Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary
Town Visioning Day - initial report
A big "Thank You" to the town staff team who all gave up their Saturday to help organise and attend yesterday's town visioning day - an informal get together / discussion at which we (staff and councillors) were all able to think - throw out ideas and look to thinking about what we might do, and how we might do it. We were guided by a professional facilitator from outside (thank you, Bob) and by the text of the previous (2017) document; also in my personal case (at least) by my thoughts and "manifesto" of my election campaign.
I wrote yesterday morning of elements I had picked up from the 2017 document where update or additions might be worthwle or needed - the world has changed in 4 years, and with 13 out of 15 new councillors views will be somewhat different too. I was heartened to see very positive, highly supported hopes for KGV and the like - re-assuring to me, though I appreciate that the closed session nature of the day (to allow us all to put out whacky ideas as well as sane ones, without them being held against us) means that I can only pass that on in generallity.
Personally - and I can talk here about what I said and has been taken forward - we are setting overriding values. They're a strategy against which we will evaluate all of our decisions as a council to ensure we're moving in the right overall direction. On each of the committees, each value will have a champion. The definite amended values are:
* The Environment and Climate - previously missing completely
* Diversity - previously given very limited consideration indeed
* Communications - understandle openness in what we do - previously patchy to say the least
Other values may be "codified" such as respect.
Values are too important to be assigned to any one committee - Objectives and aims are reasonably assigned. There have been five committees in the recent past, and it looks like the outcome of the day as it's written up will remain at five. The staff committee, and the finance and oversight remain to the side of objectives and aims. Three more commitees, worked from a clear sheet but remarkably similar to the old ones in many ways, remain/takeover/created:
* Community [Development] Committee - "Looks after what we do for people"
* Asset Management Committee - "Looks after what we own and run"
* Economic Planning and Development Committee - "Looks after where we are headed in the future"
A slight element of concern - in some ways it's sensible to reduce the size of the committees - talk was that a committee should have a maximum of 7 people on it so that it doesn't command a majority of the full council - i.e. to allow full council to overrule. Good in theory, and helpful to avoid councillors being too stretched by being on "too much" - but I would be unhappy to loose even the one committee place I have, which is on the committee looking to the future. I think I can bring something to the party there ... having said which, I appreciate I may not have helped myself yesterday by raising all sorts of issues - very conscious that after the Mayor, I spoke more than any other councillor. Tried to do so in a positive way, but conscious that at times it's much easier for the political groups to plough on with their agendae.
A huge amount of data gathered - including the other points I raised in yesterday's blog; we'll see how we go on those. Measureble objectives to be set (so that you, our electorate) can evalaute how we get on - a mixture of easy-to-deliver and ambitious items. And we concluded the day by asking ourselves "what would I like to have achieved in a year" and "what would I like to have achieved in 4 years".
Published Sunday, 27th June 2021
Town Visioning Day - upcomingI go into the "Town Visioning Day" in a couple of hours ... setting the scene / strategy for coming years. There's is a natural need to update the previous 2017 plan. Is there also a look for change - two former mayors stood but not re-elected?
Items I have picked up where we should consider update
* 1. Digital
As per Colin Goodhind / perhaps "all comms physical, broadcast, printed and digital". Yes, but concern to add and not to require mobile phones, etc, of anyone?
* 2. Climate - MISSION
As per Graham
a) That future decisions should consider their climate friendly consequences, and this should be signalled loud and clear in our vision.
b) That the Environment and Climate working group be (re)started at the earliest opportunity, looking both at how we as a council can be "greener" (if you will excuse that simplification) and how we can encourage and facilitate people in the town, businesses, and also wider area authorities in this direction.
* 3. History
4.1 - Make it accessible to residents and visitors - not just look after conservation area (limited preservation is a very limited goal)
* 4. Diversity - MISSION
3.1.3 - Is this enough? Not only access to services but a town as a whole.
LGBT+ / Race / Religion / Age / phyically or mentally restricted
* 5. ADD - Welcome tourism - beyond just the Melksham Link
* 6. ADD - Make the very best for the town by influencing wider area plans, including but not limited to local benefit for residents and businesses in the town.
* 7. Should we be including "safe"
* 8. Do we consider accessability and transport enough? Integrated public transport network - phyical, informational, fares
?? - Community group access / KGV and Art House. Work with Campus to ensure spaces are available for activities without overprovision or competing with viable businesses.
More follow up tomorrow ... at which point I can report on what else was changed, and which of the above garnered enough support from your other councilors ;-)
Published Saturday, 26th June 2021
Moving forward - assets and amenitiesI am disappointed, but sadly not surprised, to read of disquiet and disagreements over different interpretations of plans for the likes of the old fire station and King George V park between the direction the previous Town Council was taking, and the way the new Town Council is headed. But I celebrate the fervour and enthusiasm shown all around for the assets and amenities of our town - that's a strength which sets us up well for the future.
The Town Council's Assets and Amenities Committee, which makes the decisions that are causing concern, comprises 9 members; none of them was on the previous council, and all of them were elected under either "Together for Melksham" or Conservative banners. Within that party-like structure, you have many excellent thinking and bright people motivated for the good of the town. But you do have party / group politics too, and that's what the electorate has chosen. You may argue at the whole system, but that's a story for another day and probably another place.
Against the flow, (and I'm honoured) I find myself as the only independent (1 of 15) on Melksham Town Council. I am only on one of the five committees that look after areas of responsibility, and that is not the assets and amenities one, so I am something of an observer here - no vote, and only able to speak to this perhaps just one notch of influence above the public. But early experience is already showing that working with the bright and motivated people I mention above, and our staff team again excellent in general, much can be achieved. After the structural changes take effect, I have every hope and some confidence that everyone - including volunteers and councillors (who are also volunteers), and staff, can work as a team. Pragmatism will be required at times where differences of view, opinion, or party policy mean that full agreement is not possible.
Published Tuesday, 22nd June 2021
Melksham Town Council, Environment, Climate
Edit - RESULT - Interim - Now on agenda for inclusion in policyShould Melksham Town Council be considering the environment and climate change in its work and policies?
Next Saturday, Melksham's Town Councillors (who give their time, unpaid, for you, remember!) are having a "visioning day" - taking the 2017 document from the previous council, and updating it as appropriate for the term of the new council.
Much has changed in four years. One of the "Together for Melksham" team has proposed an update to reflect the "digital world" and access to technology for all, with which I agree. There is already some mention of diversity in the document, and that needs bolstering and repeating perhaps more in deed and consideration than in the words. Where it lack is that - like so many other documents and policies that are four years old - it does not consider the enviroment and climate.
None of the words "climate", "warming", "zero", "global" or "carbon" appear anywhere in the document or suggestions (totalling 22 pages). The word "air" does occur but only in a "Royal Air Force" context. "Sustainable" is there in relation to sustaining three of the town's activities (Cinema, Riverside Club and Assembly Hall) and one bright spot in reference to the Wilts and Berks Canal. "Clean" three times ... in right acknowledgment of keeping the town clean, rather than clean air.
I am proposing that Melksham Town Council's vision should include a commitement to looking at what it does, and how it encourages local activities, in relation to the future of the enviroment - ranging from local noise and dirty air issues right though zero carbon to climate change. Not a zealot's approach, but careful consideration and knowledge about what we do, and with choices being made with the environment in mind. I admit to being shocked that the council chose - without even calling councillors who wanted to speak up - to put its enviroment and working group on hold at the first full meeting on 17th May; it was voted on in a package and in hindsight I should have registered a vote against, not that would have made any difference. I am proposing next Saturday and/or at the next opportunity that this "hold" be released - and the very least, we should signal to our electorate that we care and consider the environment, rather that the "not important enough to even consider" message from the suspension of the group and lack of anything at all in the draft vision.
I was up in Marlow yesterday - out for the riverside walk from Henley - and I noticed this "please switch your engines off on layover" sign. Very small starter example, but that's exactly the sort of thing which we should be encouraging here too. I clean the train timetables for MTUG at the railway station and Market Place. The ones at the station only get a bit dirty. The ones at the Market Place result in a filthy wipe every time, and that's the sort of thing you don't want in your lungs.
Published Sunday, 20th June 2021
Cleveland Bridge, Bath - and what it means for Melksham Meeting - Wera Hobhouse (Bath MP) online "discussion" 18:00 on 17th June 2021 - really a lecture with questions asked via chat - everyone except the speakers and facilitator required to keep muted, video off, only input via Chat and only to the host.
The Cleveland Bridge is Bath is a Grade II* listed structure in the outskirts of the City which carries the trunk A46 / A36 road and considerable local traffic too. There is no easy alternative route, and through traffic on the trunk has to dogleg in and out of Bath to get over it. The bridge was strengthened and certifies to 18 tons in 1997, but is now required to carry HGVs up to 44 tons. It has deteriorated and is in urgent need of significant repair. Because of the location of Bath in the valley bottom, there are significant clean air issues.
1. BaNES has already put restrictions on the bridge area (clean air zone for vehicles larger than private cars, and (?) weight limit). At about the same time these restrictions came into place, residents in the Melksham South Ward close to the A350 reported a noticeable increase in HGV traffic "shaking their houses"; I noticed that it's noisy and the air feels heavy in residential streets close to the A350.
2. Short term: BaNES Council is putting up scaffolding on the bridge, with total closure except to pedestrians, cycles and emergency services planned from 28th June for a period of at least three months. Total works at least six months. Actual total closure may start later due to covid shielding of contractors that has just had to start, and may run for longer depending on what they find. Alternative signposted routes within Bath for lighter traffic (to Windsor Bridge) and from M32 junction 1, A4174 and A4 Keynsham Bypass, through Saltford and Lower Bristol Road to A36 for HGVs. Note - this takes them through the CAZ.
3. Long term: BaNES Council and MP would like to permanently remove HGVs and through traffic from the bridge and indeed from London Road too. They also stated that they have countryside around that brings lots of tourists / visitors and that should be protected too.
BaNES have some very real problems in dealing with this bridge - it and its approaches are not adequate for current traffic, around a which a quarter (of 17,000 journeys a day - so that's between 4,000 and 5,000 journeys) are through - not for Bath at all. Pre-covid, pre-CAZ data. That's one vehicle every 5 seconds passing through the whole 24 hours, with one every 20 seconds just passing through Bath. These, circa 4,500 vehicles, have to use alternative routes. I have very great sympathy for the problem.
On the short term:
However, the meeting highlighted and continued an ugly misunderstanding or standoff between BaNES and Wiltshire, with Wera Hobhouse (MP for Bath) and Michelle Donelan (MP for Chippenham) both saying they wanted to work together but clearly there was no line of communication, invites ignored or not received, and so on. Similar comments from officers and local councillors suggesting that all were willing to work together but to date had not been able to do so, the blame for that lying with the other party.
Result - only signposted diversion heavy vehicle diversion at present is from Warminster to M32 at Filton (as above) which is a very long way around indeed, and traffic headed eastward on the M4 is likely to find its own alternative. BaNES blame none-cooperation of Wiltshire for lack of a signposted route through the county, and suggested this is unfair on Wilts residents. Frankly, whether signposted or not the traffic WILL come through Wiltshire and I suspect signage would add to the traffic / noise etc close to the Semington Road roundabout and through North Melksham and Beanacre (and Westbury), even if it reduced it on other potential diversion routes such as A46, A363, B3108 (via Winsley Bypass) to A36.
There has been - in my view - scant attention given to traffic generated outside the Bath area by the Bridge works - it has to go somewhere. One officer (in answer to a question) indicated they had modelled out as far as Box and did not predict any traffic increase there (well - they probably wouldn't - Box is not any of the major alternative routes mentioned already!)
Whole thing has the smell of being political where everyone's looking after their own interests and no-one wants the traffic in their back yard. And it's good for them to show their local residents that they are standing up for them. In the short term - 6 months to a year, shall we say (this may overrun) adjustments may be possible when we see what happens with the bridge totally closed, but realistically there will be lots more traffic on diversionary routes, signposted or not.
In the longer term:
There seems to be an accepted view that there will continue to be lots of North to South traffic passing through the area. And BaNES would like to keep the Cleveland Bridge closed to "heavies" and probably discourage other traffic that's just passing through.
Wera Hobhouse was about the only one present to voice the questions about how much traffic there will be in the future - post Covid changes, zero carbon, etc. Some of that is a reduction of private vehicles and a move to public transport, cycling and walking, but it was also noted that van traffic is up by 33% in Bath since the start of the pandemic, driven by online ordering and deliveries.
The potential for designating the A350 as a trunk route and potentially de-trunking the A36 and A46 was raised - the DfT is doing a study and consultation said to be published next year.
The alternative of linking the A36 and A46 across at Bathampton / Batheaston was raised, but we were told this required heavy engineering of a viaduct right across (and spoiling) the valley, or an even more expensive tunnel, and would be unlikely to be funded. The argument is marred by the comment that river, railway and canal need to be crossed - not necessarily the case as the Batheaston bypass crosses the river (twice) already - and I suggest there might have been an element of looking for excuses rather than at the real potential in the answers given - ruled out because it's not what they want, but in practise (height differences not withstanding) quite do-able at a sensible price, especially if we could stop major road building which generates more traffic and move to the greener alternatives.
In spite of the Wiltshire / BaNES friction above, the vibes I got were that they are in agreement that they want the A350 trunked, and looking at it through the Western Gateway SnTB. Statements that it will be a "central government decision" seem to suggest that this would be convenient for local polititians all around as they can say they fought but got overruled for the national good.
Conflicting answers given as to whether the Cleveland Bridge will fully re-open to all weights of traffic after the road works are complete; it feels that BaNES would rather it did not.
Question as to whether traffic would only be redirected to the A350 from Bath once suitable bypasses at Melksham and Westbury were completed was read out in a batch of others, but not answered. Some irritation that "we are here to talk about Bath and seem to have spent just as much time on Wiltshire"
Talk on dirty air too ... opinion that it's really bad in Bath (yes it is) and a feeling that fixing in there by exporting some is just redressing the balance.
Conclusions, views, thoughts
Conclusion was that Wera Hobhouse and Michelle Donelan should liaise with a view to setting up better relationships. For immediate stuff, recommendation is to keep in touch via the BaNES website which will have a regular update on how things are going.
Personal conclusion - decision has probably been pencilled in already way above our pay-grade that the A350 will be the main route - north to south through traffic solution, and that it'll need Melksham and perhaps other bypasses. By being strategic, it means a very "full" solution will be provided - i.e. Wiltshire will get funding for a long bypass solution funded centrally as it's trunk which is the plan ... best for Town Council is to pragmatically work with what's done on that base (which is outside the neighbourhood plan's remit) to get the best advantage for the town.
For the longer term - ,000 question - do we really need major road build? There's a whole industry specifying, designing and building roads and it's difficult to avoid the feeling that at times things aren't biased towards them - sometimes more that a feeling when you look at base data and algorithms.
Edit to add at least four people now concerned that their typed comments / questions were misrepresented in how they were put to the meeting. So the whole should be much more characterised as a rally / lecture than a discussion. And I now know even less who - if anyone - to trust. A few things are lining up, mind! Sad, as we need to work together. Still a very useful evening.
Published Friday, 18th June 2021
Road Works - Spa Road - Pedestrian issue
Edit - RESULT - scroll downRoad Works on Spa Road. The wide pavement on the right (as you head into town) is currently closed over the blind old bridge brow between Rope Walk and New Lawns, with pedestrians required to cross the road and pass over the bridge on the very narrow footpath on the left had side. Very "silly" to have a wide temporary crossing leading to a path that isn't even wide enough for a wheelchair. Looks dangerous too with pedestrians only able to get through between a high wall and single alternate line traffic with poor lines of site. As a new Town Councillor, I have enquired of our team who this should be raised with, with a view to improving the safety and usability of this main walking route into Town during the road works.
ResultAs well as posting my concern, I made a few enquiries ... result that by the end of the day a much more sensible solution was in place, with a pedestian lane suitable for the general footpath traffic, including wheelchairs, dogs, childen's scooters and the rest just outside the road works.
Thank you to those who pulled the levers and got it changed today. Message for the anyone setting up roadworks - please don't just "think car" - think of how everyone else can get past your works, and safely, too.
Published Tuesday, 15th June 2021
Passengers returning to the trainsIt's good to see passengers returning to trains at Melksham Station - I had a guest arrive at 11:30 and leave again at 14:30 yesterday, and at both times the platform was buzzing with people and the trains once again feel worthwhile.
With passengers comes rubbish - and the bins were overflowing. It's the responsibility of our train operator - GWR to keep things under control, but our Melksham Transport User Group, as the "Station Friends Group" keeps an eye on things and lets GWR know if there's an out-of-norm issue at our unstaffed station. Pragmatically and within a whole load of rules, MTUG can help and indeed in the quiet of the evening I have tidied up and cleared a whole load of rubbish. If you see it real bad again, please let me know - I know who to contact and can occasionally step in.
There are short term parking spaces in front of Melksham Station - used for dropping off and picking up passengers. Whilst a know advocate of walking and cycling, I also appreciate the benefit of getting a lift (private car or taxi) to our local station, rather than driving or being driven longer distances - good to see this facility being well used yesterday. There are also cycles for hire at The Hub, just across the road from the station, and there is paid longer term parking there too. As of yet, buses do not call at the station except when they're running a rail replacement - that was sensible last time the bus timetables and route were updated, but in current times it's crazy.
Published Monday, 14th June 2021
On a bypass for Melksham - view and alternativesText below from June and July - UPDATE - Consultation input on 8th August
I believe that in current times, we should only be constructing new roads in exceptional circumstances. As well as relieving pressures on the current network in the immediate area, new roads tend to act as a magnet for traffic from a wider area and they also encourage none-sustainable development which is contrary to clean air and climate change objectives, and more locally they can be noisy, unpopular especially with their immediate neighbours (NIMBY-ism), and create knock-on problems.
They do allow ongoing change, development and economic growth in the areas served (which are often far wider than where they are built), and they can provide significant relief to roads, residences and businesses where they move traffic passing through to a new route. They are financially and emotionally popular with their users, and they can provide significant safety improvements where they move traffic off roads that were never built to take it. But having written that, there are often other ways of achieving these objectives without the negatives listed in the first paragraph which lead me to "default object" to new road building until I know that it really is a sensible and good thing to do.
* Roads need to be part of an overall plan
* Strategic roads need to be considered strategically
* Road analysis is based on pre-Covid evidence
* Road analysis is based on pre-climate-warming evidence
* Road analysis is based on up to 60 years of use
There are seen to be very real problems on the current road network (whether we are seeing correctly is an interesting question) and a natural "something should be done" reaction. And perhaps it's natural for that reaction to be "WE will do something" as in "we will build a road" in our own area. After all, it's the immediate natural reaction - "we have staff who have done it before", and "it helps us build up our portfolio without risking anything new". "Most of our voters drive".
If the community or elements of it say "we object" without suggesting viable alternatives to the underlying current problems, and including in those alternatives how they will work for the future too, they're likely to push the powers-that-be and/or the road-lobby towards a more entrenched position. And mechanisms such as none-statutory consultations may be wolves in sheep's clothing - perhaps designed to weed out objections and problems early on, weaken the opposing army before the real battle, if you like to think of it that way.
I note that even before any statutory consultation, Wiltshire Council has ruled out support of a short link road (A36-A46 where the roads are less than 500 metres apart) on the grounds (a) not on our patch and (b) was ruled out because of preserving the green many years ago. This against my suggestion in the informal consultation that it be looked at; I'm not thrilled at the brush-off - it's regional, and regional solutions should be considered - not just local ones in Wiltshire. Further, the earlier rejection could be due for a review, especially as housing is now being built there!
I also note that the council's 1st June decision rules out all alternative measures as complete solutions, and limits its ongoing (mitigating) support to pedestrian and cycle elements - without mention of public transport. Again, disappointing and to be questioned, but in a proactive, positive, partnering and polite way and just as a rude rejection. My Dad was very wise, and if saying no he suggested:
* Give Reason
* Express Regret
* Suggest Alternative
And this wisdom will do us well in this case.
There are some very good people and experts at County Hall (OK, they work from home and are based at County Hall) who are far more aligned with the "reluctant to build it - what else can we do" approach than you might imagine, and many more who are re-directed by a good logic and policy that sets them up for the future. We should work with them, but bear in mind the pressures they may be under from the more extreme views ("zealots") who we have on both ends. So let me Suggest Alternative
We should look at what our council is really looking to achieve with the bypass (is it about relief to Melksham, speeding up traffic from the M4 to Trowbridge, empire building, providing infill housing land) as we consider alternatives we can look at such as:
* Reworking of analyses based on best predictions for a post-covid and sustainable new world
* Improved Rail Service / line / stations
* Improved Walking and Cycling
* Improved Buses - hardware / road layout and services
* A36 to A46 link
* A350 (between Beanacre and Lacock) to Woodrow - bridge and access road to north and east Melksham
And these are in line with national and global objectives and policy and should be aligned too with local and neighbourhood plans.
I suggest that these alternatives sort out many of the issues for road transport at a fraction of the mileage and construction costs of a "10c" bypass. They take us forward for our new world. They provide quality improvements for the people and businesses of Melksham, including those who don't have the benefit of a private car they can use - be it for medical, age, financial, practicality or personal choice reasons.
I would be happy to further fill in the framework on the various alternatives I have suggested, which are not a complete or exclusive list. I stood up and was counted at Westbury, objecting to a bypass running below the White Horse. Not so well documented was the support from many of the objectors for a shorter section of relief road for HGVs from the West Wilts Trading Estate alongside the Railway to the A36 at "Frome Market" which looked - and still looks - like a rather sensible solution for that town.
As a Town Councillor, I have no powers to decide on anything to do with the bypass, which is a unitary thing (heck, as the only independently elected councillor out of 15, I have no formal powers in the town either) but I do have an ability to ask, to question, to express views and to help promote informed and sensible outcomes, and I am committed to doing so in line with my 'manifesto' at http://www.graham4melksham.uk
Added - 25th July 2021 / fro, a Facebook post.
The Melksham Bypass proposal is not really about Melksham. It's about getting goods and people along the A350 corridor, and is part of a series of linked schemes along the way; the various documents published to inform us have many useful charts and diagrams in them, showing long distance routes, expected housing growth in Trowbridge, and much more. It's even less about Melksham Town than Melksham Without now, because the propose route in not "within" at all - but it does have major consequence for the Town.
On Monday 26th at 19:00, the Environmental Development and Planning Committee of Melksham Town Council is meeting - a meeting that the public may watch, and just prior to which they may raise issues. Residents can attend in person or via Zoom - for convenience, I have added links at http://melksh.am . Wiltshire Council is also hosting sessions at the Library this Friday and the Friday after.
Some thoughts which I am having in relation to my personal response.
* Have an open and realistic mind; set your priorities; work with friends and be pragmatic.
* Understand Wiltshire Council and Western Gateway objectives and look at how they can be best met through alternative suggestions.
* David v Goliath. If you don't agree with suggestions, you are up against a paid professional advocate
* None-statutory makes statutory more robust. Weeding out & making changes to meet objections reduced risk of failure at public enquiry.
* 60 years timescale for predictions and costs. Don't look just at today.
* Turkeys voting for Christmas; it's hard for a highway engineer to suggest a none-highway way
* Unitary Councillors are the ones who vote on your behalf at planning authority level.
* Put numbers on things and beware out of date figures and flawed statistics.
* Show consideration for others - everyone - in your input.
* If a road is built it has to be somewhere. Sets neighbouring roads and areas against each other
* There is some good stuff in there. Do not attempt (even if minded) to throw out babies with bathwater
* Don't paint yourself into a cul-de-sac. Stay in good terms and look for best mitigations even if you object to the scheme overall.
* If you score a tactical victory against policy, strategy may come back in "another go".
* And if you FAIL to make an input, can you complain later if the outcome is not what you want?
I am NOT sharing this post to overtly pro-bypass or anti-bypass groups, but it's a public post and others are welcome to do so. My views (via the links above) remain current.
Images are from Wiltshire Council's latest 'pack' - links via my http://melksh.am again to their pages with much longer URLs - and you can get the context of the maps and diagrams from the packs.
Published Sunday, 13th June 2021
New Councillor at Annual Town MeetingAnnual Town Meeting last night, followed by a Town councillor only briefing. The lead up had generated a great deal of interest on social media, with concern as to whether there would be enough space for everyone who wanted to attend. In the end, there was - perhaps 35 to 40 people in the room - councillor, staff and other members of the public. It was live on Zoom too (about half a dozen there?) and I think it may have been broadcast onto YouTube
1. Over the past week, there has been concern on Social Media that the KGV subgroup, with delegated powers, was rolled into the main assets committee, with the assets committee renamed to assets and amenities. The concerns were magnified when the council's web site was updated to show (we have later learned) the new name for the committee, on top of the old terms of reference, but (as I understand it) without any comment to make it clear that the terms of reference need to be updated. Why such concern? Because it looked like the delegated and ring-fenced funds to complete KGV works has been waved away with a magician's wand. Reassurance / explanation given - but an atmosphere between people that indicates broken trust, and a need to ensure that the new terms of reference clearly look after the funding to completion of the park.
2. I got told off by one of the "Together for Melksham" councillors for pointing out that they have an absolute majority. "I am an independent, I can vote as I like" I was told. Funny that when the election papers all said "Together for Melksham" and not "Independent". I can't recall seeing a single TfM councillor yet voting against anything proposed by the mayor, so I have no evidence of independence to report - having said which, most of the stuff that's gone through has been obvious and good, and 11 out of 15 of us are still learning the ropes and don't yet feel comfortable saying "boo" to a goose!
3. We have some excellent new councillors in Melksham.
4. Readers may have seen sponsored Facebook survey by our MP which I linked to from (here). "I’m seeking the views of Melksham residents as I lead on submitting a bid to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund for Melksham town centre" writes Michelle. Timing is incredibly tight; on the MP and Unitary Council are rushing to get a good bid in over the next few weeks, but also very much concerned that it could be so rushed than important decisions are taken too fast and could change things way into the future. Still worth bidding for IMHO - "good" will pragmatically suffice if we haven't time for "best". Don't want to miss the boat, though it is far from certain there will be funding for us to get on the boat at all - it is a competitive bid and I don't know how oversubscribed the scheme will be; if it is very much oversubscribed, it's likely that Wiltshire will be considered to be levelled up already.
5. A shout for Priority for People ... a survey to inform local travel needs that will provide key evidence for future direction. I only heard about this last week on joining the council - now on the working party for it. I'm sure you'll hear a lot more next month, as the survey goes live and perhaps as I learn into it and talk about it!
Published Tuesday, 25th May 2021
Sustainable Transport Briefing - MelkshamI am on the Town Council for Melksham and not just for train and public transport activity. Two other councillors have been selected to represent the council on the Melksham Rail User Group and TransWilts, since I have a financial interest in the TransWilts CIC (I hold one share of £1, with comes with no gain but a liability of up to £1 if they go bust). As that's over 1% of the shares (it's 1.85%) my position is regarded as a potential conflict of interest when it comes to voting for things for TransWilts and I step back.
Having said which ... I am in a position to inform and update - here are my initial notes for one of the councillors, introducing him to the history and status as a bullet point framework.
Sector by sector analysis but TOTAL JOURNEY should be over-riding!
Note public transport in the economy / business, public transport as a necessity for those who cannot drive, and public transport as we move towards zero carbon. Short term / covid times may have been negative to public transport but it need to recover and go beyond – and that applies to each individual person travelling. Everyone can’t leave it to others.
- 8 each way per day (up from 2 in 2013)
- 75,000 journeys per annum pre Covid (up from 3,000 in 2013)
- projection 250,000 (mine), 450,000 (TransWilts official) in a few years
- need for more trains to achieve this (up to around 15 each way)
- Connections and length of day are key, 7 days a week
- track capacity limits services that can run at present
- trains make a very real difference to the area
- public transport hugely important to those without their own transport
- Covid has decimated rail journeys; they will come back but doubt on detail
- Zero carbon will be a massive push towards public transport
- Rail industry re-organisation under way [GBR – 20.5.2021 / DfT] - elements are overdue
- Operated by GWR / First group - relationship has become good over years
- Support from Central Govt., Wilts Council, Town, Parish over years
- "Fastest growing line / station in England" and ACoRP, RailFuture awards
- Many keen advocates in the industry and in the community
Save the train (2005)
-> TransWilts CRP
-> within TransWilts CIC
* Longer term, planning, major projects, wider (Wiltshire area)
* Active key player, plus board all of ex WC councillors
* 2 full time (senior one is Sophie Martin) and one PT staff
* Newsletter every 2 months, annual meeting
* DfT accredited Community Rail Partnership
Melksham Rail Development Group (1995)
-> Melksham Rail User Group
-> Melksham Transport User Group (this week!!)
* Local promotion, marketing, support
* Station adoption group in the Community Rail Network
* Meet every 2 months. Pure volunteer. £350 from TC vital to funding. See report pack.
* Platform extended 1 to 3 carriages a couple of years back
* Masterplan to grow station for expected passengers / numbers
* Need buses to station (and they really must connect with trains)
* Need better station access to north and east
* Cafe, extra parking useful - very new.
* For future, taxi rank, knowledgable rail person, better information
Summary – need better access, more trains, better connections and / or through services, better information systems, fares sorting out while maintain safety and affordabel fares. Public Transport travel prices have risen where car travel in real terms has fallen in price and that is detriemnatal to pesuading people to use mass transit.
Don’t forget freight – major new and changing flows though Melksham - Rail and Road
- HS2 quarry filler to Quidhampton, Road stone from Mendips, Southampton Docks
- At the cross of Bath to Devizes and Chippenham to Trowbridge and Frome
- Both route sets were First then Faresaver competition and they took over
- Competition was aggressive at times and not in total customer interest
- x34 (Chippenham - Trowbridge) 6 days a week, only to around tea time
- 271/2/3 (Bath - Devizes) runs 7 days into 6 evenings. Poor Sunday service
- Sunday and evening lost Chippenham - Trowbridge in 2015 (WC subsidy removed)
- Sunday and evening Bath - Devizes subsidised by WC for many years
- All now under DfT subsidy via WC (due to Covid)
- Also 68 / 69 (a.k.a Zigzag) ; 2 vehicles filling awkward gaps (Corsham, B-o-A)
- Daily bus Marlborough - Calne – RUH
- School bus 555 to Corsham
- Routes 14 and 15 a confused variety
- Largely school travel and seniors
- Buses arrive at new houses after people have bought their second car
- Low frequency relative to journey length puts people off
- Lack of real time information puts people off
- Bus does not go to station to connect
- Routes tend to be long way round, run 1 direction only
- Operated by Frome Bus under WC contract, 1 or 2 vehicles CIL/106 support
Bus stops / information / hardware / fares
- Town Council looks after some stops
- Many stops tired, showing only one operator routes
- Timetables often out of date and unclear if that is the case
- No clear route maps
- No real time information on the stops
- Fares confusing; tickets may not be interchangeable
- Around 100 stops in Melksham
- Some areas not served
Where are buses going
- Bus Back Better, March 2021, funded £3bn (but is that enough?)
- WC to decide Partnership of Franchise by of June 2021
- Bus Service Improvement Plans by end of October
- Implementation April 2022
- Requirements include Community inputs, intermodal connections, eve & w/e
- Option 24/7 (2016)
- To answer WC proposals to cut 50% to 90% of subsidy
- Kept cuts to just 10%
- WC no longer regarded as the "dirty man" or public transport
- Thanks to Horace Prickett and Richard Gamble, both just retired
- Excellent key officer at County Hall
- Good relationships built BUT professionals always know better
- WORKING with / on plans – we have a team!
- Real issue getting public to take an interest beyond ..
+ The stop THEY already use.
+ The service (time) THEY already catch.
+ This month / season.
- need for joined up thinking, planning, Community BUS partnerships
Need to add sections for taxi, community buses, link scheme and National Express
- Some excellent sections
- Not really joined up
- Some silly long ways round and poor (token) facilities
- Real issue towards Lacock / Chippenham
- Waymarking issues
- Bottleneck issues into Town Centre (amount of street space)
- WC are improving Melksham to Trowbridge
- Cycle hire at station is bleeding edge
- Need to connect in through routes / make cycling safer
- Need to pull in community people
- Cycles on buses, trains, parking at hubs - Real issues here!
- Key to health
- Routes not obvious / waymarking
- Some dangerous
- Some public footpaths impractical
Cars and powered vehicles
- Traffic jams at schools
- Extra bypass traffic with Bath diversions
- Move away from petrol / diesel -> electric
- Charging infrastructure
Wilshire surveys suggest that getting around is IMPORTANT to people and NEEDS ATTENTION to a great degree. Only thing that "topped" travel in these areas was / is health provision.
We have seen massive growth is public transport in the past decade but a huge setback in the last 15 months and we must regrow if we are to meet climate targets. Even going all electric in cars does not sort congestion nor affordability, quote apart from where you get the electricity.
Community PARTNERSHIP needed. New WC councillor with cabinet responsibility, new town council. MRUG becoming MTUG. Priority for People excellent research - we will probably know much / most of it BUT update and learning is key.
Strong community group and community interactions needed. Much for volunteers - bus stop adoption, advocate, helping inform in all directions, helping plan.
Travel is about us going from A to B. We need to work with the people of B too in order to get the whole setup right. Melksham cannot do it alone, but can promote / advocate / even lead with ideas as we have with Save the Train and Option 24/7.
Wider area ...
- TravelWatch SouthWest - West Wilts Rail User Group - Great Western Coffee Shop
E&OE - Graham Ellis - 24.5.2021 / email@example.com / 01225 708225
Option 24/7 - Now on WEDNESDAY 26th May 2021, at 19:30
Topic: Option 24/7
Buses (including right across the region)
MRUG - Now on THURSDAY 27th May 2021, at 19:30
Topic: MRUG AGM
Melksham Specific (trains BUT ALSO bringing in other transprt modes
Published Monday, 24th May 2021