Cllr. Simon Christopher’s Report – Jan 2022

Cllr. Simon Christopher submitted the following report at this evening’s Informal Meeting of the Group Parish Council:

Dear Helen and Councillors,

A Happy New Year to you all.

As I write this it has been announced that there have now been in excess of 150,000 Covid deaths.

Despite the current HM Government advice, which continues to restrict normal living whether through advice to work from home , the wearing of masks in certain places or indeed the predominance of virtual meeting as opposed to face to face meetings there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. This takes many forms, whether through Melplash show planning their AGM and also the Annual Dinner to tour operators for overseas travel reporting bookings returning to normal.

Clearly the vast majority of us want a return to normality as soon possible.

Before I set out the latest Covid news and report on other matters I want to write about road safety.  I have to comment that there can be few things more harrowing to receive than a road safety report after a fatality . The reports give details of road circumstances weather conditions on how an accident is perceived to have occurred and is completed after work undertaken by both Dorset Police and the Dorset Road Safety expert . I know from my discussions with our MP Chris Loder , that he is truly shocked at the number of fatalities and serious injuries as a result of accidents on the roads of Dorset.

I continue to liaise with the road safety expert at Dorset Council but also with our MP in connection with road safety, whether in connection with speed limits, speed cameras, additional payments and appropriate work on road surfaces. Particular roads of concern include Broadwindsor to Drimpton and sections of the B3165 . I have met with the safety officer prior to Christmas and have a virtual catch-up meeting on Monday 10 January .

You will see that this is continuing work and in addition to the work agreed to be instigated following the meeting with Councillor Leader, Councillor Huges and the Highways safety officer and myself, as Dorset Councillor, in November 2021.

The November 2022 meeting subsequently led to the following written commitment from the Highways Safely Officer:

Dear Cllr Christopher,

Further to our recent meeting I can confirm that we will be putting in various lining as set out below.

On Common Hill additional slow markings with yellow bars and also edge lining.

On the B3163 close to the cricket ground extras slow marking with yellow bars.

On the approach from Salway Ash extra slow markings with yellow bar markings.

I have spoken to Rob Camp regarding the SID (Speed Indicator Device) and hopefully delivery will be soon and I have given you Helen Jackson in the LTP Team as your contact to discuss possible footway link to the cricket pitch.

We will be out to mark up the various lining etc but I cannot promise when it will be done as salt is being laid on the road due to the weather so it is likely to be well into the new year but we will ask for the work to be done as soon as possible.

Any other queries please do not hesitate to come back to me.

Clearly, I will be keeping up my work with the Highway Safety Officer in the above and other areas.


In the same way that there is concern about the financial viability of shops, retail units and pubs, there is also concern about the financial viability of farming operations.

There is, and always has been in my time as Local Authority Councillor some speculation about the Dorset Council Farms Estate. Regardless of this, what we do know is that there may never have been a greater time of change for the farming industry than now. The reason I devote so much of this report to Agriculture in this January 2022 report is a result of the following.

  1.  The lack of Dorset Council meetings since the last BGPC meeting, In the interim our waste collection service has, I believe, continued to perform very well.
  2. The importance that I am sure we place on the appearance of the country side and the survival of small family farms in particular.

Following our departure from the EU the Marshwood Vale farmers and indeed Dorset Council tenant farmers and farmers across the Country are impacted by the introduction of a new farming policy under the Agriculture Act 2020.

There is huge concentration on key farming issues succession , capital investment and profitability . Few farmers will be unaware that half of their Basic Payment Scheme ie BPS money will no longer be available by 2024. This is I would argue a man concern of the farming community .As farmers seek to diversify this will have an impact on all of our residents . Other uncertainties include whether relatively high sales prices that have prevailed in many ( but not all ) sectors will continue. if consumers change their buying habits post pandemic . There is also the requirement to be legally compliant and to address environmental issues especially climate change.

One of the greatest concerns is for small farms and tenanted farms, in particular it is my understanding that approximately 50 per cent of land is farmed by tenant farmers (including of course the tenants of the Dorset Council farm’s estate.) My concern is based on the fact that BPS is being gradually reduced this has been hugely important to all active farmers and that tenant farmers should not be excluded from receiving agri- environmental subsidies.

For those farmers amongst you there should be a concern that safeguards that exist for those who rent under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 should extend to Farm Business Tenancies such that tenants will not be prevented by landlords from accessing the schemes.

I will detail the concern. There are three proposed ELM (Environmental Land Management) schemes and in respect of the first 2 of them there are uncertainties as to the extent to which tenant farmers will benefit. The reasons for the uncertainties with respect to the first 2 schemes involve

1 ) The Local Nature Recovery Scheme, which will not be widely available until 2024,  that amongst other things, encourages farmers to create new habitats and plant trees.

2) The Lanscape Recovery Scheme which seeks a more dramatic approach assisting farmers and land owners who manage 500 to 5000 hectares (and note hectares not acres) and so only benefiting larger agricultural concerns.

3) The sustainable Farming Incentive which will fund sustainable farming practices and should be widely available.

You may wish to contact your Member of Parliament to address any particular concern you may have for the future of the countryside and indeed family farms. There are a great many who are uncertain about the future prospects for farming and would welcome clarification of eligibility, rules and payment rates for schemes 1 and 2 above.


The portfolio holder responsible for buses is continuing his work (and this is a non-exhaustive list:) following on from the submission of the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) in October2021

  1.  The launch of the statutory consultation on the Enhanced Partnership Plan
  2. The legal framework through which Dorset Council will deliver the BSIP.

Before I consider these 2 points, I will repeat what the Bus Service Improvement Plan seeks to achieve

a) buses being a more attractive mode of transport for customers
b) bus journeys being more affordable
c) bus services timetables and journeys being easier to use
d) journey times being shorter
e) services being more reliable
f) buses being greener ie more environmentally friendly

The Enhanced Partnership Plan and scheme document has to be produced by 31 March 2022 and is the means by which the BSIP will be delivered. It follows a statutory process defined in the Bus Services Act 2017 and updated in the light of the National Bus Strategy.

Work on the Enhanced Partnership is continuing though there is no definite date by which the Department for Transport will respond to the request for £92million of funding both capital and revenue within the submitted BSIP .

The Enhanced Partnership Plan high level vision will have objectives which is expected to closely follow the Bus Service Improvement Plan. It is expected that the Enhanced Partnership scheme will set out the precise details of how the Bus Service Improvement Plan vision and objectives will be achieved . These details will include any commitment made by the Local Transport Authority and standards to be met bus operators.

The legal framework mentioned in (2) above will include governance and user representation.

Town and Parish councils have I understand been invited to stakeholder meetings next week.

If there are any issues arising, please e mail me.


Following the consultation last year, Dorset Council continue to gather information to inform the proposals for the plan. This will involve consideration of national planning policy including the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) and the expected housing need for the County. The Local Plan is an important document as it will assist in the delivery of appropriate housing facilities and employment in the long period to 2038.

Dorset Council is aiming to publish the final draft, which will be available for comments in the middle of this year. The timescale then on is for the comments on the final draft to be considered prior to submission to a planning inspector in the Autumn of this year. If all these dates are adhered to public examination will then follow on from the comments of the planning inspectorate in 2023 with adoption in late 2023.

Here is the latest Covid information

Published: 7 January 2022

This week’s overview

Case rates have continued to rise quickly over the past week across Dorset Council and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, and remain higher than at any other point during the pandemic. Infection rates are very high across the country.

In Dorset we have started to see hospitalisations related to COVID-19 rise, up to 74 from 55 in a week. Our hospitals and other critical services are also under increasing pressure due to staff absences related to COVID-19. The number of deaths related to COVID-19 has remained relatively stable and continue to be much lower than during previous waves of the pandemic.

Testing remains key to stopping the spread and protecting others. If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, you must get a PCR test and self-isolate whilst waiting for the result. Lateral flow tests should be used by anyone without symptoms, particularly before meeting others – if you get a positive test, you must log the result and follow self-isolation guidance. Most people no longer need to get a PCR test to confirm a positive lateral flow test.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from serious illness caused by COVID-19. As well as people getting boosted, it’s been great to see people in Dorset coming forward for their first and second doses in recent weeks, and we’d urge anyone who hasn’t yet had their jabs to come forward. There are plenty of opportunities to get vaccinated in Dorset.

Latest data

The visualisation below shows the seven-day case rate, people in hospital beds and deaths for the latest data periods available. There can be a time lag to allow us to report the most complete data. We provide this local update weekly, but you can find information daily on the UK Health Security Agency data page.

N.B. the dip in the number of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients on 28 November is due to missing data for one of the hospital trusts.


Summary of the most recent data:

  • 7 day case rates per 100,000
    • BCP: 1,406.6 (compared to 1,087.9 in last update on 31 December)
    • Dorset: 1,190.1 (compared to 783.1 in last update on 31 December)
  • Confirmed cases in last 7 days
    • BCP: 5,584 (compared to 4,319 in last update on 31 December
    • Dorset: 4,521 (compared to 2,974 in last update on 31 December)
  • Current COVID-19 patients in hospital beds in Dorset: 74 (compared to 55 in last update on 31 December)


Many of you will have read reports that the Dorset Council tax budget could have been worse. In fact, Council Tax will be determined at a full council meeting in February 2022. Dorset Counci has been helped by larger than expected settlement from the Government although only for one year. I thought I would share with you some thoughts on additional Government funding. First of all, the extra funding will assist with our perceived budget in circumstances where income has been reduced as a consequence of Covid whether reduced income associated with property or through reduced use of paid for services eg reduced income from leisure centres The Council should then reflect on allocating further funds to assist with housing delivery .The Council is under an obligation to fund work to prepare for the social care market reforms In addition, funds should be earmarked for social care demand and inflationary pressures next year.
Best regards,
Simon Christopher
Dorset Councillor Marshwood Vale
077988 33715


Dorset Homechoice – Closed To New Applications

Without any notice from Dorset Council or our Dorset Councillor, Simon Christopher, Dorset Council’s housing register, Dorset Homechoice, is now closed to new applications. If registered, you can still bid for properties and view your feedback by logging into your account as normal.

Both Dorset Council and BCP Council are changing how properties are allocated and how people can apply for housing. From October 1st 2021, they will be introducing a new Dorset Council Home Choice website and allocations policy. This means there will be some changes to how applicants apply for social housing and some of the assessment criteria.

To view and download the Draft of their new Housing Allocations Policy 2021 – 2026 – Click HERE.

Dates of note:

  • 26th July 2021 – Existing applicants who are registered with Dorset Council were invited to apply to join the new housing list.
  • 23rd September 2021 – Last advert date for properties in West Dorset (& Weymouth & Portland, East Dorset, North Dorset or Purbeck).
  • 1st October 2021 – New applicants will be able to apply to join the new Dorset Council housing list.

Former District Councillor & Local Parish Councillor, Jacqui Sewell has already submitted an email to a Dorset Housing Officer with many questions including what will happen if a CLT tenancy comes up before then & there is no-one on the housing register who qualifies, but the CLT are aware of an individual or a family that are not yet on the register but do qualify to apply for a CLT property?  Additionally, as there is a list of 21 disabilities as per RPWD Act 2016 , it is hoped that Dorset Council consider every applicant’s needs and capabilities.

If you have concerns, please contact our current Dorset Councillor – Simon Christopher:

Address: Hawthorne Cottage, Ryall Road, Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorset, DT6 6RH
Home: 01297 489582
: 07798 833715


Councillor Simon Christopher’s Report – July 2021

Cllr. Simon Christopher submitted the following report at this evening’s Informal Meeting of the Group Parish Council:

Dear Helen and Councillors,

It is good to see so much physical activity in keeping our local village halls up together and meeting the aspirations of residents both in terms of their actual use, but also their environmental impact. There was much discussion of what was termed the big society a decade or so ago and evidence of collaboration is very much in my mind in terms of not just community shops, but also possible community run pubs and existing community sports clubs in the Dorset Council Marshwood Vale Ward.
Dorset Council has continued to have virtual meetings. The most recent meeting of the Cabinet was on 22 June 2021 as social distancing requirements were not lifted on 21 June 2021.

Members were advised that where a Cabinet decision was required the appropriate Portfolio holder would be the responsible individual to make the decision whilst considering the views expressed by the wider Cabinet membership 

 You will be aware that the 2 main budgets in Dorset Council are in respect of care for Adults and Care of Children. There are also huge challenges around mental health generally and in respect of learning difficulties .

One report that was considered was the Dorset Care, Support Housing and Community Safety Framework.  Against a backdrop of an ageing population The Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care and Health Laura Miller, advised that the Council Sought to provide high quality personalised care and support services meeting the needs of service users whilst ensuring that they are delivered and financed in a sustainable way. The current Dorset Care Framework for Older People expires on 30 November 2022 and the Dorset Care Framework for Learning Disabilities needs to be refreshed to include mental health.

Procurement is governed by the Public Contract Regulations 2015 which allows Public Sector Bodies such as Dorset Council in terms of health and social care to adopt /innovate procurement models to best meet the needs of service users.

The framework will be in place for up to 10 years and will enable providers to join at any time (provided clearly that specific criteria is met) instead of fixed opening periods.

The proposed new Framework tool is the key to delivering flexible contracting with all sectors of the provider market including ( and I believe this is absolutely crucial) micro enterprises.

It is fair to say that Dorset Council continues to be under pressure both in terms of dealing with an increase in the number of planning applications and has been attempting to deal with an increase in the level of land charges searches. Across Dorset we are seeing changes in rural property ownership and re-evaluation of business models within the rural community, (which I will write more about later), but often these changes involve the need for planning applications.

With respect to Bus Back Better which was first publicised by H M Government in March 2021, I would like to reiterate that the Dorset Council bus service improvement plan will be published in Autumn 2021.

Councillor Ray Bryan, portfolio holder for Highways Tavel and Environment ,has been working on the Dorset Council Bus Service Improvement Plan.

He is quoted as saying “In response to the Government’s new National Bus Strategy which aims to make bus services more attractive, cheaper, easier to use, Faster, more reliable and greener.
The plan, is the so called Bus Service Improvement (ie: BSIP  Plan)

As a recap a plan will be a collaboration with local bus operators, community groups, and with passengers themselves.

The Council has reviewed the operations that Dorset has through the National Bus Strategy.

Their preferred approach is to develop an Enhanced Partnership for the council area.

An Enhanced Partnership is an agreement between the council and local bus operators to work together to improve local bus services. It requires an agreed vision of improvements and an action plan that will form the Bus Service Improvement Plan”

The plan will involve 5 key aspects:

  • Network and services
  • Fares
  • Ticketing
  • Passenger facilities
  • Bus priority measures

Councillor Bryan has further said that
“By working in close collaboration with the operators and local groups we will develop and deliver an ambitious Bus Service Improvement Plan for Dorset that puts the passenger first, raises further the perception of bus travel, generates mode shift away from private cars, and sees decarbonisation of the local transport fleet.

As a point of record the official notice is as follows
“By executive notice dated 29 June 2021 Dorset Council gave approval to proceed with the Development of and Enhancednotice of the intention to prepare an Enhanced Partnership Plan and accompanying Enhanced Partnership Scheme,as required and set out in section 138F of the Transport Act 2000.

As part of the process to develop the BSIP, the Council will be talking with community groups ,business groups passengers and the public to collect a wide range of thoughts and ideas which will help to shape the future vision and priorities for our bus network. The BSIP will be published in the Autumn”

I make no apology for stressing the importance of the Bus Service Improvement Plan that will be published in Autumn 2021 but the importance of public transport generally to include improvements to rail services and stations.

Several parish councillors are aware that I have continued to lobby Councillor Ray Bryan (mentioned above)  and the lead member for Highway Surfaces Councillor, Cherry Brooks to address the need for extensive parts of our local road network to be re surfaced. There are assurances that further resurfacing , and I refer in particular to the B3165  will take place this autumn.

We are of course in the middle of the most intensive part of the farming year.

While there are many who like seeing so much agricultural machinery working in the fields the fact that the machinery has to travel on our roads causes concern to some residents who write to me in connection with damaged roads, drains and verges. Of course, some damage may for instance be caused by say buses and lorries .

I would naturally be interested to hear the further thoughts of parish councillors and residents. I say this as I have within the Marshwood Vale Ward experience receipt of communication citing oversized agricultural machinery. In my experience agricultural machinery does not appear to be any larger than that you would see across the West Country.

I am writing this as we anticipate further easing of Covid restrictions and at a time when Covid cases are rising again across Dorset.
As of 9 July 2021, hospitalisations have been increasing with there being 14 people in hospital with Covid 19 in Dorset . The vaccine programme is however assessed as having a significant impact on the number of people being seriously unwell. That is the number of people requiring hospital treatment is at a much lower level compared to when Dorset was experiencing similar case rates in previous waves.

There are several walk-in vaccine clinics taking place across Dorset as residents are encouraged to grab a jab as it is termed prior to likely further easing of Covid 19 restrictions under step 4 of HM Government roadmap.

In summary the most recent data, to 9 July 2021 is as follows:

7 day cases per 100,000.
Dorset 96.4 compared to 69.2 per previous week.
The equivalent figure for Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole was 236.8 per 100.000 compared to 147.7per previous week.

I thought I would now turn to the question of the management of Dorset Council Owned Tree Policy . It is my understanding that Dorset Council is responsible for approximately 250,000 trees . The responsible Portfolio holder stated that town and parish councils were continually consulted and also confirmed that he was working closely with the County Farms in respect of tree replacement.

This now leads to the portfolio holder being quoted as stating that it was important to plant the right tree in the right place. This may seem an obvious comment but never more relevant.

I write this as it is a HM Government target to plant 30,000 hectares a year by 2025 this is under the DEFRA  England Trees Action Plan  2021-2024.  As part of the plan ,it was announced that the Forestry Commission would launch a new England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO),
There is much discussion of carbon sequestration biodiversity and timber production. And which tree species and location to assist in a fight to prevent soil erosion.

We are now seeing tickets being sold for some local agricultural shows eg: Honition at the start of August and Gillingham and Shaftesbury in the 3rd week of August . Both shows are unusually going to operate as 2 day shows due to ongoing concerns and capacity numbers appear somewhat uncertain Dorset County show in Dorchester and Melplash are both Cancelled.

These events are hugely important as are the functioning of livestock dispersal sales such as the one taking place at Frome market tomorrow (12 July ) in respect of a herd of organic dairy cows as farming is seen to operate in a manner closer to normality and a time when there is so much stress in the farming community . This stress includes the high incidence of TB in cattle and increasing testing requirements and cuts in Basic Payment ie support payments. Income is being lost in the the reduction in the Basic Payment Scheme which is being phased out Payment rates for the new sustainable farming incentive have now been set out by Defra Secretary George Eustace . This will have an impact naturally on farmers in the Marshwood Vale ward and indeed for farmers on the Dorset Council Farms Estate . Many of you will be aware that HM Government are encouraging farmers to move towards what is termed sustainable farming but also encouraging farmers to collaborate be more efficient and diversify.

In fact, with enhanced capital allowances for businesses in assisting with their tax it can be argued that HMG is being very generous in encouraging all rural business to be more efficient but increased efficiency and indeed diversification is not without broadband challenges……

Finally, within the Marshwood Vale Ward I have received notice of difficulties in respect of private drainage. You will be aware that not all of the extensive Marshwood Vale Ward is on mains drainage. The specific difficulties involve soakaways and I would welcome your thoughts by e mail as to  the extent to which private drainage is a problem for individual householders and their neighbours and the wider community.

Best regards

Councillor Simon Christopher
Dorset Councillor Marshwood Vale
077988 33715



Councillor Simon Christopher’s Report – June 2021

Prior to Cllr. Simon Christopher submitting the following report at last night’s meeting of the Group Parish Council, he requested the Town Clerk “put it on record” that Cllr. Rebecca Knox* (Beaminster Ward), Cabinet Member for Communities, Health & Wellbeing had been extremely helpful with her experience and knowledge of the Broadwindsor Ward.

“I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of parish councillor Lloyd Curtis.  As Philip Hardwill has stated “We will miss him and the good he did for his local community”.
It is disappointing that we are not meeting face to face as I continue to believe that a face to face meeting is preferable to virtual meeting. However there is still justifiable concern about the spread of the Covid Virus and your caution is perfectly understandable. It will not have escaped the attention of many of you that I have been corresponding with the Highways team including Highway Lead Council member  Councillor Cherry  Brooks to press for resurfacing of local roads. This has been successful in some places but certainly not in relation to the B3165. I have the assurance of the lead member for highways responsible for road surfaces that this will be looked at further. That is to say every metre of the above road within Dorset from the Somerset Border down to the Devon  border. To remind you Councillor Ray Bryan is the Cabinet Member responsible for Highways . Councillor Cherry Brooks as stated is responsible for road surfaces.

Councillor Nocturin Lacey Clark is the lead member responsible for Hedgerows and verges. This leads us to the matter of Common Water Lane and the issues relating  to its use or mis use. Councillor Rebecca Knox also has interest here, as part of Common Water Lane is in her ward. Common Water Lane which appears to have been as issue for many years prior to me becoming a Dorset Councillor,  is the subject of continuing correspondence where we are waiting various responses from Dorset Council . I am not a solicitor or highways expert but I will be seeking a legal opinion at a face to face meeting this week with a specialist solicitor.

You will have noted my concerns over so many months about dogs not being on leads and disturbing and indeed harming livestock. This problem has been highlighted still further with the death of the cow at nearby Eggardon. It is useful to remind all that farmers have the right to shoot dogs in circumstances where dogs are deemed to be loose such that their livestock may be protected.

I have received on Friday 18 June , a lengthy e-mail about the damage to verges banks and road surfaces drains etc. by large vehicles .

I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the future and indeed speaking with you in the days ahead. Suffice it to say that the e-mail is written in what may be termed a legal way quoting the Highways Act and the responsibilities of Dorset Council and the police.

I will be looking to arrange a meeting with the concerned resident shortly.

I am corresponding in the first instance with the Highways Team about this for their view. Such damage to drains is seen as leading to eventual greater damage to road surfaces property etc. This has been a concern across the Marshwood Vale and obviously across the Country for many years.

I have also received a residents e mail expressing concern re the possibility of the creation of  a concrete ramp across Hursey Common amongst other concerns.

Last week Dorset Council received an update from the Cabinet Member for Planning Councillor, David Walsh.  In the update he stressed the amount of officer time being devoted to consideration of the responses  to the consultation to the first draft of the Dorset Local Plan. Councillor Walsh stressed his dedication to making sure that Dorset has a new adopted Local Plan by the end of 2023.

Clearly the Government has previously indicated it wanted to simplify planning within England. I am referring here to the Planning For the Future White Paper last August seen as the largest overhaul of the planning system since the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act. This may or may not ultimately be pursued. In the meanwhile the sensible and appropriate course of action is for the local plan to progress through its various stages.

You may have read that Dorset Council has called for more Government action to bring better broadband to more remote rural areas. Dorset Council is quoting that 96 per cent of Dorset can get super fast broadband. Dorset Council’s deputy leader Peter Wharf said “While we very much welcome the National Project Gigabit funding coming to Dorset we want to ensure that this and any future investments in improving connectivity  are directed at our hardest to reach areas first”.

The Council has also invested £1million to give our residents and businesses in rural areas an additional top up when they apply for government broadband vouchers.

  • “However we get no say on how or where that top is spent and we are urging the Government to enable councils to have more influence on where money is invested locally”.
  • “Crucially we would like to see the Government return to its original commitment of bringing gigabit capable broadband to 100 per cent of premises”.
  • “In this day and age where broadband is essential it is imperative that no home or business is left behind “.

In addition to more funding, Dorset Council would  like to see national subsidy offers improved so that anyone on sub super fast broadband speeds can apply. Currently the offer, called the Universal Service Obligation (USO) is for people whose internet speeds are less than 10 Mbps.

I am meeting the Council Leader Spencer Flower for a one  to one discussions on Wednesday (23rd June). Amongst the discussion topics will be the need to see improvements to bus services.

To remind you earlier this year Sue McGowan Head of Dorset Travel said “We are intending to refresh our public transport strategy in line with the new national strategy ( Bus Back Better). I will be looking for commitment to improve bus services.”

You may recall that only local transport authorities who commit to establishing an Enhanced Partnership across the whole of the LTA area by 30th June 2021 and to have published by 31st October 2021 a bus improvement plan will continue to receive the Covid 19 Bus Services Improvement Grant or any new sources of funding from Central Government.

I look forward to working with the new Police and Crime Commissioner Mr. David Sidwick. I have started to make him aware of issues within the Marshwood Vale Dorset Council Ward.

It is excellent to see the desire within the community to maintain the existence of a shop in Broadwindsor . It will also be interesting  to hear the thoughts of people on the viability having a community run pub at the heart of the village.

With the planned improvements to the Broadwindsor Comrades Hall  (including air source heat pumps and photovoltaic roof panels), the recent repairs to planned improvements to Bernards’ Place by way of installation of new equipment and the the continued progress of the Broadwindsor Cricket Club these are encouraging times.

Best regards

Councillor Simon Christopher.
Dorset Councillor Marshwood Vale
07798 833 715


*Cllr. Rebecca Knox:

Committee appointments:

Her other appointed positions include:



Volunteers Needed To Paint The Telephone Box

Broadwindsor’s Group Parish Council now own the red telephone box by Bernards’ Place 🙂 With all the formalities complete, they are now in need of volunteers able to assist with getting it painted.

The telephone box continues to be used as a Book Exchange.

Anyone able to help, please contact Cllr. David Leader:

  • 01308 868275
  • 07867 608652

Councillor Simon Christopher’s Report – May 2021

Cllr. Simon Christopher submitted the following report at this evening’s AGM of the Parish Council:

Dear Helen and Councillors,

Further to my previous report I comment as follows re school buses:
My understanding is that Service SB5 route operated by First Wessex running via Misterton Drimpton and Broadwindsor has been affected for a number of weeks by a road closure at Misterton associated with bridge strengthening.
I further understand that the work is for Somerset County Council and per the latest report I have, the work  is due to end on 21 May 2021.

I am informed by the Head of Travel at Dorset Council that First Group have been impacted by a number of other roadwork schemes happening before the tourist season proper commences and indeed the head of travel also points out that the service was further  affected by Somerset County Council roadworks south of Crewkerne for a couple of weeks during March.
The Head of Travel at Dorset Council has informed me that First Wessex did communicate with the headmaster at the school about the roadworks before hand and attempted to make appropriate adjustments to pick ups.
The head of Travel at Dorset Council has also passed on the additional comment from First Wessex:

‘’All drivers we use are familiar with the routes ,in fact we do not allow any driver to drive any routes they are unfamiliar with and they can only drive a route once fully trained and signed off’.’

Finally , the Head of Travel reported that First have agreed to look at the diversion route again to see if there are any alternative solutions to avoid the delay and promised to keep the portfolio holders, Councillor Ray Bryan and Councillor Andrew Parry and myself updated

I now turn to the support from HM Government for the bus sector. This involves the Covid 19 Bus Service Support Grant (CBSSG) Restart 

It is interesting to read in HM Governments communication Bus Back Better that there is a declared belief that and I quote ‘ Local collaboration is a key tenet of emergency funding”.  As a condition of receiving CBSSG, the Department of Transport can ask operators to demonstrate on request that consultations on service levels have taken place and that reasonable requests from Local Transport Authorities for service changes have been considered in good faith.
The Department for Transport can deny or recover CBSSG payments from operators who have not engaged adequately with Local Transport Authorities.
By the end of June 2021 Dorset Council, in order to have access to CBSSG is required to commit to entering into  Enhanced Partnerships.
By the end of October 2021 Dorset Council is required to have developed and agreed a Bus Services Improvement Fund.
Clearly there is a lot for Councillor Ray Bryan , the portfolio holder for Highways Travel and Environment to think about.

I continue to engage with interested parties about damage to the verge etc at Common Water Lane.

Turning to farming, which is at the core of economic activity  in so much of the Marshwood Vale Ward, farming has always been a dangerous industry. At this time of year many of us would have been thinking about attending the May agricultural shows including Devon County Show and Royal Bath and West Shows . These shows are both cancelled and as a consequence charities and other organisations and firms lose the opportunity to discuss with people in a true face to face way how farming can be made safer.
Close to one person a week dies in an accident on farms in this country despite countless campaigns to raise awareness of dangers whether to farmers and farm workers or walkers.
Farmers and farming organisations together with the Health & Safety Executive and charities have publicised the risks yet still people die on farms through accidents . No councillor should give up working towards farm safety. With respect to walkers there are risks associated with large livestock and large farm machinery.

Of course farming has changed with some farmers keeping their cattle indoors more than others . It is always helpful when farmers can have the chance to explain what they are doing to arrive at common sense solutions so that farming is safer.
One of the most famous farming commentators recently described the situation in a national magazine for those who work in or enter a farm environment,  your friends and family and I quote ‘may just have a concern about you because you are not young and nimble enough any more to climb a ladder or jump a gate if the bull turns nasty ‘ This may be seen by some as helpful advice!

After recent disturbing local events re attacks on sheep, I was interested and indeed saddened to read that more than two thirds of UK sheep farmers have experienced an increase in attacks on their flocks by dogs in the past  year according to a new survey.
The National Sheep Association (NSA) said the findings of its survey added further weight to evidence that an increase in dog ownership during the coronavirus lockdown may be driving the rise in attacks.
The NSA chief executive Phil Stocker noted that there was still much work  to do to educate the dog owning public about the need to keep their pets under control- and preferably on a lead  in the countryside ,especially near livestock.

Last Friday the National Sheep Association launched #LeadOn –  a two week campaign that aims to encourage dog owners to be responsible and act as an example to others by keeping their pets on leads in the presence of livestock.
Sheep farmers across the UK will be posting their experience on Facebook and Twitter about the devastating effect a dog attack on their flocks can have for all parties.

Finally in the Dorset Council area elections are taking place on 6 May 2021 for the Police and Crime Commissioner. Elsewhere in Dorset there will also be some town and parish council by elections.  I am advised that measures to ensure polling stations are safe include:

1 social distancing inside and outside venues.

2 limits on the number of people inside polling stations.

3 maximum ventilation of polling stations.

4 hand sanitiser.

5 regular cleaning.

Other points:

Voters will be required to follow the signage and any instructions at their polling station.
Voters are encouraged to bring their own pens/pencils.
Face Coverings are also required to be worn inside the polling station (Unless exempt).
Election staff will also be wearing face masks.

Please note that this not an exhaustive list of measures and advice from the Comms team  further info may be available in the first instance from the following – Dorset Council 01305 858233 or email:

Best regards,

Dorset Councillor Simon Christopher
Marshwood Vale
Tel: 07798 833 715


Councillor Simon Christopher’s Report – April 2021

Cllr. Simon Christopher delivered the following report at this evening’s Parish Council meeting:


During the last month I have had further discussions with Dorset Council Highways officers re speed limits signage and speeding generally. This is an ongoing matter and will hopefully involve actual face to face discussions with officers in some Marshwood Vale ward villages This is dependent on officer time and when Covid Restrictions allow I have continued to press for improvements in broadband and mobile in discussions with officers portfolio holders and our MP I have also  corresponded with local farmers and other business owners.

Dorset Council is considering appropriate action as result of the expected greater influx of tourists this summer. As this is a major task for the Council I will talk about this further at the Parish council meeting.  With the increased use of footpaths there is concern about adherence to the Countryside Code and most importantly avoid circumstances where dogs chase and attack livestock . Livestock worrying may lead to dogs being shot.

We are seeing some fundamental change in farming with a re assessment on occasions of future farming directions and structures. The full impact of brexit and the gradual movement from basic payments will take some time to assess. Clearly some farmers are aware of the Defra Agricultural Transition plan published at the end of last year . We will see the support Defra provides for farmers change over the next 7 years with cuts to the basic payment ie area based scheme and the introduction of schemes to at least partially replace it. These are envisaged to include productivity schemes  and the sustainable farming incentive in the short term  and eventually Environmental Land Management scheme implementation from 2024.

It was been helpful to see HM Government this week  commit itself to the importance of rural public transport especially buses. With the influx of visitors expected, subject to the relaxation of Covid restrictions of course, I am even more conscious of the importance of public transport.

The period for initial consultation in respect of the draft Dorset Council Local Plan has ended and I understand that there is satisfaction with the amount of interest shown and the number of responses received. If we do not have an up to date plan then there is the risk of developments being passed  merely under the sustainable development criteria of the National Planning Policy Framework Dorset Council has set a budget to spend £312.4 million in the year ended 31 March 2022 ie outside of the dedicated schools grant.

It is envisaged that of this  £312.4  million the majority will be spent on 2 statutory services £124.9 million will be spent on Adult social care and £52.8 million on Chidren’s social care.The budget will be funded by increasing council tax by just under 5% that is just under 2% increase in general Council Tax and just under 3 per cent to help fund adult social care – known as the adult social care precept. This equates to the rate for a band D Property increasing by £84.60 for the year or £1.62 per week. To fund the £312.4 million  the majority of the funding is intended to be received in the form of   £263.9 million from Council tax and  £44.3 from retained business rates.

A few other points as Dorset Council looks to deliver services often in rural areas.

The percentage of income coming from business rates is relatively low compared to other local authorities while the percentage of the population aged over 65 is higher than any other unitary authority.

You may recall that in March 2020 the government published The Electrical Safety standards in the Private Rented Sector  (England) Regulations 2020 which came into force on 1 June2020.The regulations apply to existing tenancies from. 1 April 2021. Covid regulations have made life particularly difficult for landlords in compliance matters and of course in terms of regulation.

I remind you of the Police and Crime Commissioner elections in May.

Councillor Simon Christopher
Dorset Councillor Marshwood Vale

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Councillor Simon Christopher’s Report – Jan 2021

Here is our local Councillor Simon Christopher’s interim report submitted to the Parish Council’s meeting last evening.

“As I write this, the number of Covid patients in Dorset hospitals is 340 ( Source Sam Crowe, Public health Dorset. 8th January 2021). A great deal of my report will be devoted to Covid matters.

Common Water Lane
I am aware of the damage to Common Water Lane and the verges.
As Councillor David Leader is aware, I have sent considerable emails and had phone calls with Dorset Police and officers of Dorset Council in connection with Common Water Lane.

  • Comments of Dorset Police/Alex Bishop

My understanding from Dorset Police is that there are two points in regards to the action Police can take in these matters.

  • First is the reaction to reports made to police of specific incidents, such as investigations. Alex Bishop advises me that neither the moving of the bale, nor the damage to the finger sign have been reported. He stated that over the course of the last few months that Common Water Lane has had these issues, the police have had very few reports of any offences being committed.  Any police response to a report that vehicles are on the lane, will be triggered via the threat, risk and harm protocols they have in deciding how to allocate resources.  I understand that it is unlikely police officers will attend unless there is an urgent need to attend.
  • The second is proactive policing, such as area patrols. Dorset have advised me that some officers have attended Common Water Lane here and there whilst they have been on night duty, but it is difficult for them to spend much time there as there are other incidents to attend to.

2) Comments of Dorset Council Legal Team – Philip Crowther, Legal Business Partner. 

My understanding from Philip Crowther is that Dorset Council is responsible for maintaining Common Water Lane, including the verges because it is a vehicular highway.  My understanding is that Dorset Council has various powers which it could in theory use to stop irresponsible 4×4 drivers damaging the verges.  I believe the Parish Council Chairman has been given the reasons via email why a number of those powers are very difficult to use in practice.  My understanding of the action that is most likely to succeed is that Dorset council have the power to erect fences or bollards to prevent vehicles using the verges.  However any fences or bollards must not interfere with any agricultural fence or gate or with an access to private properties. I understand that fencing was erected some years ago with some success albeit that it had to be left open at each end to allow access for the landowner to cut their hedges.  This was done with the Friends of Common Water Lane (The Friends) and it allowed the verges to recover in a fairly short time.  Mike Westwood (Dorset Highways) is happy to discuss working with the Parish Council and the Friends to look at erecting fencing or bollards again.  It is my understanding that this is the solution which carries the most chance of resolving the problem. The need to consider the issues around maintaining  any fencing and/or bollards would have to be discussed.

3) Comments of Senior Ranger (West & Coast) Russell Goff

I understand from Russell Goff that he is happy to be the liaison if the Friends would like to go down the fencing route as they use excellent contractors.
Russell also suggests that perhaps a joint press release from the parish highlighting this antisocial behaviour and damage may, in the short term prevent further damage.
My understanding is that a covert wildlife camera in order to catch those responsible in the act could be installed. The Council would need to know what the law is regarding using the footage gained from this.

Here is the the Government’s latest advice for parents and carers:  Click HERE to access.

Stay At Home

Long Description – Government information for Parents and Carers

Schools and colleges in Dorset remain open for critical workers and vulnerable children, details of who is included is HERE.  Other children will move to remote learning.

Early years settings, special schools, alternative provision and learning centres in Dorset can remain open to all children. We are updating our Childcare directory, please contact your provider if you have specific enquiries.

Free school meals update – 5 Jan

Dorset Council is working with schools to make sure families who need it (including those who receive free school meals) can receive food vouchers if they are not in school. If your child gets free school meals their school will give you details. Find out more HERE.

School transport in Dorset update – 5 Jan

All school transport, including SEND transport, will continue to run. This may be reviewed in future if routes aren’t used.

Home learning resources for parents and carers

Schools are offering remote learning to families, HERE are some extra resources to help families, we are updating these at the moment too.

Dorset Council has worked closely with schools throughout the pandemic to support school leaders. Our schools have been open throughout for children of key workers and children with additional vulnerabilities.

Leader of Dorset Council Spencer Flower said: “We are proud of our schools, colleges and early years settings and our education leaders in Dorset and will continue to support them.”


You will perhaps have already seen that Dorset Council is calling for front line public sector workers to be prioritised for vaccines.

This is a particularly concerning time for our most vulnerable children and families and this continued period of restrictions will no doubt be having an increased impact. Right from the start of this pandemic all partners have been committed and continued to work incredibly hard to support the children and families.   A reminder that the government guidance on safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care can be found HERE.

Children’s Centres update

Our Children’s Centre core sites will remain open for the services listed below:

  • health service appointments where required
  • family time
  • parenting assessments
  • where childcare is provided

Parenting groups will however have to move online.

IT equipment for families who are homeschooling

We are working in partnership with our school colleagues to ensure that children can access learning wherever possible through mobile devices in Dorset. The DfE have significantly increased the number of devices available for secondary schools to order for vulnerable children. We’re assisting school colleagues in getting these orders processed and out to families. A similar approach is expected for our primary school colleagues, we are awaiting information on this. Meanwhile we have been made aware of some issues in Dorset of children not being able to access IT equipment and are dealing with these on a case by case basis. Currently we’re looking at whether we can repurpose some of our old machines and issuing wireless routers to enable children to get on line. I am once again incredibly impressed by the strength and resilience shown across our Early Years, Schools and Colleges.

Finally, on a financial note.

Dorset Councillors were advised that despite an overspend during the year , the delivery of more than £10 million of savings from the reorganisation had been achieved.  The executive director of corporate development has highlighted a general point about collecting council tax, in that at present we are in exceptional times and officers were tracking but not actively pursuing collections given the  economic frailty. The needed to wait until a more normal time to actively pursue.  Officers are forecasting around £13million worth of Council Tax and business rates could be at risk but would continue to be monitored.

Stay Safe.”

Councillor Simon Christopher
Dorset Councillor for The Marshwood Vale.