Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary
|Links in this page:|
• To whom shall I rant?
• Vision 5, 10, 15 years
• Cancelled - ECWG meeting
• Melksham trains - CHANGES from May
• Carnival and PiP - why not?
• Local News, 1.3.2023
• Environment - 3 years on
• Town Council - Who tells you?
• No Party-in-the-Park 2023
• (Back to top of page)
|Some other pages on this site:|
• Home page and • town diary
• 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
More tourists for Melksham?
I'm away from home at present - and yet wherever I am, I am not really "off duty" - I am looking and learning and asking myself "can we learn anything for Melksham from what's done elsewhere?". And at dinner last night, seated with a gentleman from the West Coast of Scotland, conversation turned to favourite places in the world. He mentioned Sydney and Singapore; Lisa and I looked at each other and came up with Melksham - not necessarily for the great wonders we have, but for the community we love and are very much a part of.
We were in New Orleans yesterday and parts of it are very much a tourist city, yet away from the main sections there is a community to be seen, and the tourist trade brings significant economic benefits to the area and the residents. Could we do things to help bring more tourists to Melksham? They are in the area anyway at Stonehenge and Bath, and closer at Castle Combe, Bradford-on-Avon and Lacock? Pictured here - not the paddle steamers on the Mississippi, not the French Quarter, not the Trams and the 20 storey (yes, really!) hotels - but things that can give us ideas. I am not advocating encouraging tourists to excess, but rather looking proudly forward to us welcoming more tourists for - for example - the USA as they welcome us as tourists from Melksham.
* New Orleans T shirt (modeled by yours truley)
* River interpreattion board
* Splash Pad rules
* The Ghost Tour
* Bridge over the water in a park setting
* Specialist drink stand
... not exactly transportable to Melksham in any case, but ideas and food for thought.
Scroll down this blog or jump here and you'll find a previous article - written within the last week for a vision of Melksham 5, 10 and 15 years hence. And, yes, it includes tourism.
Published Thursday, 23rd March 2023
To whom shall I rant?Are you frustrated at something "The Council" does or does not do, and want to get some answers or action? Please read the rest of this post to help point you in the right direction. And if that doesn't help, please feel free to get in touch with me; I probably cannot offer you a solution/answer, but I can help you find someone who can.
This article is written for residents of Melksham, South Ward. The South Ward includes the High Street, the West side of Bank Street, Church Road and Church Walk, The Market Place, St Michaels Church and The Campus all parts of the Town Centre. Then residential areas off King's Road / Semington Road, and Spa Road out as far as the bypass. So that's areas such as Hazelwood Road, Longford Road, Kenilworth Gardens, Queensway (south of Clackers Brook) and Campion Drive.
First - choose from A. B. or C.
A. Are you looking at an issue which is concerned with day to day activities and operation of facilities? If so - you probably want to speak with Officers or staff at the organisation you are frustrated at, and if you've done that already, you'll want to speak to their managers.
B. Are you looking at a longer term issue to do with what the organisation actually does? If so - you probably want to speak initially with one of your elected representative; he or she may advise you that your concern may be addressed by a senior officer, or that the issue is something on which the council is legally constrained, or he or she may take the cause up for you. You probably won't be the first person to raise a concern.
C. Are you looking at an issue with what an organisation is allowed to do? If so, this might be a matter to raise with your Member of Parliament. And it could turn out to be the first step in a very long process.
Second - choose from one of these activity areas but noting these is massive overlap
1. Street Scene, Refuse collection, The Campus, Car Parking, Care in the Community, Planning and building, vulnerable people. Wiltshire Unitary Council may take the lead on these.
2. Parks, Play areas, Allotments, Assembly Hall, Street Furniture, Flowers, Special events in the town. The Town Council may take the lead on these.
3. Health. The National Heath Service is your first point of contact.
4. Public Transport. The train or bus operator is your first point of contact.
5. Crime and security. The police are your first point of contact.
So - have you decided whether you're an A1, a B2 or a C4?
Some quick links:
A1 - Web Application: myWiltshire. Web site wiltshire.gov.uk
A2 - Email: email@example.com
A3 - Your doctor's surgery, 111, or in an emergency 999
A4 - Try GWR for rail and Faresaver for bus issues.
A5 - Phone 101 or in an emergency 999
B1 - Your Wiltshire councillor is Jon Hubbard
B2 - Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or another town councillor (Colin, Jon, Jacqui)
B3 - [I would have to make enquiries]
B4 - Ask me on this as I am an active public transport exponent
B5 - Police and Crime Commissioner
C[Any] - our MP is Michelle Donalan; emails to her reach her office team who will route your enquiry as appropriate and may well be able to help you
Published Tuesday, 21st March 2023
Vision 5, 10, 15 yearsA vision for Melksham. Where might we be in 2028, 2033, or 2038?
I was copied on a senior (but incorrect) regional rebuke to our mayor pointing out that the travel and transportation section of the Neighbourhood Plan is out of date. Too right it's out of date - it illustrates progress that has been made in the three years since that plan was written. Some things at the top of the list have been ticked off already (even though the plan is dated 2020 - 2026) and we need to look ahead further. At what we want
Jump in this article
to Economic Infrastructure of Town
to Travel and Transport planning for the future
to Public Transport interventions
to Public Transport Interchange Hub
So where might we be 5, 10 and 15 years hence?
The economic infrastructure of the town
A vibrant Riverside, from the Challeymead (bypass) bridge all way up to the old farm bridge to the north of Scotland Road Bridge. Walkways on both sides. On the "Town" side preserving the Conigre Mead Nature Reserve and the riverside path from there passing along to the KGV Park, the Riverside Centre and the top of the Millennium Walk. On the "North Bank", a continuous waterside path alongside the waterway, now open to broad beamed craft (Kennet and Avon gauge) as far as Melksham Gate, with a narrow lock there and the navigation picking up the old canal route to the north of the town along the backwater across to Melksham Forest, climbing several further locks to do so and reaching at least as far as Lacock. Moorings all along the River Avon on that north side, from the green field area just inside the bypass past the historic industrial attraction of Avonside, ducking under the wide western arch of the Town bridge and continuing past the leisure /restaurant / entertainment area on the river frontage of the old "Avon Tyres" site, then into the parkland of Riverside Drive with formal and informal play areas.
From the southern end of the Riverside, a walk up though the little old Graveyard to the Historic Quarter. Melksham Church dates back some 800 years, and the medieval Church Walk and Georgian buildings around Cannon Square reflect a town that, 200 years ago, was substantial when Chippenham, Trowbridge and Swindon were just villages. Behind the church are the old buildings of Place Road and Melksham House, leading through to the Market Place, with the old Cheese Hall and Cheese Store in use as the Town Hall and "The Assembly" venue and "Blue Pool" bowling alley.
An attractive Pedestrianised Town Centre, with the High Street, and Church Street open for access and public transport only, forms a real community hub for residents and visitors to the town alike, supporting many of the types of personal service business that are thriving and have grown there at the time of writing (March 2023).
Melksham has a long and proud history and yet attempts at bring that history alive in a town museum have not been a great success in the past. The Round House housed exhibits and one time in the past, as did the Rachel Fowler Centre. Both suffered from a very thin flow of visitors to our little town which is great for living in, but has not had that magnetic attraction to bring crowds. While our "Well House Manor" was open as a hotel, we were able to host a dedicated museum room there, overcoming the need for environment, security and staffing that a museum needs by donating our own business resources to keeping it running. To this day, the museum is there, but open and available only by appointment. We are custodians for some material and much knowledge, as are the Melksham Historical Association, who have their materials in store at present in an upstairs room at the Assembly Hall.
As our town has grown, so has Town Centre living on old "Brown Field" sites and in redundant shops on the periphery. I'm looking at sites such as the old Library on Lowbourne, the section of the old "Avon Tyres" site away from the River, and the old "up yard" at the railway station as a major extension of this.
With the closure of one door, another opens. The end of tyre manufacture in Melksham isn't actually the end of "Avon Rubber" in the area. Avon Protection deal with everything from protective chemical suits, via rubber / inflatable boats to teats for automatic milking machines, out of town at Hampton Park West. And there's a desire to keep the name alive in the Town Centre too - with a rubber museum piloted by some of the many employees and former employees. Two buildings on the Cooper Tires site stand out - the Headquarters building, an old and listed Georgian Mill House, and the canteen building - a unique art nouveau building of perhaps 70 years vintage which holds so many memories for people. That latter is located just a few yards from the memorial to Avon Tyres employees who gave their lives in the World Wars and is centrally located - perhaps a wonderful opportunity to bring the two strands of museums together into something broad enough to be able to support its costs and attract much more than a trickle of visitors. Add in river exhibits, and river visitors, and you're coming up with a viable and attractive proposition.
Travel Planning for the future
I started writing this piece (scroll up) commenting about transport and travel. And yet I have looked at just about everything except those topics. For travel is something that's primarily there to get to and from (between) places and rarely (unless scenic) an end unto itself.
I have painted a vision for much of the Town Centre, but I'm also taking a wider view for everyone - residents, business visitors, tourists, people passing by, with how they move around. We fairly know / can assume that the Melksham area will continue to grow in terms of numbers of residents. We can fairly assume that the environment, including climate change, will have an increasing influence on our world and our area going forward. We know that we need to review assumptions made on the background during the work 4 years ago which was preCovid, before the completion of Brexit, when the economic climate was very different, when concerns about energy, plastics, global warming and biodiversity were much more muted. So - let's get back to travel and transportation issues bearing some of those thoughts in mind, and against the background of the Town Centre and area model I have projected above.
Have you come across the 15 minute neighbourhood or the 20 minute city? They are all about having things close to home and close to each other. A 15 minute walk or cycle or perhaps shuttle bus, through "green and pleasant lands", or a 20 minute (max) journey to the next town by frequent shared (public) transport to reach facilities shared by a series of market towns linked into a connected city. Although they may not be explicitly declared as goals in mainstream planning in our area, there is much to be said for plans to re reviewed against their contacts.
Melksham has a maze of Walking, Cycling, Scooting paths. But it is a maze. Many are there because of history, others changed, diverted or partially closed because of developments, and often they are hard to find, poorly waymarked / mapped, and not joined up. The Neighbourhood Plan (1) has a number of strategic paths mapped onto it, and they remain broadly good. There are other needed, such as a path over the bypass (current A350, Challymead) bridge to give a foot crossing of the river, and links to the Hazelwood Road and the rear of The Campus on the south side, and to Asda and the Railway Station on the north side; the actual path needed is no longer than 150 yards, and the bridge itself already has a parapet that's wide enough. But I need to be careful in what I write here - that is just an example and I could come up with a dozen other places where an intervention would be really useful. Another day perhaps?
I am known as something of a walking, cycling and public transport proponent, but private cars very, very much have their place too. You can't have every journey at every time of day catered for by a bus, and there's a limit as to what you can carry on a bus. The future may bring us autonomous shared vehicles - shuttling around the town and perhaps the wider urban area, but for the time being we need to allow for substantial car parking space at both residences and detonations, enough road infrastructure to have the safe capacity, and refuelling stations be that for fossil fuels, hydrogen, electricity or summat else. And we also need to have sensibly direct routings along the way. You'll note from earlier comments in this article that it looks like I'm loosing some parking at Church Street and Lowbourne. I would look to gain some at the Riverside site, and via a rear access to the Campus / Melksham House area, all intended to keep Town Centre / Market Place traffic at a lower level.
One of the private car journey types that's a particular concern is "the school run" - in particular to primary schools; I note Manor, Aloeric, Forest and Sandridge, Bowerhill, Shaw all of which have traffic issues. And it can only get worse as schools like Forest and Sandridge expand, as does housing that's not within easy walking distance of any of these such as Pathfinder Way and Upside Yard.
Private Cars are pretty inefficient. If you drive your car 10,000 miles a year, that'll be under an hour a day and it will be sitting idle for the other 23 hours. And changes are that your car has five seats and most of the time it's moving that hour it will only have one or two people in it. Surely there is scope for Car sharing schemes and ride sharing schemes in the Melksham area? Can a car be in effect a mini-mini-bus??
Taxis and private hire vehicles; Uber; Lyft A small but vital part of the travel market, of especial use where people cannot drive. But also very useful for low-mileage people who really don't want the outlay of a car. In Melksham at present we have no central booking system and it can be a problem finding a taxi, and to my knowledge no Uber or Lyft. Looking to the comments about pedestrianisation I've made above, there would be a need for decisions as to whether they taxis could pass through in the same way as buses.
Buses - scheduled services and demand responsive services, long distance coach services and passenger trains should form a network allowing people to get from where they start to where they need to go, and a time that works for them, at a sensible price with through ticketing, and fast, frequent, comfortable and reliable enough to be attractive.
Melksham currently has limited active bus gates and no priority schemes to help speed services and make them attractive (and at the same time allow each vehicle to make more trips). There is scope for more (but no point in putting them in without the services to use them, and the passenger to use those services)
It has a disjoint between rail, bus and coach services. Some frequencies are poor, routes not going where people want (or in the classic case of the 14 making the outward journey they want, but an awkward return journey involving a change and wait). Connections feel random, and yet so many journeys could best be made with a network and not an individual route philosophy, and through ticketing is almost non-existent! Many services run only in the middle of the day; just one evening bus route in Melksham at present.
So - where do people want to come and go in Melksham? For residents, to and from their homes, the Town Centre, the supermarket, the Riverside, the Historic area, the Campus, the medical facilities. To and from work, primarily Bowerhill and Hampton Park West. And to interchanges / connections on to other towns - to Bath, to Chippenham, Trowbridge and Swindon, to Devizes, to Corsham, to Calne, to Bradford-on-Avon, perhaps to Bristol and further afield. For visitors, how much do we have at present to attract them? There are, many, business visitors to the Bowerhill Industrial area but the public transport offering to there is supremely unattractive. The historic area and magnetism that I suggest as a goal much earlier in this article is not there yet at a sufficient volume to tip us into the "quality and quantity destination" category, but it could be. The social and visiting of friends, cafes, pubs and local events from the regions is somewhat there, but the evening "get you home" is not there for public transport users except in exceptional circumstances.
Public Tranport Network - future and interventions
So - what public transport network should our town support into the future? Let me look at some features.
Local Buses to serve stops within 100 yards of sources / destinations during the day, and within 400 yards in the early morning and evening. Service targets to be every 30 minutes during the day and every hour in the early mornings and evenings. Buses on major flows to nearby towns to run every 30 minutes, and on minor flows every hour. Less that hourly the service becomes a difficult sell.
Train services to be at least hourly in each direction, and run daily from early morning until late evening. That is twice the current frequency, which is much poorer than other comparable towns, and that shows in the poor passenger numbers. The service at Melksham has dramatically improved in the last decade and that shows in the numbers, but we still have a long way to go. Double the number of trains, run them reliably, and you'll see the number of passenger rise fourfold - and that's even before you consider the extra population of the area and Melksham as a visitor's destination. There is a need for rail industry interventions to reliably add capacity, or to improve performance of use. This intervention is likely to be outside the immediate Melksham Town area and will be or much wider regional benefit.
Bus gates / access for buses, probably taxis, possibly shared use vehicles
1. Riverside Drive
2. High Street
*3. (Old) Bath Road to Beanacre Road and perhaps to (New) Bath Road
4. Foundry Close to Station Approach
5. Dunch Lane
6. Bowerhill Industry to Halifax Road
7. Hazelwood Road into Campus
8. Campion Drive to Longford Road
* - to clarify, the cul-de-sac alongside Cooper Tires from the Unicorn up to the main A350 / A365 corner to be remodelled to allow buses from and to Bath and Chippenham direct access into the town without doubling back at Farmer's Roundabout.
Changes to the Cooper Tires / Riverside site are almost inevitable. A change to the current A350 (Beanacre Road) seems very likely - be it with a new bypass on another route around the town, or engineering works to raise speed and capacity on the current route. And changes to the railway infrastructure, allowing for Melksham to have an appropriate (as opposed to thin) service are projected, all be it we have just been told not to expect any of the needed interventions until 2029.
Public Tranport Network - Interchange Hub
Melksham's Transport Interchange Hub. The railway line cannot realistically move , but could the station could go another location on the line. Whilst now is a good time to think "out of the box", I see no overriding benefit in relocating the station, with big benefits to having it remain where it is - benefits in next paragraph. To complete documentation of the main options I have thus ruled out: (a) - to the south / behind ASDA, (b) - to the north / off Dunch Lane and (c) At Thingley on the A350, as a parkway. So - what am I suggesting?
Melksham Railway Station to remain at its current location. Accesses:
1. (As at Present) from the Bath Road - all vehicles, foot, cycles
2. From Foundry Close - buses (perhaps taxis), foot, cycles
3. Directly east - past / via Spencer Sports and Social Club to A350 opposite Scotland Road, foot and cycle only
4. Steps up to A365, foot only
5. Bridge to upside yard development, foot and cycle. Potential - not shown on map
SECTION B (shown as * on map)
Crossing the A350. So much of this depends on whether this remains the trunk road or gets bypassed but an optimum, user friendly, bus crossover to rejoin Bath Road, with access also to A365 Bath Road and A350 Chippenham Road
On Old Bath Road. Bus stops on all routes into and out of Melksham / possible pull in to transport hub on Avon Tires site. Waiting shelters, but stops, information, etc. Good walking links to Riverside, Town Bridge, towards north Melksham along A350, to new facilities
Sections A and C are normally walkable to each other
Section A - Railway Station - to be servered by
* Trains to Swindon via Chippenham, moving up from every 2 hours to every hour
* Trains to Westbury via Trowbridge, moving up from every 2 hours to every hour
* Buses (current route x34) to Lacock and Chippenham, and to Semington and Trowbridge
- every 30 minutes (as at present Monday to Friday daytime, but extended to 7 day operation)
- every hour in the evening
* Rail Link Bus (service 16) as per demonstration last September to East Melksham and Bowerhill
- hourly, connecting to and from trains
* Town Bus (service 14) similar to current service; Granville Road routes running via station
Section C - Old Bath Road for RIverside - to be served by same BUSES as Section A, plus
* Service 271 to Whitley, Atworth and Bath, and to Melksham Forest and Bowerhill. Hourly
* Service 272 to Atworth, Box and Bath and to Bowerhill and Devizes. Hourly
* Services 68 and 69 to Corsham, and to Bradford-on-Avon. Every 2 hours / hourly to Corsham with x76
* Service 273 Bath to Devizes, picking up 271 and 272 evenings and Sundays. Hourly
* Service x76 to Corsham, Bath and Royal United Hospital, and to Bromham, Calne and Marlborough. 2 hourly
Published Saturday, 18th March 2023
Cancelled - ECWG meetingI'm disappointed to learn that the Environment and Climate Working Group of the Town Council that should have started a few minutes ago has been cancelled "Due to a number of absences the ECWG meeting ... is cancelled" and at just one day's notice.
Sure, I'm not in Melksham this week - I'm on a ship off Havana. But I am around and attended an electric bus meeting earlier today, a rail service meeting with GWR last week, and a Bristol area bus meeting too. However, when I asked for a code to watch the Annual Town Meeting on Monday, I was told the meeting was taking place "in person only". Sad - we really need to be routinely able to hold hybrid meetings in Melksham - not just Full Council and committee meetings. And that's especially the case for things like the enviromnent and climate group which could be setting something of an example by helping members cut the need to travel.
I also ask if the Town Council (as a whole) values the volunteers who give their time for free to support groups like this. A single day's notice to our specialists, and to our unpaid councillors, doesn't strike me as being exactly considerate and appreciative of their investent of time.
Yesterday, I was in Freeport in the Bahamas. Warm, fun, but looking around these days I'm more educated than I was a decade ago, and I also see the damage we are doing to our planet at almost every turn. A long way from Melksham, but still an educational trip as well as a holiday.
Published Wednesday, 15th March 2023
Melksham trains - CHANGES from MayTrain Services - Melksham - from 21st May 2023. There will be a slight increase - from 116 to 118 trains per week. The big news is a new later evening service which we have been requesting for a long time. Whilst we will miss the trains we lose on Saturdays, there is an alternative to each of them no more than an hour different, and this change can be described as a tidying up exercise.
Overview of major changes:
On Monday to Friday
* we lose the service at 05:33 to Swindon
* we gain a service at 21:55 to Swindon (all year)
* we gain a service at 22:55 to Westbury (all year)
(17 calls until May, 18 calls after May)
* we lose services at 08:50 and 15:22 to Swindon
* we lose services at 10:00, 16:30 and 21:32 to Westbury
* we gain a service at 21:34 to Swindon (for the summer only?)
* we gain a service at 22:37 to Westbury (for the summer only?)
(17 calls until May, 14 calls after May)
There are no major changes to the Sunday timetable
(14 calls until May, 14 calls after May)
Summer day trips to Weymouth will be encouraged with a through train at 09:10 on Saturdays, and a through train back getting into Melksham at 21:34. However, there will no longer be a connection at Westbury on Monday to Friday morning to Weymouth so these day trips will be weekend only. Sundays are often affected by engineering works and I will comment further (weekend by weekend) as we get towards summer.
Overall, positive news for Melksham. Confirmed by GWR as the plan within the last week.
It should be noted that other stations in our area have done far better - Westbury, Trowbridge and Bradford-on-Avon now have 3 trains an hour rather than 2 into Bath and Bristol, and from Chippenham, some of their Bristol trains are extended to Weston-super-mare (every 2 hours). There is a welcome return of the through morning service from Chippenham to Plymouth and Penzance.
Calls at Dilton Marsh increase from 23 to 31 per day - filling significant gaps - and there are more services at Warminster, with many carrying on south to Salisbury.
Published Friday, 10th March 2023
Carnival and PiP - why not?On the cancellation of this year's Party in the Park, and Carnival - answering a question on "Sham Shoutouts" asked by a someone prepared to actually ask what other might be thinking: "Where is the councils input to fund these events. Similar to the KGV no interest in bringing people to the town." My answer is (I think) something might want to come back to later, so I'm repeating it here for posterity.
Holidays & Cruises Travel Experts - I'm writing in answer as an individual volunteer and organiser; I'm a councillor but not speaking officially for the council, which I have no authority to do. Volunteer organisers, administrators and lead motivators are in short supply. Not just a Melksham issue. Rules and regulations and red tape grow, and the calls on individual personal lives to make money to maintain themselves and their families grows. Active ladies and gentlemen who got involves with this as their families grew and flew are getting old and stepping back. Others not getting involved - no new generation coming as life has changed, far more people are likely to be going home after work / watching hundreds of TV channels when we had 4 in my youth, online, etc, and in second jobs too. Far fewer down the pub or the social club which is the traditional seedbed of these activities.
Volunteer organisations and their outputs tend to be cyclic. Where you news is the loss of PiP and Carnival this year is sad, we have a blossoming Food and River Festival (pictured), and something else planned, I think. Wider, while we have a hole at the local Railfuture branch, we have a blossoming at the West Wilts Rail User Group. Some receive an element of public funding, others not. Some receive a small public grant, others a larger one. Almost all receive encouragement and advice if they garner it and let things be known from the Town Council. But that often comes with an extra cost of paperwork, early engagement and hoops to jump through at a very time that the group is really thin on the ground to undertake those extra activities. This (2021) Town Council in set its major grants for the whole 4 year term at the start, with the very intent of setting some stability right through the council's term. Minor grants come and go, and indeed the budget for them for next year is cut by about a third as part of the council's move to keep the precept we charge are residents unchanged - open to criticism perhaps, except that we are underspending this year so it will not be a cut in what we are distributing.
There are people around who are dubious of the ability of volunteers to be continually effective - to take on a project and stick with it (and I will point out that your TOWN councillors are volunteers and get the same doubt). And that means that some people in paid positions tend to take on jobs themselves where volunteers could be encouraged and help. It can be said that their salary and the need of it gives a continuity, and conditions of employment direct them much more that the loose cannon of just working to the 2025 re-election or their own personal interests. I have personally been an employer of staff, a paid organiser or volunteers, an organising volunteer and a grass roots volunteer and have a view of all sides of this - it's complex.
I have a lot of time for "Holidays & Cruises Travel Experts" because I believe it is the political handle of one of my opponents in the standing for the Town Council in 2021. Good on you for putting your time and intent into standing up and saying "I can help" where so many, frankly, grumble but do not offer themselves up to help. But I do wish that you would come along to council and put your views ahead of meetings of the elected decision makers; do that and you'll find in Melksham that you'll get heard, considered, and get that early influence. If you are passionate about Party-in-the-Park, that extra input and your active early admin information and promotion just might lead to a different outcome. BUT consider that against changing times, activities coming and going, and greater waves around that effect the world around us under which groups run - take your choice of Covid, Brexit, Ukraine, the economy and squeeze, changing social background, and the environment and climate.
P.S. I have not mentioned the bypass and other future stuff. That is done and should be done in parallel, and it not the case the the Town Council is considering EITHER / OR - it is doing both. Actually thought very little on the bypass - that is Wiltshire Coucil's and a regional baby and all the Town Council can do is gently blow some breaths into the sails of the project to help the outcome be best for the town.
Published Thursday, 2nd March 2023
Local News, 1.3.2023Wednesday, 1st March 2023 ... An incredibly full council agenda on Monday night, attended by eleven of your fifteen councillors, and an internal panel meeting last night. Today it's a meeting with GWR and this evening the AGM of the West Wiltshire Rail User Group. Some local news ...
Loos in the park - due by the end of February, but now postponed and we have a final date of 28th April.
Tree Planting - the major program for this winter has missed the target date and the work postponed until the autumn. There is little point in planting trees this month as they would be unlikely to do well, needing watering through the summer and then forming shallower route trays.
BMX Bike Track - A councillor proposal to replace the play area at Burnet Close with a BMX track at a cost of £62,000 was taken forward, though with a view to looking at other sites; a suggestion that Methuen Avenue might be more appropriate curried strong favour.
Assembly Hall - The April to June program and newsletter is out. New highlights include Roller Disco returning mid March, Peter Rabbit in April, Coronoation in May. Quiz nights continue, and watch for much else too.
Town Centre Masterplan - a long discussion as to whether we should "waste our money on reports that will sit on shelves" versus we should "make it clear what we would like to see to that planners and developers know where to head". Te latter prevailed, and it has some legal backing via the neighbourhood plan, and well as being sensible for developers to consider what we want and work side by side with us.
Environment and Climate Working Group - I commented yesterday http://grahamellis.uk/blog789.html about this important group and will be back on this topic in coming days. At Monday night's meeting, the agendaed items were skipped over
GWR / trains - we should be back to published timetable next weekend - for a couple of weeks - but then various industrial actions through the rest of the month. I have a meeting with GWR late this afternoon about the May timetable and will be reporting back tonight.
Cooper Tires Working Group - not sure how this came up and got approved as it was not on the Agenda - however, good call. Looking at three things:
1. Preservation of history and relics / museum
2. Helping displaced staff move on to new jobs or their chosen next phase
3. Working out what happens to the site.
Councillors Hubbard, Price, Rabey, Ellis, Mortimer and S Crundell.
Other updates - goodness knows what's happening with splashpad opening into long summer evenings, on the Town Hall being open one evening per week, on the investigarion of the East of Melksham Hall / investigations for Verbena Court - all overdue on news. Last night was the meeting for presentations by potential catering providers for the park - I will let you know when I hear back; whoever is selected will need to move quickly to provide something by 1st April - however, the final bidders will all be aware of this need to sprint into action if selected. UPDATE, 11 a.m. - Decision made and exciting news to follow.
And finally today - a massive amount of my time is going into internal working panel meetings - three last week and another yesterday, and the preparation and following up of these sessions. Really important stuff to help ensure you have a town council that runs like a well oiled machine, effective for Melksham and motivational for staff and councillors, over the two remaining years in office of the currently elected representatives.
In the picture at the head of this article from Monday's Facebook feed
On left: Councillors Alford, Price, Houghton, Aves and Ellis
At head: Hugh Davies (Head of Operations), Councillor S Crundell (Mayor), Linda Roberts (Town Clerk) and Councillor Mortimer (Deputy Mayor)
On right: Vaughan Thompson of Place Studios (talking on Town Centre MasterPlan) and Councillors Hubbard, Oatley,Goodhind and Rabey
Foreground: Chairs for the public
Published Wednesday, 1st March 2023
Environment - 3 years onThree years ago today I was in Bristol to see Greta Thunberg speak to the rally in Bristol.
The BBC Reported ""Greta Thunberg has warned "those in power" she will "not be silenced when the world is on fire". The teenager was welcomed by chants of "Greta, Greta" as she addressed some 15,000 people at the Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate (BYS4C) event. She accused politicians and the media of ignoring the climate emergency and "sweeping their mess under the rug".""
Proud to have been there - not that my presence made the day any different, not that I burned less CO2 that day, but to say "I think this is important too, and I am going to stand up and say so". I have said so locally too - we have both a worldwide issue and a local issue. The environment - which includes climate -was one of the three strategic pillars I set when I stood for council - Openness, Equality and the Environment.
Three years ago, I listened to Greta. She did not "convert" me - I was already on board. But happy to be there and with so many young people who will inherit whatever we leave behind.
Two years ago I stood for Town Council with my three pillars starkly on my soapbox and somewhat against the odds got elected.
Last year, the council's new Environment and Climate Working Group (ECWG) was up and running and with a humongous spreadsheet of things and projects we could look at.
This year (this month), sad to say our working group chair who has been driving the group has stood down. If she's reading this, "Thank you" for your piloting of the group through its creation, definition of the task and leading into initial projects. No-one said it would be easy, and you have created the foundation of a group which needs to help take local account, and join the far wider influence too. I hope you'll continue to assist the grouo as I know you will the wider community with your own area of expertise.
Our working group has a core of dedicated, active support, and I am delighted. We have a mix - of experts, of campaigners, of unitary councillors as well as town councillors and support staff. Some attending each month to help pilot projects through and provide inputs towards other council activities, others able to make it from time to time. The bud from the year just gone is now well placed to bloom into a very visible flower, not only undertaking activities ourselves, but informing and encouraging others to do so in a way far beyond (and far quicker) than the ECWG team can do on its own.
I look forward to posting further on this topic at the end of February 2024 and telling you of the next step. Time is not on our side. The world is on fire.
Published Tuesday, 28th February 2023
Town Council - Who tells you?Someone wrote that they read my blog as it tells them what's going on much more than / instead of the other councillors. Thank you for that - I take it as a complement, but not as a criticism of other councillors.
You have 15 volunteers who, unpaid, work for the town and each of the 15 of us does it in our own way. Some of us are retired and can give the role plenty of time, but others of us have paid employment, additional elected roles. And we each choose to do what we feel is appropriate - championing causes from the platform we were elected on, but also taking into account the extra understanding of how certain things work, both from prior experience and what we have learned during and after election.
Yes, one of my "pet projects" is keeping people informed, but that's my "bent" and I would not expect everyone to do it. Far better to have [***] concentrate on finances, [***] specialise in security, [***] lead on play areas and young people, and so on. And my "pet project" of writing things up takes a lot of time - willingly given, and I have the luxury of having some time, and the "way" of having an active mind which motivates me to write, and to answer any resultant queries as a pleasure that helps inform me and make me think further.
* The picture of all 15 councillors at the head of this article is from the Town Council Web Site and there are details there telling you how to contact any of us. And links from there to other council resources.
* My blog is can be read (here) - you'll see the latest 10 articles. I have written about 250 articles in 2 years and you can search through them from that link above, or see them indexed (here). Views are my own
* For a regular, general information feed if you're on Facebook, you'll find my personal Councillor page (here) - typically links to blogs with a short summary, but also day by day stuff and an opportunity to discuss. The Town Council has a Facebook page (here) and I am delighted that it's now much more active than previously - big "Thank You" to staff feeding it.
Published Monday, 27th February 2023
No Party-in-the-Park 2023Sharing with you a letter received by our Town Clerk yesterday from Mark Stansby, Chairman, Party-in-the-Park, and circulated to all councillors.
|Cancellation of Party-in-the-Park 2023|
It is with deep regret that I write to inform you that our organising committee has taken the difficult decision to cancel this year’s event.
Like many voluntary groups we have struggled to recruit new members with the skills and the experience required to organise an event of this size. For those of us currently on the committee, we simply do not have the necessary resources to plan and to generate sufficient funding for the event to meet expectations.
To put this into perspective we currently have vacancies for the following key roles:
Treasurer / Finance officer
Sponsorship & Marketing officer
Contract Tendering officer
Publicity / Event Programme Administrator
Our committee has held regular meetings since the end of the lock-down period and, moving forward, we will look to arrange some smaller events, such as the Monster Ball which returned last year at the Assembly Hall. We will also strive to fill the vacant positions within the team, as it remains our ambition to hold a revised, and possibly rebranded event, in the park in 2024.
We know this announcement will disappoint many who have attended and supported our event over the years, but this is the correct decision under the present circumstances.
We hope to announce more positive news in due course.
Published Friday, 24th February 2023