intermediate / technical and higher-level skills (e.g. NVQ Level 3 and 4), as well as high demand skills at lower levels which enable growth (e.g. NVQ Level 2 qualifications within transformational / opportunity sectors).

Shaping Future Skills Provision (OC16S18P1153) –
A £1.15 million (£0.15 million for the ‘More Developed’ area of Somerset and £1 million for the ‘Transition’ area of Devon, Plymouth and Torbay) ESF call for projects to enhance the labour market relevance of skills provision in Heart of the South West LEP area