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CRAG

There are interesting moves down Wrington Lane as Vistry Group shuffle the deckchairs on the doomed ship that is their building scheme.

With a new set of proposals for the layout of the 50 houses, the company is trying to convince the local authority that building will start this year.

Can they possibly think that North Somerset Council, or indeed local residents, have overlooked the fact that there is a condition to provide a safe footway in Wrington Lane before building can start?

So Vistry will continue to tinker around with existing plans to avoid falling for the three-year planning rule, which states that a development must be started within three years of the granting of an application. 

Maybe North Somerset could invoke the three-year rule on grounds that the company have not, and cannot start the development because they cannot meet the condition?

CRAG is currently supporting local residents who are trying to convince North Somerset that the condition cannot be met.

YACWAG announce a new nature reserve in Congresbury

Yatton and Congresbury Wildlife Action Group are creating a new reserve in Congresbury. ‘Cobthorn Reserve’ is at the end of Cobthorn Way, bordering the new Furnace Way housing development.

Planning permission for Furnace Way was granted by North Somerset Council (NSC) with a proviso that an area of the procured land was set aside for the benefit of Greater Horseshoe Bats – a protected species that use this land for foraging. The area is only small part of the original habitat available to the bats in this location – much has been lost to the housing and its associated amenity area.

The original developers, Sunley, did not want to undertake the maintenance of this mitigation area which would involve planned grazing and careful management. NSC suggested they contact YACWAG to see if they would be interested in taking over the land in perpetuity for the benefit of bats. Following discussions between Sunley, NSC and YACWAG an outline agreement was reached. Sunley subsequently passed the development over to Strongvox, who continued with the agreement and YACWAG are hoping that the legal transfer of the land will happen later this summer.

With the support and help of Strongvox, the reserve is being adapted ahead of the legal transfer. Separate sections have been fenced off to allow for flexible grazing by cattle and sheep and new hedgerows have been planted. Further hedgerow and larger tree planting is planned, which will help transform the reserve. Information lecterns will be installed within the next couple of weeks and it is hoped Dexter cows will soon be grazing there.

For more information about the bats, a plan of the site location and how to contact YACWAG if you would like to help with the project, click here.

Café pledges to support village organisations

In liaison with Debbie Fortune estate agents, who  generously donate the use of their premises and facilities for Congresbury’s Community Café, surplus profits from the café, will go back into the community to be used to support village organisations and village activities. More details and how to apply can be found on the café website Supporting the community (congresburycoffee.org)

For the next two weeks the surplus profits from the café sessions will go to help the school PTA to fund new playground equipment at St. Andrews school.

Green Party wins local election

The Green Party’s Phil Neve is the new North Somerset district councillor for Congresbury and Puxton. He polled more than 64 per cent of the vote at the by-election held on Thursday and continues a long tradition of Congresbury and Puxton having a Green councillor going back more than 30 years.

Samantha Pepperall of the Conservative Party received 270 votes, 29 per cent of votes cast, while the Labour Party’s Dawn Parry received six per cent of the votes.

The total number of votes cast was 922. Turnout was 29.5 per cent of voters, lower than normal, which was blamed on the heatwave.

The by-election followed the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Stuart Treadaway elected two years ago.

Rec Club issues new Covid guidelines

Message from Congresbury Rec Club about the relaxation of Covid guidelines.

“On Monday 19th we enter the latest phase of Corona with much longed for changes coming while infections rates are still high, and the need to self-isolate lasting for at least another month. 

“We have decided as both a team and a committee we will do the following to protect the staff, our customers and our desire to stay open and enjoy the summer….

“We will:

*Continue with table service for the time being

*Continue with card payment when at all possible

*Keep tables spaced out inside but the rule of 6 is gone

*Ask that you consider wearing a mask when moving around inside – staff will continue to wear masks when out from behind the bar

*Leave up the NHS Covid check in posters should you want to continue to check-in.

The government messaging on this one remains confusing.  We look forward to another tentative step forwards while doing what we can to prevent a step backwards and hope we can count on your ongoing support. “

Bluey is back!

BLUEY  free shopping trips 

  Every  Tuesday in the month

  Re-starting Tuesday 20th July

Also re-starting: “Lunch Club” Thursday 5thAugust (Pick up’s from home address)

To book a seat or for information please ring 01934 257247 or email: bookingmanagerbluey@gmail.com

(leave a message if no reply, we will get back to you)

Congresbury Community Transport – here for you!

Changes planned at Rec Club to strengthen management

Congresbury Recreation Club wants to strengthen its management committee and put in place a new code of conduct for all members.

The King George V Trustees, who have overall responsibility for the management of the fields and all activity on them and who delegate the day to day management to the Rec Club, have appointed cricket club president Les Owen as interim chairman. He will serve until the end of 2021.

Mr Owen paid tribute to his predecessor Andy Elvin for the work he has done over the last three years to improve the club and change its image.

“The Rec Club is for all members and sports participants and should present a welcoming, friendly and enjoyable atmosphere,” said Mr Owen.

Mr Owen, a lifelong Liverpool fan and Anfield season ticket holder who played local league football around Bristol for many years, said:

“My personal motivation in taking this on for six months is to help create an environment that is conducive to participation in sport and recreation by all in the village, and to try to ensure that the Rec is operating and managed in a way that maximises the chances of funding support for a new building.”

The Trustees have asked Mr Owen to strengthen the Rec Club committee and make it more representative of the village. The club rules and code of conduct for members will also be reviewed.

A key objective will be to produce a three-year plan for the club as part of the application process for grant funding for a new clubhouse.

“Once lockdown eases I would hope that all villagers will feel able to become members and help us secure the Rec Club’s future as a centre of sport and recreation in Congresbury,” said Mr Owen.

The Rec Club committee would welcome contact from anyone who would like to learn more about the plans for the future and who may be interested in helping. Please email newrecclub@gmail.com

Re:Store Congresbury – new opening times

Re:Store Congresbury is now open on Wednesdays between 09:30-14:30
..
Located at the back of Congars Cafe, they are packed to the rafters with re:fill foods and cleaning products and you can stop by to re:fresh with a wide range of plastic-free toiletries, gifts and other goodies
..
Plus you can re:use your own containers, bottles and jars to re:fill into or they have some spares and paper bags available ♻️💚
..
Also open Thursday and Friday 08:30-16:00 and Saturday 09:00-16:00 👍

John Mills sends us the latest thoughts from CRAG

All change?

Lack of activity on two fronts – Wrington Lane and Park Road – may be set to change in the not too distant future. We should get an idea of what’s in store on the planning front from this week’s Queen’s speech, when the government sets out its parliamentary agenda.

As a clue, the foreword to the White Paper on planning reform by Prime Minister Johnson states: “Radical reform unlike anything we have seen since the Second World War. No more fiddling around the edges, not simply painting over the damp patches, but levelling the foundations and building, from the ground up, a whole new planning system for England. One that is simpler, clearer and quicker to navigate, delivering results in weeks and months rather than years and decades. That actively encourages sustainable, beautiful, safe and useful development rather than obstructing it. That makes it harder for developers to dodge their obligations to improve infrastructure and opens up housebuilding to more than just the current handful of massive corporations. That gives you a greater say over what gets built in your community.”

Regardless of what one thinks of this government, to CRAG, it looks like developers will have much more freedom in regard to planning, so we need to prepare for a tooth and nail scrap.

It was noticed in one of his many photo ops recently, the PM was posing in a Barratts hard hat. This does not in itself indicate anything untoward, but it must mean at least that Johnson’s and Barratt’s people are acquainted.

CRAG does not have anything like those sorts of connections but we do have in our MP John Penrose, the government’s anti-corruption champion. So if we detect the slightest whiff of unfair advantage, we can rely on Mr Penrose to take up the cudgels on our behalf!

But we cannot leave it to just one MP to take on the developers – we must be ready with plans and resources. We have hundreds of Congresbury residents with us – let’s give Barratts, Gladman and the Vistry Group a fight they will remember.

Villagers back Rec Club rebuild project

The project to rebuild Congresbury’s Rec Club has received the backing of more than 87 per cent of those who took part in an online survey. Only eight per cent said they didn’t think the redevelopment would benefit the village. Others were unsure.

“This is extremely encouraging and just the sort of support we hoped to get,” said Les Owen who is leading Project Construct, the name given to the plans to redevelop the Rec Club with additional changing rooms for the cricket and tennis clubs.

Almost one-fifth of respondents indicated that they would be prepared to help or get involved as a trustee or join the Rec Club committee. A further 29 per cent said they would consider making a financial contribution.

“If anyone who wants to get more involved could contact us sooner rather than later we would really appreciate it,” said Mr Owen. You can get in touch by email at newrecclub@gmail.com or by speaking to any cricket, tennis, football or Rec Club committee member.

Another 74 per cent of those surveyed said they would be more likely to use the new facilities more often while 60 per cent said they would be interested in making use of hiring the club for private functions.

Almost half of those who took part in the survey said they would be interested in keep-fit activities such as aerobics, pilates or dancing being included in the redevelopment plans and almost 40 per cent said the availability of meeting rooms would be useful for organisations they belong to.

Meanwhile talks with various sporting organisations which could provide grants towards the cost of the project continue, explained Mr Owen.

“We should be able to provide further updates on the project including costs and more detailed architect’s plans in early summer,” he said.

Dog kills sheep near weir

Congresbury Parish Council was contacted today (April 30th) by a local landowner to draw attention to an incident over the past few days. The landowner sadly lost one lamb and three ewes when they were viciously attacked by a dog. This incident took place on the field next to the weir in Congresbury. 

Dog owners must be aware that it is a criminal offence to allow their dog to worry sheep on agricultural land.  Most criminal prosecutions are bought by the police but it is worth noting that farmers, landowners and owners may bring proceedings against the dog owner following an attack.

The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 (“1953 Act”) says that if a dog worries sheep on agricultural land, the owner and/or the person in charge of the dog is guilty of a criminal offence.  Under the 1953 Act the term ‘worrying’ includes attacking livestock; chasing livestock in such a way as may reasonably be expected to cause injury or suffering to livestock – this can also include abortion or being at large in a field containing sheep.

Furthermore, the 1953 Act enables criminal proceedings to be bought by the police, farmers and owners where there is sufficient evidence to do so.

Please ensure that your dog is on a lead if you walk through a field with livestock and ensure that you keep to the footpath at all times. The Countryside Code available at; The Countryside Code: advice for countryside visitors – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) states that ‘It is good practice wherever you are to keep your dog on a lead around livestock and the fact that a farmer can shoot a dog that is attacking or chasing livestock. They may not be liable to compensate the dog’s owner’.

Local shops warned over under-age alcohol sales

Police have issued advice to a number of shops selling alcohol in North Somerset following a test purchase operation carried out last week in Nailsea.

On Friday 23 April, neighbourhood officers assisted by cadet leaders visited 17 shops after residents expressed concerns about under 18s buying alcohol, and subsequent anti-social behaviour in the area.

In nine shops, alcohol was sold to young persons without checking identification.

A letter of warning has been issued to the store owners, who will also be given further education around challenging and asking for identification from young people buying alcohol.

Acting Police Sgt Ali Codd said “We are disappointed at the number of shops who sold alcohol without asking for identification and would like to remind retailers of their responsibility to challenge appropriately any person attempting to purchase alcohol who looks under the age of 25.

“Future similar operations will be taking place where any offences may be dealt with by a prosecution.

“We would also like to remind and encourage members of the community to contact the neighbourhood team if you have concerns about underage drinking and/or anti-social behaviour.”

Last chance to have your say on Rec Club rebuild

Responses to the survey about redeveloping the Rec Club and building a separate cricket/tennis pavilion have been overwhelmingly positive. The survey will close at midnight on Friday April 30th so if you haven’t taken part, please do so now by clicking on this link

Results of the survey will be published in due course and as plans progress, the Project Construct team will keep villagers up-to-date.

New Rec Club plans welcomed by villagers

Plans to redevelop the Rec Club and build a new cricket and tennis pavilion on the King George V Playing Field have been given a huge thumbs up with more than 95 per cent of those surveyed saying the development would benefit the village.

And more than 80 per cent of people said they would use the new facilities more with 57 per cent welcoming a wider choice of indoor recreational facilities. Full results of the survey will be revealed next month.

If you haven’t already taken part, it’s not too late. The Project Construct team has added a comment box to the survey to gather more feedback or you can email newrecclub@gmail.com if you want to get involved. 

The survey takes less than two minutes to complete. Click on this link to take part. 

Man, 33, charged with attempted murder

James Richardson, 33, has been charged with two counts of attempted murder after a man and a woman, both in their 60s, were found seriously injured near the Henley Lane area of Yatton at about 3pm on Saturday 10 April. Both remain in hospital.

Richardson, of no fixed address, will also face one count each of assaulting an emergency worker and breaching a restraining order.

He has been remanded ahead of appearing at North Somerset Courthouse.

Local officers have been conducting additional reassurance patrols in the Yatton area since the weekend.

Man arrested after Yatton attack

A man is in police custody after being arrested on suspicion of attempted murder following an incident in Yatton.

Police and paramedics were called to the Henley Lane area of the village at about 3pm on Saturday after a man and a woman, both in their 60s, were found with serious injuries at an address. They both remain in hospital.

A 33-year-old man was arrested in the Kewstoke area overnight.

Chief Inspector Jess Aston said: “Our investigation is at an early stage, but at this time we believe this to be an isolated incident.

“Although there is not believed to be a heightened risk to public safety, people can expect to see an increased high-visibility presence in the area over the coming days with additional reassurance patrols planned.

“We’d urge anyone concerned about what has happened this weekend to speak with one of those officers on patrol and they will happy to talk to you. Alternatively, the local team can be contacted through our website as normal.”

Enquiries into what happened are continuing and any witnesses who could assist the police investigation are asked to contact them through the Avon & Somerset website or call 101 and give reference number 5221076615.

Update on plans for new sports and recreation facilities on Congresbury’s King George V Fields

Plans to upgrade the facilities at Congresbury Recreation Club, first revealed in November, are gathering momentum.

The new plan, called Project Construct, envisages the demolition and rebuilding of the existing Rec Club on the same footprint and a new separate changing room pavilion for the cricket and tennis clubs. The existing tennis clubhouse will be demolished (see site plan below).

“We are updating the village on the progress we have made. Support from the villagers of Congresbury is important,” said Congresbury Cricket Club president Les Owen who is leading Project Construct. 

‘’We are shortly to begin a ‘pre-application’ consultation on the plans with North Somerset planners following which we will communicate with villagers again with the proposed buildings details. Our aim is to make a formal submission for planning approvals within the next few months. Alongside this we will start the fund-raising phase,” said Les.

Michael Greaves, chairman of the King George V Playing Fields Trust, said: “Replacing a dilapidated Rec Club and building a new changing room pavilion will not just benefit the cricket and tennis clubs but the whole village.

 “The cricket ground and recreational playing fields have been a central part of village life since the 1930s. We want to make sure this continues to be so for generations to come.”

There will be a new changing rooms building for cricket and tennis with a tennis viewing area, and four multi-use changing rooms with shower and toilet facilities that will meet the needs of all sports and recreation users of the Fields

The plans also include a new Recreation Club building with separate sports and lounge bars. The social space will be considerably bigger than in the existing building through the release of the existing changing rooms and showers space.

It retains much of the existing kitchen appliances and cupboards – renewed at the end of 2020 – and will have a larger bar serving area. 

The two separate social areas can be turned into a single function room for larger recreational, social or private functions greatly increasing the potential use of the new building

Project Construct is working on an estimated cost in the region of £600,000 – a figure that will be firmed up once the detailed plans have been finalised. 

The project has already secured significant funding pledges while additional sources of funding and grants are being explored and discussions have started with potential grant funders such as the England Cricket Board (ECB) “I think it’s fair to say that we are starting on a firm financial footing,” said Les. The developer is the King George V Trustees which is a registered charity and donations will be eligible for Gift Aid and higher rate tax relief.

PLEASE TAKE A FEW MOMENTS TO COMPLETE THE SHORT SURVEY ABOUT THE NEW DEVELOPMENTS BY CLICKING ON THIS LINK

If you want to get more involved including offering financial assistance please email newrecclub@gmail.com with your contact details. Many thanks.

BACKGROUND

The fields were gifted to the village in 1935 by Donald Harvey who bought them from the Walter brothers. The brothers sold the land on the condition that it would substantially benefit the playing of cricket and that the whole area would be used as a playing fields and recreation ground in perpetuity for the inhabitants of Congresbury. In turn, Donald Harvey gifted the land to the National Playing Fields Association (now called Fields in Trust) through the King George V Playing Fields Trust which is managed by the King George V Playing Fields Trustees.  Each of the parish council, the cricket, football and tennis clubs, the Royal British Legion and St Andrews school may nominate a trustee and the Trustees have power to appoint additional trustees to assist them. The Trustees can delegate the day to day running and administration of the Fields to a committee, which is now the Congresbury Recreation Club.

The current Rec Club was built by the cricket club in 1963 with an anticipated 25-year lifespan. It is remarkable that it has survived more than twice as long as that, but it is hardly surprising that it is becoming increasingly difficult and costly to repair and maintain. It is no longer fit for purpose.

Congresbury Recreation Club

In 1969, with the consent of the Trustees, the three main sporting bodies – cricket, football and tennis – formed Congresbury Sports Club and, shortly after, it became the Congresbury Recreation Club, benefitting from a bar licence secured by the cricket club as far back as 1953. Initially the bar was open only at weekends in the summer.  In 1970 the bar was open every evening in the summer and manned by volunteers until 1974 when a decision was made to employ a bar steward on a part-time basis.

Today the Rec Club has 250 members, both sporting and social, up from 150 in 2017-18 and 160 in 2018-19. Chairman Andy Elvin said that this increase was almost certainly as a result of recent changes put in place to make the club more inclusive.  Membership represents almost one in 10 of the adult population of Congresbury (based on the 2011 national census).

“Obviously Covid curtailed most of the activities last year but I am sure when we are back to normality we will see further growth in sports and social membership and additional usage by the community as a whole,” said Andy. “We are very excited by the plans for a new building”

The club has set itself an ambition of doubling membership over the next few years trying to reach between 15-20 per cent of the adult population in the village with increased use of the fields for sport and recreation by juniors

Congresbury Cricket Club

While cricket has been played in the village for more than 175 years, the club didn’t move to its present ground until the mid-1930s when the land was gifted. There is a clause in the Trust that, so long as there is a cricket club in Congresbury, the cricket area of the fields must always be kept as a cricket ground

The club has some 100 members including youngsters and, more recently, girl and women players. It has benefited from the national launch of All Stars cricket aimed at five to eight year olds, and Dynamos for the under-11s. 

Women’s cricket is a priority for the ECB.  A Congresbury CC women’s team started playing competitively in 2019. The focus on youth and diversity has helped boost membership at a time when many cricket clubs are suffering a decline in fortunes.

The club regularly hosts junior county matches but has had to turn down requests to host junior county girls’ matches because of the current inadequate changing facilities – a situation which gives an added imperative to Project Construct’s plans.

“New changing rooms are essential for us to meet the demands of the modern game, increase participation and attract the calibre of players we need,” said chairman Geoff Wilcock. ‘’Four flexible use changing rooms will enable us to grow our girls’ and women’s section and to increase the amount of girls’ and women’s cricket played through the ability to host away teams’’

The club has two senior sides: the 1st XI plays in the West of England Premier League and the 2nd XI in the Bristol & District league. It also has youth teams at most age levels and strong links with Somerset County Cricket Club with several Congresbury youngsters playing for the county.

During the summer months many children in the village participate in the various cricket activities with their parents spectating and using the Rec Club facilities. Sunny Friday evenings at the KGV fields have become a real focal point for recreation and social activity in Congresbury

Congresbury Tennis Club

Tennis club membership has grown from under 70 in 2018/19 to 114 in 2020 including 29 juniors. The Club has ambitious plans to build a fourth court within the next three years to meet the increasing demand.

The Club is this season increasing from two men’s league teams to four and from one to two ladies’ teams, as well as increasing the number of mixed teams and implementing an internal singles box league.  It has also taken on two additional coaches over the last year.

“We want to increase junior coaching, offer cardio tennis and walking tennis for injured, less mobile and older players, and provide disabled access to the courts with the potential for wheelchair tennis,” said chairman JL Hagger who notes that a fourth court would allow a ‘pay-and-play’ scheme for those who don’t want to join the club but still play occasional tennis. 

The club believes that the new more flexible changing rooms and a modern Rec Club with enlarged social facilities would allow it to recruit more players while raising additional funds through more social events.

Congresbury Football Club

The club has run three teams over the past five seasons and averages around 60 members each season. The 1st team plays in the Somerset County League and the reserves and 3rd team in the Weston & District League. Some 40 per cent of players live in the village with another 15-20 per cent having either grown up in Congresbury or having strong connections in the village, explained chairman Stu Smith.

A lack of volunteers means the club does not at present run junior teams. “If we were approached by interested parties, we would be keen to support re-establishing junior football,” says chairman Stu Smith. “The same would also stand with regard to Women’s or Veterans’ teams.”

The Football club is responsible for the upkeep of the Broadstones Park playing fields and associated buildings. The Rec Club is used as the clubhouse since alcohol cannot be sold at Broadstones. Visiting teams are invited back to the Rec for refreshment after matches. 

“Wider community participation in the Rec Club can only bring the football club to more people’s attention and would hopefully lead to more support in terms of volunteers, spectators or players and may even help in the formation of new teams,” said Stu.

Manhunt after couple assaulted

Police want the public’s help to locate a man following an incident in Yatton on Saturday afternoon.

A man and a woman were assaulted at a residential address in the Henley Lane area shortly before 3pm. Both had sustained serious injuries and were taken to hospital by paramedics.

A man was seen leaving the area shortly after the incident. He’s described as white, approximately 40 years old, about 5ft 6ins and had sandy-coloured wavy shoulder length hair. He was said to be wearing a tan-coloured top and bottoms, which have been likened to a workman’s clothing.

Officers have been searching the surrounding area this afternoon, supported by the NPAS police helicopter, and remain in the area.

Anyone who sees a man matching the above description in the North Somerset area is asked not to approach him, but instead call 999 and give the call-handler log number 556 of Sat 10 Apr. Anyone with further information about the incident itself, should call 101.

20’s Plenty for North Somerset Zoom meeting for Supporters, Town and Parish Councillors Tuesday 6th April 7.30 pm

Dear All,

You are invited to a Zoom meeting for 20’s Plenty for Us North  Somerset supporters on Tuesday April 6th at 7.30 pm, hosted by the 20’s Plenty Campaign Manager Anna Semlyen.  Please pass this email on to Councillors, and anyone else you think would be interested in attending the Zoom.

Anyone with an interest in road safety and lowering speeding on residential streets, and on streets used by walkers and cyclists, residents,  and Parish and Town Councillors, are invited to attend the Zoom.

After a well attended supporters first Zoom meeting earlier this month, a Zoom meeting for District Councillors will take place on 31st March, when the topic of bringing in default 20 mph limits across North Somerset will be discussed.

 Area wide 20 mph limits for streets where people live, shop, walk and cycle have been put in by many local authorities, and over 21 million people in the UK benefit from their local authority’s decision to adopt a 20mph default speed limit for most residential streets.

North Somerset Council policy on local speed limits is for Town and Parish Councils to apply individually for a traffic scheme, which are carried out by Highways at the rate of 1 or 2 a year, paid for by the Town or Parish Council. There is currently a waiting list. 20 mph limits are quicker and easier to implement, at around £3 per head of population, and are 7 times more cost-effective than isolated zones with physical calming.

20’s Plenty North Somerset is a group set up by local campaigners.  There are several ’20’s Plenty ‘ campaign groups in North Somerset, and there is now a 20’s Plenty North Somerset Facebook page   https://www.facebook.com/groups/1404083953292502.
More information can be found at https://www.20splenty.org/


Anna Semlyen is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: 20’s Plenty for N Somerset Town and Parishes & Supporters Meeting Q&A & tactics for #ActOn20mph

Time: Apr 6, 2021 07:30 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83141873374?pwd=VHoreGdrZ3hFdUJtVVAyTStqdlpGUT09

Meeting ID: 831 4187 3374

Passcode: 20mph

Best wishes

Anna Semlyen, 20’s Plenty for Us Campaign Manager, T: 07572 120439 Anna.s@20splenty.org

www.20splenty.org, Follow us on Twitter @20splentyforus or @AnnaSemlyen1

20’s Plenty for Us

…making your place a better place to be

Taxi firms urged to be alert to child trafficking

Police have visited taxi offices and taxi ranks in North Somerset to raise awareness and educate staff on the signs of child exploitation.

Police officers, who work on Operation Topaz – Avon & Somerset’s child criminal and sexual exploitation disruption team – attempted to book taxis to Birmingham or London in cash while accompanied by volunteer cadets.

Out of 25 taxi offices visited, one noticed something wasn’t right with the situation but didn’t know how to safeguard the child. Another driver was able to recognise a child was being trafficked and put appropriate safeguarding measures in place.

The remainder failed to spot the signs of child exploitation and allowed the officers to book the taxis. The plain clothed officers immediately explained the purpose of the exercise after trying to book the taxi.

Taxi services had been offered training under Operation Makesafe – an awareness exercise developed by West Yorkshire Police– but few took part.

All services visited have now been offered training to provide their staff with the tools to be able to recognise child exploitation.

Child exploitation happens when a child under 18 is given things like money, phones, clothing, accommodation, and/or affection in exchange for performing a sexual act or dealing drugs. They are tricked by a person who has power over them because of their age or status in to believing there is a relationship.

Prevention Officer and Coordinator Androulla Nicolaou from Operation Topaz says: “Thousands of children and young people, some as young as 12, are exploited sexually and criminally every day in our communities. This operation, which is the first we have run with taxi services, is just one of the initiatives we’re using.

 “Taxis are sometimes used by perpetrators to transport young people for the purpose of abuse and exploitation. As a driver or someone who works on a booking desk, you may overhear concerning conversations a young person is having on the phone.

“Drivers are in a unique position to be able to spot child exploitation from occurring, and managers of these services have a responsibility to ensure suitable measures are in place to keep children safe.

“Children travelling alone or with an adult that doesn’t appear to be family will be more obvious and easier to spot,” she said.

Garden shed theft

A garden shed in Bristol Road, Congresbury, was broken into between March 21 and 23.

The offender/s ripped off the lower section of the shed door and stole three chainsaws and a hedge cutter before making off.

Police urge people to take care of your gardening equipment and keep it secure in a locked shed.

Consider running a chain between more expensive items and securing the shed with a padlock. Mark your property so it can be identified and consider additional options such as security lights (even solar lights) and rounding screw heads on hinges.

Any information please contact the Police on 101 quoting Ref number: 5221061972 stating NHW Release or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Sweet success

Families gathered to buy sweets from a stall set up outside the Old Inn on Saturday. The pub’s friendly staff offered a refreshingly novel activity that proved extremely popular.

Youth Club damaged

Congresbury Youth Partnership leaders are extremely angry and disappointed that someone has recently caused a considerable amount of damage to the Youth Club. 

In trying to gain entry to the building the intruder or intruders damaged the door lock and broke two of the windows. The bill for these repairs is going to be considerable.

The Parish council has also had to deal with incidents of vandalism around the ball court and on the Millennium Green including clearing up glass bottles that have been deliberately smashed on the children’s slide.

CYP leaders say that they appreciate that everyone is feeling fed up with the present lock down rules — but this sort of behaviour helps no one. The CYP has limited funds and money spent on repairs to the Youth Club impacts on the activities and experiences the CYP can provide in the community.

 If you have seen or know of any criminal activity around the Youth Club area please let the CYP know or report it to the police. The local PCSO has been informed of the various incidents and is keen to stop such anti-social behaviour.

Avon & Somerset police says that the damage could be either anti-social activity or a failed attempt at gaining entry.

Any information please contact the police on 101 quoting Ref number: 5221058869 stating NHW Release or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Call to oppose new homes plan

Many villagers will know of the years of frustration suffered by residents of Wrington Lane with seemingly endless schemes by land agents Gladman and construction firm Bovis Homes to build on a field off the lane.

Plans to build 50 houses have been  thwarted by the foresight of North Somerset councillors – and Tom Leimdorfer in particular – when outline planning permission was granted subject to a continuous footway being provided along the lane before construction could begin.

Over the years, Gladman have tried several wheezes to get round this perfectly reasonable condition but have failed because the lane in several places is just too narrow to allow a proper pavement alongside the carriageway.

Now there is a new effort following a merger between builder Bovis and Linden Homes. Enter the Vistry Group with new pretty drawings of houses and trees and hedgerows, and details of wild flowers and play areas. 

Their tactic is to ignore the question of access. It is as if the site exists in splendid isolation where real-life problems do not happen. In their fantasy world, practicalities like access to and from the site for construction, service and emergency vehicles, along with the safety of pedestrians and cyclists are banished.

But the firm is not stupid – it must be assuming that the rest of us are so busy worrying about Covid that we would not notice that it has included the application under Reserved Matters in a previous application made two years ago.

Says CRAG’s Mary Short: “This is clearly an attempt to get approval before residents have time to object by the deadline of 15th March – please don’t let them get away with it.”

To register objections to this cunning plan, go to North Somerset Council’s website and under Planning Applications, go to 19/P/1657/RM. When you’ve found the application, scroll down to find “make a comment.”

If you do want to comment we would suggest that you look at a document called the Design and Access Statement – DAS Rev A published on the web site on 17th February.

We suggest that any comments are focussed on issues or concerns about the latest drawings and the site layout.

There is no need to comment about access from Wrington Lane because as you will recall  this is a separate issue. In 2017 when Gladman secured outline planning consent North Somerset Council stipulated that no residential development would be allowed until the works detailed in an agreed roadways scheme to improve the footway and carriageway along Wrington Lane had been completed. 

John Mills

Attempted theft of motorbike

A motorcycle was damaged during the early hours of February 23rd between 00:00 and 7am while parked on the owner’s driveway in Weetwood Road, Congresbury.

Avon and Somerset police report that the offender or offenders had attempted to move the bike but would have found this very difficult with a rear lock on the wheel and break. Giving up halfway down the driveway, the motorcycle was dropped on its right side damaging the handle grip, brake lever and pedal.

Any information please contact the police on 101 quoting Ref number: 5221039389 stating NHW Release or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Airport appeal over expansion refusal

Bristol Airport has submitted an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against North Somerset Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for the expansion of the airport. To find out more, click on this link

If anyone wishes to make further comments to PINs, or modify/withdraw previous representations, can do so online at https://acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk or by emailing Leanne.palmer@planninginspectorate.gov.uk. The deadline is Monday 22nd February.

Village starts 20mph campaign

Sandford villagers have launched a 20’s Plenty For Us campaign with the aim of asking North Somerset council to bring in a 20mph speed limit for residential areas throughout North Somerset. The group is asking for Congresbury to join the scheme.

20’s Plenty is a not-for-profit organisation which was formed in 2007 to help communities who want a more liveable street environment by setting a mandatory 20mph limit for most roads.  Around 25 per cent of the UK population now live in local authority areas where most streets have a speed limit of 20mph.  More information can be found at www.20splenty.org

 Sandford organisers note that Bath,  Bristol, Oxford and Cardiff are among the authorities which have successfully adopted 20mph limit schemes. Sandford’s campaign leaflet which contains contact details, can be viewed here or downloaded

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Sports centre campaign takes off

Residents of Congresbury and other Mendip villages have shown huge support for a scheme to save Churchill Sports Centre. An online survey of residents has received more than 1,000 responses in just one week. 

Calling themselves Mendip Villages Fitness, the group of ex-members of the Centre, instructors, councillors and residents, wants to test the level of support for its reopening after lockdown.

“We are delighted by the huge response” said one of the organisers, Churchill’s Jill Maycock. “It shows how much the sports centre is wanted in our locality.

“Many of our kids learned to swim at Churchill pool, and recently it was an important community centre. If it remains closed, what’s the alternative for children wanting to learn to swim or keep fit? 

“The nearest pools are either Clevedon or Hutton which means greater car use, which North Somerset Council wants to discourage,” said Jill.

The group believes that if support continues to grow, North Somerset will have to find a way to fund the reopening.

John Mills

Residents can complete the survey at: www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/MendipVillagesFitness. The deadline for completion is March 7th.

New homes plan – reasons to object

Congresbury residents should know that there is a substantial development in the pipeline for our neighbours at Wrington.

Objections to the scheme for 71 houses at Butt’s Batch have to be with North Somerset Council by 26 January.

Although it falls outside the remit of CRAG, there is little doubt that if it succeeded, the addition of at least another 150 cars on our roads would add to the ever-increasing traffic problems in this corner of North Somerset.

Details of the scheme, planned for a field off the road between Wrington and Langford, can be found on the Keep Wrington as Wrington website accessed via CALRAG’s page.

The Wrington site lists a number of planning reasons why people might want to object including:

contribution to urban sprawl

unsustainability in that residents would use cars to travel to work and access local services

increase pollution and contribute to the climate emergency which is against council policy.

Says CRAG: “This is another example of a development scheme which is undesirable for many reasons.

“It would obviously contribute to greater car use because there is no public transport to support an influx of commuters. And that goes against the council policy of reducing pollution. 

“Such a development would have a detrimental impact on the Wrington Vale landscape; would increase hazards to pedestrians and cyclists and have an adverse impact on an area already subject to regular flooding.”

John Mills