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Summary

  1. News, sport, travel and weather updates from across the West of England on Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

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Goodnight from us

Thanks for being with us. Before we go, here's a look at what the weather will be doing.

Temperatures are on the up, with highs of 18 expected in Gloucester and Bristol.  It'll be dry across most of the West. Enjoy the warm weather tomorrow - we'll be back at 7am.

Watch: rain in the north of our region tomorrow, staying largely dry otherwise.

The theatrical side of Brexit

Gloucester butcher and care worker Brendon O'Donnell voted to leave the European Union because he felt British money should go to hospitals rather than Brussels

Now his opinion is being aired in theatres across Britain - along with that of dozens of other people from different corners of the country.

My Country; a work in progress  - the first play to tackle Brexit - has just finished at London's National Theatre and is about to begin a nationwide tour, coming to Gloucester's Guildhall in May.

Brexit play heading to Gloucester theatre in May.

Claire Blackman's hopes for her husband's release from jail

The wife of a former Somerset Royal Marine convicted of shooting dead a wounded Taliban fighter says he has always regretted his actions. 

Alexander Blackman will be freed from prison within weeks, after his murder conviction was reduced to manslaughter. 

Today his wife Claire has spoken to the BBC's Clinton Rogers - she says they wondered if this day would ever come

Claire Blackman speaks about her hopes for her husband's release from jail

'Long overdue' road upgrade plan revealed

A358 sign
Google

"Long overdue" plans to turn a busy Somerset trunk road into a dual carriageway have been announced.

Chris Grayling MP said the A358 between Taunton and Southfields will be made into a dual carriageway, as part of £15bn  of road improvements  nationally.

Local councils have pushed for the road upgrade for several years but have blamed central government cuts for delays in the plans.

A public consultation on the proposals runs until 20 May.

R ead more  here.

Wiltshire residents say no to a planned mobile phone mast

Families living in one of Wiltshire's oldest market towns say plans to put up a giant phone mast will ruin the landscape. 

Caroline Brown is leading the campaign against the mast, and says the planned 49-foot structure is 'an outrageous suggestion'. 

The area surrounding the site is a conservation area. Vodafone says the proposal will provide 2G, 3G and 4G coverage to the local area  

Concern on the impact to tourists

RSPCA: Animal cruelty complaints rise in most places

Dog stock photo
Tick-Tock/Thinkstock

The number of people accused of animal cruelty in Wiltshire rose by nearly a fifth last year, according to the RSPCA.

It dealt with 1,704 complaints - up by 275 on the previous year.

Bristol was the only place in our region to see a decrease in reports with 1,024, 42 fewer than 2015.

In Gloucestershire there were 2,361, 224 more than last year, and in Somerset there were 2,822 allegations, an increase of 153 compared to 2015.  

The RSPCA says the majority of cases involve the welfare of dogs, cats and horses and say the main reason for the majority of increases is more people are reporting their concerns.

Metrobus: How are things going?

It may feel like half of Bristol is being dug up at the moment.

Some of it's due to work on the new Metrobus.

The first routes on the £200 million project are due to open this autumn.

So how are things going?

Watch: Metrobus is coming to Bristol. Here's what you need to know

Will Bristol's Arena ever be built?

Watch: Andrew Plant speaks to Joey Gardiner from Building Magazine about arena problems

Plans for an arena in Bristol could be scaled down, or even scrapped altogether, if it ends up costing more than planned. 

The opening date for the venue has already been pushed back to 2020 - and the original contractor replaced. 

Now councillors could be asked to consider if more changes are needed - or if it should go ahead at all. 

GWR electrification plans to lower line under listed bridge

Train
PA

Plans for the electrification of the Great Western Railway line will be on show in Swindon this evening. 

Network Rail is holding a drop-in event at Grange Junior School to show its proposals for lowering the line under a listed bridge in Stratton St Margaret. The work is due to begin in May.  

Fox cub rescued after mother was shot

A growing number of fox cubs are being care for at a rescue centre in Tewkesbury.

One of the cubs there had to be taken in after its mother was shot.

Nineteen cubs are currently being bottle-fed there.

Watch: Rescued fox cubs being cared for at a centre in Tewkesbury

It's a no to 'Bridgey McBridgeFace'

Finzels Reach bridge
White Balance Imaging

So Bridgey McBridgeface and Gurt Lush Bridge are out, and Castle Bridge, Brewery Bridge or New Brigstow Bridge are in.

The developers behind Bristol's newest crossing at Finzels Reach have published their shortlist of names.

They're inviting people to vote for their favourite , before the bridge will be named and opened to the public on April 7th.

Hundreds of apartments, cafés and a hotel have been built on the 4.7 acre site on what was once a sugar refinery.

Glastonbury band perform 'guerrilla gig' on the Pyramid stage

Watch: Electric Fox play Glastonbury's Pyramid stage

Somerset band Electric Fox are hoping they'll be spotted by Michael Eavis and invited to play at Glastonbury Festival.

So - to increase their chances - they staged a "guerilla gig" on the Pyramid stage at Worthy Farm.

It follows another stunt last month when they played from the back of a van outside a "secret" Foo Fighters gig in Frome.

Severe accident: M5 Gloucestershire northbound

BBC News Travel

M5 Gloucestershire northbound severe accident, between J14 for B4509 Thornbury and J13 for A419.

M5 Gloucestershire - One lane closed on M5 northbound between J14, B4509 (Thornbury) and J13, A419 (Stroud), because of an accident. Traffic is coping well.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Marine A: 'Huge lessons' to learn from Alexander Blackman case

BBC News UK

The wife of Alexander Blackman, the Royal Marine who shot dead a wounded Taliban fighter in Afghanistan, says there are " huge lessons " to learn from her husband's case.

Blackman, of Taunton, Somerset, had his sentence cut to seven years  after his  murder conviction was reduced to manslaughter . The 42-year-old, who was based in Plymouth, was convicted of murder in November 2013 after the shooting in 2011.

Claire Blackman. Pic: PA
PA

His wife, Claire Blackman, told BBC Radio 4's  Today programme : "He has never denied that his actions on that day were caused by a serious lack of judgement, which we now know to be due to a combat stress disorder."

She said there were lessons to learn from the case - from the court martial process to the way servicemen and women are supported in "particularly stressful circumstances".

"I feel my husband had very little support out on the ground and that was certainly something that was discussed at length by the courts," she said.

Bristol Arena: the plans in figures

Bristol councillors are expected to enter into talks with a new contractor for the city's planned arena.

They're also commissioning a "value for money review", which could see the plans scaled back to keep costs down.

£9 million has already been spent preparing the land next to Temple Meads station. An opening date of 2020 has been set, though that's likely to slip back if costs are reviewed.

The plans have been ongoing for a while. We wrote about it back in 2003 , saying it would be opened in 2008.

Watch: This is what Bristol Arena could look like, assuming the plans don't change.

Brexit: Wiltshire dairy farmers share their hopes

Ceri and Chad Cryer are dairy farmers from Brinkworth in Wiltshire.

The pair of them voted opposite ways on Brexit. Ceri voted to remain, Chad voted out.

Despite her fear of the unknown, Ceri said she hopes for a positive trading future with our European neighbours. 

Brexit: Dairy farmers reveal their hopes and fears

Severe disruption: M5 Gloucestershire northbound

BBC News Travel

M5 Gloucestershire northbound severe disruption, between J9 for A46 and J8 for M50.

M5 Gloucestershire - One lane closed on M5 northbound between J9, A46 (Tewkesbury) and J8 M50, because of a police incident. Traffic is coping well.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Severe disruption: M5 Somerset southbound

BBC News Travel

M5 Somerset southbound severe disruption, between J22 for A38 and J23 for A39.

M5 Somerset - One lane closed on M5 southbound between J22, A38 (Burnham-On-Sea) and J23, A39 (Bridgwater North), because of a broken down lorry and recovery work. Traffic is coping well.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Salisbury Cathedral choir in surprise plane performance

Salisbury Cathedral Choir surprises plane passengers by singing on board flight

A pilot has captured the moment a cathedral choir surprised passengers by breaking into song on board a transatlantic flight. 

The Salisbury Cathedral Choir were on a British Airways (BA) flight from San Francisco to London Heathrow. 

BA pilot Vincent Schoenfeld, who captured the moment on film, said it had been a "privilege" to have the "children of the Salisbury Cathedral Choir sing for us on board".  

Severe disruption: A39 Somerset both ways

BBC News Travel

A39 Somerset both ways severe disruption, between Chedzoy Lane and New Road.

A39 Somerset - A39 Puriton Hill in Puriton closed in both directions between the Chedzoy Lane junction and the New Road junction, because of an overturned lorry. Traffic is coping well. Also affecting A39 Bath Road between Chedzoy Lane and New Road.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Brexit: Differing reactions in the West

There've been widely differing reactions in the West to Britain's official start of the Brexit process. 

This region was very split in last year's referendum. 

The biggest vote to leave was in Bridgwater. So what are the thoughts there today?

These people in Bridgwater are in favour of Brexit

In Bristol, 62 percent of the referendum vote was to remain in the EU.  This has been the response of some people in the city today.

These people in Bristol believe we should remain in the EU

BBC local radio headlines across the West

Microphones
BBC
  • BBC Radio Bristol: Police want to find a Gloucester man who could be in Bristol. Trevor Medley, 48, is wanted after breaching the conditions of his licence following his release from prison.
  • BBC Gloucestershire: Gloucestershire Police are concerned for the welfare of a woman from Stroud. Sinnikka McAfee left her home on Sunday and hasn't returned. 
  • BBC Somerset: The wife of a former Royal Marine from Taunton - who shot dead a wounded Taliban soldier in Afghanistan - says she's delighted he'll be released from prison soon.
  • BBC Wiltshire: A 50-year-old man's been arrested - after a three-month-old baby was found with life-threatening injuries in Swindon.

Severe accident: M5 Gloucestershire northbound

BBC News Travel

M5 Gloucestershire northbound severe accident, between J14 for B4509 Thornbury and J13 for A419.

M5 Gloucestershire - One lane closed on M5 northbound between J14, B4509 (Thornbury) and J13, A419 (Stroud), because of an accident. Traffic is coping well.

To report traffic and travel incidents dial 0330 123 0184 at any time

Man arrested over baby's injuries

Police car generic
BBC

A man has been arrested after a three-month-old baby was found with life threatening injuries.  

Wiltshire Police said officers were called to a property in Swindon on Saturday morning.

He was taken to Great Western Hospital in the town and has since been transferred to Bristol Children's Hospital.

A 50-year-old local man was arrested and has since been released on conditional bail.

A spokesman said police were continuing with their inquiries "in order to ascertain how he sustained his injuries".

Teens charged over items thrown at cars

Overbridge near Kings Weston Lane, Bristol
Google

Two teenagers face charges including assault after a stone slab smashed through a lorry windscreen, hitting the driver.

Peter John Nugent, 18, and Jordan Alan Arendorf, 19, face nine counts of criminal damage and nine counts of causing danger to road users after items were dropped onto the M5 and M49. 

The charges relate to incidents between April and June 2016, police said.

They are also charged with assault after a stone slab smashed through a windscreen and hit a driver last June.

The pair, both of Lawrence Weston, are due to appear before Bristol Magistrates on 4 May.

Arena report will give councillors 'cover' for decision

Artists' impression of Bristol Arena
Populous

Bristol City Council is taking very seriously the idea that it may be not be able to procure the arena for the price that it originally hoped and is working up all of its options.

That's according to the contributing editor of the Building Magazine.

It looks like they're going to get a report back that will give the council some kind of cover to take a decision about the future of the arena project and whether they still feel willing to support it.

Joey Gardiner Contributing editor of the Building Magazine

Gull-aware council on the look out for nests in Bath

Coastal skull find 'thought to be human'

Redcliff Bay
BBC

A skull, believed to be human, has been found on the coast at Portishead .

Local historian, Sandy Tebbutt, said speculation the skull could belong to the co-pilot of a plane that crashed in 1938 was likely to be wrong.

Redcliff Bay
BBC

She said the plane had been piloted by Cdr Eric Robinson, who had previously flown Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to Germany to sign the Munich Agreement.

"His family lived in Portishead and it's thought he was dipping his wings and lost control and crashed in Redcliff Bay," she said.

She added newspapers at the time reported the bodies of both the pilot and co-pilot were recovered from the crash site, and "there was no mention of decapitation".

Redcliff Bay
BBC

Local newspaper headlines across the West

Newspapers
Getty Images

Will the Bristol Arena ever be built?

Impression of proposed Bristol Arena
POPULOUS

Plans for the Bristol Arena may be scaled down or scrapped depending on a value for money review planned by the city council.

In January talks between a developer and the authority broke down as they failed to agree the price for the work. 

Councillors will see how savings can be made with the design and scale, if other funding can be found, or failing that may shelve it.

Bristol City Council says it has put aside £123m to pay for the venue and infrastructure. It has so far spent £9m on preparing the site for development.

Royal Marine Alexander Blackman 'always regretted actions', wife says

BBC News UK

Former Royal Marine Alexander Blackman has "always regretted his actions" in shooting dead a wounded Taliban fighter in Afghanistan, his wife has said .

Claire Blackman, of Taunton, Somerset, told the BBC that if her husband could turn back the clock and change events of 2011, "he would do in a heartbeat".

Alexander Blackman. Pic: PA
PA

The marine's sentence has been  cut to seven years  after his  murder conviction was reduced to manslaughter . From jail,  he told the Daily Mail he felt a "profound sense of relief" .

Blackman, 42, who was initially known as Marine A in court proceedings and had been based in Plymouth, was convicted of murder in November 2013.

It is likely he will be released soon because he has already served three-and-a-half years in jail.

Brexit: Businesses urge PM to 'just get on with it'

Dan O'Brien

Political reporter, BBC Wiltshire

Small or large, exporters or importers, Leavers or Remainers, the phrase you're most likely to hear if you ask business leaders for their view of Brexit is "just get on with it".

Beyond that, as I've discovered over recent months, there isn't really a uniting theme from businesses. What they do want is a plan. But the list of what they don't want is so long and varied we'd be here all day.

Just two examples, the first from Steve Thompson-Martyn, from Career Directed Solutions, a Bradford-on-Avon firm that works with dozens of international companies when they restructure and make redundancies. 

His take on Brexit: "It feels like we had a bereavement but we still haven't had the funeral."

Meanwhile, Max Tyler, from Bromham, is a small businessman who voted Leave. He sells kit for motor sport, much of which is imported. He's seen prices rise due to the exchange rate but has no regrets. 

"Let's just knuckle down and make sure we leave on the very best terms, don't keep looking backwards," he says.

Baffled by Brexit? We were just as confused during the 1975 EEC referendum

Bristolians discuss the EEC in Clifton, 1975

If you are struggling to understand exactly what Brexit means for the UK, don't worry. 

Bristolians were just as confused about Europe during the 1975 EEC referendum, as this fascinating clip from Points West illustrates. 

In the end just over 67% of voters supported the Labour government's campaign to stay in the EEC.  

Do you recognise anyone?

Skull found on coast

Redcliffe Bay
Google

A skull, believed to be human, has been found on the coast near Bristol. 

It was reported by a member of the public who saw it near the water bank at Redcliffe Bay in Portishead on Monday at about 5:45pm. 

Avon and Somerset Police said "discoveries of this kind are not unusual". 

The force added the skull could "not be aged visually" and further examination and tests would be carried out to see if any further action is required.

Brexit: Play capturing voices from all corners of UK

Watch: Rufus Norris from the National Theatre talks about the play

Views from all corners of the UK, including a former butcher from Gloucester, can be heard in a new play about Brexit. 

The National Theatre sent out a team of "gatherers to record the views and stories of Britons from different walks of life and from both sides of the debate".   

Former butcher Brendon O'Donnell, who voted Leave, told his story. 

"You do feel like you were ignored for a long time. It was never 'what do the people want?' first," he said.

'My Country; a work in progress' weaves verbatim quotes from members of the public with speeches from politicians - all spoken by actors.  

The play is beginning a nationwide tour and comes to Gloucester's Guildhall in May.

Man arrested after baby seriously injured

Bristol Children's Hospital
Getty Images

A three-month-old baby is in hospital with life-threatening injuries, police have said.

The boy was taken to the Great Western Hospital, in Swindon, on Saturday morning and has since been transferred to Bristol Children's Hospital. 

Wiltshire Police said a 50-year-old local man had been arrested and released on conditional bail.

Brexit: A guide to what happens now

Sandcastles with EU and Union flags
BBC

Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 early this afternoon, beginning formal negotiations on Brexit. 

So what happens next? Here is a potential timeline of events:

  • 29 March - UK triggers Article 50
  • 29 April - EU summit of the 27 leaders (without the UK) to agree to give the European Commission a mandate to negotiate with the UK
  • May - European Commission to publish negotiating guidelines based on the mandate the EU leaders give it
  • May/June - Negotiations begin
  • 23 April and 7 May - French presidential elections
  • 24 September - German parliamentary elections
  • Autumn  - The UK government is expected to introduce legislation to leave the EU and put all existing EU laws into British law - the Great Repeal Bill
  • October 2018 - Aim to complete negotiations
  • Between October 2018 and March 2019 - The Houses of Parliament, European Council and European Parliament vote on any deal
  • March 2019 - UK formally withdraws from the European Union

Claire Blackman: 'Normal married life - I think we can make it happen'

Listen: The wife of former Marine Alexander Blackman talks to BBC Somerset

Yesterday Claire Blackman said she was "overjoyed" at the prospect of her husband being released from prison .

Today she told Claire Carter on BBC Somerset she's looking forward to "getting back to normal married life".

For them that will include spending time together, walking on the Quantocks and possibly getting a dog.

Brexit: Catching up with voters on both sides

Paul Barltrop

Political Editor, West of England

For nine months the political arguments over Brexit have raged but for many voters the question is not how it will be done but why is it taking so long.

That will be a common sentiment on the streets of Bridgwater - where I will be talking to voters today. 

The Somerset town recorded the West's biggest margin for Leave last June and there is impatience to see Britain cut its ties with the EU.

By contrast the constituency of Bristol West, prosperous and home to many students, saw the region's highest vote to Remain. 

We will be talking to the campaigners who have not given up, instead with the tables turned they are now plotting a long-term insurgency aimed at sabotaging Brexit.

Local newspaper headlines across the West

Newspapers
Getty Images