Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Chairmans Report  11th October 2018

As the days get shorter and the autumn leaves blow around the town, we start anticipatingHalloween, fireworks and our wonderful Carnival.  Also at this time of year we reflect on the act of remembrance that is held on 11th November.  2018 is of course especially poignant as we commemorate 100 years since the ending of the First World War. 

All the giant red poppies that have appeared in Shepton have been installed by Nick Chambers and Edric Hobbs.  Youll find them everywhere from the impressive display at St Peters and Pauls Church, to the one on the Babycham statue on Kilver Street. They make a real visual statement that reminds us that our freedoms have been won by the courage of others.

Next May, we will be asked once again to elect our Town and District councillors.  Mendip Council will be holding an introductory session for people considering standing as District Councillors. This is an opportunity to meet a panel of district councillors and discuss their rôle and responsibilities. This event will be held at 7pm on 24th October in the Mendip Council Chamber.

Here in Shepton we will also be electing our town councillors. This will give local community-minded people a chance to standand if successful, play an important part in shaping Sheptons future. In the last 4 years many new responsibilities have had to be taken on by the Town Council as the District and County Councils have reduced and cut their services.  

The Town Council now provides the improved flower displays on the High Street and plays a full part in the monthly Sunday markets. We are leading the campaign to keep the library in the town centre and have agreed to part-fund the resurfacing of the town centre with Somerset County Council (otherwise the broken paving will remain hazardous and unsightly)

We have managed, procured and part-funded the rebuilding of the skatepark and also part-funded the newly resurfaced BMX track.  The town council had to increase its staffing to address all these new challengesand is about to appoint a Finance Officer to match the best practice of communities of our size.

Being a Councillor allows a key involvement at a crucial time where we are being asked to do so much more than in the past. I would be delighted if we get talented people willing to be active councillors bringing new skills to join the council next May.  

Chris Inchley, Chair, Shepton Mallet Town Council


Chairman’s Report. 4th October 2018

Last Wednesday it was a pleasure to attend an event organised by the Shepton Snowdrop Festival outlining their plans for the coming months. This Saturday (6th October) there will be a snowdrop sale in Tesco between 10am and 4pm, and on the following Saturday the organisers will be holding a planting day.  People will have the opportunity to buy and plant snowdrops at St Peter and St Paul’s Church and at Highfield House, and then can record their efforts in a memory book.  If you are interested in joining in, please contact the Snowdrop Festival at admin@sheptonsnowdropfestival.org.uk, or to find out more go to www.sheptonsnowdropfestival.org.uk

The Journal recently reported the good news that Collett Park is the first open space in our district to be awarded the coveted Green Flag award. This is a tremendous recognition of the Council’s progression in working with its partners. We have a growing range of activities in our park. This includes the long-standing Drifters Boat Club, but now also the well attended weekly Parkrun (soon to be joined by the Junior Parkrun), other cross-country running events, music concerts, a visiting circus, the Collett Festival celebration in June, through to the Christmas Lantern Festival, and of course the popular Collett Park Café. The Collett Park Management Committee, acting for the Park Charity,  now plans to make important improvements to ensure that our park continues to be the jewel in Shepton’s crown.

We held a series of well-attended and successful public consultations this summer, where we asked people what they want for Collett Park in the future. The Park Management Committee has been considering the range of comments you have made and how best to proceed, combining the best ideas from your suggestions and the feasibility study we had on display.

It is important for the Committee to work with people who love Collett Park and want to see it flourish.  One key aspect of this involvement will be the creation of the ‘Friends of Collett Park’.  The park has a limited staff resource, so it is hoped a new voluntary group will be keen to help us devise a new planting plan for the park, but importantly help carry out the vital tree, shrub and flower border planting, as well as any other tasks the group feels competent to do. The Friends group will also have potential to fund-raise and organise events to benefit the park and park users.  The Friends will be a vital contributor and sounding board for the Committee when developing the park into the future.

I am keen to hear from those green fingered people who love our park and want to form that important Friends team.  Please contact me (cllr.C.Inchley@SheptonMallet-TC.gov.uk) or the Collett Park Committee Chair, Garfield Kennedy (cllr.G.Kennedy@SheptonMallet-TC.gov.uk).  Collett Park is a wonderful asset for our town, and together we can make it even better.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Chairman’s Report  -  27th September 2018

This week the Town Council voted to renew the traditional Town Crier’s uniform.  Andy Neal took on this rôle 4 years ago, and is often seen, and always heard, delivering the town’s proclamations at many of the town’s increasing number of events. Andy does a terrific job, and will now be suitably attired to proclaim all the wonders of Shepton Mallet.

At last week’s Town Council meeting we discussed the future of Collett Festival. This includes the ticketed concert, the Collett Park fête and the very popular free children’s festival on the Sunday. The good news is that this year’s festival had a net income of £1700 over expenditure. This is not counting all the financial and promotional gains by the many local charities and societies who are invited to showcase their activities for free.

However the Town Council are now reviewing the whole way the festival is managed. Many councillors expressed unhappiness with the need for security including fencing the Festival area, and were questioning having a concert in future.

The current organisers have been mindful of safety and security at all the events, and not without reason. Any gathering of a large number of members of the public has to be well managed and made as safe as possible. For example, this year at all of the events, we had lost children emergencies with often very distressed parents, but as the Festival area was contained, our security personnel were able to close the site, find and look after the children and reunite them with their parents.

I also witnessed the professional security staff intervene in a very serious act of violence. They contained the individuals involved, protected the public and then evicted the perpetrators from the Festival site, whilst also keeping the police informed throughout. These and other equally challenging instances have been consistently well managed in recent years. They are the sorts of issues that need to be considered when staging any event where thousands of people are gathered. I’m certain the council will want to hear from a cross-section of residents with their views on the future shape of this keystone event in our summer calendar.

The Town Council is launching a brand new, much improved website this week that offers a more interactive service for our community.  Please go to www.sheptonmallet-tc.gov.uk to see the new design and layout. The website has been created by a local company, and includes photographs and artwork supplied by local people. I would like particularly to thank Will Dunscombe for his brilliant photographs of the town.

Our town council staff do so much more than is seen by the community. The recent data protection legislation, GDPR, is an example that is creating a substantial additional workload. Unnoticed by many residents, demands like this on staff time have to be resourced, while the delivery of some key projects that have visible benefit to the town get delayed. I find this particularly frustrating

Chris Inchley, Chair, Shepton Mallet Town Council

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Chairman’s Column - 20th September 2018

These are times of change for the town council. We have reorganised the management structure in the office, and are looking for an accountancy professional to join our highly motivated and professional team to fill a financial officer position.

Shepton residents rightly expect their Town Council to meet their expectations of delivering high quality services with tight control of finance.  For this reason, the Council is looking for an enthusiastic accountancy professional who has sound financial management skills.  We need to find a person with a confident manner who can deal with complex issues, who will work alongside our Town Clerk and provide support to councillors. The position will offer the successful applicant the opportunity to manage and play a key rôle in implementing and delivering a business plan that will help to improve Shepton Mallet.

We are looking for someone for 18 hours a week over three days: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  By the very nature of working for a town council, the successful candidate may be called upon to help with other varied tasks, thus offering us flexibility and making the very best use of all of our small team of officers.

Already, Shepton Mallet Town Council is lucky to have hard-working and committed employees. I am particularly keen that we employ the right person to complement them and deliver a high level of financial competence to deliver services and projects.

The future is looking increasingly bright for the Council.  Recently we appointed a new, energetic and highly professional Town Clerk.  Much more is happening in the town with the Sunday Market and many other successful events. We have a series of challenging issues to address, including the ongoing work to retain our town centre library, and the need to make improvements to the town centre and Collett Park.

There couldn’t be a better time for an outstanding accountancy-trained individual to join us. You can contact the town council on 01749-343984 to discuss the matter further or emailoffice@sheptonmallettowncouncil.gov.uk.

Whilst attending the Mid-Somerset Royal Air Force Association Commemoration Service, Sister Anne Martin reminded me of the launch of the Dementia Action Alliance.  This is an initiative to understand the complex problems that dementia presents us with, and how we as a town can learn more and provide help. Anyone interested can attend a meeting in the Mendip Council Chamber on 27th September between 6pm and 9pm










Sunday, 16 September 2018



Chairman’s Column  13th September 2018

There is little doubt that these are difficult times for Somerset County Council who face rising demand and increasing costs for adult social care and children’s services.  Yet both these departments are now facing large cuts to their funding.  Despite the withdrawal of substantial amounts of financial support from central government for these core services, the County Council chose not to increase council tax year on year.  The County has now simply run out of money, leaving some of the most vulnerable people in our society potentially abandoned.

Somerset County Council also announced that it plans to drastically reduce financial support for the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). The CAB has become increasing important lifeline in recent times as government has cut back on access to Legal Aid. This has left the CAB as the only source of independent advice and help for many people.

The County Council now plans to remove £98,000 from the CAB budget in October, giving the organisation no time to plan for the impact of an overnight reduction of 20% in its core funding. The Town Council recognises the important job the CAB does in helping residents in often difficult and dire circumstances, and we continue to give an annual grant to this vital service.

Last week Jon Hardy and Garfield Kennedy met with County Council officials to continue talks to keep our library in the centre of Shepton. I am positive that the town council’s detailed business plan,and the strong social and economic arguments that we have spelt out, makes a compelling case to keep the library in the heart of the town.  County Councillors will determine our library’s future.  If they choose to put it into Mendip District Council’s SHAPE offices, it will betray all the work done by the persuasive and passionate Friends of Shepton Library and your Town Council.

After a week away in sunny Majorca it’s great to be back home. With our Sunday Market returning this weekend, it will be another chance to buy a lovely selection of food and gifts.  Sadly, for me, I will have to make it a fleeting visit as I have a busy day representing our town at a service in Wells for the Mid-Somerset Royal Air Force Association, and then on to Highbridge for their town council’s annual awards and civic service.

Chris Inchley, Chair, Shepton Mallet Town Council







 


Who can believe Summer has come to an end? Here in Shepton we’ve had quite a summer, with the amazing Collett Festival and the Charles Chipperfield Circus, and earlier great events including the very successful Festival of Dogs, the Mid Somerset Show and the ongoing season of Collett Café events, and of course, our expanding Sunday Markets.

 Looking ahead, the Snowdrop Festival is inviting local residents to the Cider House in Kilver Street between 5pm and 8pm on Wednesday, 26th September to have their say on the future of this now well-established annual event. Tens of thousands of snowdrops have already been planted that pop up each year to herald Spring all round town. The event celebrates the life and legacy of local man, James Allen, who bred and hybridised new snowdrop variants. It’s fantastic that we are now able to celebrate this remarkable man’s love of horticulture. We have to thank the Shepton Horticultural Society and their “growing” team of volunteers for all their tireless efforts.
 

Last week it was great to hear that so many of Shepton’s young people had achieved impressive GCSE grades. They have laid the foundations for their future careers, and I wish them every success. My one piece of advice to this up and coming generation is to take every opportunity on offer to achieve your dreams.

 With the end of the summer, we have another Town Council tradition: the annual allotment competition. As a gardener myself, I have every sympathy with our dedicated allotment holders. This hot, dry summer made growing anything really challenging. Despite this, our allotment gardeners made great strides in producing some amazing crops.


The Town Council has earmarked money to help residents to take part in community ‘Speed Watch’ schemes. We know that fast traffic and dangerous driving is a major concern for many people. The Council is fully committed to helping volunteers from the community who want to make our streets safer.


St Marher realised way back in 1225 that “time waits for no man”, and Shepton is no exception. The town is exhibiting a new-found confidence: whether it’s in education where our students are achieving fantastic results, or in the community where many groups are organising great events, or in the arts with the inventive Rubbish Art Project in the HSBC building, or in business with traders like “Loaf” opening on Town Street. There is real momentum in Shepton today that the Town Council will do all it can to continue to encourage in order to deliver a thriving, healthy and safe society. 


 

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Chairman’s Column  23rd August 2018

This year’s Mid-Somerset Show was a huge success. Thousands flocked to the show to enjoy another celebration of the many joys of living in our part of Somerset.  My personal favourite is the arts and craft tent along with the marquees that showcase cultural Somerset. Huge thanks to the organisers and the host of volunteers who make this show such a success for our town and the surrounding area.

Last week the town council discussed the outline planning application for the Mid Somerset Show field and it’s southern extension. As readers will know, the land to the west of Cannards Grave Road was marked for development of 500 new homes in the district council’s local plan. The developer, C.G. Fry and Sons, is proposing that they build 600 houses at this location. 

New roads entering the site will include a roundabout at the Little Brooks Road junction and a second access point further south off Cannards Grave Road. Space has been allocated for a primary school, a retirement home and a local convenience shop. The outline plan includes an open green corridor with permanent pools to deal with the acute drainage problems that this area suffers from.

Town councillors want this development to be linked into the High Street with good, safe pedestrian and cycle pathways from the new homes to the town centre.  It is absolutely critical that the proposed housing types meet the needs of local people. For example, we must insist that 30% of this new development should be affordable, rented homes. This is particularly important as the developer is proposing an additional 100 properties over and above the District Council’s Local Plan allocation on the extended showfield site. The final plans should include 1 and 2 bedroom homes and bungalows for older people and others who need this category of accommodation. 

While town councillors recognise the importance of getting this planning application right for Shepton, they only have the power to comment and recommend acceptance or rejection.  It is Mendip District councillors who will make the final and binding decision.  

As C.G. Fry and Sons have only presented an outline planning application at this stage, there is still all the design and layout details to be added.  There remains a real opportunity for us all to have our views taken into account. Shepton residents can look on Mendip District Council’s website to view the planning application and make comments on the plans.

This development is of major importance to the town. Your town councillors have made a full response at this first stage to the outline planning application. I urge residents to do the same. 

Chris Inchley, Chair, Shepton Mallet Town Council