As printed in The Dove.
May allowed the first ‘physical’ Annual Town Meeting since May 2019, before coronavirus restricted us to ‘virtual’ (online) celebrations of Bruton’s energetic community. A dozen community groups presented their years on the night, with half a dozen more sending written reports. All have been shared via the Town Council website, including my Chair’s report on the Town Council year just gone.
Writing the Chair’s report caused me to revisit the priorities set by our November 2019 “Town Matters” Meeting, which were:
- Station Road Car Park
- Bruton Climate Emergency Fund
- Bru Bowl Skate Park
- Community Fridge / Food Bank
The upgrade of Station Road Car Park to a more resilient surface, including drainage works to lengthen its life, may yet fall at the triple hurdles of the South Somerset District Council Planning pipeline, potential withdrawal of £40k+ Market Towns Investment Grants through the transition to a unitary Somerset Council, and construction cost inflation. If this risk is realised, Bruton will again need to pull together to consider how we can best provide the daily parking essential to our local businesses and workers, should our Town lose the support that we need from Councils above us in Yeovil and Taunton.
Bruton Town Council grew our £5k local Climate Emergency Fund seed investment from 2020-21, via a £75k grant from Somerset County Council’s Climate Emergency Community Fund, for our pioneering Retrofit Bruton and Cary project. The first Retrofit Co-ordinator employed by any Town Council in England, Justine Mallinson, ably supported by Project Officer Tom McGauran, delivered twenty detailed Retrofit Plans to guide Bruton homeowners to dramatically reduce their emissions, while insulating their homes from rising fuel bills. Together with our District Council partners on the newer Somerset Retrofit Accelerator project, we are now looking beyond the Government’s Community Renewal funding, towards how Somerset pro-actively builds our sustainable retrofit supply chain, including local training for these much-needed green skills.
The BruBowl skate park is the perfect demonstration of a committed group of volunteers adding their wheels to Town Council powers, to make a big difference to younger Brutonians’ lives. Funds raised through Good Company CIC, combined with earmarked reserves, are pushing towards half of what is needed, before applications to major grant funders are made. By the end of July, we will have selected a preferred contractor, who will design the new BruBowl and help with the final fundraising drive.
Brue Larder opened last year in the remodelled Engine House, beside the Community Hall – combining the Friday Larder, led by Jane Lillie and Vanessa Clarke, with the Food Drop Service that Bruton Festival of Arts delivered during coronavirus lockdowns. The internal larder within the Engine House was the brainchild of Councillor James Buckland, and Good Company CIC are now providing Brue Larder’s banking.
With all of 2019’s priorities delivered in full or part, Bruton faces fresh challenges.
Bruton Methodist Church ceased services last year. The local Methodist Circuit is keen that this much-loved building provides continued benefit to Bruton. With the future of Bruton Community Hall uncertain beyond its current lease, and safeguarding regulations barring most public use of school facilities, the Town Council welcomes residents’ opinions and visions on the best future role for Bruton Methodist Church… The 2019 Awards for All funded consultation for Bruton Unionist Hall identified a need for “a multi-purpose event space” in Bruton – could, and should, the Methodist Church provide that? Or what use would be of greater benefit to our community?
May also delivered the sad news both that Church Bridge Stores will no longer provide Bruton’s Post Office, and that Bruton School for Girls would be closing from the end of the academic year that is now finishing. Several Bruton businesses are interested in taking on the Post Office services, which Julia and Aidan have managed so well over recent years, so I am confident there will only be a brief hiatus (if any). However, a school that educated local girls for 120 years, and was Bruton’s girls’ grammar school just over forty years ago, has been sadly lost. Many Brutonians have personal family connections to Bruton School for Girls. I am sure that we will read much more about the future of the Sunny Hill site over coming months.
Mayor of Bruton