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  1. News, sport, weather and travel updates from across the West of England on Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

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Goodnight from us

Watch: "A dry day with some seeing sunnier weather," says Ian Fergusson

That's all from BBC Local Live - we'll be back at 7am tomorrow with more news, sport, travel and weather updates from across the West of England. 

'Ruthless' robbery gang convicted

Men blowing up cash machine
Merseyside Police

A gang blew up cash machines at banks and supermarkets across England and Scotland stealing hundreds of thousands of pounds, a court has heard .

Some machines were blown up using "powerful explosives", while others were dragged outside and attacked with high-powered saws to access the cash.

The seven men were convicted of conspiracy to cause an explosion and burglary at Liverpool Crown Court.

The gang, mostly from Merseyside, was caught after a covert police operation.

Attacks included cash machines in Hucclecote and Swindon.

What would you do if you came across someone trying to kill themselves?

It's a terrible prospect but it happened recently to BBC Somerset's Jack Murley.

Here's a recording of part of the 999 call he made to Avon & Somerset Police after he helped stop a man from taking his own life.

Listen: Hear part of Jack Murley's 999 call

If you find yourself in in the same situation, always phone the emergency services. 

However, engaging with the person might be the most powerful thing you can do, according to Andy Pritchard, chief executive of MIND Taunton and West Somerset.

Newspaper editor 'worried' voters unaware of 'metro mayor's power'

Watch: Mike Norton said the field of candidates was "underwhelming"

A publicity drive is under way to tell 900,000 people in parts of the West they're about to get a new leader. 

Today it was confirmed six candidates will be on the ballot paper for the so-called metro mayor, covering Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset.

But getting voters interested, let alone excited, is a challenge.

Bristol Post editor Mike Norton said he was "worried that not enough people realise the person who wins this election will have a lot of power".

Dog lands starring role on new television show

Watch: Zuri's taking part in 'Me and My Dog' on BBC Two

A dog from Bridgwater, and its owner Daisy, have been chosen to take part in a new animal competition which starts tonight on BBC2. 

" Me and My Dog " sees eight pets and their owners from across the UK compete in a contest set in the Lake District.

Search for 'vulnerable' missing woman continues

Watch: A search is under way

The search for a missing woman in Gloucestershire is being strengthened with help from the Severn Area Rescue Association. 

Hazel Denham, 71, from Minchinhampton, disappeared with her black poodle Bertie.  

Police say she has memory problems and is considered to be vulnerable. 

Hazel Denham
Gloucestershire Police

Hazel is white, 5ft 6ins tall, with short red hair. She was wearing a black bomber jacket and brown walking shoes. 

Bertie has a red collar and has a red lead. 

Broadway station: Appeal passes £1.25m target

A heritage railway has passed its £1.25m fundraising target to reopen the station in Broadway four weeks ahead of schedule.

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) hopes to lay the final section of track to the Worcestershire station in March 2018.

It will be the first time since 1960 that Broadway will be linked with Cheltenham, 15 miles (24km) away.

Broadway station
Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway

GWSR says the money will also allow it to carry out stabilising work on a high embankment just south of Broadway station site.

It was only a year ago that the Offer was launched by our president, Pete Waterman and it means that completion of the project, on time, is assured.”

Chris BristowVoluntary finance director

Severe disruption: M5 Gloucestershire northbound

BBC News Travel

M5 Gloucestershire northbound severe disruption, before J11 for A40 Golden Valley Bypass Gloucester.

M5 Gloucestershire - One lane blocked and slow traffic on M5 northbound before J11, A40 (Gloucester), because of debris on the road.

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

A rare look inside GCHQ's operations centre

Watch: BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera has had a rare tour of GCHQ's operation centre

The operations centre sits on one of the upper floors of GCHQ, in Cheltenham, and runs 24/7. 

At any one time, a team of analysts might be monitoring the kidnap of a British citizen abroad or an ongoing counter-terrorist operation run jointly with MI5.  

BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera has had a rare tour inside the centre.

Click here if you want to read more.

Eco Park criticised by locals and countryside campaigners

Watch: Local resident Mark Campbell says there's no need for Eco Park

Plans for a £100m business park near Stroud were shown to businesses this morning. 

But not everybody's happy about it. 

Local resident Mark Campbell, who's against the proposals, said there was "enough pre-planned development space for all the businesses we should need into the future".

The proposals were unveiled by businessman Dale Vince, ahead of the outline planning application which his company aims to submit in July.   

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said it had "objected strongly to this planning application".

Stroud District Council has an up-to-date Local Plan prepared through a rigorous process of consultation. The planning application for a football stadium and Eco Park was submitted almost before the ink on the newly adopted plan was dry and the proposals are clearly contrary to the plan's policies in most respects.

Richard LloydCPRE

Click here if you want to read more.

Families left with 50p housing benefit per week


Dozens of families across the West have been left with 50p a week in Housing Benefit to pay their rent, a BBC investigation has discovered

The families have been affected by the new benefit cap, which was introduced by the government last November and limits the total amount of benefits a family can receive. 

In Bristol, 96 families were affected, while in North Somerset 17 were affected, and in both Banes and South Gloucestershire six families were affected, according to figures obtained by BBC Panorama.

Across the country 67,000 families have been capped, with 11% of these left with just 50p per week. 

The government says the cap is intended to encourage people back to work, and that help is available for those who face losing their homes. 

See the full Panorama investigation on BBC one tonight at 9pm.

BMW workers planning strike action

Watch: Workers concerned over changes to their pension scheme

A demonstration has been held at Mini in Swindon as workers prepare to go on strike.

Members of the Unite union have been balloted for action because of a dispute over the end of the car maker's final salary pension scheme. 

Some 800 people are employed at their panel making factory off Bridge End Road. 

Parent company BMW say they need to make the changes to protect pensions in the future.

Green businessman unveils design for Eco Park

Watch: Dale Vince talks about his Eco Park proposal

The businessman behind a proposal to build a £100m business park near Stroud says the development would include "the most sustainable buildings built yet". 

Dale Vince, who also founded green energy company Ecotricity, wants to create a "green technology hub" comprising a new football stadium, a new dual-carriageway on the A419 and a footbridge linking the two main sides of the development. 

The plans were shown to local businesses earlier today.

Travel: Disruption at Bath Spa railway station from Saturday

Bath Spa railway station

From this Saturday (until Sunday 23rd April) there will be a lot of disruption at Bath Spa railway station due to modernisation work.

Network Rail is preparing the station for new, longer trains.

GWR has listed much of the disruption on its website , including:

  • Some weekday journey times may change and some routes will have a reduced service
  • Across three weekends no trains will stop at Bath Spa station  
  • The car park is currently closed and will remain shut until 30th April
  • If you’re travelling by rail to Twickenham to watch The Clash between Bath Rugby and Leicester Tigers on 8 April you'll need to use Bristol Temple Meads, Chippenham, Bristol Parkway, Swindon or Westbury

Jenson Button disqualified from Ironman competition for speeding

Jenson Button
Getty Images

He's always been fast but now ex-Formula 1 racer Jenson Button, from Frome, has been banned for it.

Out of the car, the grand prix star's passion is triathlons and he originally came third in his latest Ironman challenge in California.

It was only when the F1 driver crossed over the line he discovered he'd been speeding in the bike section and was disqualified.

The race included a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile cycle and a half marathon.

Click here for more.

How might Eco Park look from the road?

Watch: An artists' impression of how Eco Park and the new stadium might look

The founder of the green energy company, Ecotricity, says the proposed Eco Park near Stroud will push the boundaries of sustainable development and pump £300m-a-year into the local economy. 

Dale Vince was speaking to businesses interested in his plan at Junction 13 of the M5

But critics say it would cause huge traffic problems and is in the wrong place.

Severe accident: M5 Bristol southbound

BBC News Travel

M5 Bristol southbound severe accident, between J19 for A369 and J20 for B3133 affecting J18A for M49.

M5 Bristol - Very slow traffic on M5 southbound between J19, A369 (Portishead) and J20, B3133 (Clevedon), because of an accident earlier on. All lanes have been re-opened. Congestion to J18a M49.

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

Pride in 'little town's respect' for repatriated soldiers

Watch: Town councillor Chris Wannell remembers the repatriations

Between April 2007 and August 2011, 345 men and women of the British armed forces were repatriated through Royal Wootton Bassett.  

Ten years on, town councillor Chris Wannell said the townspeople had "wanted to pay their respects to the troops".

"It was at a time when respect in our armed services was extremely low - and what I'm most proud of, is that our little town put respect back into our armed forces," he added.

Lloyds names locations for branch closures

A Lloyds Bank branch

Lloyds Bank has announced the locations of 100 branches that it plans to close between July and October. 

There will also be a net reduction of 325 staff, who were told about the plan on Wednesday morning. 

Across the West region, the branches to close are

Lloyds Bank 

  • Bourton-on-the-Water
  • Clifton Village, Bristol
  • Corsham
  • Mere
  • Montpellier, Cheltenham
  • Pewsey
  • Tetbury
  • Tidworth
  • Wincanton
  • Yatton


West Swindon

Attacked asylum boy fundraiser exceeds target

Reker Ahmed
Reker Ahmed was beaten and kicked by a gang while waiting at a bus stop

A crowdfunder for a teenage asylum seeker who was "brutally attacked"  in Croydon has raised more than £45,000. 

Reker Ahmed, a Kurdish-Iranian boy, was beaten and kicked by a gang while waiting at a bus stop on Friday night. 

Fundraisers Robin Adlem, from Bristol, and Bridey Watson set a target of £3,500 and have said they are "humbled by the response". 

Thirteen people, all aged between 15 and 24, have been charged with violent disorder in relation to the attack. 

Fundraiser page

Designs for £100m business park unveiled

Ecotricity park
Zaha Hadid

The design for a £100m business park in Gloucestershire has been unveiled by the green energy businessman Dale Vince.

The founder of Ecotricity and chairman of Forest Green Rovers FC hopes to build the park near Stroud.

He said: "With Eco-Park we hope to push the boundaries of sustainable development."

However, critics say the park is not included in Stroud's growth strategy and ruins the existing landscape.

You can read more about this story here .

M4 crash - one lane closed but traffic flowing, according to Highways England

Swindon protests over BMW pensions

Workers at Mini in Swindon are taking part in a series of eight 24 hour walk outs, in a dispute over pensions.

Mini's owner BMW employs 800 people in Swindon making car panels for the Mini car. The Unite Union is protesting over BMW's plans to ditch the company's final salary pension scheme. 

It claims some workers could lose up to £160,000 in retirement income.

BMW says it has to act now to secure the long term viability of its pension scheme.

Watch: workers are striking over pension changes proposed by Mini's owner BMW.

The first is happening now outside BMW's Bridge End Road factory.   

Severe accident: M4 Bristol westbound

BBC News Travel

M4 Bristol westbound severe accident, between J21 for M48 and J22 for M49.

M4 Bristol - One lane closed on M4 westbound between J21 M48 and J22 M49, because of an accident. Traffic is coping well.

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

Somerset dog (and owner) face Lake District challenges together in new BBC show

View more on twitter

The first episode is on tonight at 8pm on BBC2.

West of England Mayoral candidates named

Six Metro Mayor candidates

It has now been confirmed that six people will be standing in the first West of England Combined Authority Mayoral election on the 4th May. 

Clockwise from left to right:

  • Stephen Williams – Liberal Democrats 
  • Lesley Ann Mansell – Labour and Co-operative Party
  • John Christopher Savage – Independent
  • Darren Edward Hall – Green Party
  • Aaron Warren Foot – UK Independence Party (UKIP)
  • Tim Bowles – The Conservative Party  

The new position is one created by the government to devolve money and power to the West. They'll have powers over housing and transport with a budget of £30m a year for infrastructure. 

Crucially, the new Mayoral position will only cover Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire. 

North Somerset voted against accepting the position in June last year.

BBC Points West will be holding a special hustings event with all the candidates.

Watch: do you have a question for the candidates? Get in touch at

A long way from whites: Somerset and Gloucester CC both unveil their new NatWest T20 Blast kits

Great Western Way in Swindon to reopen soon

Search for missing woman and her dog

A 71-year old woman has gone missing with her dog in Gloucestershire.

Hazel Denham, from Minchinhampton, has disappeared with her black poodle, Bertie.  

Police say she suffers with memory problems and is considered vulnerable. They want to hear from anyone who might help find her.

Hazel is white, 5ft 6ins tall, with short red hair. She was wearing a blue or black bomber jacket and brown walking shoes. 

Bertie has a red collar and was being walked on a red lead.  

View more on twitter

Police ask: do you recognise this man?

CCTV image of man
Avon and Somerset Police

Police have released a CCTV image of a man they want to identify as part of their inquiries into two serious assaults that took place in Bristol in the early hours of Sunday morning on March 5.

They believe the man may have information about events leading up to the incident in which two men were stabbed with a broken bottle.

The incident happened at about 2.15am on Sunday 5 March outside Subway in Stapleton Road.

If you recognise the man in the image, please call DC Martyn Stanleigh in Investigations on 101 and give the call handler the reference number 5217048835. 

Bristol City fans say 'Johnson needs to go'

Bristol City fans have been reacting to the team's heaviest defeat of the season, losing 5-0 at Preston. 

The game was beamed back to Ashton Gate where fans watched with dismay as the goals went in. 

City are still above the relegation zone as rivals Blackburn also lost.

Watch: Bristol City fans react to the team's defeat against Preston

Mother 'laid to rest properly' after headstone donated

Watch: The headstone has been donated by a local firm

A young woman from Somerset who has been fundraising to buy a headstone for her mother's grave has received a boost from a company in Cheddar.

Millie Sturgess was 16 years old when her mum took her own life. She hasn't been able to afford a proper headstone for the grave site.

After hearing her story on BBC Somerset, Adams Memorials were inspired to donate a headstone to the family.

Royal Wootton Bassett repatriations: how they took place

It's a decade since repatriations began at Royal Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire. The town took on the role when coffins started returning to RAF Lyneham nearby. 

What started out as a small gathering quickly grew until there were hundreds of people lining the town's High Street to pay their respects as the coffins were driven past.

In total, the town came to a standstill 168 times. 

As a mark of gratitude, Queen Elizabeth II conferred the title of 'Royal'  on the town when repatriations stopped happening there.

Watch: In total the town fell silent on 168 occasions for those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

BreakingA37 Wells Road reopened

Great Western Way still closed in Swindon after collision

Highways England warn drivers to avoid the area. 

View more on twitter

'Inspirational' girl raises £8,000 to buy Lego for sick children

Tatiana Stankovic Davis has cancer & is raising money for lego to help other ill children

 A teenage girl has been called "an inspiration" for thinking of others while she fights cancer. 

Thirteen-year-old Tatiana Stankovic David is being treated for leukaemia at Bristol Children's Hospital, but in the past few weeks has raised £8,000 for a charity which supplies Lego to hospitals. 

Tatiana wants sick children to have something to play with while they have their treatment. 

Kevin Gascoigne, from charity Fairy Bricks , said Tatiana was an "incredible young lady" and the amount of money raised was "probably about 10% of our annual turnover".

'They have given the ultimate sacrifice' - Royal Wootton Bassett marks repatriation anniversary

Steve Blundell of the Royal British Legion Riders Branch reflects on the Wiltshire town's role in the repatriation of British military dead.

'I'm so angry with the capitulation' - Lee Johnson, Bristol City

Reflecting on the team's 5-0 thrashing the head coach says that his men "have to be stronger".

View more on twitter

Avon and Somerset Police investigating two assaults in Bristol

The police say they're investigating two assaults in Bristol last night. 

The first saw a man assaulted on Stokes Croft at 6:20pm, he was left with life threatening head injuries and he remains in a critical condition in hospital. 

Stokes Croft

Then at 7:30pm another man was assaulted near the Old Market Roundabout. He sustained minor head injuries as a result.

Police say specialist crime scene investigators are examining both crime scenes, but they're keeping an open mind whether the two attacks are linked.

A 39-year-old man has been arrested and remains in police custody.

Traffic still heavy on Swindon's Great Western Way

Accident in Swindon

Two people have been injured in an accident involving two lorries on the Great Western Way in Swindon.

South Western Ambulance Service says two men were hurt - one has been taken to Southmead Hospital in Bristol, the other to the Great Western Hospital.

The accident happened just after 4am. Tthe Great Western Way is still closed heading into Swindon. Council workers are redirecting traffic, which is very heavy in the area.

View more on twitter