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Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary

Links in this page:
Assembly Hall - looking forward
ClimateFest - 17th September 2022
Planning for Melksham Town for next year
Assembly Hall - new start friends meeting - 25.8.2022
Melksham Campus - resident questions
Melksham bus and car park price changes from 1.9.2022
A350 NOT to be national strategic route?
Open online democracy and plastic elephants
Safari Animals in Melksham
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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.

Car Parking - Campus, Blue Badge, etc

A. ON CHARGING for parking at THE CAMPUS
B. ON CHARGING for parking in disabled bays with a blue badge
C. ON CHARGING local council tax payers to let blue badge holders park free
D. ON HOW YOU CAN STILL PARK FOR FREE, Courtesy of Melksham Town Council

Feedback from Wiltshire Council is that the have taken the authority to be able to charge but won't be doing so unless people abuse the system. However, there was no note to that effect (that I could see) in the 70+ pages of data we had for last night's meeting which talked of charges that WILL be charged from 1st September (WILL, not might). If I were cynical, I would be worried that someone's waiting for an opportunity to slip the charges in. There is still no definition of what they mean by people abusing the system. Is it ...
1. A few people are observed parking there and not using the Campus
2. People are parking there and not using the Campus to the extent that Wiltshire Council are loosing significant income from other car parks
3. People are parking there and not using the Campus to the extent that there isn't enough parking available for legitimate Campus users

Charging for parking in disabled bays will start on 1st September. The question has been asked as to whether the provisions for payment are legal under the equalities act of 2010 - the machines are mounted high, not easy for disabled people to access, etc; over to Wiltshire Council, who's car park it is.

Melksham Town Council has been offered a "buyback" on the disabled spaces. The cost quoted is almost £20 per year for each residential property in Melksham Town; we could of course ask surrounding parishes such as Melksham Without to contribute, as it seems perverse for payment for parking to be paid by the residents who are most likely to walk or cycle because they live so close. At that sort of price, and not budgeted by the Town Council, this has been referred to full council next month.

News! Many people do not realise that you can park for up to two hours "for free" in Wiltshire Council car parks in Melksham. You pay at the machine, get a second part to your ticket which you take into a local shop in the scheme, and get your money refunded. The shop claims back from the Town Council. Of note:
1. This is open to ANYONE, not just blue badge holders
2. There is money in the Town Council budget to cover this
3. The budget will cover the raised rate from 1.9.2022 in full - still free
4. The cost to council tax payers in Melksham Town is tiny compared to the cost of buying spaces back - you could say that Wilts Council are looking to charge us a lot more for a lot less in their space leasing offer.

Pictured – parking stubs from my car. The fact I don’t have a Melksham one rather confirms that as a town resident, I don’t actually park in our town very often – though I do walk there multiple times every week.

Published Tuesday, 30th August 2022

Assembly Hall - looking forward

A frank look at where we are and where we might have been with the Assembly Hall last week. Notes from the meeting - thank you Howard Jones - at . For background, the slide set I put together prior to the meeting (here) . And as a follow up, a very rough draft of what should go in a constitution a href=>(here) . Big thanks to Howard, Julie, Geoff and Paul for their inputs and follow up activities to be undertaken by each of them. I will be taking follow up actions too.

This is a £384,000 question set. £64,000 each for
 •"what is needed",
 •"where should it be provide",
 •"who should provide it",
 •"how do we harness the enthusiasm of users and community",
 •"how do we ensure it is affordable to users and the community" and
 •"how do we get to what is needed".

There is much to be said at times for "if it ain't bust, don't fix it". This is not, in my view, one of those times. Fees have been revised (long overdue) but than has been a jolt, and perhaps a terminal one, for some hires. Events are being planned, advertised and cancelled due to equipment failure and double booking. And there's an uncertainty into the future which further puts people off, and makes the current arrangement - well - in my view (and I believe it's a near universal view) bust and needing fixing. Views of how it should be fixed, though, are far from universal and some difficult decisions need to be taken very, very soon. Some compromise will be needed as they are taken, but with an innovative ideas the need to give way in compromise can be reduced, and the enthusiasm for a successful new start will be rich.

Next dates for your diary - 8th, 13th and 20th September - those in addition to the events at the hall and around Melksham. Join the FoMAH Facebook group at to be alerted / updated.

Published Monday, 29th August 2022

ClimateFest - 17th September 2022

It's one of the most serious matters we face today- the future of our environment - including resources, pollution and climate. We have seen this summer the extraordinary weather changes which can only get worse unless we do something about it. And following on from that we have a drought water resource concern. As we deplete fossil fuel and it becomes otherwise unavailable to us, prices of all energy rise and we have serious economic and shortage issues.

But how do these issues relate to YOU in Melksham? How can you both help the environment AND help yourself? There are many ways from small to lifestyle changes which will help both the environment and your lifestyle, health and bank balance too. But it's a very complex area indeed!

ClimateFest Melksham 2022 on 17th Septmeber brings together lectures, stalls and demonstrations to help inform you, and we hope to make it a fun day too, on these important matters. It's overspilling from the Market Place into the Assembly Hall, with speakers through the day in the council chamber in the Town Hall. There's even an electric bus service showing what the future may bring. And the whole day is free.

See Facebook announcement and my share of this

Perhaps one of the most important town events coming up. Please come along; it'll only cost you a few hours, and it may help you see the way ahead for a lifetime.

Published Saturday, 27th August 2022

Planning for Melksham Town for next year

It may only be August, but I'm already looking ahead to what the Town Council should be doing next year, and indeed beyond. Our first budget working group meeting was earlier this week - sadly, only Councillors Aves, Mortimer and myself attended (the group is supposed to be 7 of us) were there. It has got the three of us thinking, and listening carefully to the staff who were there as we looked at the Community Development Budget to help us understand if and how to update funding to help them in their roles.

Some questions ... on method

* How do we avoid budgetting so tight that we constraint our team from delivering fully. We don't want to have them spend needless hours looking after every last penny, costing us pounds in there time in doing so.

* How do we avoid budgetting so lax that our team's looking around for ways to spend it. We don't and to precept the council tax payer for pure frivollity

* How do we motivate our teams and enable innovation, allowing measured risks rather than stifling progress just in case something goes wrong.

Some questions ... on the way forward

* What do we want to achieve over the next three years? Ten years? How do we plan and fund it?

* How do we address / budget for issues we currently have where we seem to be so short staffed for what we are doing (or trying to do) that we fall short of time to do what we want, and our team is burning up more resources in fixing things that should not have needed fixing, or have been left so long that they are panic / expensive fixes?

* How do we ensure that resources are doing something, not simply lying out of use?

* How do we address inflation in planning, especially asymetic inflation where some things go up far quicker than others?

Some questions ... how do we measure up?

* Internal and external auditors (I must learn how they work)

* How do we ensure that our office and information systems work efficiently for our team, our councillors, our businesses and our residents?

* How does our bottom line compare to other Wiltshire Towns? Are we scrimping on precept so much that we're orchestrating that social media suggested idea that we do nothing - table below shows the precept for Wiltshire towns for this year.

* How do we get ourselves a good name so that we get re-elected (if we want to!!) in 2025

* How do we persuade more councillors than Pat, Sue and myself to get involved in the budgettng?

Wiltshire Town Councils - precepts for 2022/23
Town/CityTax BasePreceptBand D TaxIncrease
on previous year
Royal Wootton Bassett£4,713.35£1,021,005.00£216.622.36%

I'm noting that Amesbury, Tidworth and Ludergershall are special cases in that they are MOD towns, where so much provision around is part of what the Army and Air Force do in the area.

The Band D council tax in Melksham is made up as follows:
£1638.16 (£1445.04 basic + £193.12 adult social care levy)
£241.27 Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon
£79.43 Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority
£169.00 Melksham Town

I'm also noting a wide range of year-on-year rises from zero up to 27% for this year over last. Is there a case for a significant step up in Melksham of the Melksham Town element - from 45p per household per day (which it is for a band D houshold this year) to, say, 59p - which allows for 10% inflation and around 14% real additional service spend.

Here are some of the "big ticket" items - very very roughly in order of the amount of money they could cost

* Staff Costs
* new East of Melksham hall
* Taxes, insurance, etc
* "Free" Blue badge and other car parking
* Maintenance Shed
* Utilities and building maintenance
* Cricketers
* Assembly Hall
* Sensory Garden
* Organisation grants
* Neighbourhood and other planning
- a far from complete list.

* Precept
* Solar farm benefit
* Community Infrastructure Levy
* "Section 106" developer funding
* Hire and bar income from the Assembly Hall
* Income from building hire
* Could be an income from investment of reserves
* Allotment rental
* Where we are investing long term capital, we have an option to borrow
- again, this may not be a complete list.

The graphic illustraing this article is from a totally different council at the same level as us - included here to give you a picture of just how important certain aspects are, and no matter how much we scrimp and save, or expand, some of the smaller items we will make little "bottom line" difference, even if we may make a huge difference for the community

Published Friday, 26th August 2022

Assembly Hall - new start friends meeting - 25.8.2022

Friends of Melksham Assembly Hall. On Monday (22.8.2022) evening, the Town Council accepted the terms of reference for the new Assembly Hall Working Group (AHWG), extended from the initial draft for us to include representatives from outside organisations and and individuals in our meetings. The Working Groups next meets on 8th September.

There is a grown realisation amongst Town Councillors that they need to look at options beyond running the current hall themselves. So now is the time to look at:
1. Where we are now
2. Where could we be going forward (overview)
3. Appointment of a committee and setting meeting date

I posted the other day to hold Thursday evening (25.8.2022) for a 19:00 meeting - on Zoom (codes below) or in person. I am offering my own meeting room at 48, Spa Road, SN12 7NY, and we have plenty of parking space (arrive from 18:30?).

The way this goes forward will depend very much on the FoMAH group and meeting. As chair of the AHWG and other council positions, I can fill you in and give you strong ideas. I can probably sit on your committee, but really should not take an officers / management role.

If you can't make it but would like to be considered for an ongoing role, please let me know and I can pass that on to any setting up committee.

Graham Ellis is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Friends of Melksham Assembly Hall
Time: Aug 25, 2022 19:00 London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 892 4873 7637
Passcode: 797458
One tap mobile
+442080806591,,89248737637#,,,,*797458# United Kingdom
+442080806592,,89248737637#,,,,*797458# United Kingdom

Published Tuesday, 23rd August 2022

Melksham Campus - resident questions

12 Questions from residents asked of me, passed on last week to the Melksham Campus team. Big thanks to Alex and Will for addressing all 12 questions (links jump you to answers below)

Q1: Are newly planted trees dying through lack of water ...
Q2: The entrance gate from the Market Place is narrow ...
Q3: The sign in the Market Place pointing to the Campus is reported as obstructing the view ...
Q4: About where is cycling allowed and not allowed on the site
Q5: I have been asked for an estimated date as to when the cafe will be open ...
Q6: I have been asked for an estimated date as to when the electric car charging points ...
Q7: Booked and paid, why do I still have to queue to sign in?
Q8: In the wet changing ... the lack of an obvious "Exit" sign ...
Q9: Comment was made about a lack of hooks in the showers ...
Q10: Recommendations, please, for facilities that were promised in early designs
Q11: Special Events and historic displays in the Library - what's planned and how to book
Q12: General Leaflet / Travel plan on how to get to the Campus

* Some of these answers include links to other documents supplied to me - please ask me if you would like copies

* I have very carefully written that the questions have been "addressed" rather than "answered"; in my opinion, some answers are good, others provide background, and others have answered subtley different questions or raise further queries.

* The Melksham Campus is a Wiltshire Council undertaking and not a Town Council one - however, many residents have been asking me (as a Town Councillor) questions about the newly opened facility, and I have correlated these and passed them on to Wiltshire Council, who have replied to them all.

1. It has been suggested to me that newly planted trees are dying through lack of water, even though they have a "watering jacket" / tank installed so that you can fill them up from time to time. Is there a watering schedule / can you fill me in / water if need be?

WH – There is a watering schedule in place as part of the build contract where the new planting is watered once a week from April through Sept. Our landscape TA (technical Advisor) has noted that the beds are all mulched which will prevent some of the evaporation and that plants will shed their leaves as a defence mechanism when under stress (such as extreme heat) and may well recover when the weather normalises. He did note that some plants may not recover, but it is too soon to tell at present. He will schedule a site visit for the end of September when the air will be moister and advise the contractor of any plants that may need replacing at that stage and another visit in the spring to identify any further replacements that may/may not be required. Ultimately it will be the contractor’s responsibility to replace any dead plants at the end of the 12 months defects period. However, we instructed weekly watering and we have been in a period of extremely high temperatures for an extended period of time so there may need to be a ‘reasonableness factor’ if it becomes an issue.

We already know some of the turf will require replacement but there is little point doing that until the autumn.

We could instruct additional watering, but the heatwave has now broken and temperatures should be returning to more sustainable levels. Arguably there is a moral issue here too – in near-drought conditions, should the council really be using gallons of water on the plants when the advice to the public is to conserve water wherever possible?

2. The entrance gate from the Market Place is narrow (we knew it would be) and I am relieved to see that pedestrians can walk in alongside the Assembly Hall and through a new gap in the wall - however, there is no direction pointing them to do so, and it's not obvious. Could you add a sign with a couple of direction arrows to help people? Pedestrians on the road between high walls with no pavement look like an accident waiting to happen. Which entrance are cyclists supposed to use?

WH – There is temporary signage installed directing pedestrians to the footpath route alongside the Blue Pool, rather than walking in the road. With regards to cyclists; normal road use applies. Cyclists can choose to use the road access or dismount and use the pedestrian access.

3. The sign on the triangle on the Market Place pointing to the Campus has been reported to me as obstructing the view for traffic exiting onto the roundabout - in particular it is difficult at some positions to see traffic arriving from King Street. Do you consider this an issue, and if so can you fix it?

WH – The Highways team are investigating this and will confirm their findings on whether they feel the sign needs to be relocated.

4. It is lovely to be able to cycle into The Campus and indeed alongside the building to the rear path, which is excellent to the south and narrow to the north from your west corner. There are no "no cycling" signs for anyone passing by the campus headed west, but there are from both the south and the north. Is cycling allowed in one direction only? If not, what's the situation?

WH - The ‘no cycling’ signs that are referred to I believe are the north and south entrances to ‘Melk 20’ which runs through the campus from Hazlewood Road / Cedar Close, to the left side of St Michael’s Church & on towards St Michael’s Court (See attached). The reason for this is because the Melk 20 is a pathway, narrow in places, but also with restricted lines of sight, especially from the St Michael’s end, hence the metal barriers forcing cyclists to dismount. These signs are legacy signs and have been there for some time prior to the campus being built. Access to the campus from the south west (from Orchard Gardens) does not have any ‘no cycling’ signs. Access is on a pedestrian footpath straight into the car park, with good lines of site and all round visibility, however I would suggest that there needs to be some common sense applied here. There are no plans to install additional signs from Orchard Gardens, but like most pavements cyclists shouldn’t really be riding on them.

5. I have been asked for an estimated date as to when the cafe will be open. Can you help me answer, please?

WH – we are out to tender for an operator of the café at the moment. I would think the process will be complete in the next month or two.

6. I have been asked for an estimated date as to when the electric car charging points will be available, and whether they will be able to deliver a significant top-up in just an hour or two for customers using the swimming pool, gym or library?

WH – ECPs are part of a larger county wide project delivered by Wilts Council. Installation date is still tbc however it’s likely to be announced when this known. Users of the campus will be able to top up during their use of the campus, however ultra-fast rapid charging points won’t be installed for a number of reasons. Please see attached word doc. that provides some overview on the ECPs.

7. I personally booked my swim online, but then found I still had to queue to sign in. Will you be providing some sort of code (e.g. QR code) to allow people who have booked online to come in without the need to join a queue or require staff attention?

Alex - This is being worked on and is what the gates are installed for. It's the first time we've used these in any leisure centre though so we've had a few challenges with the programming of them. The intention is as you say though, that people with booked activities or gym sessions will be able to check in at the kiosks and then enter through the sliding doors, by-passing reception entirely if they choose too.

8. In the wet changing ... I personally noticed the lack of an obvious "Exit" sign on the exit door having finished my swim and changed. I am notoriously blind, so there may be a sign there (and this was over a week back now, so you may have added one).

WH – There is no ‘Exit’ sign at present. The reason being is that the changing room is set out in a circular route from the entrance / exit with motion activated automatic doors. These doors are also the only ‘ large double’ doors in the changing area. We may consider placing a single exit sign above the door, however to date this is the only comment received.

9. Comment was made about a lack of hooks in the showers (wet side?) onto which to hang things like bottles of shampoo. "Looks over usability" was a comment I got.

WH – There are no plans for additional hooks in the shower areas. Experience has shown us that they tend to break or be broken in a leisure centre environment. This in turn impacts on the tiling and requires ongoing maintenance and repair, which is both costly and requires the area to be out of use for periods of time.

10. Do you have any recommendations for people looking for indoor bowling, squash, snooker, or climbing wall which promised initially but dropped from plans during the time it has taken to design, redesign and build the campus?

Alex - As you mention, the plans and options for the campus have changed over time according to different input. We do offer squash courts at other local centres including Devizes, Corsham and Trowbridge and there is a climbing wall at the Springfield Campus in Corsham. There are other climbing wall options elsewhere with the new climbing facility in Chippenham being most local and obvious option. In terms of snooker, none of our other centres offer snooker tables but I believe there are tables at the Melksham Liberal Club as well as further afield in Trowbridge and Chippenham at Trowbridge Snooker Centre and Woods Sports Bar. I'm not sure if we will have short mat green bowls available in the sports hall to be honest - I have not seen the equipment list for the campus but I'll try to find out for you.

11. One of the "selling points" of the new library and moveable shelving was that part of the space can be used for special event / historic displays. Do you have any of these lined up as yet, and what is the mechanism for booking them?

WH – Yes the shelving units are on wheels and can be moved to create open spaces in the library. There are no special events planned at the moment, but if and when there are it’s likely to be advertised on the Campus social media pages and probably in the library / Campus reception. If someone wanted to organise / book their own event it’s probably best to pop into the library reception to discuss requirements.

12. Do you have a general leaflet (I didn't see one) that people can pick up with things like opening hours through the week, where to go / book online, how to get to the campus (on foot including side entrances, buses to the Market Place, etc) and/or a general URL I can point people to for that information?

Alex - We have tried to limit the amount of printing of information leaflets / timetables etc and move to a more online system. There are posters up in reception giving people URL's and a QR code to take them to the centre homepage where you can find info on opening hours, pricing, memberships, timetable and booking. However I appreciate that not everyone wishes to use this methodology and we did provide 400 membership information leaflets over the first 2 weeks which gave people both the information and weblinks for more information. For future use, the best weblink is From there you can access all of the above information.

Published Monday, 22nd August 2022

Melksham bus and car park price changes from 1.9.2022

Jump to BUS PASS changes
Jump to CAR PARK charge changes
Jump to BLUE BADGE CAR PARK changes
Jump to PARKING REDEMPTION scheme reminder

 From 1st September 2022, holders of ENCTS cards (that's a posh name for Senior and disabled bus passes) will be able to use them to travel at no charge on the buses at any time of day, all week. This is being done to encourage you back onto the buses - it represents the removal of the not-before-09:30 and not-after-23:00 restrictions and will apply until 1st April 2023.

Melksham Town Centre has main bus stops where the red pins are shown. Get here
On service 14 from Melksham Forest, Queensway, and North Melksham
On service 15 from Berryfield and from East Melksham
On service x34 from Chippenham, Lacock and Beanacre
On service x34 from Trowbridge, Hilperton and Semington
On services 68 and 69 from Corsham and from Holt
On service 68 from Staverton
On service 69 from Bradford-on-Avon
On service x76 from Calne and Bromham
On service 271, 272 and 273 from Bowerhill and from Bath and Atworth
On service 271 from Whitley
See (here) for most timetables. Timetables for routes 14 and 15 are (here).

Listen out for more "Catch the Bus" month messages ...

 Extracted from around 30 pages of information the Town Council has received:

Wiltshire Council Car Parking charges as from 1st September 2022, which I understand apply from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day of the week.

Bath Road Car Park: 1hr - £0.50, 2hrs – £1.40, 3hrs - £2.50, 4hrs - £3.10, 5hrs - £4.10, 8hrs - £6.60 and All Day - £7.30

Church Street Car Park: to 1hr – 0.50, 2hrs - £1.50, 3hrs - £2.60

King Street Car Park: 1hr - £0.40, 2hrs - £1.30, 3hrs - £2.30, 4hrs - £3.10, 5hrs - £4.10, All Day - £6.00

Lowbourne Car Park: 1hr - £0.40, 2hrs - £1.30, 3hrs – £2.30, 4hrs - £3.10, 5hrs - £4.10, All Day - £6.00

Union Street Car Park: 1hr - £0.40, 2hrs - £1.30, 3hrs - £2.30, 4hrs - £3.10, 5hrs - £4.10, All Day - £7.70

To change the current Season Ticket charges as listed below:

Bath Road Car Park: 12 months - £848, 6 months - £424, 3 months - £212, 1 month - £71
Church Street, King Street and Lowbourne Car Parks: 12 months - £669, 6 months - £335, 3 months - £167, 1 month £56
Union Street Car Park: 12 months - £892, 6 months - £446, 3 months - £223, 1 month - £74

A copy of the Orders can be obtained via email request to

Roadside, other and private car parking in Melksham is not covered by the above; we have at least three significant car parks which some parking free of charge. The accompanying map shows the car parks listed in the charges in blue, and other parking you may wish to use as an alternative in cyan. Bus stops are in red.

 The changes on 1.9.2022 also remove the exemption from charging for disabled badge holders, invalid carriages, vehicles in lieu of invalid carriages and drivers with a severe disability issued with a note from Wiltshire Council.

There has been particular concern at the loss of free parking for blue badge holders, due to the difficulty some of those affected will have using any of the available payment methods, due to the extra cost on those affected, and due to the likely outcome of badge holder causing congestion by parking for free on yellow lines which (subject to some limitations) thet able to do.

Melksham Town Council has just receive a quotation from Wiltshire Council offering us the ability to buy back annual spaces in the Central Car Park for an annual cost equivalent t a parking season ticket - so that's £669 per space. Variously, councillors are suggesting that we do not do this, that we "buy back" just three of the spaces, and that we offer to pay Wilts Council a one-off payment to make the ticket machines easier to access. I don't like the idea of a partial buy-back as this would make the whole thing even more complex ("WHICH blue badge space did you use?") and lead to ongoing upset ("I [W/C]COULDN'T park there because the free space has all gone"), and in any case it's far too late in the day for the council to meet and do anything - just 10 days to implementation!

 The Melksham Parking Redemption Scheme is still in operation - you can reclaim the first hour (I think it is) of your parking from traders signed up to the scheme, and they can claim back from the Town Council who subsidise the scheme from the precept.

Published Saturday, 20th August 2022

A350 NOT to be national strategic route?

This month, the Department for Transport are due to rule on the inclusion of the A350 in major strategic road development. Rumours are around; here is an actually sourced report from Dorset. The A350 in Dorset is a very different road to the A350 in north and west Wiltshire, and this look is purely at really long distance traffic. So it may be limited as to implications for Melksham. Shared to inform, but please note that caveat of mine.

This has just come via CPRE Dorset from 2 DC councillors

North Dorset roads reprieved from major expansion.

The Department for Transport, in consultation with Dorset Council and The Western Gateway Sub-National Transport Body, have ruled that the A350/ C13 will no longer be included in plans for a major strategic road development running from Poole to the M4 corridor. This is a good outcome for residents of north Dorset. This decision is the culmination of a longstanding campaign by local Councillors Sherry Jespersen and Jane Somper to defend the A350 and C13 from massive expansion. The Councillors’ case has always been that this was not a suitable route for a new, strategic highway. The technical challenges would have added £200m to the project cost and the damage to the valued landscape and village communities would have been unacceptable.

Councillor Sherry Jespersen said: “I have been fighting this proposal for several years. The technical difficulties were always going to make this route financially unviable, and I was never convinced by the suggested economic gains – businesses in north Dorset would rather see investment in better broadband and well-maintained A roads. Significant housing and other development would have been needed to recoup the government’s investment and this would have damaged the environment, particularly the AONB, and would not have been acceptable to local people.”

Councillor Jane Somper said: “Building a strategic highway through the AONB would have met with opposition across the board. The landscape of north Dorset is treasured by residents in all our villages and hamlets who would have been significantly negatively impacted by this largescale road project, and we have a duty to preserve the rural nature and environment here for future generations. I will continue to work with officers and fellow councillors on important road improvements along the A350 and C13”

Other routes for the strategic north/ south link, including rail freight, will continue to be explored by DfT who are funding the studies. The A350 remains an important route for local traffic and will continue to be a priority for Dorset Council.

Published Friday, 19th August 2022

Open online democracy and plastic elephants

The Safari Animal trail was discussed at the full Town Council meeting on 20th June 2022, publicised ahead of time, held in public, recorded and online (here) - good see see that it's been viewed (at last in part) 296 times. There is no requirement on your Town Council to provide public access beyond the meeting itself, but this online presence, after a stuttering start, is here to stay. Numbers of people making themselves visible on Zoom and interacting at public participation are low, but the videos are scoring hundreds of hits and I am delighted (for example) to hear that our staff team are following meetings too - a really good informing and team building tool that's not been available before.

These plastic grass animals are causing a stir. Good. I think that's the intent? Provided it's legal, decent and honest protest is fair. And it sounds like one group is taking a positive partner approach - they're preparing publicity around each individual animal and what human interference has done to each of the species and doing that in addition to strongly protesting the use of plastic grass and its less-than-green profile. See (here) I do note some potential dual standards floating around, mind you - lots of supporters on the Facebook page who, whilst they are protesting the less than sustainable animals appear to be burning unsustainable fossil fuel in private vehicles:
"I'm away with family this weekend ..."
"We are away in Salisbury this weekend unfortunately ..."
"We're up in Derbyshire so will be with you in spirit only ..."
"I'm really sorry, we're off to Pembrokeshire on Saturday ..."
"I'm out all weekend otherwise ..."
I'm sure these can't all be using electric cars or more efficient public transport, especially as there's a rail strike on Saturday. And remember that transport is the biggest CO2 generating sector these days. The whole thing is such an excellent opener for discussion and education - continuing in Melksham at ClimateFest on 17th September)

At the same time as the noise of protest, I'm getting feedback that people are seeing the animals, loving having them around, talking about them with their children. And coming out of a Council meeting last night, I had a really good chat with three friends sitting in the pop up garden, talking "green" and bringing some enjoyment in a very pleasant evening for them. Good.

If you want to read into this further, Some background:

Full (Melksham Town) council meeting on 20th June - Agenda extra pages 5 to 8 (here)

"Wiltshire Council Welcome Back Fund/Reopening High Streets Safely Fund"

6. Environmental Considerations

Temporary is a loaded term when it comes to the environment, and given MTC’s focus on being a responsible steward of the environment and the impact of our actions on the climate, officers were keen to point this out City Dressing.

City Dressing has explained that they have a ‘no landfill policy’ and focus intensely on repurposing/re-use of those materials which make up their various temporary installations. For example, many of the installations involve artificial lawn, which we were told are scrubbed and re-used for two years as lawn, then used to cover the large animal figures (which will be referred to below) for three years. For the following five years, it will be repurposed to cover the smaller animals. It wasn’t made clear what happens to the material after ten years, however."

Minuted results

The report of the Communications Officer was received.

The Deputy Town Clerk reported on a meeting held with City Dressing for temporary additions to the high street, confirming that legacy items were not allowed, the European brief is extremely restrictive and timescales are short.

Members noted that the £10,000 grant covered all three items proposed. It was proposed by Councillor Hubbard, seconded by Councillor Oatley and RESOLVED to instruct the Deputy Town Clerk to approve the use of the City Dressing award at a cost of no more than the £10,000 to be awarded for the temporary provision of lamp banners, a pop-up park and an animal trail.

Interested in what else the Town Council is doing?

Here are some other things in public:
- Assembly Hall / Looking at the budgetted subsidy of £83,000 for this year
- Sensory Garden / Proposed spend of up to £80,000 for garden creation
- ClimateFest / 17th September, with £500 support from the Town Council

Published Thursday, 18th August 2022

Safari Animals in Melksham

Press release from Melksham Town Council, 17/8/2022

Safari Animals on the Approach!

Explore Melksham on the Green Animal Trail!

Melksham Town Council is delighted to announce that six ‘green turf’ covered animals are coming to Melksham this week.

The animals, that you would be more likely to find on an African safari, will be dotted around the centre of town to create a 3km loop covering green spaces, riverside pathway and some of the most architecturally impressive parts of the town.

Starting at the Market Place, outside the Town Hall, intrepid animal scouts will be encouraged to set off towards the centre of town, via historic side-streets, King George V Park, the Avonside river path, Conigre Mead and finally, through beautiful St Michael’s Churchyard. Along the way, you will be able to spot a Warthog, Giraffe, Rhino, Lion, Zebra and a Baby Elephant. Each animal will have a fun fact and a letter attached to it. The six letters will form a secret word.

The animal Trail forms part of Welcome Back Fund, delivered in conjunction with City Dressing, an urban decoration company which specialises in temporary installations to help encourage and facilitate residents and visitors to reengage with their town centres The grant, which aims to help local economies bounce back after Covid, stipulates that the funds must be spent on ‘temporary installations.' This detail came under fire from some Councillors when it was debated at Full Council on 20 June, specifically because of the impermanence of the attractions.

A representative at Melksham Town Council explained to Melksham News that “the Welcome Back Fund clearly states that the installations cannot be permanent, but we are keeping some of the fixtures and fittings which we can use in future. For example, we will be retaining 12 bespoke lamppost banners, including all fixings, which will promote different things in the town. It was a no-brainer to get behind it, as the Animal Trail in particular is bound to be a hit with our younger residents.

“We are aware of the concerns expressed within the community about the use of artificial grass in the attractions, including the safari animals. Officers approached City Dressing about this and we were assured by their representative that they are committed to environmental sustainability and the reuse or repurposing of their materials in general, and the artificial grass in particular.”

"We encourage everyone to get out and about and enjoy the trail!"

Trail Guide - for directions see below map

1. Starting at the Market Place, outside the Town Hall, intrepid animal scouts are encouraged to set off towards the centre of town, passing the mini pop-up park, and the ancient Kings Arms public house.

2. Turning left onto Church Street, you will pass the stunning historic quarter of the town along Cannon Square and down Church Walk (to your right).

3. Cross at the pedestrian crossing and nip up Union St before taking a quick left towards the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Don’t worry - you’re close to your first animal!

4. Follow the little alleyway past the church and you will cross Clacker’s Brook into King George V Playing Fields (Animal 1).

5. Head up the hill along the righthand pathway and make your way up towards the Cricket Pavilion where you’ll turn left alongside the splashed and play area (Animal 2) before turning right at the Adventure Centre.

6. Head over the little bridge and follow the path all the way until there is a T-junction.

7. Turn left and head across the green bridge and to the end of the pathway at the base of Scotland Road.

8. Turn back on yourself and retrace your steps to the Adventure Centre.

9. Continue along the river until you are almost at Bath Road.

10. Take a look down into Queen Mary Garden (little walled garden, alongside the car entrance to Bath Road carpark.) (Animal 3).

11. Turn right up the hill towards the bridge and cross at the zebra crossing turning left and then quickly right to rejoin the riverside path (Animal 4).

12. You are now back alongside the great River Avon and soon you will enter Conigre Mead Nature Reserve, through the gate. Think about how lucky we are to have good people who volunteer their time and money to help this place stay clean, wild and beautiful.

13. Take the second path on your left, heading up towards the cemetery.

14. Continue uphill into the upper part of the cemetary and head to your left, so you enter the back cemetery of the churchyard (the one with the massive, beautiful trees across the street from the main churchyard).

15. Head up and cross into St Michael’s and walk around the church to your right and aim for the path heading to the back corner gate to your right (Animal 5).

16. Go through the gate and turn left pass the bowls club to towards the brick wall in the distance, and turn left until you hit Place Road.

17. Turn Right and carry on until you rejoin the High Street.

18. Turn right to return to the Market Place to complete the 3km trail!

19. Oh wait ... don’t forget to look on the far side of the Town Hall, by the Campus entrance to find Animal 6, and work out the secret word!

Published Wednesday, 17th August 2022

Thank you for voting Graham Ellis onto Melksham Town Council

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