What's new pussycats in Nailsea and nearby? This is mostly crime, court, human interest received too late for front page, weather and traffic updates - planning issues including new development(s), homes for sale all moved to Property Peeps pages. Breaking news pages pre 2019 are in the archives...
Closing Nailsea High Street to all traffic
Moves are afoot to close Nailsea High Street to traffic.
The idea is being investigated by James Tonkin who is ward councillor for Nailsea West End and serves on North Somerset executive with special responsibility for planning and transport.
James says no decision has been taken he would just like to know what people think.
The success of the eat:nailsea October event saw stalls line the High Street without the red tape of other town centre events when organisers had to put up barriers and charge a nominal fee to enter designated areas selling items other that food.
On Saturday, December 21, Nailsea farmers and craft market will use Somerset Square and High Street to sell goods but with no community stalls as in the past to negate licensing laws.
Nailsea Town Council chairman Jan Barber said: “I can remember well the disaster it was last time it was closed to through traffic in the 1990s when I was on Avon County Council, so I am against it.
“I was surprised it was suggested.
“It should have done it when the road was first paved, and everything looked so good.
“Now the road surface is crumbling, and several traders rely on residents parking outside the front.
“Sam Bird's TV is opposed as is Furniture Additions as they rely on transporting their goods.
“Also, I suspect people buying fish and chips like to park on the High Street in the evening.
“However, residents with small children probably prefer it closed to traffic.
“I think North Somerset may do a consultation and some traders may prefer it but last time it was deemed a 'ghost town' without the traffic.
“If it is pedestrianised a lot of money would need to be spent to do it properly as opposed to the half-hearted attempt with a few planters blocking the entrance as per last time.
“Will the government come up with the sort of money necessary to make it look really good?
Nailsea Independent Traders discussed the idea at its December breakfast meeting.
Councillor Mike Bird wasn’t at the meeting but he said: “I’m told there was a good discussion around the pedestrianisation of the HIgh Street.
"I’ve also had other emails this week from people in High Street and I think it would be a good idea to organise a meeting of all HIgh Street trader with the town council fairly soon.
"I’ll look to organise something in the new year.
"The challenge over Christmas is to think of positive steps we can make to improve business generally in Nailsea, promote the High Street and town centre.
One shopper said: "I have very mixed feelings about closing the High Street on a permanent basis.
"This is because I remember last time is was difficult to police but perhaps with our elderly demographic, we won’t have same concerns as I can’t see marauders on mobility scooters being a concern?"
Home Additions owner Alan Goddard said they move would sound a death knell to his shop.
Alan said: “We would go out of business within six months if the High Street was permanently closed.
“I am not against is being closed once a month for market day.”
But Mr Tonkin said there is no half-way measures as a monthly Saturday road closure free is approximately £1,000.
This news comes in the same week that Nailsea People learn North Somerset Council executive will consider introducing charges to car parks and roads in Nailsea at its meeting on Tuesday, January 7. If agreed further consultation would be carried out. It is expected to take 18 months to consult and implement any changes. Also at this meeting councillors will discuss proposed charges of £50 per household per year for the collection of a 240 litre green garden waste bin.
NAILSEA CHRISTMAS MARKET
Saturday, December 21
Stalls selling fresh local produce including:
Organic Vegetables and
CROWN GLASS SHOPPING CENTRE
Filled with craft stalls and hot food stands selling oven pizzas, stew, dumplings and hot chestnuts
under the Christmas tree
10am-2pm Santa Claus
10am-2pm festive Punch & Judy
11am-noon Barley Rye will be singing carols
10am-2pm fundraising morning at Home Additions for Spring Of Hope ladies night shelter in Bristol
Made in Nailsea
Nailsea School students who helped create a beautiful mosaic to brighten up a brick wall in the town centre were among those at the first official photocall.
Others who were busy with end of term school festive activities would be at a second picture opportunities.
But there was a line-up of dignitaries representing all of those who had contributed and you can read the original story in full on the School Peeps page HERE.
Pictured are five young people with head teacher Dee Elliot from Nailsea School, Nailsea in Bloom horticulturalists and Nailsea town councillors who had supported the project.
Led by Fran Newton who said: “The community project, originally conceptualised back in 2010 and coordinated by me has now reached its first major stage.“The mosaic artwork consisting of three large panels has been created to enhance a blank and uninspiring wall space to the side of New Look and provide residents and visitors with an informative and colourful space to relax near.”
PHOTO CALL: For those involved in project led by Fran Newton (in yellow coat) and below one of the original articles on Nailsea People School Peeps page, children from Golden Valley Primary School and Nailsea Town Council past and present chairmen Jan Barber and David Packham
The nature panel has a robin, dragon fly, ladybird, trout, bluebells, dormouse, bats, fox, frog, acorns and swan and was devised by pupils of Golden Valley Primary School as a tribute to Friends of Trendlewood Park, Stockway North Nature Reserve, Nailsea Environment and Wildlife Trust who maintain and nurture our beautiful green spaces.
And Nailsea today shows the farmers’ market, 65 High Street, library, Nailsea in Bloom, carnival, guides and scouts, theatres, 999 services, sports and Tithe Barn among its panels by Nailsea School students.
To read the panel explaination in full click HERE.
UPDATE: One week later a group of young people representing Golden Valley Primary School are pictured by head teacher Kevin Lynch at the base of their artwork.
Approximately 300 pupils, aged from Year 2 up to sixth form were asked to come up with suitable designs.The history panel consists of a tractor, war memorial, evacuee children, horse and cart, winding tower, glass vase, apple and cider making, mining, glassworks, telephone box and the evangelist and teacher Hannah More made by Hannah More Infant and Grove Junior School pupils.
From Nailsea with love
Three Nailsea police officers went to Kenya in late November to take early Christmas presents for needy children.
Among the parcels they took were pre-loved clothes donated by well-wishers, rugby and footballs, new T-shirts from the beer and cider festival, stationary, pens, pencils and colouring felt tip pens.
This was a return visit for some, and this time a couple of nurses accompanied the 21-strong group which included Nailsea Police Station chief inspector Leanne Pook, PCSO Marie Broomfield and sergeant Mark Raby.
Witnessing in 2018 first-hand the poverty and neglect suffered by young people inspired them to want to return.
Sergeant Mark Raby said: “Last year a few of us went to Kenya to work in a rescue centre at Amboseli for young girls aged eight to 18 who had been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriages or dangerous situations."
The officers worked alongside The Divinity Foundation which is the charity behind this project.
Mark added: “This was in the south of the country and while in Kenya we also visited an orphanage in Nairobi and some outlying villages.
“This trip affected all of us – the children have very little or nothing but the one thing they have is sport.
“Out in the villages we saw barefoot players kicking a ball made of mesh wire and leaves.
“Everyone on the trip paid their own fares and expenses and we raised monies at an 80s disco to give to the charities supporting these children.
“While out there we worked in a rescue centre for girls who have suffered FGM or abuse we also taught life skills in isolated villages.
“Seeing children with nothing smile when being given items from the people of Nailsea was a proud moment.
“We would like to thank the Nailsea community including Nailsea & Backwell Rugby Club, Nailsea Junior, Selkirk. Nailsea & Tickenham football clubs who all donated items towards this trip.”
SAVE THE PLANET: Flooding, pollution, loss of wildlife - end of the world? Have your say at a public meeting hosted by Nailsea Town Council climate emergency working party. This is on Wednesday, December 4, 6-7pm, at the Tithe Barn, Church Lane. Nailsea Town Council declared a climate emergency in September 2019. This working party was formed and has since met twice to formulate and discuss ideas on how Nailsea Town Council as an individual council can reduce its carbon footprint along with exploring how, as a community, we can all work together to become more environmentally friendly. Everyone is invited to this open meeting to discuss ideas on how people can reduce Nailsea’s environmental impact. The working party will then investigate and shortlist ideas with a view to implementing positive change in 2020.
RBL poppy collection stolen from church
St Andrew's Church in Backwell, North Somerset was broken into on Monday, November 11, - Armistice night - by thieves who targeted the safe in which the money from two Remembrance services had been stored.
The Rev Dr Katy Garner said much of the money was in envelopes and hadn't yet been counted, but it was believed to contain more than £1,000 collected in two services for donation to the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.
She said the churchwardens and congregations were enormously upset by the targetted theft, which also caused extensive damage to doors and the safe.
Katy, who was licensed as rector in July, said: "I sat on Sunday in the services alongside a disabled veteran from World War 2 and the thought that anyone could take money from these men and women and the thousands who are helped by the Royal British Legion is just sickening.
"We are all deeply upset."
The two services on Sunday were attended by more than 300 people, including war veterans and many children.
Police are investigating the break-in.
A special service will be held in the church next Sunday morning at 10.15am when a new collection for the Royal British Legion will be held.
Villager Val Keay was so sickened by the theft she has set up a Replenish Backwell's Stolen Remembrance Money Go Fund Me online account.
Val said: "Some mindless individual(s) broke into the church overnight and stole donations given by young and old across our community."
This account has already raised hundreds of pounds.
To donate click HERE.
Others have reported that collections at the bowling club, leisure centre and guide and scout HQ were all targetted the same night.
Nothing was taken from the guide and scout HQ but the culprits caused quite a bit of damage.
To see happier photographs from Remembrance services go to Gallery 2019.
Pub fun day raises money for CHSW
The Royal Oak fun day raised hundreds of pounds for the Children's Hospice South West.
The bank holiday event at the High Street pub was a great success with barbecue, bouncy castle, reptile show, music, outside bar, tombola, face painting, stalls and a sweet shop.
And it raised £861 for CHSW.
Landlady Gemma Mamo and the Royal Oak team visited Charlton Farm at Wraxall on one of its monthly Open Days to present the funds.
Gemma said afterwards: “Thank you to everyone who came along and helped us support such a worthy cause. It was a fantastic day at the Royal Oak and we’re really excited to do another event in future to support the hospice as well.
"All the team worked really hard to make the day a success but we couldn’t have done it without our customers’ generosity.
"Thank you to everyone who got involved on the day and made it happen.”
CHSW community fundraiser Emma Parker said: “We are so grateful for the support of the community of Nailsea.
"Gemma and the team at the Royal Oak brought everyone together for a day of family entertainment while also raising vital funds and awareness of the local children’s hospice, which supports more than 220 families from across North Somerset and beyond.”
CHSW’s Charlton Farm opens its doors once a month to people in the community wanting to find out more about the care and support it provides to local children and families.
Visits can be made by appointment only at www.chsw.org.uk/open.
PHOTO: CHSW Emma Parker (centre) receives a cheque from The Royal Oak team
The next major fundraiser this year is Bristol’s biggest festive fun run, Santas on the Run. The 2k course, which begins at Lloyds Amphitheatre and winds its way round Bristol Harbourside, is suitable for all ages and abilities and takes place on Sunday, December 8. It’s a sponsored event with every Santa encouraged to raise as much money as possible to help CHSW care for local children and families at its hospice just outside Nailsea.
Brave scouts sleep rough in Backwell
It was a horrid November night as a group of hardy Scouts and Explorers huddled down under tarpaulins to help raise monies for Help Bristol’s Homeless.
A spokesman said: "They survived what can only be described by onlookers from inside the warm, dry, cosy WI Hall as a thoroughly miserable night under tarps and cardboard and in so doing raised an amazing total, including gift aid, of £2,700, with a few donations yet to come in.
"Hopefully they may also now have more understanding and empathy with what less fortunate members of our society have to endure on a regular basis, and a better idea of what difficulties their donations will help to relieve."
The 60-strong Backwell group of 11 to 18-year olds planned sleeping rough to raise both awareness and funds for local homeless charities for Friday, November 1.
Headed by Explorer leader Iain Rhodes the sleepout saw the group construct makeshift shelters from cardboard and other scrap materials in Backwell WI Hall car park.
Iain said: “The sleepout has now become a regular item on our annual calendar and is the third time we’ve done it. "Our young members have a big input in to what we do and this issue is always one that they care about and want to get involved in supporting."
RECYCLING BINS: North Somerset Council is removing the recycling bins at the Clevedon Road car park from Friday, November 29. The reason 'due to persistanty fly-tipping' see picture. In better news the muck dumped near Posh Spice Indian restaurant is being investigated and Nailsea Town Council clerk Jo Duffy who was alerted by councillors who read Nailsea People post is talking to the district council about getting the area cleared...
RUBBISH TIP: Nailsea appears to have its own 'unofficial' dump. It is behind the shops at the Tesco end of the High Street. We are told North Somerset environment officers said it had to be moved from the back of the Indian restaurant close to the kitchen but the instructions were misunderstood and the rubbish including several old mattresses were only moved a few feet. Nailsea People Facebook readers commented that other areas are affected including an old loo outside the Royal Oak pub, furniture dumped on Wraxall hill, roadsides littered with discarded items at Failand, Barrow Gurney and Dundry. They also complained about the council being either ineffectual or hampered by red tape…we are told Nailsea Town Council is on the case...
New Nailsea focus group needs volunteers
Future ambitions and priorities for North Somerset Council are being developed and residents are invited to help shape them.
The new corporate plan will guide the direction of the work of the council, demonstrating how it will ensure that it continues to provide vital services and improve the area for all residents, while balancing budget challenges.
The council wants residents’ help in shaping those plans and is keen to listen.
Leader of the council, Cllr Don Davies, said: “We are ambitious for North Somerset, but we also need to be realistic. Budgets continue to be tight and our population is growing, so it’s vital that we prioritise and have a robust plan to deliver our agenda.
“As an organisation we want to be better at listening to our residents and communities which is why we’re asking you, our residents, to get involved in helping us shape our future plans.”
A number of focus groups for up to 10 people for each session have been arranged:
10am – midday, Saturday 26 October, Folk Hall, Portishead
2pm – 4pm, Monday 4 November, The Campus, Weston-super-Mare
4.30pm – 6.30pm, Tuesday 5 November, Tithe Barn, Nailsea
6pm – 8pm, Wednesday 6 November, Weston Museum.
If you would like to volunteer to help shape council plans for the future register your interest to join a focus group session by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The original deadline has passed but they are still looking for volunteers.
Travel expenses can be claimed if required.
Backwell WI hall
Hardy Backwell Scouts and Explorers will be sleeping rough on Friday, November 1, in aid of Help Bristol’s Homeless.
The 60-strong group of 11 to 18-year olds are now getting ready for what has become an annual event where they aim to raise not only awareness but funds for local homeless charities.
Headed by Explorer leader Iain Rhodes the sleepout will see the group construct makeshift shelters from cardboard and other scrap materials in the car park of Backwell WI Hall, which they hope will protect them from the elements.
Iain said: “The sleepout has now become a regular item on our annual calendar and is the third time we’ve done it.
"Our young members have a big input in to what we do and this issue is always one that they care about and want to get involved in supporting.
“To endure one night of discomfort will not only highlight to the troop what some unfortunate people have to go through every night of the year, but also the community as a whole that not everyone is as fortunate as ourselves.“
The charity’s founder Jasper Thompson visited our Explorers about a month ago and his presentation certainly had an impact, so it seems appropriate that we do something in return.”
Believing that the priority must be to get people into safe, stable and comfortable accommodation the charity’s ethos is that housing must come first from which people can then improve their own lives and reach their potential.
It now has 15 converted containers, plus an overnight bus for temporary accommodation, a shower block, kitchen/dining areas, a laundry room, and an office to enable admin at its Spring Street site in Bristol and is looking to add more over the coming months.
Jasper said: “It’s all too easy for us to turn a blind eye to the issue of homelessness and sleeping rough while tucked up in our comfortable homes, so it’s great the Backwell troop want to raise the issue.”
For further information or to donate please visit https://helpbristolshomeless.org/
PHOTO: A previous sleepout at Backwell WI hall
MODEL EVENING: The charity fashion show staged at Holy Trinity church, Nailsea for orphan children living in Myanmar was a great success. Strutting their stuff wearing clothes from M&Co on Saturday, October 19, at 7pm, were a team of local models. All profits from the £10 entrance fee and raffle (not added up yet) are going to Stand By Me. Organised by Lynda Dicks the models used the church aisle as a catwalk. Margaret Rawlings said: "It was a real fun evening and we enjoyed it...well done Lynda."
misery at Nailsea
It is a much-favoured meeting place for young people at Millennium Park, Nailsea but since it went up two years ago a minority of vandals have targeted the youth shelter.
It has been covered in graffiti and the litter bin has been used as an outdoor chiminea.
But the last attack has made those who raised the money to pay for the all-weather shelter despair.
This weekend some bright spark(s) decided to try and dismantle the roof which had been covered in thick, slippery, non-drying coat of paint to deter vandals.
Sgt Mark Raby said: "It is a shame that someone has pulled part of the shelter off and broken it up in the skatepark.
"If anyone has any information, please contact the community beat team.
"If the damage doesn't stop it will all have to be taken down because of the stupidity of a few, which is a shame as it is used by many people."
And in another incident two young lads on scrambler bikes were spotted tearing around Millennium Park and Nowhere Woods, Nailsea on Friday and Saturday, November 12-13.
They caused some consternation, scaring people out for an afternoon stroll and dog walkers. Do you know who they are? Contact 101 with details...
Tarzan tree fears leave neighbours in limb(o)
Kamikaze children have been risking life and limb by swinging like Tarzan from an overgrown willow tree on a Nailsea housing estate, say neighbours.
The tree is on council land at Greenslade Gardens and residents say its roots are damaging their homes.
Householder Stephen Ford lives at number 23.
He said: “This tree is taller than the houses that surround it.
“I am concerned about small children who play on the green and swing ‘Tarzan’ like on its overhanging branches.
“Quite clearly the overhanging branches are not strong enough to bear a child's weight and it is only a matter of time before one of these branches breaks and the child falls onto the footpath below possibly sustaining a serious injury.”
Mr Ford and his neighbours have tried to talk to North Somerset MP Liam Fox but were referred to their ward district councillor Mike Bird who in turn told them to contact council tree officer Jason Cox.
Dr Fox’s PA Ione Douglas told Mr Ford in an email ‘North Somerset Council has rather abdicated responsibility for tree maintenance over past years, even when the trees were actually their responsibility’ and an email to Mr Cox went unanswered.
Mr Ford added: “The front of my house overlooks the green owned by North Somerset Council where children play.
“A public footpath separates council land from that owned by residents.
“The tree branches have spread out completely obstructing the footpath causing passers-by to walk across my front garden to circumvent the tree while its roots are breaking up the footpath itself.
“Branches overhang my garden and my neighbours, and it is now about 10 feet from my house obstructing both my view and light.
“My neighbour has cracks appearing in their walls which they fear may be caused by the tree.
“It was two months ago when I contacted the parliamentary office of North Somerset MP Liam Fox and was referred to councillor Bird who in turn passed me on to Mr Cox.”
A North Somerset Council spokesman said: “We inspected the tree in August and branches will be removed up to a height of 2.5m (8ft).
“This work will be carried out as soon as resources allow.
“We will be responding to Mr Ford in due course.
“For anyone to suggest we have ‘abdicated our responsibility for hedgerows and trees’ is most certainly incorrect.”
A weeping willow is a fast-growing tree, capable of adding 24 inches or more to its height in a single growing season.
It can reach heights of 50ft and takes just 15 years to reach its full growth.
A370 closed overnight
Five nights from Monday, October 14, 8pm-5am at Long Ashton bypass bridge
Engineers at North Somerset Council are continuing to take a ‘one and done’ approach to roadworks with a second round of vital maintenance along a main road near Bristol.
The A370 Long Ashton Bypass will be closed overnight while the work, which includes bridge repairs, street lighting upgrades to the latest state-of-the-art LED technology, vegetation clearance, drain cleaning and repairs, and refreshing road markings, is carried out.
The individual projects would usually be done separately but, following a successful combined approach earlier this year on another part of the A-road, this work will be done at once, under one closure, so that it can be finished as quickly as possible.
The road will be shut from 8pm-5am from Colliters Way, also known as the South Bristol link road, to the Bristol boundary for five nights from Monday, October 14.
There will be a signed diversion in place, and access to the Park and Ride and the David Lloyd Centre will be maintained throughout the closure.
North Somerset Council executive member with responsibility for highways James Tonkin said: “Maintenance schemes are vital in the work we do to keep our network safe.
“With a variety of work needed along the A370 we are using a single closure to get everything done as fast as possible while minimising disruption for those who use this very important route.
"This means we will avoid the prolonged roadworks that would be caused by individual schemes being done one at a time.”
The A370 maintenance schemes, which together will cost £76,000, will be carried out by North Somerset contractors including Skanska, Glendale and Centregreat Engineering.
For more details, include the full diversion route, visit www.n-somerset.gov.uk/roads and find the scheme in the interactive map.
More road resurfacing
Nearly half a million pounds will be driven into a North Somerset road improvement scheme.
As well as resurfacing Barrow Street, also known as the B3130 which links the A370 and A38, the scheme will include drainage upgrades, vegetation clearing and other maintenance.
The route, which runs through Barrow Gurney, will be closed at different locations to allow the work to be carried out safely.
The road from Hillside Cottages to Barrow Court Lane will be completely closed between Monday and Friday, October 28-November 1.
A night-time closure between 7pm and 7am will be used to undertake the works between Cambridge Batch and Barrow Court Lane including the slip roads on/off the A370.
The closure will be from Monday to Friday, November 4-22.
The diversion route, which will use the South Bristol link road, will be signposted and marshals will be on site to organise access to homes and businesses during the work.
North Somerset Council executive member for highways James Tonkin said: “We are continuing to invest in our roads and this scheme is part of our ongoing maintenance programme.“Our engineers have worked closely with the parishes to get this scheme completed with as little disruption as possible.
“Traffic data gives us the best times to put the closure in place, and we aim to get any noisy work done as early in the evening as possible.”
North Somerset Council contractor Skanska will carry out the scheme.
For more information, including diversion routes, visit www.n-somerse.gov.uk/roads and find the scheme on the interactive map.
A370 closed for six nights at Backwell
A busy North Somerset main road that links the area to Bristol will see overnight closures later this month.
A total of £144,000 will be invested in resurfacing and other improvements that will be carried out when the A370 through Backwell is shut between 8pm-6am from Monday, September 23, for six nights.
The stretch between the junctions of Church Lane and Stancombe Lane will be affected.
Access to homes and businesses will remain throughout, but other road users will need to follow the signed diversion route.
North Somerset Council contractor Skanska is carrying out the improvements that, alongside the resurfacing, will see signs and road markings refreshed, tidying of vegetation, and replacing and repairing ironwork, such as drain covers.
North Somerset Council executive member with responsibility for transport James Tonkin, ward councillor for Nailsea West End, said: “We are continuing to invest in North Somerset’s roads to maintain the network for all users.
“We looked as options to reduce the impact of our maintenance work and have chosen to close the road overnight. This is the safest and quickest way to get this important work completed. Traffic monitoring shows us traffic levels are the lowest during these hours.
“Signs will be in place throughout and we will have traffic marshals on site
to help those who live and work in the area access their properties.”
For more information about the closure and diversion routes visit www.n-somerset.gov.uk/roadworks and search Backwell on the interactive map.
Mum thanks Nailsea 999 team
Would you know what to do if a child stopped breathing?
When Zoe Larter’s little boy turned blue and stopped breathing last month the mother-of-two needed urgent help for her toddler Toby.
Although Zoe had completed a first aid training course - when it came to the dreadful moment she went blank and felt helpless.
Zoe is South Western Ambulance Service head of charity.
She said: “We called 999 immediately and the Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) was incredible.
"She was calm, clear and explained exactly what I needed to do to help our son while the ambulance was on its way.”
Zoe was instructed to lie Toby on his back and check his airways.
Then when he started breathing again Zoe was asked to say 'now' every time he took a breath.
She said: “The lady in the control hub stayed on the phone with me until the crew were with me in the house - this gave me so much reassurance.”
When the emergency vehicles arrived four crew members came and took control of the situation treating Toby before taking him onto hospital.
Toby had suffered a febrile seizure which had stopped him breathing.
After a short spell in the hospital the toddler returned home and has made a full recovery.
On Wednesday, Septmber 11, Zoe and her son went to meet the ambulance team who came to her rescue that day to thank them in person.
She said: “I’m so grateful to the team as in my work role I hear stories every day about how incredible our teams are and that weekend I saw it for myself, I couldn’t be more proud to be working in the same organisation as these heroes.”
The fantastic team who came to Zoe’s rescue were:
Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) Control Hub – Natasha Pike
Paramedic Kirk Renshaw-Ralph, Emergency Care Assistant (ECA) Jason Davey
Paramedic Ricky Davies and Emergency Care Assistant (ECA) David Brook.
Travels with my wheelchair, by Alison Morgan
We asked Alison to send us a report on her day out in London with district councillor James Tonkin meeting North Somerset MP Liam Fox and GWR staff at the House of Commons.
James and I had a thoroughly enjoyable and useful time at the HoC.
We were made very welcome by Liam and his staff and also by members of GWR staff.
We had a frank and open discussion with GWR commercial development director Matthew Golton.
Matthew is going to liaise with a director from Network Rail and they are going to jointly write to Liam outlining the exact issues with Nailsea and Backwell Station and then Liam is going to raise the issue with the Secretary of State for Transport to discuss a way forward and areas of funding available.
I thought your readers may also like to know what travelling to London was like from a wheelchair user's perspective:
The GWR Passenger Assistance booking worked very well on our outward journey.
The staff at Yatton station, on board the London train and at Paddington station were extremely helpful.
The wheelchair space on the new Hitachi train was very roomy with plenty of space for me to manoeuvre comfortably.
The London taxis are all wheelchair accessible and the Houses of Parliament are also fully accessible.
As Liam commented; if an historical building such as the Palace of Westminster can be adapted to accommodate disabled visitors, it shouldn't be such a battle to get access to a station!
Things didn't go quite as smoothly on the return journey.
The taxi driver started his meter running whilst he was loading me in my wheelchair into his cab.
Consequently our fare was already up to £4.80 before we had even started moving.
He then took us on a tour of the Monopoly board, so say avoiding traffic hold ups, and our total fare from outside Parliament to Paddington station was £36. On our journey to Parliament the taxi fare was £18.
The Passenger Assistance staff were once again most helpful at Paddington.
We were in our places, pre-booked by Passenger Assistance, ready to head home, when the train steward came and asked us which station we were going to.
When we said Yatton his face fell.
Unfortunately, our nice new state of the art train was too long for the platform at Yatton station!
Our seats were at the rear of the train so the ramps had to come out again and we had to go down the platform to the front carriage.
It was a good thing the steward came to us before we had left the station as It wouldn't have been possible for me to move through the train in my wheelchair.
We also had a 20 minute hold up due to a broken down train at Didcot Parkway.
Obviously, this was circumstances beyond their control but I had to laugh to myself as the GWR seminar we had attended was mainly to promote forthcoming timetable changes with increased seats and faster more frequent services.
Longer trains are great but the front carriages will always be congested until the platforms are lengthened to accommodate the extra carriages, or possibly under the timetable changes fewer trains will stop at the smaller stations?
Having to be driven from Nailsea to Yatton to board the train in the morning was a nuisance but on the return journey, at the end of a long day, when the train was already late, it was disheartening to have to remain on the train at Nailsea in order to continue to Yatton and then be driven back to Nailsea.
TRAIN STRAIN: North Somerset MP Liam Fox meets district councillor James Tonkin and disabled rights campaigner Alison Morgan to discuss tactics for a meeting in London on Tuesday, September 10, with GWR at the House of Commons. James and Alison are pictured on route to London on the train they had to catch from Yatton because of lack of access for wheelchair users at Nailsea & Backwell station
GWR to face Nailsea campaigners at HoC
Two campaigners are taking the fight for improved disability access at Nailsea & Backwell railway station to London on Tuesday, September 10, for a GWR seminar at the House of Commons.
North Somerset councillor James Tonkin will accompany wheelchair user Alison Morgan to the capital but because of the access issues at Nailsea they will be forced to travel by train from Yatton station.
For more than a decade Access For All campaigners have petitioned, threatened court action, appealed to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and asked for public support to get First Great Western to install ramps at the railway station which is on the Bristol to Exeter line.
The latest volley in this sorry saga came in a joint letter this summer from GWR managing director Mark Hopwood and Network Rail Western interim managing director Mike Gallop saying the cost of fixing Nailsea & Backwell railway station to make it accessible for disabled people is now estimated at £10 million and they just didn’t have any funds and there are embankment stability problems.
The station which sits on top of a 40ft embankment opened in 1841 and has two platforms but little in the way of facilities which disappeared after years of cuts and privatisation.
The train companies tell passengers that Nailsea & Backwell railway station has no staff to help travellers and no ramp for wheelchairs saying ‘steep flight of steps to southbound platform…ramped access to northbound platform steeper than 1:12 gradient, no wheelchair access available to trains.’
Back in 2011 everyone thought there was a light at the end of the tunnel when the government announced a £37.5 million scheme to improve stations under an Access For All Mid-Tier programme which allocated £1,023,000 to building new ramps at Nailsea and Backwell.
The work was due to start in 2013 but delayed until 2014 due to a need to repair subsidence on the embankment and while enlargement of the car park was completed.
However, due to the delays the funding was withdrawn, and the fiasco continues today.
Alison who has been campaigning for improvements since 2008 was instrumental in getting the footpath under the railway bridge widened and a user-friendly path built at Backwell Lake.
James and Alison met North Somerset MP Liam Fox at his surgery at Tithe Barn on Friday evening, September 6, to thrash out a strategy for a three-pronged confrontation planned for Tuesday with rail bosses.
Dr Fox said: “We are hugely disappointed that when the franchise was up for discussion, we were told that one of the benefits we would get would not only be an improved rail service but improvements to the infrastructure for passengers and that would include access for disabled people.
“Our top priority was Nailsea & Backwell and although other projects have gone ahead, we have seen nothing. It is key for disabled people to be able to travel – our bus service is relatively poor here and sparse and if we can’t get access to the railway that is a major impediment to both social and economic activity for disabled people and it needs to be put back at the top of the agenda.”
He will meet James and Alison at the House of Commons to confront GWR on its lack of action and ask among other questions where they plucked the tenfold cost increase.
Dr Fox added: “So many false promises have been made.”
James said we are expecting 6,000 more houses in Nailsea and Backwell and a lot more potential passengers and he called for lengthening on the platform as part of urgent updates needed.Alison a former librarian said: “Much as I would like to believe all their promises of being fully committed to this project, over the years I have become very distrustful of anything GWR has to say.
“The reasons for my scepticism are I had it in writing from Mark Hopwood in 2014, that Network Rail had confirmed that 'the platform investigation works were complete' and that they 'did not need to alter the ramp proposals' and that they had 'all the approvals in place to proceed once funding is secured' and the scheme was 'shovel ready'.
“In 2015 GWR stated that improvements would be made to access at Nailsea and Backwell as part of their franchise renewal agreement.
“In April 2016 Mark Hopwood wrote to Dr Fox to confirm that the project had 'received final approval within GWR and is fully signed off' and that they 'have the budget in place for the work to be carried out'.
“All that was left to sort was the Asset Protection Insurance with Network Rail and their supervision and approval of the work to be carried out and they were working on an expectation of the work being carried out that summer.
“Mr Hopwood also stated in this letter that he hoped Dr Fox and me would join them when the ramp opens to 'celebrate the investment in Nailsea and Backwell and the improvements for customers'.
“There was no further mention at this point of problems with the embankment or any mention of the consideration of lifts!
“Also, when Channel Four No Go Britain contacted GWR for their feature on the station in August 2016 they were told that work would begin on the ramp as soon as possible. Again, there was no mention of structural problems or lifts.
“If everything has suddenly become unstable once again, can it take the weight and movement from all the trains using the line daily? Surely, if this is the case urgent repair work needs to be done and then the ramps could be fitted afterwards or as part of the same works.