North Somerset Council has made the difficult decision to introduce an annual charge of £50 per bin for garden waste collections from 1 April 2021.
I have thought long and hard about the charge, but in the end I think it is the right thing to do – even if it proves unpopular with some residents.
Council finances are under a great deal of pressure and garden waste is not a statutory service. To protect essential services, we need to introduce an annual charge to cover the costs of the garden waste service and make it self-financing.
All our neighbouring authorities already have this charge in place, as do two-thirds of councils in England, some of which charge up to £100 to collect green waste.
Home composting is the cheapest and most environmentally- friendly way to deal with garden waste. To support residents we have discounted compost bins for sale for just £10, free online courses and lots of information on our website at www.n-somerset.gov.uk/composting
This is an optional charge: anyone who chooses not to pay for garden waste collections can either home compost or take their garden waste to a household waste recycling centre.
The income from charging for garden waste will make the service self-financing and free-up resources to protect essential services including care and support for the most vulnerable people in our community.
Anyone who signs up for the new service by Sunday 28 March will receive a 10% discount off the cost of their first bin.
The Government has set out its route map for exiting Covid-19 national restrictions in England with a number of steps that will be followed over the next few months providing the virus remains under control and the vaccine programme continues apace.
In Step 1, all children and students will return to face-to-face education in schools and colleges from 8 March.
Childcare and children’s supervised activities can also resume where necessary to enable parents to work or engage in similar activities.
Twice-weekly rapid testing for secondary and college pupils – in addition to regular testing for all teachers – will be introduced.
Higher Education students at English universities on practical courses can also return from 8 March.
People will be allowed to leave home for recreation and exercise outdoors with their household or support bubble, if they are eligible for one, or with one person from outside their household.
Care home residents will also be allowed one regular visitor.From 29 March outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either 6 people (the Rule of 6) or 2 households will also be allowed.
Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools, will also be allowed to reopen, and people will be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.
The ‘stay at home’ rule will end on 29 March but many restrictions will remain in place.
People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise the number of journeys they make where possible, avoiding travel at the busiest times and routes.
Travel abroad will continue to be prohibited, other than for a small number of permitted reasons.
Holidays abroad will not be allowed, given it will remain important to manage the risk of imported variants and protect the vaccination programme.
The government has launched a new taskforce to review global travel which will report on 12 April.
Step 2, which will be no earlier than 12 April, will see the opening of non-essential retail; personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons; and public buildings, including libraries and community centres. Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms will also reopen (but only for use by people on their own or in household groups); as will most outdoor attractions and settings including outdoor hospitality venues, zoos, theme parks, and drive-in cinemas.
Self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, can also reopen.
Hospitality venues will be allowed to serve people outdoors at Step 2 and there will be no need for customers to order a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks and no curfew, although customers must order, eat and drink while seated (‘table service’).
Wider social contact rules will apply in all these settings to prevent indoor mixing between different households.
While funerals can continue with up to 30 mourners, the number of people able to attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes will rise to 15.
As part of Step 3, no earlier than 17 May, the government will look to continue easing limits on seeing friends and family wherever possible, allowing people to decide on the appropriate level of risk for their circumstances.
This means that most legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors will be lifted – although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal. Indoors, the Rule of 6 or 2 households will apply – we will keep under review whether it is safe to increase this.
As soon as possible and by no later than Step 3, they will also update the advice on social distancing between friends and family, including hugging. But until this point, people should continue to keep their distance from anyone not in their household or support bubble.
Most businesses in all but the highest risk sectors will be able to reopen. In all sectors, COVID-Secure guidance will remain in place and businesses may not cater for groups bigger than the legal limits.
Indoor hospitality will reopen – and as in Step 2, venues will not have to serve a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks; nor will there be a curfew. Customers will, however, have to order, eat and drink while seated.Other indoor locations to open up in Step 3 include indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas and children’s play areas; the rest of the accommodation sector, including hotels, hostels and B&Bs; and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes.
The government will also allow some larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full (whichever is a lower number), and in outdoor venues with a capacity of 4,000 people or half-full (whichever is a lower number). In the largest outdoor seated venues, where crowds can be spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend (or a quarter-full, whichever is lower).
Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as funerals. This limit will also apply to other types of significant life events including bar mitzvahs and christenings.Finally, before Step 4 begins, the government will complete a review of social distancing and other long-term measures that have been put in place to cut transmission. This will inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which the rules on 1 metre plus, the wearing of face coverings and other measures may be lifted. This will also inform guidance on working from home – which should continue wherever possible until this review is complete.
By Step 4 which will take place no earlier than 21 June, the government hopes to be in a position to remove all legal limits on social contact.They hope to reopen remaining premises, including nightclubs, and ease the restrictions on large events and performances that apply in Step 3. This will be subject to the results of a scientific Events Research Programme to test the outcome of certain pilot events through the spring and summer, where we will trial the use of testing and other techniques to cut the risk of infection. The same Events Research Programme will guide decisions on whether all limits can be removed on weddings and other life events.
Plans for the future of development in North Somerset have taken an important step forward with the publication of the council’s response to the latest round of consultation.
North Somerset Council is in the process of developing a new Local Plan for the area. Once adopted, the plan will identify where development can and cannot take place in North Somerset as well as which supporting services and infrastructure are required.
Over 1,600 people took part in the six-week Choices consultation, which focused on the possible approaches to the location of future development in North Somerset.
Four approaches were put forward for discussion and people were asked what they liked or disliked about each, or whether there are any alternative ways of distributing the proposed growth.
Cllr James Tonkin, executive member for planning, said “The responses to the Choices consultation have been so useful in helping the council understand local people’s priorities for development in North Somerset, so thank you to everyone who took the time to have their say.
“The government’s housing target for North Somerset is currently 20,475 new homes over the next 15 years. Without a Local Plan we could end up with unplanned growth in the wrong places, with no supporting facilities.
“The final agreed approach is likely to be a combination of the various different options. We are determined to produce a Local Plan which provides high quality places, in sustainable locations, with all the facilities communities need to flourish.”
The results of the Choices consultation will be used as a starting point for developing a draft Local Plan, which will be consulted on this autumn. To view the results go to www.n-somerset.gov.uk/newlocalplan.
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The first in a series of new electric vehicle charging points is now ready for use in Sand Bay. Located in Beach Road car park, the charging point is well situated for electric vehicle owners visiting Sand Bay as well as local residents and businesses.
The project, to install charging points across North Somerset, will see both fast chargers (7 and 22kWh) and rapid chargers (50kWh) installed as part of the West of England-owned Revive network, which is free to join and will include use of the flagship rapid charging hub soon to open in Portishead Marina.
Other proposed sites which are being explored as part of the new series include:
Nailsea and Backwell Station car park
Worle Parkway Station car park
Great Western Road car park, Clevedon
Hutton Moor Leisure Centre, Weston-super-Mare.
Along with the Portishead Marina Rapid Charging Hub, which will come complete with solar panels, the start of the new series of fast chargers underlines the council’s strong commitment to the Climate Emergency and to creating more sustainable travel options for residents and visitors. The £7.1m investment from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) for the Go Ultra Low West project will deliver approximately 120 EV charging bays across the Revive network, with 30 of these located in North Somerset.
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The results of my New Year Resident’s survey are clear: Development, roads and drainage are the key concerns for Blagdon and Churchill residents.
20% of respondants want North Somerset to do more to improve our local roads and drainage, with a similar number stating that the main focus should be on development and housing. Improving public transport and cracking down on littering and improving waste collection were the next most popular themes.
The good news is that these are areas that I am working with officers and Council colleagues to deliver progress in the coming months:
Roads and Drainage:
A significant amount of investment has gone in to improving and updating drains across the ward. This has delivered improvements, but there is still a lot more to do – particularly towards Blackmoor where a lot of water ends up from further upstream and in parts of Blagdon where there are ongoing problems. I will continue to put pressure on the Council to continue to invest in drainage – and to keep up a regular program of maintainance to avoid blockages.
On roads, residents are concerned about the quality of the road surfaces, as well as speeding and safety on a number of our lanes. Investment is going into upgrading the quality of the road surfaces, not least a £227,000 in upgrading the A38 in Churchill. But again, more needs to be done to undo years of neglect under the previous administration and I will be working with officers and executive members to ensure that investment comes to the villages – and will be keeping a close eye on the Banwwell bypass to make sure investments are made to mitigate any negative impact on our villages.
Speeding is a concern for many – this is mainly a police matter – but I have been talking to residents and working with officers to understand if there is a case of new 20MPH zones and to carry out traffic surveys on the areas of greatest concern.
Many respondents were keen to see additional support for improving active travel and making cycling and walking safer. This is something we will see progress on soon – so watch this space!
Housing and Development:
A clear message came through here that residents are concerned about new development and housebuilding in the ward, although there is a reasonable degree of support for more affordable housing. We were successful in fending off the inappropriate development at Dinghurst Lane and I continue to fight to make sure the new local plan which is currently under development protects the character and special nature of our villages and rural areas.
Waste and Recycling:
The service levels provided by Biffa – particularly in Blagdon – have been unnacceptable. This is why I was strongly in favour of the decision taken by the Council last year to end the contract and set up a new, more accountable waste and recycling service. I will be keeping up the pressure to make sure the new company delivers improved levels of service – particularly for residents who use assisted collection.
Despite pleding to keep environmental protections after Brexit, Weston’s Tory MP has voted to allow bee killing pesticides in the UK, despite these having been banned across the EU.
Patrick Keating, spokesperson for the Weston-super-Mare Liberal Democrats, said “The government giving the green light for such a highly-damaging pesticide to be sprayed on crops is bad news for bees and other insects.”
The government knows the clear harm that neonicotinoid pesticides cause to bees and other pollinators and just three years ago supported restrictions on them across the European Union. Why should British crops be covered in such chemicals when the government supported its ban in other countries?”
Research has indicated that the pesticide harms bee brain development, weakens immune systems and can leave bees unable to fly.
Environmental groups have accused the government of exacerbating the biodiversity crisis, which has resulted in at least half the world’s insects disappearing
Over the last few days, there has again been flooding along the A38 in Churchill and Langford.
I have asked officers for an urgent update on the situation, which is as follows:This particular instance of surface water is being caused by damage to the culverted watercourse that runs along the back of the footway in this part of the A38.
Officers visited the nearby development last week and the developer has confirmed that they damaged the culvert some weeks ago. They have carried out a temporary repair but this does still create problems when there are high volumes of water flow down the culvert.
The developer has agreed to undertake a permanent repair as soon as the water levels reduce sufficiently to enable an excavation to take place. The current levels of water prevents this being carried out safely and presents a risk of further damage and material being washed into the culvert creating addition problems.
North Somerset Council officers will be visiting regularly to keep up the pressure on the developer and I will continue to push the Council to keep up a regular progamme of investment in maintaining and clearing the drainage infrastructure in our area.