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Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary

Links in this page:
Quiet as a mouse
Climate and Parlimentary Candidates
Planning application - fell tree
Train travel - save money by split ticketing
"Happy to Chat" - revisited / progress
Melksham Town Council - strategy and vision
Public Transport - Melksham vision and working towards it
Melksham and Devizes - constituency and candidates
Mayor, deputy and committees for 2024/25
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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.

Choosing who to vote for as MP


Who will our Member of Parliament be for the next five years? What policies will he or she pursue for the sustainability and prosperity of the Melksham and Devizes Constituency and for the UK as a whole?

We have a choice of five candidates, each representing a different political party and each of them very earnest and committed to their approach. But the approaches differ, and over the next five years we need to be bolstering our actions to reduce and reverse climate change ... but at the same time we need to safeguard our economy, helping that refocus rather than break.

Over the past 3 weeks, I have been chairing a group of representatives from across the constituency. We are holding a hustings on Wednesday 26th June 2024 at the Spencer Sports and Social Club on Beanacre Road, Melksham. We have engaged with all five candidates, and the most will be there in person. Your chance to listen, learn about both the person and their policies, and use what you learn to help you make your decision.

Please take your seats at 18:00 for a prompt 18:15 start. All welcome, no charge for entry. More details at
http://www.melkshamenvironmentgroup.org.uk/hustings.html

From Colerne to Urchfont, and from each of the three major towns (Bradford-on-Avon, Devizes and Melksham) in the constituency, and from the Calne ward that's in the constituency and Lavington, our Hustings Organisation Group has come together. We look forward to continuing to work together after the election, and to working with whichever candidate is elected as our MP through the term of the next parliament.


Published Monday, 17th June 2024

Quiet as a mouse

I have seemed noticably quiet of late on council matters, haven't I? There are multiple reasons.

Firstly, I am delighted to see fellow councillors are now much more active on social media, and on sharing stories. Some of these come from seeds I have sewn or at least watered, though you probably wouldn't know that from reading their posts ;-)

Secondly, I have spent a disproportionate part of my "council time" on confidential things like (but far from limited to) the Joint Melksham Neighbourhood Plan. Within the last few days, the fruits of this work are available in public via the agenda packs for Monday evening's Town and Parish council meetings. There will be an overview in the Melksham News, and consultation events on the significant recent local changes (some of which were informed by your public consulation inputs last autumn) on 19th, 20th and 23rd July subject to council approval. The Neighbourhood Plan is a key local document, and if this revision is approved will allow extra weight to local input, and also provide us in the Melksham area with additional funding right through to 2038 - but getting it into place is a long process, at times with little visibility.

Thirdly, I am aware of pressures on the Town Council's tiny admin team, all of whom haven't been in post all that long. As with staffing and directorship changeovers in any organsation (and our councillors are our directors in effect) the time taken by follow up issues of staff leaving, of training new staff and learning themselves, and of recruiting to fill positions we have open has to be seen to be believed. As well as staff, new directors are natually keen to "get on with the job" and that adds pressure - understandable but less than ideal. Last summer, I helped reduce the load on our staff team by helping out (trained, I will add) at the Splashpad, and I'll be doing so again this year through the summer holidays. I'll also be assisting at those public consultation events in July - none of these exactly great personal publicity generators in terms of getting re-elected next year, but should be really helpful in relieving pressure on staff and understanding their situation better to I can help them through to at least May next year.

As I write, I am away from Melksham. That really should not matter provided that my heart is there and I am around the town a reasonable amount. And at the time of my election it did not matter, as I and other councillors could attend meetings, make inputs, and vote via Zoom, and I did so. But the law has been changed, and I can now only attend Council meetings remotely as a member of the public - with an opportunity to speak only in "public participation" at the start of the meeting, and maybe if the meeting votes to "suspend standing orders" during proceedings. I certaily am not allowed to propose or second anything, not to make the meeting quorate nor to vote. In contrast - well, lots of other stuff on local environmental and transport issues from here, as normal!


Published Friday, 14th June 2024

Climate and Parlimentary Candidates

We have a general election coming up, and a choice (to my knoweldge, so far) between five candidates to represent us in the new Melksham and Devizes seat.

Climate Change - and the whole issues of how we look after our enviroment - is a massive topic that will be with us for the rest of our lives. Locally, nationally, and worldwide. And as individuals there are limits as to what we can do. Our politicians have great powers and we should consider very carefully what they would do if they got into parliament / power to steer us.

From the BBC:

The world's fossil fuel industries should be banned from advertising to help save the world from climate change, the head of the United Nations said on Wednesday.

UN Secretary General António Guterres called coal, oil and gas corporations the “godfathers of climate chaos” who had distorted the truth and deceived the public for decades.

Just as tobacco advertising was banned because of the threat to health, the same should now apply to fossil fuels, he said.

His remarks were his most damning condemnation yet of the industries responsible for the bulk of global warming.
[Article continues] ...

Widely covered elsewhere too - for example


I wonder how our candidates stand ...

* On advertising and taxes on fossil fuel products

* On reducing and reversing unrecyclable waste

* On gathering energy sustainably and locally and on efficiency saving support to ensure we make best use of energy

* On clean air

* On "greening" to ensure that our world and cycle does clean up CO2, and on ensuring biodiversity to make sure we retain robustness in the system.

* On encouraging people to use efficient (public) transport and making sure that such transport is attractively provided when and where appropriate

* On robustness (or otherwise) of our infrastructure to withstand the effects of the climate change we're already seeing

Some difficult and expensive questions here, and where answers in the best interst of the world might not be in the best interest of candidates in the polling both on 4th July.


Published Thursday, 6th June 2024

Planning application - fell tree

Planning application PL/2024/04426
Notification of proposed works to trees in a conservation area
Address: Oakwood House, 7 Spa Road, Melksham, SN12 7NP
Proposal: Beech tree – fell

Application states "Beech tree fell due to cracking wall. Oak reduced by 2m to let more light in". In for consideration with Wiltshire Council looking for comments by the end of tomorrow (5.6.2024). Also on the agenda this evening at Melksham Town Council, but we are just advisory. Town Council meeting open to public in person and also via Zoom.


Links
planning application
Town council agenda pack


Published Tuesday, 4th June 2024

Train travel - save money by split ticketing

Tuesday 5th June 2024 - Melksham to Gatwick single at 07:21 to arrive Gatwick at 09:55. It's peak fares, and GWR website offers me a number of options - lowest cost is £121.50 "this train only" for the Swindon to Reading section, or if I pay an extra 80p I can have an anytime ticket.

But wait - if I buy tickets for each section of the journey independently I pay a total of only £81.30

Journey: 1 Melksham to Swindon (Wilts) @ £10.50
Anytime Day Single £10.50 (1 @ £10.50)

Journey: 2 Swindon (Wilts) to Reading @ £46.80
Anytime Day Single £46.80 (1 @ £46.80)
Note - could have saved a further 80p with a "this train only" ticket

Journey: 3 Reading to Gatwick Airport @ £24.00
Off-Peak Day Single £24.00 (1 @ £24.00)

It's called "split ticketing" and - provided that the train I'm on calls at the intermdiate points (heck, in this case I'm changing there!!) it's perfectly allowed. When I'm going to be past the peak on the Reading to Gatwick section, why the heck should I be paying a peak fare?

Return fares - purchasing both directions on the same ticket if you're coming back - will also work out substatially cheaper, as will travelling outside peak hours. The example above is necessitated to be at Gatwick in time for a flight, and is a single because the passenger is not coming back to Melksham. Please ask me for comment on your individual journey if I can help.

Published Monday, 3rd June 2024

"Happy to Chat" - revisited / progress

I would be delighted to have a "Happy to Chat" bench in KGV and suggested it on 13th February 2022. At the time, the policy on benches with dedications was under review, and my sugegstion was paused awaiting the outcome. See ((here)) for my original proposal.

On 17th January 2023, I proposed a bench to the Town Council in memory of Peter and Margaret Blackburn, who has passed away the previous year. Peter and Margaret were very much the stalwards of the Melksham Railway Development Group and the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership. Without them, I doubt Melksham would have a train service. And they love to chat - so somehow the bench would be a very fitting tribute, and agreed by family at the time of Margaret's passing in December 2022.

A form was sent to me, returned, acknowledge by the council staff. Wording and location of dedicated benches is being co-ordinated these days, and I asked for confirmaton that the suggested wording is acceptable. Progress has been rather slow, and I have chased up multiple times (14th June 2023, 30th October 2023, and March and May this year). On 28th May 2024 a town council manager emailed me to let me know "We have unfortunately not had the time to fit the bench you mentioned before but have now contacted a contractor to do this for us".

I do look forward to having a "Happy to Chat" bench and reminder of Peter and Margaret in the park. I would love it to be in place for this summer, but I am realistic and appreciate that such requests by members of the public (which I am for this purpose) take what many consider to be a very long time. In view of that delay, it's getting rather embarrassing to be asking those who said "yes" and agreed a not insubstatial payment for the bench and plaque (policy is £1000) but I'm certain that the money will be found once the wording is accepted and a location and installation date estimate is provided.

Illustration picture - thanks to Jo G who has trigged me to give you a progress report on this. From Camelford in Cornwall, but there are other examples.

A "Councillor Motion" is not required on this item. Council sets policy and benches such as this are within policy. It is down to staff and resources to progress it.

Published Sunday, 2nd June 2024

Melksham Town Council - strategy and vision

A Melksham Town Council strategic vision was passed at full council on Tuesday - motion and strategy below, including the friendly amendments I proposed (so slightly different to the agenda pack)

Motion: To fully adopt the purpose, core values of Melksham Town Council as set out at the strategy meeting on 19th May 2024. At each meeting the purpose of the council should be read, with both the purpose and relevant core value clearly stated on agenda. For full council a link to the full strategy can be provided.

Community Governance

Implementing robust corporate governance is essential for the success of our town council's strategic plan, ensuring transparency, accountability, and integrity in all decision-making processes.

By establishing clear policies and procedures, we can enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of council operations, fostering trust and confidence among residents and stakeholders. Regular audits, ethical guidelines, and a commitment to open communication will help prevent conflicts of interest and ensure that all actions are in the best interest of the community.

People remain at the heart of the council’s objectives and the town is proud to be recognised as an Age Friendly community, excited by the range of inclusivity exhibited within the town and committed to involving our young people in every aspect of civic life.

Emphasising strong leadership and governance standards will enable us to navigate challenges, manage resources judiciously, and achieve our strategic goals.

This approach will not only promote ethical conduct and public accountability but also drive sustainable development and community well-being.

Parks and Recreation

Incorporating parks and recreation into our town council's strategic plan is vital for enhancing the quality of life, promoting wellness, and fostering community spirit.

Developing and maintaining well-equipped parks, sports facilities, and green spaces will provide residents with opportunities for physical activity, relaxation, and social interaction.

Melksham is rightly proud of our recreational areas, including the impressive facilities available at King George V playing fields (The Park), where we are committed to achieving Green Flag status.

Offering a diverse range of recreational programmes and events for all ages will encourage active lifestyles and strengthen community bonds. Prioritising the conservation of natural habitats within these spaces will also support environmental sustainability and biodiversity.

We recognise the value of community play areas and the impact that they have on young children's development. We will maintain and improve a varied range of accessible and safe play opportunities for children and young people across the town.

By investing in parks and recreation together with strategic placement of street furniture to facilitate walking routes for all residents, we create inviting public spaces that enhance the town's appeal, boost the local economy through tourism and events, and contribute to the overall happiness and health of our residents.

Growth and Heritage

We are a council that actively encourages business opportunity and development, encouraging independent service-based businesses that enrich our town.

The town council believes it is essential to strike a balance between business growth and the preservation of our rich heritage. Fostering an environment that encourages entrepreneurship and attracts new businesses will generate jobs, improve our community, and enhance the overall quality of life for our residents.

At the same time, it is crucial to protect and celebrate our historical landmarks and cultural conditions that give our town its unique identity.

By integrating modern development with heritage conservation, we can create a vibrant community where progress and history coexist harmoniously, ensuring a prosperous and culturally enriched future for generations to come.

Environment

Integrating environmental sustainability into our town council's strategic plan is crucial for ensuring a resilient and thriving community. Prioritising initiatives such as biodiversity, reducing carbon emissions, enhancing energy efficiency, and promoting the use of renewable energy sources will help mitigate climate change impacts.

The town council is committed to operating in a sustainable manner, and where possible, achieving carbon neutrality in our operations. We will seize the opportunity and prioritise investment in green energy whenever looking at council or partnership development.

We will work with the community and local businesses to help everyone understand and promote the mutual responsibility to keep our town clean.

We will encourage and support our community in their biodiversity journey, especially through encouraging users of council allotments to adopt green horticultural practices.

We will be ambitious in seeking opportunities to develop our biodiversity in the town, through such schemes as tree canopies and wildlife shelters.

By embedding sustainability into our strategic vision, we can safeguard the environment, improve public health, and create a sustainable future for generations to come.

Events

Incorporating community events into our town council's strategic plan is essential for fostering social cohesion, cultural enrichment, and economic vitality. Regularly scheduled events such as festivals, markets, Christmas lights, cultural celebrations, civic events, and outdoor concerts can create vibrant public spaces that bring residents together, celebrating the diversity and heritage of our community.

We cherish and encourage the positive partnership we have with the multiple organisations who deliver outstanding public events across the town and look to develop these relationships further. As a consequence, together we provide platforms for local artists, vendors, and entrepreneurs, stimulating the local economy and showcasing the town's unique character.

Additionally, community events promote civic engagement and volunteerism, enhancing the sense of belonging and pride among residents. We will invest in and support a diverse array of community events, we can strengthen community bonds, attract visitors, and enhance the overall quality of life in our town.

Transport

We recognise that local transportation is a pivotal component of our town council's strategic plan, aimed at fostering connectivity, sustainability, and accessibility for all residents.

By championing investment in a public transport network, including reliable buses and trains, and our railway station and service, we can reduce traffic congestion, lower carbon emissions, and provide efficient commuting options.

We will continue to support the stakeholder investment in EV charging infrastructure across the town and surrounding area.

Expanding and maintaining well-designed bike lanes and pedestrian pathways will promote healthy lifestyles and ensure safer travel for non-motorised users.

Furthermore, integrating smart technology for real-time transit tracking and seamless payment systems will improve user experience and encourage wider public adoption.

This comprehensive approach to local transport will not only support economic growth by facilitating the movement of goods and people but also enhance the overall quality of life by creating a more connected and environmentally responsible community.


The 64,000 dollar question is how we implement the strategy - the tactics to get there, and the text of the motion does include some significant stepping stones which will be brought back as proposals to full council in July.

Image - a personal montage representing each of the areas in the strategy, and not a Town Council committment!

Published Wednesday, 29th May 2024

Public Transport - Melksham vision and working towards it

MTUG - core Melksham Transport User Group members meet in early June with decisions to make. Our old group, from the previous "Melksham Railway Development Group" days largely fulfilled its base mission of getting the train station and train service back to a permanent, useable and used level. Some members have moved on, a number have passed on and all of us remaining get older. There is still a mission; services are about a half of what is presently appropriate, and passenger numbers are a third of what they are at comparable town - we have moved from a useless service to a useable but poor one - 3,000 to 75,000 journeys per annum, where 250,000 should be achieved, with more people than not that I talk to embarrassed to admit they don't use the service "because ...".

There are a number of other public and sustainable groups in the region, some of whom are also looking at their future direction as indeed in the whole public transport sector should be considering:
* What the town and regional objectives should be
* What strategies are needed to achieve them
* Who is best placed to set and move forward
* How various individuals and organisations can work together
* What short term actions and tactics should we undertake to help us get there
* How is this to be managed, staffed, financed

Changes at the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership will influence our decisions for MTUG too, and the insight and overview given to the West Wiltshire Railway User Group last week helps inform us as to the position we should take. I want to work alongside TransWilts - an organisation which has always had interest in the same direction but in recent years has followed a separate (and still useful to the overall objectives) parallel path.

Over the weekend, I have written and circulated to involved and potentially interested parties headline lists of where we are and where we may go. I've shared it online and you can read it at http://www.passenger.chat/mirror/vision_mtug_20240527.pdf and it includes:
* A diary list until the end of 2024
* A list of projects to help promote and better public transport around
* A list of organisations involved
* The TransWilts vision as shared to West Wiltshire Rail User Group
* A personal view and vision for public transport in Melksham
* Melksham (Rail) User Group Constitution

From page 7 of the 9 - within personal comment

My scenario for RAIL is a friendly station, connecting buses, and a reliable hourly train service each way, every day, all day.

For BUS, it's buses all day, every day too, every 30 minutes on the main routes that cross in Melksham from Bath to Devizes and from Chippenham to Trowbridge, and on the Town bus routes (with the connections to the station), and services to Calne, Bradford-on-Avon and Corsham all day, every day too - though less frequent.

For all public transport, good timetable and real time information systems, and good connections to enable easy travel to and from other more distant destinations. Good facilities for those with restricted mobility and also for those travelling with cycles and other personal aids.



It's all perfectly do-able, sensible "business case", and much more environmentally friendly than alternatives. It won't be done before the next local elections in 2025 but we might well get somewhere by 2029.


Published Monday, 27th May 2024

Melksham and Devizes - constituency and candidates

Yesterday evening, a General Election in the UK was called for 4th July. Major party candidates are in place and waiting, but others may declare. Here you will find:
- anticpated candidates for 4th July as at 23rd May 2024
- from personal knowldge - please let me know of any others / changes
- listed in alphabetic order of political parties and with a sample link

Conservative - Michelle Donelan (link)
Green - Catherine Read (link)
Labour - Kerry Postlewhite (link)
Liberal Democrat - Brian Mathew (link)
Reform - Malcolm Cupis (link)

This is a new constituency and it includes:
The towns of Melksham and Bradford-on-Avon (formerly in Chippenham)
The town of Devizes (formerly in Devizes)
and some surrounding areas from those towns and also
The wards of Box and Colerne, and Calne South (formerly in North Wiltshire)
The map to the right is based on open access data

I will return to this page as appropriate to update the candidate list.

Full ward list:
Bowerhill; Box & Colerne; Bradford-on-Avon North; Bradford-on-Avon South; Bromham, Rowde & Roundway; Calne South; Devizes East; Devizes North; Devizes Rural West; Devizes South; Holt; Melksham East; Melksham Forest; Melksham South; Melksham Without North & Shurnhold; Melksham Without West & Rural; The Lavingtons; Urchfont & Bishops Cannings; Winsley & Westwood.



Published Thursday, 23rd May 2024

Mayor, deputy and committees for 2024/25



Top Row - Alford, Rabey (dep Mayor), Price (Mayor), S Crundell, J Westbrook, Stokes, Ellis and Forgacs
Lower Row - A Westbrook, Oatley, J Crundell, Aves, Cooke, Hubbard and Griffin.


Last night Melksham Town Council appointed Tom Price as the new mayor for 2024/25 and Saffi Rabey as his deputy. Both were voted in on a sustantial vote, including my vote, signifying my support of them in their roles - not easy roles this year in a council that's in the middle of major changes.

I join Tom in thanking Simon Crundell for all the hard work he has put in over the last two years which have not been easy either, and I look forward to working further with Simon on other council matters, especially on the environmental issues where we are remarkably aligned even though our politics differ.

Your new council


** Full Council
Mayor - Tom Price. Deputy Mayor - Saffi Rabey
Plus all 13 other elected councillors
Meets monthly

* The following two committees look after the general council operation

** Personell Commitee - formerly staffing committee
Chair - Tom Price. Deputy chair - Saffi Rabey
Plus Councillors Alford, Hubbard and J Westbrook

** Finance, Administration & Performance Committee
Chair - Andrew Griffin. Deputy Chair - Charlie Stokes
Plus Councillors Aves, Forgacs, Hubbard, Rabey and J Westbrook

* And the remaining three each have their own remit areas

** Community Development Committee
- Events, Community Groups, web site and communications
Chair - Jennie Westbrook. Deputy Chair - Saffi Rabey
Councillors Aves, Griffin, Oatley, Stokes and A Westbrook

** Asset Management & Amenities Committee
- The Town Council's estate and its maintnance and use
Chair - Pat Aves. Deputy Chair - Jack Oatley
Councillors Cooke, Ellis, Forgacs, Hubbard, Price, A Westbrook and J Westbrook

** Economic Development & Planning Committee
- The town beyond the council's estate - encouraging and supporting the future
Chair - Saffi Rabey. Deputy Chair - Andrew Griffin
Plus Councillors Alford, Aves, Cooke, Ellis, Oatley and Stokes.

Working groups are set up to perform specific tasks, and when their work is done they are dissolved - in theory. Seven working groups were dissolved last night, leaving only:
* Cemetries Working Group (renamed Task and Finish Group)
* CCTV and Community Safety (retained for oversite of our investment)
* CIL Funding Projects Working Group (jointly with Melksham Without)
* Events Working Group (perhaps becoming a subcommittee)
* Neighbourhood Plan Joint Steering Working Group (joint with Melksham Without)


Published Tuesday, 21st May 2024
-

Thank you for voting Graham Ellis onto Melksham Town Council

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