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Current Issues

Environmental Matters

In the past months the Town Council has agreed an Environment Policy and has also activated an Environment/Transport working group to look at various environmental issues (as well as transport) and challenges we currently face as a community, nation and world. At an Environment meeting in early March, (before the coronavirus lockdown) we considered matters in relation to our community maintenance programme and how the way we work could be reviewed, ensuring ongoing safety measures are in place, but also considering the impact we have on the biodiversity of the local area.

With regard to grass cutting, we are currently under contract to cut some of the grass verges for visibility purposes for Devon County Council and these must be cut 4 times per year between April and the end of October. Historically, we have cut these areas more frequently than this. However, to allow ongoing growth and increased insect/wildlife activity Members suggested that going forward we experiment by cutting the minimum amount of 4 times per year. We will keep a close eye on these verges as our first priority must be to ensure clear visibility for road users is maintained for safety reasons.

Devon County Council has confirmed that they do not intend to do any other grass cutting this year (apart from verges via the Town Council). For a number of years, the Town Council has in fact cut some of these areas anyway. Two of the larger plots are the strip of grassland adjacent to Greenbank on the left-hand side as you travel into Great Torrington from Barnstaple and the strip of grass in front of Woodland Vale Nursing Home. Again, Members suggested we experiment here and cut the edges only, leaving the grass in the middle or to the side to grow. We also discussed the possibility of sowing meadow seed and/or bulb planting in these areas after consulting with local experts on such matters. We are mindful that this approach will not result in such a “tidy” picture, however, we hope that the “natural” will be appreciated for what it is and will improve the habitat for nature.

Members also suggested looking into reducing the use of leaf blowers and herbicides and undertake some tasks manually, such as weeding.

The intention was to use this year as a pilot for possible change going forward and were looking to encourage feedback from the community as we went through the year.

Members also agreed the following;

 Consider environmentally friendly options when buying tools and machinery.
 Continue to source as much equipment and supplies as we can locally.
 Create a compost facility at the allotment site for use by the tenants.
 Consider further opportunities to plant new trees, sow meadow seed and plant bulbs across the community.
 Continue to consider various aspects in relation to the environment as an ongoing commitment.

A few weeks after this meeting, we found ourselves in lockdown. Since then, only necessary work has been undertaken, and many of the above plans have started to fall into place anyway as a result of the implementation of the Government’s social distancing guidelines.

However, we look forward to a time when we have moved away from this awful crisis and will endeavour to work to the above plans with a view to encouraging environmentally friendly practices. We continue to welcome feedback from our local community on these matters.

Commons Allotment Charity Grants and Precept Grants 2020/21 and 20/21 Budget

The Town Council has allocated its Commons Allotment Grant Funding (£4,750.00) as well as Precept Grant Funding (£23,550.00) for 2020/21. A full list can be viewed on the Town Council’s website.

For the first time this year, Members decided to keep a small pot of reserve grant funding to be made available during the period 01st April 2020 – 31st March 2021 for adhoc urgent requests for funding. 

At the January Town Council Meeting Members agreed a budget for 2020/21.  The precept arrangements reflect an increase of 3.54% on the Town Council element of your council tax bill in respect of 1st April 2020 – 31st March 2021.

This equates to an increase of £2.83 per annum for a Band A property and £3.31 per annum for a Band B property compared to last year. (Town Council element of increase only). Full details of increases for all Bands will be available on the Council’s website in due course.

Karen Chapman (Town Clerk)

 

Aviva Community Fund 2020

Through our partnership with Crowdfunder we wanted to let you know that the Aviva Community Fund 2020 is now open for applications.

They believe the charities that make the biggest impact are those that are given the opportunity to innovate and test new ideas without fear of risk. So the Aviva Community Fund supports small charities across the UK and this year they are looking for charities with new ideas who want to make a bigger impact.

Embracing innovation, this year Aviva have adopted an employee giving model where they will be asking their people to distribute the community fund. Every UK employee will be given £60 to support the crowdfunding projects that matter most to them across the year.

Applications are now open for the first round of the Aviva Community Fund in which £250,000 funding is available for small UK – based charities with an annual turnover under £1million with new and innovative ideas. 

Click here for more information

South West Water options

Following a visit from a representative of SWW the following information might be helpful:-

a.Priority Services Registration: This is for people with medical conditions or physical limitations. Once registered the individual will be notified of any interruptions in water supply and will have water delivered to them if there is no supply. The individual will receive a telephone call to advise them of any disruption.  An application for this can be obtained from SWW or from their Website.

b.Debt Helpline: If customers are struggling to pay their water bill South West Water has a debt helpline on 0800 083 0283 and they will talk through different options available. The individual can also contact the Water Care Team via the email watercare@southwestwater.co.uk, or Emma Phillips directly via ephillips@southwestwater.co.uk, and we can arrange a home visit to talk them through the different debt relief options available as well as helping to get them on the most appropriate tariff.

c.The Watercare Tariff: This is for metered customers who are on very low income. To qualify, an individual within the household must receive a qualifying benefit, such as income support or housing benefit.  The tariffs offer a discount of between 15-50% off a water bill. An income assessment is carried out to determine eligibility. An application can be obtained from SWW, or a home visit can be arranged with the Water Care Team/ or Emma Phillips.

d.Switch to a meter: Water meters can save people a considerable amount of money. SWW has advisors who help people establish if a meter could save them money and help with initial applications.  It is free to switch and if, after 24 months a customer considers it isn’t right for them, they can go back to unmeasured charges. In the Great Torrington area only, we are currently offering customers to go onto a ‘Dual Billing Trial’ whereby they can opt to get a water meter installed without changing to metered charges. SWW will then send letters to the customer every quarter to notify them how much water the household has used and the customer will be able to see which charge will be cheaper for them, i.e. the metered charge or their current unmeasured charge. To get involved with this trial, customers can call our Dual Billing team on 01392 442882. 

e.The WaterSure Tariff: This may help a customer reduce their bill if they have a water meter, receive certain benefits and if someone in the home has a medical condition that means extra water is used, or if they have 3 or more children living with them. It works by capping a bill the average annual domestic water and sewerage charges, currently £488.45.