Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary
ClimateFest public transport report
Data sheet for 17th September: (here)
Random picture from library: (here)
Handout for 2nd October: (here)
Presentation slides for 2nd October: (here)
Option 247 pull up banner: (here)
ClimateFest / Melksham - Public Transport Element
Planned for Saturday 17th September, main event postponed on 9th September due to the passing of HMQR2 until 2nd October.
From the mayor that day: ""With regard to Climatefest, this has been a more difficult decision. Our feeling is that a toned-down event would not be disrespectful. Indeed, it is noted that such an event is in keeping with our new King's priorities. However, with much contemplation, we believe that a toned-down (information fair) event during the period of mourning will risk not being a success. Since this is our inaugural event, the importance of its success can not be understated. By toning it down and holding it during the period of mourning, the event will not achieve the objectives it set out to achieve at its inception. For this reason, we are postponing the event until Sunday 2nd October.""
With the Big Lemon bus booked and paid for that day and people coming from multiple places so support it, we ran a separate demonstration that day - and indeed had a rather better opportunity to evaluate routes and show people the bus and talk prospects without becoming just one element in a bigger show, all pulling for people's attention.
On 2nd October, we took a stall in the Assembly Hall to help promote public transport.
** 17th September
Superb day - we replaced the "Park and Ride" short demonstration run with a series of runs along a realistic route "16" (next number up in the town service series, if you wonder) from the Railway Station through the Town Centre and newer residential areas to the Bowerhill Business area, to an interchange with route x34 to Trowbridge.
All runs had a good number of passengers on board - somewhere around 125 journeys made in total. Most were round trips (we only offered those formally) others were ad-hoc connections from the station to the Town Centre. That latter was people turning up and being happy to have a ride.
Timings taken - and we know of where a few minutes adjustment may be needed. Clearances along the route checked. Alternative route variations also tried out (we could do that because it was round trips only). Publicity pictures taken. Personal needs / lunch break spot tested. Battery power of bus less than 25% used from Beckington to Melksham (Milk Churn), Friday evening route learning, and 5 round trips on Saturday.
Public response very positive - not only from the people who took rides, but also from residents waiting for other buses and train, and also who saw the bus passing along the way. Good lines of questioning from many riders on topics such as battery life, is hydrogen better, what if the train is late. None of the questions came "left field".
** 2nd October
10 a.m. to mid afternoon in the Assembly Hall. Stall to talk about public transport, including distribution of main Melksham bus route data (271/2/3 and x34) - thanks to Faresaver for the timetables.
Significant staffing issue to record as several of our team arrived and left by bus. One person had to get lifts (as no x34 on Sunday, and does not live near train station) and first 273 from Bath direction does not arrive until LONG after we were open. But our team is bus and train users and we coped.
Much of the discussion / feedback was on the yellow bus - still the talking point even two weeks after. The idea of a bus that connects with the trains is highly attractive. We had a few train timetables for the "taking" but no big supplies; official rail timetables no longer printed in any quantity.
Very much a passing-stall marketing operation, but lots of people reminded of their public transport or told about it for the first time. Typical reasons not to use it ("not as convenient", "costs too much, especially for a group", "not easy to find out", "doesn't go when/where I want") all rather familiar. We should not be put off by these elements / questions. Mention made of senior bus passes all day until March.
Talk to about a dozen people - slide set (as they're mostly pictures, pretty useless without hearing the talk) at
General show attendance was modest; review on 19th October by organising committee. My understanding is that it was good as a first and perhaps can grow, but there are concerns that it took too much staff resource and prevented other environment things being done. For example, the Town Council has a big greening budget for tree planting that may go unspent.
** Next Steps
A number of significant movers and shakers came along on 17th, and we are now into a planning phase. People are aware (see leaflet) than an electric bus does not just spring up from no-where and indeed that a step-wards approach makes sense; the setting up and fitting out of a depot with solar panels is significant and step 1 might be diesel - still MUCH better than lots of cars running around, then electric, then electric charged from depot. There would be much danger in requiring all three steps to be completed at once, with the early steps of an all day, every day service promoting and encouraging the next step. Capital investment for stage one does not need to be massive, and revenue support for the 2023/24 year would be an excellent start.
Big Lemon have just registered in the South West and started four community routes in Bristol in this way, and there are other ongoing discussions. Connecting train timetables will change little in December 2022 and whilst more significant changes in the region are expected in May 2023, they will only slide Melksham train times by a very little as the trains are re-slotted around an enhanced Bristol to Westbury service.
Proposals / suggestions onward to technical teams - for general readers it may be a little quiet for the next couple of months.
Published Friday, 14th October 2022
Away, recharging batteriesLadies and Gentlemen,
I will be away to recharge my batteries with immediate effect, returning late(r) in the month. I am taking a last minute this-year-only opportunity after a busy year. Please accept / register my apologies for all meetings / appointments this week and next.
I expect to have very limited and intermittent Internet access while away which. The main purpose is having a change which they tell me is as good as a rest, but I WILL try to avoid dropping any balls. Thank you for your understanding.
Published Monday, 10th October 2022
Homes for Ukraine / Melksham updateStatistics from HMG and how they're reflected in Melksham - an update prepared for circulation to Councillors. Starting off with the wider UK picture, then looking at Wiltshire and at Melksham and how the community group fits in.
Total Ukraine Scheme visa applications received: 219,500
Data is as of 27 September 2022 and comprised of:
Ukraine Family Scheme: 62,900
Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme: 156,600
Total Ukraine Scheme visas issued to people: 188,700
Data is as of 27 September 2022 and comprised of:
Ukraine Family Scheme visas: 52,800
Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme visas: 135,900
Total arrivals of Ukraine Scheme visa-holders in the UK: 131,700
Data is as of 26 September 2022 and comprised of:
arrivals via Ukraine Family Scheme: 36,800
arrivals via Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme: 94,900
So there are around 80 applications "in process" for the area and 150 issued but not (yet) arrived. Some of those will go ahead - but we are reduced now to a trickle of occasional arrivals. Others will not arrive - personal circumstances and plans change, and especially in (Ukrainian) war time ... with a UK application system that at times can be complex, slow, and frustrating.
One of the highest rates for the UK - about one application for every 300 residents, contrast at the other extreme Newcastle on Tyne - 304 applications, population 800,000, so one application for every 2700 residents.
Melksham - background to where are we now
Local data - Wiltshire Council have, but little shared. Indications are that there are (or have been) between 80 and 100 guests in the Melksham area, of whom about a half are children, and almost all of the rest are adults of working age. Very few (if any) older people. So Melksham numbers are proportionality in excess of numbers across the county, which in turn has a higher proportion of guests that most local government areas.
Almost all (if not all) are under the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine (H4U) ) as there were at the outset very few if any people from Ukraine in this area who could bring there relatives in. There are, however, a lot of caring and generous hosts in this area.
The people coming to Melksham under H4U are described as "guests". They don't have prior links with our area, and the first of each group had probably never heard of Wiltshire, let alone Melksham, prior to the war. Groups are not clean clusters - there's friends and family left behind in almost every case - senior parent urging children and grandchildren "go save yourself" and sisters getting out where brother cannot (or do not want) to leave Ukraine.
So - these people may be guests but are they are very different from guests who would come and stay with you for a holiday. Most are stressed - from a bombed out town or a family that has lost members in a few cases through those who are emotionally damaged or just frightened of life in Ukraine, through to some who look forward to a new life away from the war zone. There is no clearcut line between "refugee" and "economic migrant" - initial primary intent to return or to make a new life is about the best boundary line I can come up with. But it's not even always the same in a family group or cluster, with the next destination within a group being different, and Melksham being the last place they live together - natural perhaps as younger ones leave home and set up their own.
A few have already left - I have examples of some back to Ukraine (and even then asking to return), others to elsewhere in the UK where independent housing is much more available than in Wiltshire, and on to another country too.
Very few new applications are being made - and that's because the pool of sponsors initiating applications is pretty well dried up. A lot of our people in Wiltshire signed up in March, but didn't take it further, some because they didn't then go out and seek guests and others because they had second thoughts, or were very specific in the guests they sought, and they found no-one who came up to their expectations.
Guests arrive scared and into the unknown. That can make them vulnerable to exploitation, and also make them act secretive or private from those who are trying to help them. They initially speak little English and have no income and no ID or knowledge of systems. And this untrusting and new setup for them can make them shut down, complaining that things are not what they are used to, and emotionally aggressive in how they look out for themselves and their offspring and younger siblings and friends.
Because the UK visa system is / was much more complex that the way into other countries from Ukraine, and our sponsor pool filled up early, we have received into the area some of the brightest, most educated, and most determined families. This is both a blessing and a curse.
People are wonderful - most of our hosts and mosts of our guests, and most of our wider community. Hosts have opened their home, not quite sight unseen, to people in real need, but also with no training or experience and minimal briefing. "Learning on the job" but knuckling down and doing so. Guests are appreciative too and bright enough to know how they cab help. Community has been fantastic too - from organisations that are normally slow moving through to charitable bodies who want to help and companies, and individuals who may not have the space or the stomach for hosting themselves but really want to help.
Wiltshire Council have (and continue) to try to be helpful, but have been landed with around (my estimate) ten times the number of guests they can deal with properly, and a mandate that prioritises supporting guests over hosts. There have been some rough (very rough) and ready decisions and actions, some appalling lacks in how they look after "their own" - hosts. And some things done or not done based on how much time they need to invest, rather than what is right for the people - guests and hosts - involved. That is not totally intended as a criticism - they have been dealt a difficult hand, but perhaps they could have done better in how they then played it - and they still could be learning. Too late for some, but in time for some others.
Melksham - now and looking forward
Our UMeet group of voluntary co-ordinators and communicators - the eyes and ears of the community - met on Tuesday. UMeet has grown within Melksham https://www.facebook.com/groups/ukraine2uk and the website at http://www.ukraine2uk.info where I am an admin, and from where in the early days we have been instrumental in providing support.
Phase 1 - helping with matching and paperwork
Phase 2 - helping with travel to the UK and then with getting local ID and support
Phase 3 - help assimilating into life - English, schools, living arrangements.
These things differ from family to family, but have the same systems underlying them and similar experiences, and we have been helping both hosts and guests in their networking. Thats the "Meet" of meeting.
We are now into what might be considered a fourth phase. Hosts were asked to sign up to host for up to six months, up to a year, or indefinitely. Guests arrived with the idea of finding their own places very quickly, of settling with the help of their hosts and then moving on when well established, or of finding somewhere safe until they could return to their Ukraine homes.
For many, that's great and working well, but consider:
* For some hosts, with the new experience of traumatised and culturally different guests even six months is trying and some relationships break down early
* Changes in personal circumstances of hosts lead to them needing the space back, either for their own family or because they are moving
* Hosts are finding that the increased cost of living is making it very hard for them
* For guests who came on the expectation of "get a job", finding a job that can suit their [new] lifestyle may not be easy - for example childcare issues.
* For guests who came on the expectation of "get our own place", finding a place independently is near impossible around here - an utter lack of rental accommodation, and the very few places that are available require things like a significant deposit, an established credit history, and an expectation that the rental will last into the longer term.
* Some guests find themselves very isolate with a lack of transport and/or even the basics of a shop within walking distance, friends, work, etc.
Living accommodation for guests
There is - in most cases - nowhere for guests to move on to.
* Wiltshire Council Policy is to extend as far as possible in sponsor homes, though (unlike Gloucestershire, for example) they have not increased the "thank you" payment that helps hosts. And they say they can't because it's a national issue. A bit mean, when you consider that (our household as an example) they receive £42,000 from central government and are giving us £350 per month (£87.50 per guest - £3 per guest per day)
* Wiltshire Council have - as understand it - declined to set up a housing rental guarantee system for guests. Such a scheme is in operation in Bristol, and is helping overcome all the major obstacles to renting there. They are offering help (even encouraging) guests to move away from the area - "up north" for example, which for some may make sense.
* When a guest complains to Wiltshire Council and manages to get through / noticed, they tend to push themselves onto the radar and support ladder. Rather than look to see if they can be helped "in situ" if that is appropriate, the guests are
a) Removed with immediate of near-immediate effect to a hotel room or unfurnished halfway accommodation such as Kingsbury Square (with the community left to provide the basics where we can and followed up a while later by
b) Move to council / housing association property and there, we have found, the council probably turns up with a load of furniture to help.
* For many guest / host pairings that want to move on to the next stage, it seems that the only way to get assistance is for the hosts to throw out the guests and the guests to complain. This is not a clever way of handling and supporting people who are in distressing circumstances, nor a clever way of looking after hosts!
* Peter Dunford, our Melksham Area community rep was as helpful as he could be within the WC system, but he took redundancy last month when his role (and the role of 17 colleagues) was organised away. What remains being done of this work has passed to a colleague who now looks after 3 community areas not one and works right across to the Berkshire border! It was very clear from this gentleman's presentation at the Area Board that his new role is longer term (Strategic) and that he is primarily talking at us rather than with us.
Support of Hosts
Our Facebook group, phone calls, meets in person and chats have and continue to network hosts. A few of us seem to have become the de-facto sounding board and direction for trusted discussions and thoughts. A safeguarding online briefing was extremely useful personally; I do know how to call in the experts if need be, but the over-reactions in some cases mean this route is used with caution. We feel a duty of care to our hosts as well as to our guests, and the tilted bias of Wiltshire Council towards guest tends to mean we tilt a little to hosts. I am fortunate that I spend a number of years working with counselling and safeguarding data and am somewhat aware of issues.
Finance to UMeet
A big "thank you" to four organisations who have offered us funding or raised money to help the Ukrainian Community in Melksham. To ensure a proper audit trail, John Firth with the Good News Church is accounting this ring-fenced in their accounts, or the money remains with the donor until we call it up.
Requirements to draw funds do not neatly align with them being raised so at present there is a banked "pool". We have, however, bought appropriate textbooks for those who are attending our English for Speakers of Other Languages course in Melksham.
With some of the funding, it's tricky to know where best to help. It may be sudden in helping furnish or guaranteeing, but that then uses it for a very small part of the Ukrainian community. Best leave that to the offices (internet check) of John, Graham, Martin, Adrienne, Sharon and Lisa to look at the cases individually and with a view of what the donor said as the funds were given.
UMeet itself is intensely grateful for the donations of rooms to meet, beverages, and volunteer time so that finance (and accounting for that finance) as not been an issue. On one or two occasions where something has needed paying for, it has been paid for and donated by a volunteer.
Local provision of classes by Wiltshire Council and Wiltshire College has been hard to access and sporadic. But then they were initially trying to address an unquantified issue, even if they should know the quality that's required. It's been a bit of a lottery, with the training organisations looking to move people on online as soon as they can. In Real Life college course seem to be stopping and starting based on numbers of attendees, and the attendees who started but had to drop out (perhaps to take a job) are unable to join a new course.
Guests ARE coming along, but it is not easy to learn a new language that has a different set of letters - it's double hard.
To help fill the gaps, we are running an adult course in Melksham on Saturdays - it's full; at a time that people who are working can get there, and when they can find childcare. We are also running a smaller groups for children after school; need to be smaller to keep the concentration there, and whilst one or two more could join, that would be plenty. These course are run by a volunteering retired teacher.
What U-Meet is doing
Supporting Guests and hosts / arranging meets / helping with issues and advice on the various things listed above. Referring people on as appropriate. Running Adult and Children's English classes ourselves. That's a management summary - you'll see all the details and context above.
And in summary
An unusual scheme that's attracted far more guests and sponsors than I suspect was ever imagined. Various issues along the way which are only to have been expected based on the depth and gravity of the issues being addressed.
In the current phase, the really big problem is housing as guests move on beyond their initail landin and settling, perhaps with a limited time sponsor. All in all it's remarkable what has been and is being done, but we should not shy away from current issues or consider ourselves "job done". Some phases have, indeed, wound down. Others remain being address and in need of furthering.
Published Thursday, 6th October 2022
New Town Hall hours from 1.11.2022Overview
Historically, the Town Hall has been open as an enquiry desk for people to walk in from 9 to 5 on Mondays to Fridays - we're a public service and the local body you pay your taxes to and enquiry point.
As from 1st November, the Town Hall will be open for walk-ins on Monday to Thursdays only, and for reduced hours during the day. One evening, it will later. Provisionally:
* Monday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
* Tuesday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
To be detailed and confirmed by the Town Clerk - council set guidelines on Monday.
Background and reasoning
This summer we have had to close ad-hoc for an afternoon or whole day here and there as we've not had two members of staff on hand (one to answer queries and a second for safety). It's perhaps not been the big problem it might have been in the past, as face to face contact didn't happen during Covid lockdown and in any case has reduced as so much has gone online.
I had already suggested in the early summer when staffing problems loomed that we run shorter but robust hours for a few weeks (while the holiday, sickness, outdoor working season lasted) but that suggestion appeared lost into the ether. Good to see it being picked up by the staffing committee as a permanent thing ;-).
As it came from staffing to full council on Monday, the proposal was 10 to 4 on 4 days a week. And with one or two councillors from that secretive committee rather miffed at the challenges from us outsiders - however, the late hours one evening was endorsed in order to give Town Hall access to those who can't make it during the normal working day - following a similar scheme to used in the library.
I hope this works - I would rather have reliable, published, shorter hours than a system under which there's a chance that people coming to visit the Town Hall will get there in published hours to find it shut. I would have liked data to tell us whether closing on a Friday or a Wednesday, and/or which are the quieter hours during the days. However, such evidence was only available in the form of "I feel it's quieter on a Friday" as it seems there's no tick-chart at the reception counter to keep note of when people visit and for what purpose, as I would expect - at least for evaluation periods - at a business which is reviewing opening hours and services.
Published Wednesday, 5th October 2022
Blue Badge - taxpayer to buy spaces?The only public car parking that Melksham Town Council looks after - as I understand it - is the one behind The Cricketers at the top of KGV park that's used by people going to Rivermead School. It's somewhat ironic that car parking in Melksham's other public car parks - Union Street, Lowbourne, Central, Bath Road and King Street, which are under the sole ownership and operation, occupies a lot of time at Town Council meetings.
Wiltshire Council have decided to charge for parking in disabled spaces. They have offered (asked for a price by the Town Council) to rent these spaces to the Town Council for £669 each space per annum so they can stay free of charge to the disabled user. And this came up at Town Council on Monday evening.
1. There is a very dangerous precedent in Wiltshire Council ceasing to provide a service (free parking with blue badges) and the Town Council looking to pick up the pieces at cost to the local voters. If we pick up this one now, what next?
2. Much of the concern is not actually about "pay or not" for disabled - it's about the practicality of paying for those less able at meters that may not be close to the disabled spaces and pedestrian access to the car park, may be at a higher level, may not be easy for the colourblind to use ... and who cannot easily use online payment.
3. The big question is should everyone be paying or not ... should we be making a special case of blue badge holders?
Quite remarkable for this to be a Town Council discussion looking at the (perhaps) shortcomings or unpopular decision of Wiltshire Council with a view to us and our local taxpayers who are within walking distance of to town asked to pay to bail them out.
There is logic in having people pay for their parking somehow - indeed, someone needs to pay the cost of parking. At the supermarkets, you pay without being conscious in the cost of your goods (and if you park and walk in to town, others are paying in their goods). At the airport or railway station, you pay.
For the Town Center, it has come from business rates, and retail and service businesses should discuss the level with their Unitary Councillor. However, the Town council has an interest in keeping the town vibrant and part of that is having people park here so it is something we should look at, balancing providing financial support with significant extra taxation on local residents.
The Town Council's Car Park Redemption Scheme allows motorists to reclaim the cost of parking from participating retailers - and that's for all motorists and not just the blue badge holders. In many ways it's far better tuned than a scheme for just the disabled, as it's used by those who really need the help through what is (we admit) a clunky system for all involved. We do need to publicise it better. And the proposal for us to pay up to £15,000 a year to buy free parking for blue badge holders in Wiltshire Council Car Parks in Melksham (or to buy some spaces only at a lower cost) was withdrawn without the support of 2 councillors required to take it to a vote.
From feedback on the Facebook feed, town council, on Monday:
Yes definitely shops need to be involved in the parking. I have not come across any and never seen any information that they partake. But perhaps I have just missed it. By the way I walk to town so do not need parking.
On Facebook, maybe...a month ago?...there was a post listing the shops that participate. It *may* be on the town council site as well. But, you are right, they are hard to discover.
And comment that it's not so much the principle of having blue badge holders pay, but rather the awkwardness of the systems for doing so.
Great idea re art house computer skills and helping to download parking app
Exactly the inaccessibility of parking meters ! The height is also an issue for wheelchair users ... not everyone has a mobile phone to use an app.
And think about parking meters at wheelchair height please
Wiltshire Council IS in process of updating (some or all?) parking machines; modern technology with number plate recognition could transform car park payment, but it's expensive technology and I would be surprised if Melksham Town Council implemented it. Barrier / ANPR systems at the exits of the Central and King Street Car Parks would have a complication because there are properties and private parking reach through both car parks.
Published Tuesday, 4th October 2022
Democracy in Melksham - watching us live278 views, 24 comments, 4 reactions - the Facebook live feed of the Melksham Town Council on 3rd October 2022.
I am delighted that we are live online during the meetings, and people can come back and see what was said ( at https://www.facebook.com/melksham.town/videos ) at a later point too. However, comments on the feed are not monitored and fed back during the meeting - it's a broadcast and not a public debate. Think of it like the boardcast of our local parliament - you would not expect to be able to add a point to what your MP is saying on the BBC in the House of Commons, and so please don't expect your councillor to react as he/she is concentrating on a meeting in Melksham.
There is indeed a policy on its way through to limit the use of mobile phones by councillors during meetings - it was on the agenda last night, but got lost after the fillibuster that timed out item 11 (the Assemby Hall Working Group terms of reference) - and with it items 12 to 20 - of the agenda. That policy is to reduce interactions from outside the meeting - targetting keeping us from wandering off topic with friends, but also reducing your ability to get important messages to us such as:
"Please speak up"
Comments are not monitored by anyone in the council chamber during the meeting either. Here are some further comments which I read AFTERWARDS on this topic:
"Good point, Xxxxx. But I am not sure that comments here are monitored.
"Shame but hopefully they are read later, otherwise is there a point in commenting? I do hope so."
"I've noticed the camera moves around, is it possible to Zoom in on person speaking or get closer. Sorry but it would help me follow the discussion."
"The movement of the camera is automatic, and is supposed to follow voice. Unfortunately, it's not "perfect"."
"Thank you Xxxx. I thought someone was controlling it."
Here is my follow up, posted on the thread after I got home, so probably not seen by very many - worth a share here:
"To all folks here on the feed ... council meetings give the public a chance to make inputs at the start and then they're in "watch only" mode - if you come along wanting to comment and have that reach your councillors straight away, please do so on Zoom. Our clerk can alert the chair if you wish to interact and typically we do so. But we're having a meeting and not an open public debate on evenings like this one.
"Once home, sure, I and other councillors can take a look at what is said and answer if we choose, as I'm doing - better informed for the next time the topic comes up, and things rarely go thought on a single visit.
"If you want to let your councillor know ahead of the meeting, PLEASE let us know ahead of time - the agenda and backup documents are published a week ahead. Mind you a lot of reading - we had about 200 pages this week. Who would want to be a councillor, eh?"
There is a calendar of upcoming meetings at https://moderngov.microshadeapplications.co.uk/MelkshamTC/mgCalendarMonthView.aspx?GL=1&bcr=1. Not a short URL - reminds me of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where an important notice is hidden on the underside of a filing cabinet in a disused toilet; we could really do with a short URL and some promotion.
More will follow on what is (now) last night's meeting
Published Monday, 3rd October 2022
Transport and the Assembly Hall coming to ClimateFestCome Along to ClimateFest - 2nd October 2022 - Melksham. Lots of stalls and talks, including mine on public transport in the Melksham area - 30 minutes from 12:15. Also a public transport stall where our team can tell you what you can use NOW and look into the future, and I can also talk all about what's going on at the Assembly Hall and more generally in the Melksham Area. Slide set for my talk at http://grahamellis.uk/cfesttalk.pdf.
ClimateFest opens at 10:30 and runs until late afternoon, looking at insulation, heating and energy, rewilding, electric vehicles, green food, recycling and many more topics too. How YOU can benefit yourself and your planet by going greener. In the Town Centre and Assembly Hall.
Published Saturday, 1st October 2022
Melksham Town Council - GrantsMelksham Town Council appreciates the power of community groups, the enthusiasm and expertise of volunteers, and the "reach" they can have for the good of the community beyond staff and councillors on the Town Team. And so "we" (the Town Council) make grants to people with specific funding needs who can reach the parts that we can't.
Miriam Zaccarelli, our Community Development Officer, writes:
"The next round of grants is currently open with a deadline of 7 November to be considered on 21 November and if you would like to apply for a regular grant (less than £1000) please see the attached application form.
"If you were planning to apply for a major grant (over £1000 to be awarded next year) the deadline is 30th September. Please see the attached grants policy that explains the process."
The policy is mirrored (here)
"Below are examples of types of organisations to which grants may be given:
* Charitable Organisations
* Youth/Senior Citizen Groups
* Sports Clubs and Arts Groups
* Advice Organisations
* Organisations assisting the disabled
* Minority Groups
* Community buildings
* Community events
* Health/transport/safety groups"
There are a plethora or rules, and the hurdles are high for new groups that are setting up; it feels like it's great for those who already there, but for those striving to be there it's almost "come back when you don't need us as much". I have personally been there.
Published Monday, 26th September 2022
Area Board ReportLast night, the Melksham Area Board of Wiltshire Council met in the library at the Campus. Around 25 people present - all six Wiltshire Councillors on the board, another half dozen or so Wiltshire Council staff, around half a dozen Melksham Without Parish reps (councillors plus clerk), around half a dozen community reps speaking in support of grant requests, the police inspector to give us the update on crime in our area and myself - apart from Jon, Jack and Phil who are Wiltshire Councillors and were there in that capacity, I was the only Town Councillor there, and I did not see any reps from other parishes or members of the public.
For a small meeting (and this was the smallest area board I have attended) the library with a few of the books pushed aside worked well enough. The usual complementary service of tea and coffee in the chatting ahead of time was missing - ironic with there being a purpose-fitted cafe. Where I was seated, it was hard to hear - the audio system was fine, but the sound of phone calls and discussions from the reception desk provided a noisy background. Lights directly over the projection screen weren't a problem for the simple text slides used for the most part, but had there been pictures or videos it would have been an issue.
With the departure of 18 Community Engagement Managers across Wiltshire (ours was Peter Dunford who took voluntary redundancy) and their roles being taken up by 6 Strategic Engagement and Partnerships Managers, it seems inevitable that the support for the community will be less. Richard Rogers introduced himself in his new role and I was re-assured that he has been around a long time, worked for the Melksham Area a long time ago, and lives in Potterne which isn't too far away. However, he has to service Devizes and Pewsey as well as Melksham, so that's big territory to cover.
An update from Jonathon Seed on "Addressing Environemntal Issue" usefully promoted the ClimateFest event on 2nd October - thank you, Jonathon.
I really attended the meeting to hear Phil Alford's update on Melksham House, having been involved with the project since 2011. Because of the very fact I've been involved, most of it I knew anyway but it's good to have confirmed:
* Completion "Winter '23" at a build cost of £4.2 million, but a higher total cost when you add in associated demolition. But slide said "15 to 18 months" which puts the opening into early 2024.
* To be completed as office space, meeting rooms and a hall available for public hire; a main hall with two side rooms. Part of the planning consent is that it must be public accesible / useable.
* To be done to the latest Carbon Zero profile - Phil mentioned LED lighting air source heating, insulation, photovoltaics and electric car charging points
* Councillor Seed asked what the business case was for this work. Phil Alford explained that it has been offered around, but none of the other Wiltshire Council services wanted it. It was being done to satisfy planning requirements on The Campus, and he did not expect Wiltshire Council to recoup its investment any time soon.
Published Thursday, 22nd September 2022
Regional Issues - bypassing Melksham?From Facebook Post / Bowerhill but worth a wider share and interprettation. An overview of the wider picture of the M4 to South Coast study, with objectives overall and a current cost and timeline for a potential Melksham Bypass.
* Whether to proceed with a super-douper bypass largely rests on central governemnt funding that will (only) be available if the A350 becomes a strategic road from the M4 southwards. We are told to expect a report on whether the A350 goes strategic early next year
* IF the A350 goes strategic, and IF a bypass is then built, it would not open until late 2028
* If the A350 becomes strategic, I would anticipate further proposals along the route; West Ashton to Yarnbrook is already somewhere in the pipeline, and something would (surely) be proposed to avoid Westbury Town Centre.
Freedom of Information (FOI) - from Department of Transport official. "National Highways’ M4-Dorset Coast study is considering strategic road connectivity from the M4 (between the M5 and the A34) and the Dorset Coast. It is assessing whether an alternative corridor would provide a better solution to connectivity than the A36/ A46 corridor which is the current Strategic Road Network route. There are a number of potential alternative corridors that are being assessed, including the A350. If shown to perform better than the existing A36/ A46 corridor, the study may recommend the possible adoption of one or more alternative strategic corridors and where future investment may be needed on them". The study is ongoing and is now expected to report in early 2023.
Further information is provided in the newsletter from earlier in 2022 which includes a map; newlsletter mirrored (here). Quoting from that newsletter: Key study objectives
* Provide a quick, direct route linking the M4 with the Dorset Coast.
* Reduce delays and improve journey time variability caused by congestion.
* Help ensure convenient access from ports on the Dorset Coast to the M4 for freight traffic.
* Provide opportunities for travel by sustainable and low carbon modes.
* Identify opportunities to improve the natural environment and green infrastructure.
* Be a good neighbour and improve access and environments for communities.
* Provide opportunities for walking, cycling and horse riding to enable healthier lifestyles.
* Provide a route that appropriately separates strategic and local traffic.
* Provide a route that supports tourism, economic growth and jobs.
* Provide a safe route linking the M4 to the Dorset Coast.
Also from the same FOI request - costings and timescale for the Melksham bypass (here) - I understand this document covers purely the Melksham Bypass part of any grand scheme, and is costed around what is called "option 10C" which is for a road from just south of Lacock on the existing A350, passing over the River Avon and to the west or Melksham, rejoining the existing A350 to the south of Bowerhill but to the north of the Kennet and Avon Canal.
At this stage, the total cost estimate is £238,019,996 of which the DfT would look to contribute £201,360,500. Remaining monies would come from Wiltshire Community Charge payers and potentially other third party sources. These are current estimates; with a project currently projected for completion in late 2028 final figures will almost certainly be higher, even if just allowig for inflation.
"The Whole" is very much above the paygrade (zero - we're volunteers!) of myself as a Town Councillor(%), and indeed above the paygrade of Wiltshire Council too in that at some point a decision will be made on which route(s) are strategic from the M4 corridor to the South Coast, and Department for Trasport and Highways England investment will go into them; at the same time, traffic will be encouragd to use those strategic routes so:
* If the A350 becomes strategic, expect more traffic and a strong(er) bypass case
* If the A350 does NOT become strategic, long distance traffic will not be funnelled past Melksham
(%) - A Melksham bypass would not even pass through the town, though clearly it would have major consequences for it.
Published Tuesday, 20th September 2022