28th September 2020 Town Improvements Briefing Notes

Agenda item 6: To receive an update of the Police response to reports of anti-social behaviour in Highbridge.

I have written to the local Police sergeant and to Sedgemoor the Community Safety Team about current instances of anti-social behaviour in Highbridge and have stated that a number of complaints and concerns from town traders and residents have been shared with the town council office and councillors.

There are reports that a growing number of youths (ages unspecified) are gathering on the green spaces near Market Street. It is stated that they are confrontational and abusive to passers-by. I have asked the Police to let me have any update on plans to tackle the ASB and notified them that this will be discussed at the meeting scheduled for 28th September, where an officer’s report would be appreciated.

The police response states:

There have been a number of extra patrols in the park areas in Burnham and Highbridge and we deal with youth ASB issues but using the ASB powers which involve evidencing any issues against individuals which will then give them warning and if enough evidence comes in this can lead to orders.”

PCSOs for the area have been asked to provide any further update. No further update has been received.

On 9th Sept, I passed the same enquiry to the Sedgemoor Community Safety Team who have stated they are aware of the problems, but have received very few complaints.

In light of the comments raised to this TC by traders and residents, I have suggested that perhaps the police & SDC might consider some kind of community engagement to ensure affected traders and residents know that the relevant bodies are listening and willing to act on concerns.

Agenda item 9: To definitively resolve not to proceed with the fireworks display provisionally booked for 8th November.

In light of the rules prohibiting social gatherings of more than six people from Monday 14th September, the council is requested to give clarity and to definitely resolve not to proceed with the fireworks display on 9th November 2020.

As reported in May 2020 under min ref: 19/20/TIMP, if the fireworks event proceeds this year, a longer lead-in will be required to ensure more extensive safety measures and social distancing plans are in place. Clearly a more extensive risk assessment will be required that should be endorsed by the SAG and, under the current circumstances, this is not expected to be agreed.

Formal advice has been sought from SAG and this office is waiting for the publication of a new, jointly agreed protocol giving clearer guidance to event organisers (and regulators) on what is and isn’t going to be supported.

The fireworks event takes place on Sedgemoor land and it is expected that permission will not be granted to the town council by that body.

Any event will require increased staffing and volunteer levels, which must be planned and managed in a COVID secure manner, mitigating any risk to staff as per the employer’s duty of care.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 give county, unitary and metropolitan councils’ powers to restrict access to, or close, individual premises or public outdoor places as well as prohibit certain events from taking place where there is a serious or imminent threat of transmission of coronavirus. For example, where there is a local spike and a large event going ahead would risk further transmission of the virus. Regulations set out three conditions which need to be met before a direction can be issued:

  • That giving a direction responds to a serious and imminent threat to public health,
  • That the direction is necessary for the purpose of preventing, protecting against, controlling or providing a public health response to the incidence or spread of infection by coronavirus in the local authority’s area, and
  • That the prohibitions, requirements or restrictions imposed by the direction are a proportionate means of achieving that purpose.

Currently this local area has a very low, but increasing rate of CV19 and there is concern that the winter season will create more risk, which might be exacerbated through close contact in large groups. For example, if there is a higher incidence of cold and flu, this weakens the immune system in its potential fight against CV19.

This must be borne in mind when considering Burnham’s older than average, higher risk population.

As reported, other local events have been cancelled, including the carnival and associated events held in Bridgwater.

At its May meeting, the committee resolved to provisionally book the firework event with Skyburst on the understanding that, if later it transpires that restrictions prevent the display proceeding, Skyburst will carry over the £2,800 deposit to 2021 without any financial penalties to the Council. This was completed by the office. 

Agenda item 10: To resolve that the 2020 Christmas lights switch-on event will be virtual and live streamed through social media channels.

Following the town council’s new 3-year contract with Event Power Engineering for the supply and installation of Christmas lights across the town centres in Burnham and Highbridge, it was resolved by this committee that the council will work with the chambers of trade to plan a Christmas lights switch-on event for 2020.

A planning meeting was held on Thursday 17th September to informally discuss and exchange ideas for an event. All town councillors and both chambers of trade were invited to attend. No binding decisions were made on behalf of the town council.

The Burnham chamber put forward a number of ideas for consideration and it was agreed that under the circumstances it was preferable to proceed with a virtual festive event in the run-up to Christmas and that part of this event could include a virtual Christmas light switch-on.

It was felt that a virtual switch-on should be a single event covering both towns inclusively and it was suggested that identified councillors and chamber reps would liaise with businesses to explore a concept where traders submit short promotional videos of themselves to be shown over a series of days. The actual switch-on button press would be the focus of one of the videos.

If the concept of a virtual event is supported by this committee, Cllr Peter Clayton has volunteered to lead on the production of the button press video with other willing volunteers who will seek to engage safe community involvement.

It is suggested that the committee delegates authority to create a town council Christmas lights switch-on video to a working group of councillors with staff support (as required). The councillors ion attendance at the recent meeting were: Cllr Peter Clayton, Mike Facey, Andy Hodge, Dawn Carey, Sue Barber, Colette Winfield. 

That same group should additionally be requested to liaise with the chambers of trade on any plans made.

Agenda item 16: To resolve whether councillors will attend the town council stall at the Burnham-on-Sea eat food festival on 24th October and agrees any matters for consultation/display.

There are a number of matters that cllrs could seek feedback on by attending this significant public event. Specifically, subject to further information, attendance by the TC at the food festival would enable progression of the required community consultation on relocating the TC office.

Additionally, in light of the lack of direct town council-to-public contact over recent months, this presents an opportunity for members to be available face to face to hear issues important to the community.

A comprehensive COVID safe risk assessment would be required to be agreed and submitted to the organisers for approval in advance, and a team of volunteers will be required to set-up, operate, and take down the gazebo.

Agenda item 18: To receive an update on the responses to questionnaires re: small business support initiative in Burnham & comment on the potential alternative use of the fund to make improvements to shop fronts

As reported under min ref: 10/20/TIMP, funding totalling £30k was allocated in connection with the CIM fund to provide business support for independent retailers in Burnham town centre.

I had previously (end of 2019) sent out an invitation to gauge interest in using the fund for support, which at the time was focussed on online methods. I received no responses to that first invitation. However, this might have been due to an error in the third party method used to share the info and it was agreed to revisit the offering and again share it with retailers.  

During June the TC circulated a questionnaire to independent town centre retailers to find out if they would like free business support and what that would look like. Hard copy questionnaires were hand delivered by councillors and also made available on the TC website. The closing date was 24th August.

Of the 197 delivered, 8 responses were received:

  • 3 retailers said they would welcome support
  • 2 retailers stated they did not want any support
  • 3 response sheets were incomplete (with only the contact info completed)

As this shows a particularly low level of interest, I provided the response info to SDC to seek clarification on whether it meets the level required to proceed with the expenditure. SDC has confirmed the response rate does not justify the £30k spend. However, those businesses who expressed an interest in digital support can access it for free via Cosmic. This office will contact those traders to share the details of the SDC/Cosmic scheme.

As an alternative form of business support, there is instead an opportunity to use the £30k to fund improvements to retail frontages by way of a grant. Retailers would be invited to apply for an amount of money, c.£5k per property. Decisions on successful applications would be taken by SDC according to set criteria, as agreed with the town council and in line with the Neighbourhood Plan 5.1 Design of shops and other commercial premises in the area.

Councillors comments are welcome on the alternative provision.

Report author:          Sam Winter, Town Clerk

Report Date:               Tuesday, 22 September 2020

We use cookies to help make this site better. Read more about our cookie policy.

Skip to content