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Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary

Links in this page:
News Briefs - what's happening where?
What should your Town Council do next year?
JMNPII - Any questions - please ask me
Blue Pool & Assembly Hall - Looking Ahead
Town Council Answers, 5.11.2023
Open Consultations - YOUR inputs requested
Councillor Vacancy in South Ward
Questions to Melksham Town Council for 30.10.23
People like us - Unite to Survive
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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.

Blue Pool and Assembly Hall - what YOU want

Many thanks to everyone who's gone through my long list of things that people have said they would like or use within future facilities provided at the Assembly Hall / Blue Pool site. Over 50 people have clicked on over 1100 checkboxes in the last week here where I asked on my blog for your thoughts to help inform me in my role as a town councillor. Architects are being (or perhaps have been by now) engaged to look at the art of the possible - with options to include both making best use of existing buildings and building something new on site. Councillors have been asked to input their list of what they would most like to see, and for my part I am submitting the survey results, backed up as being not just what I would like, but what YOU would like and use.

The top 15 of 54 things people would USE are listed on the graphic - with 38 of you (75%) saying you would use a cinema, 26 of you (50%) saying you would use ten pin bowling, etc. Some of the facilities would be small ones, others would need to exclusively occupy significant space. And there are compromises to be had; raked seating would be wonderful for some events ... for other events in the same space, they would eliminate the possibility of dancing in the aisles as we so often see. It's this sort of consideration that a professional can advise us on. If you want to see further results, the top 30 things people would use are here.

You supplied optional extra information too - writing in comments to help inform me. THANK YOU. You will not find those here in public (GDPR etc), but they are helping to inform me forward; I find myself as chair of the "Assembly Hall Working Group" and very much involved with the Friends of Melksham Assembly Hall, and I expect both of those vehicles to be active throughout the remainder of my council term to Spring 2025.

Published Thursday, 16th November 2023

News Briefs - what's happening where?

1. The Footpath up alongside the river and also across from Scotland Road has been declared a Public Footpath.

2. The old Maintenance Shed has been demolished. Melksham Town Council continues to hire a unit on Bowerhill as its amenities depot.

3. The new train timetable - to June 2024 has been published. Trains all day, every day - still a thin service, though.

4. The Community Rail lease on the car park at Melksham Station is being released back to Wiltshire Council at the end of the year. I have asked (but yet to get an answer) what plans there are, and indeed whether car parking will remain available at the railway station.

5. Wiltshire Council have CONFIRMED the parking order for the Campus that there will be a three hour limit. My request for 4 hours so that Assembly Hall event attendees could park there (e.g. 19:00 to 22:15) was denied with "the car park is not intended for Assembly Hall Users", even though Town Council reports back to 2018 have Wiltshire Council stating that the parking is leisure use in a way that included the Assembly Hall

6. Architects are being asked to take the needs suggested and tell the council what could be done with the Assembly Hall and Blue Pool

7. The appeal by developers against the Wiltshire Council Decision NOT to allow 210 homes and a care home to the south of Melksham has been UPHELD, and the building will go ahead in spite of objections from Town and Without councils

8. Land to the East of Melksham - it's in the draft local plan and it looks like it might be one of the earlier areas to come forward. In Melksham Without's area - Councillor Aves representing the town, though

9. At Shaw Village, Melksham Neighbourhood Plan event last Friday. "Everyone" is happy with the Cooper Tires and Library Brownfield site, but there was concern in Shaw and Whitley at the plans for there. We spent much of the evening, explaining how the plan had to allocate somewhere if it didn't want a free-for-all, and as we did so, we asked people where else they would suggest instead. The conclusion was that we had come up with the best available to us.

Published Wednesday, 15th November 2023

What should your Town Council do next year?

This time last year, your Town Council was deep in the process of budgetting for next year, with committees meeting to look ahead to the 2023/4 year. But this year, I have seen neither hide nor hair of any plans as I feel we have been so busy dealing with this year that we have not looked forward as a council to what we'll be doing next. We have just over 2 months to set the precept and tell Wiltshire Council.

I have asked the Town Clerk (who is also our RFO - Repsonsible Finance Officer), the mayor and the chair of our Finance, administration and performance commitee as follows - "I am looking to reading shortly ..."

1. ... updates on projects underway at Finance, Admin and Performance on 20th November as per Jennie's council resolution (Jennie cc’d) 25th September 2023, minute 575/23. This should give us all a good view of timelines, so where we stand for projects that will need funding in or after April 2024. Major projects include both East of Melksham community Hall and ongoing Blue Pool considerations.

2. ... advice from industry bodies suggests that a key input to budgeting is the strategic plan of the organisation doing the budgeting. Although work was done on this in the summer of 2021, I am not aware of any agreed (or even outstanding proposed) longer term plans and objectives. What can you offer?

3. ... a view from the staffing committee as to what the anticipate for next year - whether there will be increased or decreases, and any extra costs associated with changes. Staffing is a significant cost and I know we have a staffing review underway.

4. ... any inputs on remaining funding to be carried into 2024/25, or reserve shortfalls due to any significant overspends in monetary terms in the current year.

5. ... income estimate bases for 2024/25 - from council tax, CIL, solar benefit, Assembly Hall, Pavilion and other building hire, bar receipts, and grants such as have helped with neighbourhood plan

6. ... advice on other cost changes and major expenditures or savings - for example lower neighbourhood plan changes, utilities and insurance changes, etc.

Basically, "how are we doing this year, what do we need to carry over, what is our strategy for next year, what will our income be from other sources be, and what expenditures are coming up that we need to allow for?" In my view, we need such information very shortly in order do be properly informed as we plan ahead.

The questions have only been asked in the last couple of days - that should be in time for them all to be answered in the agenda pack publishing over the next days ready for next week.

Published Monday, 13th November 2023

JMNPII - Any questions - please ask me

Big "Thank you" to staff from both Melksham Without and Melksham Town, Melksham Without councillors and steering group community volunteers who helped at the Neighbourhood Plan consultation events on Friday at Shaw Village Hall and the Melksham Campus. Two really useful events, talking to residents of both parishes. With this sort of event it's hard to know how many people will come along; I was delighted how we busy we were.

These were the final consultation events on this stage of the neighbourhood plan, but the consultation continues until 3rd December. Boards are on display at the Town Hall (Melksham Town) and Campus (for Melksham Without), the data is online at and there are full copies at both council offices and printed response forms are there too. In addition, as one of the Town Council reps on the steering group, I would be delighted to help explain in person - please get in touch if you wish.

Illustrative image - an overview from the Joint Melksham Neighbourhood Plan II Draft that we are asking you about. Click on the image to see it full screen

Published Sunday, 12th November 2023

Blue Pool & Assembly Hall - Looking Ahead

Survey - Blue Pool and Assembly Hall - what do YOU want?

The Melksham Assembly Hall, which is behind the Town Hall, has a seating capacity of 400 and has been full recently with events such as AbbaMania, the Monster Ball, the comedian Rich Hall, and kick boxing. The Melksham Historical Association and the quiz night both had their busiest nights last month, and car club, Tai Quando meet weekly. It was good to see the local "AmDram" group with big audienced over 4 performances, and to attend record fares, film showings, table sales, produce shows and much more. A wonderful bounceback from Covid, with much help from excellent hall staff, friends of Melksham Assembly hall, and you the public. But at times, it struggles. The entrance is cramped, access for acts is difficult, and there are queues for loos, and the bar, and to get in.

The old "Blue Pool" swimming pool is attached to the Assembly Hall. It was taken out of use last year by its owners, Wiltshire Council, who have offered it as an asset transfer to the Town Council. A structural survey on behalf of the Town Council has confirmed that the Blue Pool building is basically sound, and that it would be practical to join the two buildings into one.

The Assembly Hall Working Group, which comprises all the Town Council and the key commitee people from the Friends of the Assembly Hall met on Monday evening and overviewed the options for the site, with either existing buildings adapted, or a rebuild. We decided to give our list of desires / needs to architects for them to produce an outline of what may be possible. The architects are to be informed by a list generated from public input on the Assembly Hall last December, from the Town Centre Masterplan consultation earlier this year, and from the work a number of us did during the design work for the Melksham Campus, and from the "Priority for People" surveys. That's good, but in addition I would like to know what YOU reading this would like to see in the outcome.

Please indicate what you would like and what you would use.
Choose as many or as few as you like, ad then "Submit" at the base of the form

This Survey is now closed - thank you for your inputs. The comment section remains open so you may use the form at the base to send me comments, but the numbers are "in".

Like; Use; * - Art gallery
Like; Use; * - Booking office for Assembly Hall events
Like; Use; * - Break out rooms
Like; Use; * - Cafe area
Like; Use; * - Chain restaurant
Like; Use; * - Cinema
Like; Use; * - Citizens Advice office
Like; Use; * - Climbing wall
Like; Use; * - Community group meeting space
Like; Use; * - Community hub

Like; Use; * - Craft room
Like; Use; * - Creche
Like; Use; * - Darts
Like; Use; * - Doctors surgery
Like; Use; * - Escape room
Like; Use; * - Exhibition area
Like; Use; * - Extension bar
Like; Use; * - Game room for youth (Xbox, Nintendo, Lego, etc.)
Like; Use; * - Games room for adults (jigsaw puzzles, chess/draughts, whist, bridge, etc.)
Like; Use; * - General enquiry desk
Like; Use; * - Hot desks

Like; Use; * - Indoor bowls
Like; Use; * - Indoor Market
Like; Use; * - Lecture room
Like; Use; * - Lido
Like; Use; * - Loos for Assembly Hall use
Like; Use; * - Maintenance store and depot
Like; Use; * - Mosque
Like; Use; * - Museum for Melksham
Like; Use; * - Parking for Town Council
Like; Use; * - Photography exhibition
Like; Use; * - Picnic Area

Like; Use; * - Police hub
Like; Use; * - Polling station
Like; Use; * - Pop up bank
Like; Use; * - Public WiFi access
Like; Use; * - Public toilets
Like; Use; * - Reception (single for all MTC services)
Like; Use; * - Safe space
Like; Use; * - School art exhibition
Like; Use; * - Sculptures
Like; Use; * - Skating rink
Like; Use; * - Skittles

Like; Use; * - Smaller theatre and break out rooms
Like; Use; * - Squash courts
Like; Use; * - Staff offices
Like; Use; * - Studio for smaller performances
Like; Use; * - Support room
Like; Use; * - TIC gift shop extension
Like; Use; * - Ten Pin Bowling
Like; Use; * - Theatre
Like; Use; * - Wake faciities
Like; Use; * - Wedding Venue and event facilities
Like; Use; * - Youth facilities
- Please tell me your postcode (so that I know if you're a resident / where you will be accessing from)

The following are OPTIONAL and purely for my use - only complete if you want me to follow up:
- Your name
- Your email address or other preferred contact
- any additional areas?
- and any other comments?

Please when completed

Your help and guidance is very much appreciated - thank you.

* Inputs always welcome - this survey will be open at least until 15th November 2023, but I will be reading results as they come in

* Please get in touch / ask me about any of the things in that LONG list above if you want to ask or say more. I do appreciate there are duplicates, little and large asks, and some things which are impractical mixed in with necessities.

* Your inputs here are to me as a councillor and not to the Town Council as a whole. But I stongly suspect I'll be talking with the architects to help flag relative priorities!

Published Wednesday, 8th November 2023

Town Council Answers, 5.11.2023

An update - to answers questions, as at lunch time on Sunday 5th November 2023. A pleasant morning, a lovely walk around town, lots of people out enjoying the fresh air. Also lots of cars in the Town Centre, queueing back through King Street and up Spa Road.

1. Signage in KGV
I counted 12 hard surface entrances to the main park of "KGV". People have been asking about signage in particular in relation to dogs in the park. 5 have signage of various forms to tell people that dogs must be on leads. Full audit below.

2. Dog agility equipment
Councillors have been copied on a correspondence involving town staff and discussing the suitability and I note guidelines in there for fun agility equipment. I understand guidance signage may be in process, but due to resource limitations the correspondence has not (yet?) been précised into an overview for potential users. Personal comment - clearly it's down to the individual owner and knowing their dog to make a choice as to whether or not to use the dog park, and if they do whether to use the equipment in it.

3. Pavement at Church Street Corner
A section of tarmac which was put in as a "temporary" fix in the paving slab pavement was being fixed as I walked thought the town today. Good to see it being done - it's taken a long time and there has been a lot of nagging!

4. Gate to dog park.
Stones have been laid to combat the slip hazard inside the inner gate. This is a temporary fix; the gate will be moved to the end of the inner "trap" section so it opens on to the hard standing, and that work will take place at the end of this month or the start of next month, depending on the weather.

5. Provision of water in dog park
I'm not sure what's happened on this - need to check. It may have proven to be a nice idea that would have been very expensive - need to ask the Parks Working Group. On the subject of water, part of the park and part of the dog bark were flooded this morning, and a number of dogs enjoying paddling.

6. Demolition of old maintenance shed
This is due to happen this month. Due to the presence of hazardous material, you may see operatives walking around in protective clothing. This is for safety reasons while they are within the work areas and great care is being taken to ensure that there is no public danger.

7. Cutting back of brambles on Lowbourne
This was reported about a week ago - brambles growing out of KGV and Town Council amenities team has now cut them back, thank you.

8. Perspex in Town Council display board
One side of the notice board on Church Street has been reported as being fogged to the extend that the notices cannot be read. A resident has asked for the perspex to be replaced but has been advised "The Town Council has decided that we won’t replace this panel at the present time". I confirmed this morning that the notices are unreadable, and will make enquires as to whether it's to be left like that, or if other action (such as polishing the damage surface) is being done instead. I noted that it is possible to see the notices when the panel is wet.

UPDATE - 9.11.2023 - I understand our staff team is taking a look at the current condition of this panel to review the decision, and has promised to get back to the original enquirer.

9. Removal of traffic bollards in Market Place
Over a year since The Campus opened, and there are still big red and white "temporary" traffic bollards in The Market Place. I don't know why they are still there, nor how much longer they will be. I would guess they may be remaining until the need for HGVs to access Melksham House wok site continues.

10. Repair of Assembly Hall Roof
A contractor has been selected and works are scheduled to commence on 2nd January 2024.

11. Melksham Station Cafe
The Cafe closed in May though there are still signs pointing to it, the pagoda has gone, the weeds are growing and I see adverts looking for any reasonable offer for their storage container, noting it must be gone by Christmas. I hear rumours that the lease by TransWilts is to be released at the end of the year, and the activities I see would tend to confirm that. I have a meeting on 21st with multiple people, one of whom is a director of TransWilts and I will take it up with him. I am looking to confirm whether car parking will still be provided at the station, and whether there is a community opportunity. The railway station has done well over the 10 years since services were improved, and forms a key part of future Melksham plans in both the local plan and neighbourhood plan.

12. Cycle Maintenance Station in the park
The first station was installed beside the Town Hall several years ago and has been a huge success. The second one - to be installed in the park is long awaited but was promised "within the next two weeks", one week ago. So just days now?

Park Sign Audit
1. Lowborne - Bylaws, September 2021, low on gate
2. From dog park - clear sign that your dog must now be on lead
3. From Union Street - flooded but looks to be old bylaw sign
4. Beside the poplars from Bath Road - "Please keep your dog on a lead whilst in this area"
5. Beside the skate park - no signage
6. Along the river - no signage
7. From upriver walk - "Please keep your dog on a lead whilst in this area"
8. From back walkway past play area - no unobscured signage
9. Past the pavilion - no signage
10. Walkway requiring step over knee rail - no signage
11. Gate for vehicle entry - no signage (but locked shut)
12. Behind maintenance shed - no signage; frame where sign used to be.

Published Monday, 6th November 2023

Open Consultations - YOUR inputs requested

So often, we (you and me) miss consulatation requests because we don't hear about them until too late. There are a lot of consultations around at the moment - here are the important local ones, sorted by shortest dated first

Consultation until 10th November - Wiltshire Bus Review

Consultation until 22nd November - Wiltshire Local Plan

Open until 23rd November - request for byelection in South Ward

Consultation until 3rd December - Melksham Neighbourhood Plan

Published Sunday, 5th November 2023

Councillor Vacancy in South Ward

Ten days ago, we lost yet another committed Town Councillor - the third hard working volunteer to step down in the last six months, and once again the reasons given were not purely personal.

And now we have an official notice, letting people they may call for an election for the vacant seat; if 10 people or more ask, we have an election. Failing that, the Town Council can co-opt someone into the seat. A few months back, I wrote in support of holding an election for the first vacant seat. At the time, we were less than half way through this council's term and it made sense to democratically ask the electorate, with the new councillor having a substantial opportunity to make a difference. But I am now sitting on the fence - speaking neither for nor against an election. And come next year, should another councillor resign - likely, on current pattern - I would be speaking for a co-option for our final months before we all (or those of us who are left) start campaigning for the May 2025 elections.

The previous by-elections were in the East Ward - a very different mixture to the South Ward where I'm a councillor, and where the vacancy has arisen. I know several people who live in the ward and would make excellent councillors; should one of them stand or be willingly put up for co-option, I will offer support. I have actually spoke with people, however I have not sugar-coated the role (which could lead to a continued high drop-out rate) and respect "Thank you, but no thank you" responses from those excellent people. How sad that we have got ourselves into such a situation.

Parish works are not national politics. I am concerned when I see national politics quoted as part of a local manifesto, or hear my fellow councillors talk about how they are using the by-elections as practise runs for the upcoming general election. I acknowledge that if it's your priority to get elected, then you'll stand for a party - but then if you're elected, does your loyalty lie with the town or with your party?

Published Saturday, 4th November 2023

Questions to Melksham Town Council for 30.10.23

Tonight's a Full Town Council meeting. Members of the public may turn up and ask questions; councillors are required to submit questions they have in advance. Here are questions I submitted on 24th October for this evening. In addition I will be addressing various matters that are on the agenda during the course of the meeting. My questions:

Update - 31st October 2023 - Answers cut in. Please note that the answers given are at present my interprettaion of what was said. You can watch the recording of last night (until it is deleted) and in the longer term these answers should be in the minutes.

1. Progress on Electronic Communications and Social Media Policy
1.1 Will this policy which was lost from council business on 17th July be brought back?
1.2 Will any suggested updates be applied prior to re-tabling?
1.3 What policy are our staff working to at present?

Answer: Yes, it will be brought back, but there has not been the resource available to do it. The staff are not working to any policy at present. However, I challenged that having had one of my own contributions to social media deleted, and I understand that in reallity there is no written policy at present, with staff acting to "moderate" as they feel appropriate.

2. Freedom of Information
2.1 Does the Town Council keep a register of Freedom of Information requests it receives?
2.2 Does it publish the requests and the responses, and if so, where?
2.3 How many requests have been received in the past 12 months?
2.4 How much officer's time has gone into handling FOI requests in the last 12 months?

Answer: No, the council does not keep a register nor publish the requests and responses. Just two requests have been received in the last 12 months. So those must be the ones from the MIN on KGV lighting on 8th August and on the one earlier in the year which was referred on to the Melksham Historcial Association even though they are not subject to FOI. Officer's time - 23 hours.

3. Blue Pool and Assembly Hall report
3.1 When will the structural survey and options reports be available to councillors and public? (1)
3.2 Have quotations been received for fixing leaks in the AH roof and when will this be done? (2)

Answer: The structural survey has been made available in the last week. Quotes have been received for the Assembly Hall roof too. They are included later in the agenda. More to follow elsewhere on this

4.1 Are we making an offer on the Cooper Tires site?
4.2 How are Melksham Town Council providing local support to potential bidders for the Cooper Tires factory site and other land holdings for sale?
4.3 Is Melksham Town Council taking any active role in the sales of these sites - for example forming part of a bid group of developers or ecological interests looking to obtain the flood plain?
4.4 At what point of involvement would/do individual councillors need to declare an interest and have any done so?

Answer: There is no intsruction from council to officers to make any offer. It would be inappropriate for Melksham Town Council to provide local support which is being done by Wiltshire Council's economic redevelopment team, but having said that we do and have been assisting and working with that team though the neighbourhood plan. It is up to individual councillors to decide when they need to declare an interest.

5. Locum Coverage
A locum is by definition a temporary stand in role
5.1 Our current locum is excellent, but when will a permanent setup be provided?
5.2 How is cover arranged for leave - do we as a Town Council ensure that at least one of Town Clerk, Deputy Clerk, and Locum Clerk can deal with urgent matters each normal working day?

Answer: There is a staffing review underway and a permanent setup will come as an outcome from that. It is normal for at least one of the qualified clerks to be available on a working day. However, unprecedented staff changes mean that we have new staff who's prior leave plans must be respected so we have had gaps. It was stated that the clerk has always been available remotely, and that she has been contacted while on leave.

6. Allotments
I note an audit being undertaken.
6.1 What are the parameters for the audit?
6.2 Are we gathering information from allotment holder and those who want to inform the audit?
6.3 When will outcomes be addressed?

Answer: The numbers, type and use will be audited. Our officer interfaces with the allotment holders to address issues.

7. KGV Park
7.1 When will the inner gate to the dog park be moved to open onto the hard surface? (3)
7.2 When will the derelict maintenance shed be removed? (4)

Answer: The gate will be moved in late November or early December 2023, the exact dates being weather dependent. The maintenance shed will be removed during November.

That's almost a week ago. Of course, a lot can be answered in a week. I have heard back from the head of operations, quoting my email, as follows:
(1) A structural survey report has been received and added as an agenda supplement
(2) Quotes have now been received and will be at council as an agenda supplement
(3) "At the end of November"
(4) I have been given a schedule and it's very soon.

These questions are following up things I have been asked. If you are one of the people asking, please watch for my follow ups, or come along / watch tonight

Published Monday, 30th October 2023

People like us - Unite to Survive

Yesterday, I went into Bath to the "Unite to Survive" event which was organised by Extinction Rebellion in support of the aim of bringing the environment to greater attention and looking to get that attention joined up to help get more effective action to deal with problems which are now commonly accepted and which some are suggesting are so bad that we may have gone past a point of no return.

I was heartened to see Victoria Park buzzing with stalls and people - some exotic but many just like you and I who are sufficiently concerned to have gone along and be seen supportive of the need to raise profile, and to take away that support and actively act on it away from the couple of hours in the part. I was hearted to see positive, polite and thinking interaction all around, and that included between the organising co-ordinators and the police. But not everything was so positive.

The groups at the event are so disparate - each with their own view of how things should be done, and without being linked it's hard to see how they can produce a notable effect; the theme of the day acknowledged this as "unite to survive" and appreciating that there is an issue to be addressed is the first step towards solving it.

I looked around at the stalls and with some found it difficult to work out their message and even who they were; chatting with people resolved that to some extent, but the focus and promotion left a great deal to be desired, the enthusiasm for the cause draining away through holes in the delivery. That may not be as bad as these written words make out; you have to try things and only some of them succeed, and if a stall brought even 1% of people who passed by into active association with the group concerned, it's a positive impact.

Individual action is unlikely to make an impact on the climate - governments need to co-ordinate and be committed. It was good to see booths promoting Green Party approaches and Labour Party approaches - though from a Bath and Wiltshire viewpoint I would like to have seen people telling us what the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are doing and advocating. Current thinking in some of the circles I listen to is that our current government and mainstream politicians are set on winning elections and that their policies to do so are far from what's needed in the longer term - some are actually discouraging environmental care at the present time, with no signs of change once elected.

There is strength in numbers. 1 + 1 = much more that 2. I would probably not have gone on my own yesterday. With a colleague from the Environment and Climate Working Group, I went. His presence gave me the impetus and courage to go, and his company gave me a voice to discuss things with through the day; it helped us both make the best of the day, and rationalise what we were learning.

In this text, I criticise groups for not being joined up and I could do the same for ours here in Melksham. So let me invite you along this Tuesday to the informal meeting of the Environnment and Climate Working Group at 18:00 here at 48, Spa Road. And I comment above about the strength of the support of being with and thinking with others. We are all concerned friends here - even if you come alone, you will not be left feeling alone.

Published Sunday, 29th October 2023

Thank you for voting Graham Ellis onto Melksham Town Council

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