Thousands of pounds will be spent upgrading Taunton’s CCTV cameras as councillors admitted they didn’t feel safe in the town centre. There are nearly 100 CCTV cameras covering public spaces in Taunton, Wellington, Watchet and Minehead, which are either managed directly by Avon and Somerset Constabulary or by council officers.
A number of analogue cameras operating in Taunton town centre – which are monitored by Sedgemoor District Council – are reaching the end of their service life and will soon be upgraded to digital, at a cost to taxpayers of around £58,000.
The rest of the camera network could be upgraded in the coming years, with different options being debated after the new unitary Somerset Council assumes power in April 2023. Under the current proposals, 11 existing analogue cameras will be replaced along the ‘spine’ of Taunton town centre, running from the A3027 Staplegrove Road along North Street, Bridge Street, Fore Street and East Street.
Councillor Roger Habgood said: “I go all the way around Taunton at 2am or 3pm with the street pastors, and let me tell you, without those cameras, it’s dangerous. We don’t operate unless we have to, and they provide us with cover. “The fear of crime is rising here, not diminishing, partly because of this. I’m disappointed, to say the least. “I volunteer more actually in Bridgwater than in Taunton these days because it’s safer.”
Mr Habgood added that he was ‘disappointed’ and ‘dismayed’ that so little work had been done on this matter since the Liberal Democrats won control of the council in May 2019. Scott Weetch, Somerset West and Taunton Council’s community resilience manager said that proposed upgrades of the cameras had not been carried out until now “for various reasons”, something which he and his colleagues had only been alerted to within the last 18 months.
Councillor Janet Lloyd – whose Wellington East ward includes much of Wellington’s town centre – said: “I don’t go to Taunton at night – I wouldn’t want to.
“I have been out with the street pastors in Wellington in the past, and we knew that the cameras were there.” Councillor Libby Lisgo said she hoped the new unitary council would be able to continue the upgrades in the coming years. She said: “I think the challenge for the future is going to be how much the new unitary council can pick this up and make it work across all of our communities.”