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Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary

Links in this page:
Council help for The Hub?
Car Share - the future
"Town Council" or "Town Councillor"?
FoMAH - changed meeting venue
meeting report

Area Board - Summary, 22.9.2021
Neighbourhood Issues
Options to get to the station
Alternative Path?
FoMAH - This Week (13.9.2021)
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Some other pages on this site:

Graham Ellis - blog and • blog index
Graham Ellis - background and • views
Philosophies of working as a town councillor
The Role of the Town Council and Councillors
How YOU can help and • Contact me
Links to other web sites and • pictures
Through April 2021, I posted most days. Thereafter (elected) you hear from me here at least once a week.


- are they worth it?
- do they let you way what you want?
- is any notice taken of what you say anyway!

From a survey on a forum I ran about people responding to surveys ...

I usually find out about them in good time to respond - 29%
I often find out about them very late and have to rush a response - 29%
I miss them far too often - only find out after closed - 35%

I find it difficult to answer many of them in the way I want - 76%
I rarely make any inputs as there doesn't seem much point - 18%
I rarely make any inputs as I have nothing useful to add - 18%

They are worthwhile responding to because they make me think - 24%
They are worthwhile responding to because my inputs have an effect 18%

I just scroll past them - I don't have the time or interest - 6%

Personal view - some of them seem designed to get a particular answer, some are just because there's a requirement to be seen consulting and the answers get ignored, and some are run by groups or organisations which only dilute them down in the "piggy backed" inputs. It's good to separate out (if you can) those which are a waste of time, complete those which have a sporting change of making an effective input, and get a bonus of giving yourself the opportunity to learn and think about a topic.

I could write a whole book about being effective with consulations - not only about answering them, but also about inlfuencing and helping so set the questions, and getting the most from the results - whether or not you're the setter.

Example above - the Priority for People consultation output - on the question of "what would encourage you to use the bus more". So valuable as we (as a community) look to ask for something we want, will use - and so will offer best benefit and best value. And the beauty is that we are getting the opportunity to learn even if that's really just a corollary from the main course.

Published Saturday, 2nd October 2021

Council help for The Hub?

At the Town Council meeting on Monday night, a number of substantial grants were considered, including some for up to £10,000 each - one of which was for TransWilts. Concerns were raised on each of these, which is probably what one might expect from an almost completely new set of councillors in their first year, elected largely on a platform of keeping the precept down. Some budgets (such as the Assembly Hall advertising budget) have been cut by 75%, and several staff members have been declared redundant. In that environment, the TransWilts concerns are modest - TransWilts will be asked for some clarifications on a couple of things, and the request will come back to the next meeting.

Councillor views

Councillor S Crundell questioned who actually benefits from the Cafe - the paperwork supplied says it's "rail users", but he'd spoken with a number of his friends who commute and told him that it's "never open" when they're there. Councillor Aves pointed out that it's used for a number of community events and draws people in. Councillor Mortimer was concerned at the council funding a salary at a cafe which essentially has been running as a commercial outfit and not serving the core business of rail passengers, though accepting that numbers have been depressed. Passenger numbers were questioned, and I confirmed the history and forecasts, though I did comment that the report was probably written a while ago and passenger numbers are recoveing well. Councillor Oatley asked about the busiest trains, morning and evening, and I confirmed they have been the 07:20 and 07:50 in the morning and the 18:02 in the evening; he mused that the cafe should be open for each of these, but I suggested that at 18:00, people will be dashing home and won't want to stop by.

Passenger performance

I checked the station this morning and counted passengers:
07:20 train to Swindon - 8 joined and 1 left
07:50 train to Swindon - 21 joined and 3 left
10:02 train to Swindon - 3 joined and 1 left.

Total - 37 passengers over 3 trains. Scaling those numbers - around 68,000 journeys per annum

To compare - around 75,000 pre-covid so we're back up to around 90%, having been down to around 15% (around 10,000 per annum). Personal use (on leisure time trains) in recent week has confirmed they're pretty much back to normal loadings, perhaps even heavier on some services. And this is in spite of the reliability issues, and before the Melksham Transport User Group starts marketing to new potential customers.

Cafe - tuning to meet rail passenger flows

Cafe hours - from

As I'm no longer a member of TransWilts, I'm not aware of their business plan; it does strike me that whilst they may be doing good none-rail business, in order to match their core objective and stated customer base in their application, they should have take out service available soon after 07:00 on Monday to Friday (for the 07:20 train - forget the 05:33 and 06:36), 07:30 Saturday (first train 07:53) and 08:30 Sunday (first train 09:00). Saturdays and Sundays are almost as busy (average passenger per train) as weekdays, though more evenly spread.

Money is undoubtedly harder from this council than the previous one, and using it to pay staff salaries worries some members. However, with a demonstration that TransWilts is moving to serve it stated core customer base (hours, marketing, etc) it may satisfy the councillors.

Picture Commentary - from 27th September 2021 / Melksham Station area

07:20 - Train picks up 8 passengers
07:25 - Hub gates closed
07:50 - Train picks up 21 passengers
07:55 - Hub gates still closed
08:10 - Around the corner for breakfast
09:55 - We're open!
10:02 - For the off peak trains

Published Wednesday, 29th September 2021

Car Share - the future

At this time of queues for fuel at the pumps, people are taking a look at ride sharing. I remember, many years ago, walking around Cambridge and counting people in a queue - 20 private cars, 24 people in them in total, 1.2 passengers per vehicle when they were pretty wall all 5 seaters! 24% seat occupancy. What a lot of carrying fresh air around.

Ride sharing has been a "holy grail" that's not been particularly successful in the past - tried and spluttered. But perhaps the current (even if short lived and panic induced) shortage, the extra green awareness, and ever increasing prices cab between them provide an enviroment where it could take off.

From Facebook - a Frome Group I'm a member of: "I am driving to Bath city centre tomorrow to be there at 8.30am (leaving at about 7.30). I am happy to fill my car with other people who also need to go to Bath and save some petrol. I live near [Frome Location]. I will be leaving Bath at about 5pm.

Spot on! I posted encouragement and got a whole lotta likes.

If we could get average car occupancy up from 1.2 passengers per vehicle even to 1.8, we would save a third of the journeys on our roads, reduce congestion, and be over 30% greener. Might even make some new friends too. And (perish the thought!) might mean we didn't need more road building either.

So where are the barriers?

With a setup in which a very few people are involved, there's the issue of matching source, destination locations and times for outward and return trips. Then which days, what about holiday arrangements, sick days, needing to travel differently - earlier of later, perhaps at short notice.

Insurance, payment arrangements, tax and legal setups all need to be looked and really don't seem to be designed to help. At times, it's almost as if it's to the government's benefit to have lots of gaz-guzzling, revenue-raising vehicles running around, using road space and keeping the road building econmomy bouyant. And wouldn't it be unfortuante if people who pay their fares on public transport are no longer helping to sustain that thansport. Surely I am just being cynical - or am I? If it was "in the national interest", I suspect it could be done!

As the coverage grows - the network of people willing to give, and to accept lifts, metrics change. 'Casual' - not pre-arranged pickups start to make logical sense. If I want to travel from Melksham to Andover, I can split my journey - change of driver in Devizes perhaps; there's always traffic on the road, even at unlikely hours and I'm never going to have too long to wait.

But - as the network and immediacy grows, so to the "driver on passenger" and "passenger on driver" safety concerns. 90 people in 100 are fine. A small minority may not be and could have light fingers. And a small minority of that minority, could be seriously worrying ... but not insoluble. Where there's a will ... I could suggest a way!

Published Tuesday, 28th September 2021

"Town Council" or "Town Councillor"?

"The Town Council" [says/requires/wants/cannot/doesn't]. So many times we heard those words last Thursday evening at the public Friends of Melksham Assembly Hall meeting that I, in some exasperation, asked the deputy clerk to clarify just who she meant when saying "The Town Council". After all, I am an elected Town Councillor and she was neither speaking for me, nor about things than I knew. And in the 3 days since, three people have thanked me for asking the question, because it was not clear to them what she meant by "The Town Council" in this context either.

I now understand. "The Town Council" when spoken of in the form of a persona means the "proper officer" - that's the Town Clerk, as directed under law and as instructed by resolutions and decisions of the Town Council, or members of her team as tasks and responsibilities are delegated. It is not shorthand for "The Mayor", "The Mayor or his deputy" who however will naturally work with the officers of the council day by day, helping implementing resolutions passed at council meetings.

So saying "The Town Council says" or "The Town Council cannot" or "The Town Council thinks" is not the same thing as saying "Councillor Graham Ellis says/cannot/thinks". I abide by the decisions of meetings, accept them, work with them, and do my best to explain them. I do not agree with them all - after all I am and always have been an independent from when I first stood. Only if I'm very, very sure of something can I speak for the council - indeed there is a jealously protected separation which means I cannot do things for the council (like help in the bar at the Assembly Hall) which I could do had I NOT been elected. Yes, I know that may sound and feel perverse.

Melksham's Town Council has combined some roles and shed a number of posts since the elections in May. Before I had been on the council for a full calendar month, we had several full council meetings with agenda packs of over 100 pages of supporting documentation to be considered and changes voted on within a couple of hours. Readers may question how that came to be on the agenda quite so quickly (I certainly didn't put those things / changes there); it's "The Council" again, perhaps, including preliminary work done prior to the elections by the teams elected to 13 out of the 15 seats. We are now, very much, seeing the effects of those changes.

The previous council had a "leader" and a "mayor", with deputies for both. The separation of the four roles wasn't all that clear (to me, anyway) and a proposal was made, and overwhelmingly approved, to merge the leader and mayor roles, and the two deputy roles. So at full council meetings, and on committees on which he sits, you now have the mayor both leading the discussion, and chairing the meeting with all conversations formally required to be through him. That's in addition to his ceremonial role of appearing in chains(!), in public, all over the press to promote the town, and in addition to his other elected role as a Wiltshire Unitary councillor.

This council has also dispensed with three managerial and admin roles, declaring two staff redundant and loosing a third experienced person, to be replaced by a new apprentice. There is no requirement on a town or parish council to have experts in such things as economic development and planning on their team. However, such a resource has previously helped your councillors be well informed when making inputs on your behalf to planning applications, local area plans, bypass consultations, and the like. Phil Alford, chair of the area board (and a town councillor too) spoke last week of the consultations - "crucial as we move forward" - Climate change, green and blue strategies being "crucial as we move forward" and yet we (as a Town Council) have declared redundant the expert we had to advise us. A request for advice from the officer who has taken over any of his role still being performed elicited the reply "I am in no way an expert on climate change, I understand the implications and what we should be doing to mitigate it but I am not qualified to give a detailed briefing to members." So - there you are folks - you DO have an excellent staff and many good councillors, but really we are going to be amateurs (volunteers!) now as we say and press forward for the town's future. By taking this onto ourselves, we have saved you about 3p per resident per week on next year's council tax.

Short term, I hope, there is some concern in the ranks as things are being re-arranged to take account of the staffing and other changes. The Town Council (see my definition at the top of this article) tells me that "nothing could be planned" until the redundancies were completed for the start of this month, and since then one of the remaining key players - a more-vital-than-ever cog in the wheel has been on vacation. And we have been in a sort of limbo. Some positive things HAVE been happening but, goodness, others have not progressed as we might have wished.

I promised I would be open and informative during the election campaign, and also that I would not break confidences. That latter, of course, needs to take priority where it relates to an individual's employment and process and law. But I can now fill you in.

1. I did not vote against the combining of the mayor and leader roles - it was just one vote on a very busy evening and I was not long enough in post to appreciate the significance. Note that new councillor training (which was very useful) was not conducted until a later date, after that vote (and item 2. just below) had gone through.

2. The redundancy package came to a confidential council meeting in June. Papers and a proposal were handed out - printed sheets - and we were given a few minutes to read and digest them before a vote was taken. The Clerk and 12 councillors (you can see who on the public web site) were present, and there was an opportunity to discuss and question. Whilst the chair offered us the ability to "ask as many questions as you like, take as long as you like", he declined my request to postpone the decision - at least overnight - so those of us who this had been sprung on could go away and think about it. In the circumstances, my personal decision was to abstain on the redundancy vote - I was not fully informed and whilst a number of councillors, for whom I have a great respect, clearly were, I was not going to be bounced into making a rushed decision that would effect individuals (and their families) livelihoods. I was also not in any position to sound out any of the people I represent on the matter - forcng me into a dereliction of my duty as a councillor!

Should any other councillor make their position on those two votes public, I will come back here and amend this post for the public record. Public record already shows that Councillor Aves and the Councillors Crundell were not present at the votes.

On neither of these items was my vote decisive - but going back to where I started this long and rather technical item, you will see that whilst I am a Melksham Town Councillor, I am not Melksham Town Council. And that differentiation applies to all 15 of your councillors. Where I am, and what I do, can be influential in persuading and informing my colleagues who sit on the council, and in helping and informing members of our community, and making connections and smoothing things out for them too. On 90% of things, it's probably fair to say that the councillors are unanimous - it's just where we come to things like bypasses, redundancies, and the future of Assembly Halls that there are differences to be compromised.

Published Monday, 27th September 2021

FoMAH - changed meeting venue
meeting report

I owe people an apology. Ten to five yesterday afternoon was absurdly late notice to switch the venue of the meeting of the Friends of the Melksham Assembly Hall from The Hall itself to an alternative venue a few hundred yards away. Previous (formative) meetings of the group were also held off site, but for this particular meeting we felt that it would useful to learn in the hall itself, and understood this had been agreed.

During the week, I had tested my IT kit in the hall to ensure that it would work well (enough) for all. The hall network proved to be fantastically improved from previous experience (thank you, team) and all seemed in order. Mistakenly perhaps, I considered our little gathering, who's whole and only purpose was/is to help the hall, to be an internal meeting in support of the hall's operation, to be held at a time we did not displace any revenue earning bookings. Only yesterday afternoon was I alerted that there is no mechanism for such a hall-supporting meeting to be held at the hall without formal booking and payment ... and as a big hall, for 2 hours plus setup and breakdown time, the rate would have been personally significant.

Thank you to everyone who came along in person or on Zoom and to those who helped me let everyone know. In real life, we were close to my comfort level in the room we used, and indeed at least one attendee was outside in the garden, and another electronically from the next building. We learned, somewhat, how the venue blew up in the afternoon - sounds like a misunderstanding between a report (to be filed) and questions and issues for attention, that attention to which would have flagged earlier. Never mind, we're moving on, and it would be a miracle if the Town Council with reduced staff, end-of-summer vacations, re-arrangements ongoing, didn't have a few glitches, or if FoMAH ran totally smoothly as a group of newcomers to this.

* Now that the questions to the council are known to be questions, we're asking for answers so that we can progress things.

* FoMAH progress on council interaction - talking to staff - is to be undertaken purely by FoMAH members who are NOT Town Councillors. That will help ensure there is no conflict of interest. It also means that the job will be done by key members who can make every meeting and not (as happened last night) have our reporting member unable to make it (apologies received later in the evening)

* With a reduction from 3.5 to 1.5 staff members on the Assembly Hall team, we were able to ascertain that their key need will be people to help at and around events.
- Bar staff especially are needed - on a casual / as required basis - note these are zero hours paid roles - get in touch with Bruce or Kevin if you are interested.

- Help with publicity is needed too, though we have established / helped unlock the advertising budget, but note that it's just a quarter of what it was last year. At least it's open, and another of the council's staff team has been tasked with some of this role. FoMAH members can really help here with things like social media shares, talking to people, putting up flyers around their community, etc

- Tasks like checking people into events are thing FoMAH members can help with too

Good to see last week some members of the amenity team helping with decoration (and it's looking fantastic - thank you). It makes sense in a "small" council such as our Town one for there to be some floating around between roles as some are seasonal and the peak time in the park is different to the peak time in The Hall.
There has been an issue (I need to check whether it's been confirmed as resolved in some way) with volunteer help and insurance, and there are also issues with volunteer training, and the reliability and effectiveness of some volunteers. Please forgive that comment - I project manage the Santa train, totally with volunteers, but I know I need a dozen to get 8 effective on the day, and there are some jobs that are easier to do myself - and it remains that same way for Assembly Hall Staff. That's where we want (and it's sensible) for them to make the best of their 1.5 staffing to carry on with those tasks, including organising help

Also to note:

* FoMAH could apply to the relevant council committee for a grant to pay for hall hire for our meetings (and in the circumstances, this might be possible on 11th October rather than waiting for the normal cycle) or ask them to consider uncharged hall use where it's in the interest of the hall. Concern has been expressed (anonymous, relayed by a council manager) that a precedent could be set with all sorts of organisations looking for free use.

* I (personally) have bar work experience - in a 200 seat theatre. Long time ago, mind. Thoroughly enjoyed it and would be happy to help occasionally / be even on emergency call for the Assembly Hall. Not going to happen, though. As a councillor, I'm not allowed to take any role that would be paid as these roles are. Not right to have unpaid volunteers and paid people on the same job. And comment made "as a councillor, others on duty would think you were watching over them". Hmmm ...

Next meeting - THREE weeks time rather than 2 as some of us have a full day on 7th already - so it's 14th October 2021, but we'll be much in touch in the meantime. See the FoMAH Facebook group page, for example. No wish to make trouble - really here to help, so (ironic though it is) meeting at "same place as last time" rather than pushing the surprising bounds we have found at the hall until they are better understood.

Image - picture from a meeting I attended in 2016 ... my copyright, for illustration

The above report is not "minutes" - it's just my own meeting notes, comments and explanation to help inform. Please get in touch if you notice any errors or omissions.

Published Friday, 24th September 2021

Area Board - Summary, 22.9.2021

From last night's Melksham Area Board - summary notes I took during the meeting, telling you the headlines of topics that came up.

The Melksham Community Area no longer includes Atworth, nor Seend and a number of other parishes that were included on the southern flank before. This is part of boundary adjustments designed to keep the population of each area roughly the same; with the growth of Melksham itself, some of the villages have been transferred out to balance Illustration - old (left) and new (right) community areas - changed, May 2021.

* Riverside Path - resurfaced; safety and flooding
* Campus Swimming Pool - fitting out under way

Police update:
* KGV / Police activity continues
* Primrose Drive - removed as a priority. 98% residents not concenred. Just one incident of misuse of path

Councillor Sankey:
* Confirmation that Campus budget used for Skate Park and Oakfield stadium which are described as "part of the Campus offering"
* Discussion on CCTV at Skate Park.

Councillor Alford:
* Ash Dieback. Risk of injury from falling trees and branched near public rights of way. Looking at replanting by WC
* Public Consulations - "crucial as we move forward" - Climate change, green and blue strategies.
* WC acknowldged issuse 2.2019 to be carbon neutral by 2030. WC can influnce 1/3 of emissions. Encourage Town and Parishes to engage.

Dave Thomas of Wiltshire Council:
* 5 years highways maintennce plan. Around £400,000 per annum. Useful background to be aware of.
* State of roads program. Why is it that roads get resurfaced can ne undone by utilities? e.g. Nick Holder asking for Semington Road. A: 12 months notice needs to be given to then have a 12 month moratorium. Only applies to longitudional. Not protect transverse connections. "We try as much as possible but they have a right. And we try voluntarily to work together. Problem is high profile locations."
* JH - is that all the works planed? A: No - there will be reactive works. If we insprect and find others, there will be reactive and they can be fairly large patching areas. Purpose - shock at how little of Melksham Town. JH - often new roads but challenging pavements. Can be machine laid rather than had laid - different groupings. Different program, different materials.

Councillor Holder:
* Vacinaion update - as of yesterday started boosters at Spencers. Patients will be contacted directly. Health and social care. Only allowed 180 day after 2nd vacination.
* Older persons champion. 2 expressions of interest. Need to agree as an area board. We have a dedicated area board coming up.

Peter Dunford:
* Older persons special on 22nd October. Hoping Assembly Hall
* To include transport with a view to gatering pririties for action. Also to announce who the champion would be.
* To ensure due process, invite others via MIN. JS - support special meetimgs. [but 2019 all the norms only]
* 8th December board - priorities for action. Want to focus on a small number of areas.

"Votes by disent" right though evening - so an assumption that all concillors were in agreement. Probably correct as references were made to the "premeeting meeting" where councillors discuss the issues witout the public present.


* 2385 Melksham Squadron - £5014 (50%)
rest from volunteer time, fees, etc
JH - talk of "pre-meeting".
Grant given.

* WW Model Car Club - £955 for Assy Hall
Karen Potter for new computer
ALSO for hire car for newcomers to try.
Grant given.

* Keevil PC - £379 for paved area.
Q - is there a parish contributon
A - we have spent £900 on a table
Grant given.

* MTC - £345 for defrib cabinet
ONLY 50% request - this is a correction
Ask by JH, propose by PA
Grant given.

* Youth Grant - JH asking for £5000
for team talk service.
Ask for specific delivery at Canberra.
Explosion of use.
Seed funding for addnl councillor
Grant given.

* Celebrating Age Wiltshire for £1500(?)
Grant given.

* Melksham Talking Newspaper for £500
"Chippenham TN" group, MKM edition
MIN to tape for partially sited
Grant given.

Public Participation
There were no questions from the public (indeed - apart from answering a coupl of questions on grants - I don't think a single member of the public spoke all evening!

Next business meeting - 8.12.2021

E&OE - all above as understood by Graham Ellis

Published Thursday, 23rd September 2021

Neighbourhood Issues

I am one of your four town (parish) councillors in Melksham. As a Town Councillor, I have no statutory authority, but you have elected me to help look after some of your interests for four years, to inform and advise and offer help and oil wheels if I can. Town and parish councillors are unique in that they have responsibilities (if you call them that) over a very small area, and unique in that they receive no remunerations for their efforts - it's purely a voluntary role, unlike the unitary council or MP levels.

I put together this map yesterday - dropping pins onto specific places where issues have been raised. Some resolved (road issues on Spa Road, footpath near the bypass), some refusals (church gate) and many more still under way; it's a pleasant surprise when there are 'instant' results.

Please do get in touch if I can help. Where something is already being looked after by another councillor, I should (and will) defer to them, and I would really appreciate it if you don't ask lots of us councillors separately to do the same thing. Working together, yes, by all means - Colin, Jacqui, Jon and me are all different people and if appropriate can bring a far wider experience than just one person.

P.S. Neighbourhood issues are so often about us all living and working together and involve consideration and compromise for the best long term and happy solutions. Yellow lines on the road, bollards and gates on public rights of way, etc, are rarely the way to go.

P.P.S. I personally stood for town council with some prior knowledge from public transport campaigning, and my time as president of the Chamber of Commerce, of just how much time it would take; being newly retired and with another volunteer role not happening, I have the time (and it was planned) to do these things. We do not want a council packed with retired people - we want young blood and dynamic thought, but how on earth those younger councillors could cope if they took on things to the same degree I can, I do not know. Please do not assume that just because I can offer to help that other councillors can do so in the same way. Family and paid work has to come first for all of us, and there may be some who have bitten off more than they expected to chew.

Published Tuesday, 21st September 2021

Options to get to the station

To catch the 11:30 train on Saturday, I had a choice. I could have left my front door (on Spa Road) at ...
* 10:47 to catch the bus to near the station
* 11:05 to walk to the station
* 11:10 for a taxi to the station (allowing a few minutes slack)
- 11:15 to cycle to the station and secure the cycle there
- 11:15 to drive to the station and pay for the car park
- 11:18 to cycle to the station and take it on the train
* 11:20 for a lift to the station
There should have been time at the station from the 10:47 bus to grab myself a quick cup of coffee to take on the train too. In all other cases, I would have allowed an extra five minutes for that, and a little longer if I wanted to grab a freshly made sandwich or breakfast.

I was headed for Yatton - a chance to catch up with old friends - with a change of trains at Trowbridge, through Bath and change at Bristol. Cost me £8.40 return (would have been £12.80 without a senior railcard), giving lie so the rumour that all rail fares are exorbitant.

On my return, the train I was on from Bristol would have missed the connection at Trowbridge to Melksham by 9 minutes - next one not for another 2 hours. I could have caught an alternative train and changed at Chippenham - still the best part of an hour to wait somewhere - so I took the Faresaver bus from Bath Bus Station (unlike Melksham, Chippenham or Trowbridge, the main bus hub is close to the station) - 15 minute or so change in Bath, and the 272 dropped me directly across the road from my home.

Interesting to note ... only four of the seven options available to me in the morning allowed me to go out by rail and back by bus (those marked with a "*" - the others would have left me with a cycle in Bath that could not come on the bus, or a personal vehicle at the station which needed picking up.

My train ticket did cover the bus fare. You would think, wouldn't you, that it would be sensible for the public transport operators to work together on routes that are infrequent at times so that customers can have the benefit of going on the next available service, be it bus or train - but apparently not. With a senior bus card, and my journey during the hours of validity, I did not have to pay what I believe would have been £6 for the journey.

Published Monday, 20th September 2021

Alternative Path?

The path from Place Road (just off the Market Place) to the Cricket, Bowls and Tennis clubs behind Melksham House is closed for just over six months while work is done on the new Campus car park, with a signposted diversion all the way round via the Centre of town and Church Road, other routes via the Melksham House gates also being closed at present.

I have been asked (in my Parish Councillor Role) to see if the gate on Place Road to the Churchyard could be opened - not as a public right of way, but as a "permissive path" for just the duration of the closure - it would save a long walk around, and using permissive path methods it would not become a public right of way permanently. And that seems like a good idea - a temporary diversion, if you like. When I've asked about this (informally) before, I've heard various stories. The sad answer is that it's up to the Church, and they have said it can't be done, offering me this explanation to clarify why it is not possible:

We have already received enquiries with the same request as yours, that is to open the gates between Place Road and the Churchyard to reduce the length of the re-route of the current footpath.

In answer, firstly, you may already know but Place Road is a private road.

The situation with the access is that currently, all the Place Road residents have a key to those gates and can use them at any time, but lock them afterwards. The Church also has keys and the legal situation when Place Road was constructed in the late 19th Century was that the Church had access through the gates “either side of divine service for those attending”. This arrangement is still technically in place.

Also, in much more recent times our Insurance Company has requested that these gates be locked, certainly during the hours of darkness to deter thieves, in an area not easily visible. We have had lead stolen off the church roof twice in recent years.

So you see that all is not as simple as it seems, as we do not have “control” of the access.

I agree that in principle a “permissive path” arrangement would seem be a solution, but regret that in this case this is not possible.

I have written back to see if the gate could be unlocked during daylight hours to next spring; I really don't see much call to go to the sports clubs at night (though the Melkshas Amateur Photography Group and others do meet at the Cricket Club all year) and I will update this post if I hear back with a positive but limited (in this way) outcome. In the meantime, Thank You to the Church authorities for considering the request from the residents of South Ward.

Published Wednesday, 15th September 2021

FoMAH - This Week (13.9.2021)

Terri and Paul meet with the Town Clerk this week, then (Thursday evening 16th September, from 19:00) will be briefing the group in a combine Zoom/In-Real-Life meeting. We don't know what the outcome of that meeting will be, and that makes it hard to set an agenda with any certainly, but indicators are excellent that the Town Council team, Together for Melksham, our MP and the Conservative Group are all looking for a positive route forward with a vibrant, yet "affordable", and sustainable future.

On Saturday 18th, Lisa and I are going to see "ELO Beatles Beyond present The Lynne & McCartney Story at The Hall - Tickets ((here)) at £16. Click on the image for links to upcoming events bookable via TicketSource. Those are just the tip of the iceberg - something is happening at The Hall every Saturday into next year, and many days between too.

The Zoom code for the Thursday meeting is:
That's Meeting ID: 869 3157 7325 Passcode: 979528
One tap mobile: +442034815240,,86931577325#,,,,*979528# United Kingdom

All are welcome by Zoom. If you came in person last time, it's going to be the sae venue (NOT The Hall yet) - if you didn't please let me know and I can send you details in a message; we have plenty of space on Zoom, but are limited in the room itself.

One of the elements I see as key to this working is positive partnership. Everyone working together for shared goals. And especially valuable in achieving that are the skills already on the council team, and in the hall's current users and supporters. I am delighted to see from and answer to a voter's questions: "The council has been assured by the Town Clerk that the Assembly Hall will be managed properly, council has the utmost confidence in the operation line management of the officer team in all aspects of running the Assembly Hall. Council also welcomes the opportunity to work with the community (FOMAH) to secure the long term future of the Assembly Hall and how it can be better utilised."

I can't speak for FoMAH - we're not yet properly constituted, and on that basis no-one really can (except Paul and Terri to the Town Council) - but I am going to personally re-iterate my desire to work with staff, user and volunteer skills, and I want to remind everyone (and record it here for posterity!) that FoMAH in no way was suggested / set up in order to displace any staff; I would be very unhappy indeed if it were to do so in the foreseeable future too. It was / is being set up after staff reductions are a fete acccompli - and indeed after the Town Council received a report from its own officer stating the the status quo was not an option, bearing in mind that staff levels have already been reduced.

Agenda for 16th September.
1. Introduction around the room, and welcome
2. Report back from Paul and Terri
3. Where we go from here
?4. Structures
?5. Committee / officers / etc
?6. Date of next meeting

Last time, as a first meeting, I offered a guiding slide set (URL just below) to help bring everyone up to speed. Some have indicated that this was stuff they knew already and didn't feel their time on it was well spend for them. Well - tough - others had gaps filled in, and we have that starting "checkpoint". However, there is no need for such a set / session at this second meeting. Newcomers are encouraged to read ahead, and the group is a friendly group (heck, it's in the title) so one of us can fill you in before hand or after if you are new to this.

2nd September meeting report - informal write up by Graham Ellis

Slide set from 2nd September meeting (including a review of where we are and where we should be looking) at ... recording of meeting at (huge file - until 16th Sept only)

There were around 20 people present at the meeting, split almost equally between those present in real life and those on Zoom, and it was a real "quality" gathering.

Whilst there was some concern as to how we got to this point (and some present expressed a lack of trust in the Town Council) the overall view was to see the current discussions as an opportunity. We are ALL moving forward whilst being aware of the concerns.

Good groundwork, common goal wanting to see positive outcome, vibrant hall needed, sustainable economic model, wide range of events to be held way in to the future. The meeting appointed two members (Paul Seemayer and Terri Welch) to liaise with Town Council meeting was unclear as to who and how to talk and what the new setup is now that staffing at the Assembly Hall and elsewhere on the council has been reduced. There was a universal desire to work with and in partnership with the council - help fill gaps, perhaps, but not to take over.

We note other town / models working well - mention made of the Cheese and Grain in Frome. Suggestion made to get in touch - but we already are and have some really useful feedback. Suggestions made about running / working as a CIC, and we have experience in the group at that. And we have ... so much rich expertise and enthusiasm.

Within those present, all agreed to sharing of names and email addresses WITHIN THE GROUP so we can easily communicate.

Next meeting - 19:00 on 16th September, same venue in real life, online link for Zoom

Published Monday, 13th September 2021

Thank you for voting Graham Ellis onto Melksham Town Council

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