Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary
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• Thinking forward
• MADE for Melksham
• Appreciating Volunteers
• Vision needed - Melksham
• Buy Melksham House?
• Dominoes, anyone?
• More tourists for Melksham?
• To whom shall I rant?
• Vision 5, 10, 15 years
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What's Important to YOU?
Half way through my term as a Melksham Town Councillor. I feel that as a town council we have plenty of ideas but still no long term vision. We have done some good work, but we have much more we could do, and we need to prioritise both time and money in a way that benefits the medium to long term, and not just the views of our own term until we stand (if we wish) for re-election the year after next.
Which of these are IMPORTANT to you?
Which of these are IN NEED OF ATTENTION?
I am not just asking the question - I am asking you to tell me. Information entered will be used to inform me. I hope to use it to produce some overall views and trends which I may share, but personal data will NOT be shared.
* If you feel something is important, please check that box. That's to let me know what your priorties are, even if they are running sweetly at present.
* If you feel there's a need for action on something, please check that box. That's to let me know if it's something you feel the council should be taking a look at ... I will see if you have ticked the "important" box too as I prioritise things.
With some things we can help directly ... others are outside our control, but we can make inputs that will help persuade other authoritise.
Your help and guidance is very much appreciated - thank you.
* Inputs always welcome - this survey will be open at least until 30th April 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
* Your inputs here are to me as a councillor and not to the Town Council as a whole.
Published Sunday, 9th April 2023
Thinking forwardLater today, I get back to Melksham having been away for over a month - physically away, though on line every day and getting (somewhat) our local news. Over the weekend, I'll be catching up on Town Council issues - reading in and speaking with fellow councillors. I know that amongst other topics will be the Assembly Hall, the Cafe in KGV Park, staffing issues, Neighbourhood Plan, the Environment and Climate Group, Coronation Weekend and which councillors want what roles for the next year. The motion to move forwards towards a possible purchase of Melksham House which was raised with incredibly little time for thought at the extraordinary council meeting late last month has also filled my thoughts - I was able to watch that unfold, though not vote, via the public access zoom. I look forward to reading the minutes from that full meeting, including the confidential session at the end.
My Facebook Timeline came up with a memory the other day of 2 years ago when I announced my intent to stand for election as one of your councillors in Melksham South Ward. An opportune time to stop, think, review - exactly half way throught the four year term for which (thank you, I am honoured), you elected me for. And to think about what I want to do for the next two years. I have my thoughts, but it would be premature of me to share them until I have validated their sanity against the veritable floor of extra data I'll be wallowing in over the weekend, and during next week when some of our staff team will be available to answer questions.
I can give you some of my underlying personal thoughts - I suspect other councillors ask themselves too. They include "what am I still capable of?", "what do I have time to do?", "what will I enjoy doing?", "what else do I want to do?", "what else should I be doing?" and "can I stand the fire of the council kitchen?" Then within those thoughts, "what is the most helpful for Melksham, places and people I love and things I believe in?"
Published Thursday, 6th April 2023
MADE for MelkshamMelksham and District Entertainment - MADE for you. We are a Community Interest Company offering - from January 2026 ...
* Orchestral Entertainment and recitals in the Blue Room (formerly the Blue Pool)
* Stage acts in the Alford Hall (formerly the Assembly Hall)
* Swimming, dry side sporting activities and creche in the Hubbard Hall (formery the Campus)
* Library and Museum in Melksham House
All these facilities and venues are on the Melksham Campus, with pedestrianised entrance off the Market Place through Melksham House Gates. On your right, reception for the Blue Room (to the left of the new lobby area) and Alford Hall (to the right of the new lobby). Ahead and to your right is Melksham House, and ahead and to your left is Hubbard Hall. The Campus sight also houses the bowling club, the tennis club and the cricket club. Main vehicle access is from Orchard Gardens, and egress from via Place Road, and a new access is available from the A350 to the rear of the site to additional parking that helps keep vehicles away from the Town Centre.
Eat before your event at one our sponsoring partner in town ... Market Tavern, Refa Tandoori, Cornerstone, Henry's, King's Arms, Hiding Place, West End Malay food, Melksham Tandoori, The Bear, The Grapes, Casa and Devana Thai.
We would also like to thank Melksham Town Council (our landlords at Alford Hall and the Blue Room), Melksham Without Parish Coucil, Wiltshire Council (our landlords at Hubbard Hall and Melksham House) and the Swindon and Wiltshire LEP for their help in getting this leisure and entertainment hub off the ground, and the lottery fund for their generous grant support. Without your enthusiastic support, this vibrant new entertainment (and operationally self supporting) centre could not be taking shape.
Events will take place every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening from mid January to the end of July and from September to the week before Christmas, and with carriages at 10:45 and 11:15 each night offering homebound travel to neighbouring towns. These events will be booked by the CIC working with promoters and we are keen to be in touch with promoters and other groups of both estabished an new acts. Regular clubs and meetings will take place in our venues too which are available for hire for the rest of the week too - old favourites such as roller disco, jazz club and model car club and new events too. Alford Hall and the Blue Room can each accomodate over 400 people and we look forward to the return of major Melksham institutions such as TrainWest - formerly held at the Christie Miller Sports Centre - in coming years taking both venues.
OK - It's 1st April and I post this as a light hearted "April Fool" contribution - and yet - why not? Let's make a business case for an excellent entertainment centre in the heart of Melksham. Let's run it as a charity and CIC to allow it to be practical largely with enthuiastic volunteers on a not-for-profit basis and let's really meet the needs of the community. Why not? If YOU reading this are a Wiltshire or Melksham Town Councillor, please add your support.
Published Saturday, 1st April 2023
Appreciating VolunteersTHANK YOU to all the volunteers who do so much for us in Melksham Town.
We have a wonderful community here, and this evening some special people in that community will be thanked for what they have done for the town and its people at the mayor's reception and awards. I was honoured to be on the panel that recommended awards to the mayor, and would like to congratulate each and every person receiving an award. Names are not being widely published until tonight.
The panel was delighted to receive so many nominations and be able to make quite a number of awards this year. As a panel member, I would also like to add my appreciation to the wider group in the Melksham area who do so much for us. There are so many that it's just not possible to mention them all, and the guidelines of the awards means that a number of worthy volunteering people and anyone who is remunerated by the Town Council, cannot be included.
Have a good evening, everyone. And again THANK YOU for what you do for the town - whether or not you are receiving an award. You - wider group - get my personal THANK YOU.
Published Friday, 31st March 2023
Vision needed - MelkshamFuture use of Melksham House? Future use of Assembly Hall? Future use of Old Bank Building? Let's take a step wider and look at the whole picture. Melksham needs a vision. We don't have one. And It needs an expert resource available to help guide and set that vision for the town and its residents as a business. We don't have one.
We did have these things but:
* We declared our business development manager redundant in spring 2021, and lost an excellent person who worked tirelessly for the town. That was a sad council meeting, held in the Assembly Hall with most councillors only given papers on what we were about to do once we went into secret session.
* We failed as a council to pick up the excellent "Priority for People" work from the previous council, and the working out of what we need has faded. The reports are there, we do have the background data if we need it - and indeed I have personally made use of it to inform at suggest what we should be doing on transport, but I should not be alone in developing it and doing so wider than my transport niche.
* We held a visioning day in the summer of 2021, soon after we were elected, to help us put a long term strategy in place. That work, as far as I can see, has been parked in the sidings since then. And as time passes, other things happen and what we all said that day is getting harder to remember and it would be difficult for anyone to pick up the notes.
* From late 2021 and continuing, a great deal of councillor and staff resource has been put into Human Resource matters, with paid and volunteer representative members having a major pull on their time in working these matters through. I would expect an element of this sort of thing at any work place and I am not at liberty to share detail. I can tell you that a great deal of my personal time has been diverted from working for Melksham's future, and that in the financial year just ending we had spend our whole HR consultancy budget in a matter of months, and I estimate we will have spend 5 times what we allowed when the final 2022/23 accounts are produced. I know other have put in a massive amount of time too - and much of that is time lost to other council activities.
* In May of last year (2022), I was elected to be chair of the council's Economic Development and Planning Committee. The main businesses of this committee is to make recommendations on planning applications, to review and promote minor road and footpath projects, and to steer the Town Stewards and Sparkle Team in where to direct their resource limited town clean activities. "Econ Dev" should also be looking out for the longer term strategy, but I will admit to progress being frustratingly slow and uninformed without available officer expertise.
* I am delighted that we asked people in February and March for their inputs on the Town Centre Master Plan to inform the Neighbourhood Plan. My huge thanks to Teresa Strange and Linda Roberts for their work in setting this up and staffing. A couple of Town Councillors as well as myself staffed the stakeholder consultation days. Sad to say I was the only Town Councillor who was there through the following three days which the general public was encouraged to attend. I learned a very great deal - kept busy all the time, as were Teresa and Linda, and a "thank you" to the Melksham Without councillors who helped.
* The Neighbourhood Plan steering group meeting scheduled for Wednesday (29th March 2023) was postponed into April and has now been pushed back into May. One of the inputs will be from that consultation, where "Cluster 1" inputs give us direction as to what people want for the area of Melksham Market Place and the Melksham House site.
* The Environment and Climate is fundamental to our long term. But the ECWG (Working Group) lost several members including its chair in February (in frustration, I believe) and then - although the active members all liaised by email - no meeting was set up for March and our staff sent out a cancellation notice around 48 hours before the meeting was due. Again, a poor outcome when looking at what our vision should be.
* Looking forward in the park, bids were sought to run the cafe for forthcoming year and there was excellent interest, including some really good bids. The working group made a decision last month (February) as to who to appoint, but in spite of that being an excellent proposal that the bidders had clearly put a huge effort into, that bidder withdrew in early March. I only heard about the withdrawal in the last 10 days and councillors were asked for ideas in confidence - I have made a suggestion and been thanked for it, but at this stage I don't know where we stand. I would be amazed if planned opening - even as a pop-up initially - happen, but I hope to be amazed. It could be done in the way.
... so now we have very, very limited vision and it feels that - apart from the existing Neighbourhood Plan which looses some of its teeth in July - we are flying by the seat of our pants without looking ahead at the long term strategy
It's not all bad news in terms of taking note of the public - the year after next, your 15 Town Councillors offer themselves to you for re-election. So you'll start to see (you may already have done so) more popular proposals coming through, and your councillors wishing to engage with and actively support projects which are popular. And projects which can be completed (or at least started or promised) by May 2025.
We do, though, need a vision beyond in my opinion. The Town Centre Master Plan and Neighbourhood plan are good tools for some of that. The Town Council should step in line alongside that with its own vision. I live in hope that it will do so, but I'm far from certain that it will. We need to reduce the time and money we spend on HR; we should be able to do so with a line in the sand and a motivational lead to form us back into a team. We need to put together a proper council strategy looking forward for 5, 10 or 15 years like we are doing for the Neighbourhood Plan and Town Centre Masterplan.
Contention over "Cluster 1" - The Campus, Melksham House, The Blue Pool, The Assembly Hall, The Town Hall and the old Lloyds Bank building - has lead me to write the background above. Melksham Town Council has decided to enter serious negotiations with Wiltshire Council with a view to purchasing Melksham House (28.3.2023, extraordinary meeting). This indicates that your councillors present and it favour at that meeting have serious intent, but not that the issue will be concluded with a successful purchase.
So what does it need - it needs the Town Council to come up with a serious business plan for the future of resources it will continue to own, and for the disposal of buildings it no longer requires. And it then needs (if the Public Works Loan Board is asked to lend us money) clear public support for the scheme. Much information on what's wanted is there already - from last month's Town Centre Masterplan inputs and from the Town Council's need survey for the Assembly Hall which ran at the end of last year, and has yet to be properly considered.
On my return (I'm out of town until Easter), I'll be asking our Mayor, our Town Clerk, and the leaders of the two groupings on the council to work with me on "Econ Dev" to produce options for the business plan, and the plan itself. I may find myself out of step with them all and not re-appointed as the chair of that committee - or even a member of it - in May. We are headed for an interesting spring.
Published Thursday, 30th March 2023
Buy Melksham House?It is right that Melksham Town Council seriously considers whether it wants to purchase Melksham House from Wiltshire Council. It was depicably wrong that the motion to progress this was sprung on last night's (28.3.2023) full Town Council meeting just before it started, robbing councillors who were not "in the know" any opportunity to think it through and the electorate of the opportunity to engage at last night's extraordinary meeting.
There was a one-line clue in the meeting agenda, published last week, that something was going to come up - "5. Motion from the town Mayor, Councillor S Crundell Melksham House". Looking into the report pack, it says "Motion to follow" and so it stayed to Friday, to Monday, to Tuesday. Along with several other councillors, I chased it. The clerk told me she would publish the motion when she got it. But it never came. Until it was read out at the start of the meeting.
I'm away from Melksham this month - I write this message from the Bermuda Triangle, but I guessed this meeting was going to be an important one. So I came along on Zoom via satellite link and watched - I was admitted to the meeting as the item in question came up, after public participation. And you can watch it back on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/melksham.town/videos/640703421402751.
11 Councillors were present in person at the meeting, and (as far as I can tell) one member of the public - the reporter from the Melksham News. At the end of the debate, in which a lot of sensible things were said, as well as many things which seemed to misread data, make no sense or overlook major issues, the council voted in favour of taking discussions on a potential purchase forward with Wiltshire Council. A few members abstained, but none voted against and the motion was carried. The vote was not recorded councilor by councillor, so I can't tell you who voted which way. I can tell you that under local government law, only councillors physically present can vote and so I was unable to do so.
There is much more to write - and questions to address. Where would the money come from? How would this link / relate to the Assembly Hall and Town Hall? What would the building be used for? What do our voters want, and what is practical and sensible? I will come back to these. The way this decision to take a serious step forward was reached last night with a motion not fully and openly available for discusson ahead of time has significantly damaged my personal respect for the parties involved in putting it forward, but in the long run of events will be forgotten in the enormity of potential changes in Melksham.
Published Wednesday, 29th March 2023
Dominoes, anyone?Yesterday, we visited Little Havana in Miami ... lovely to see the older residents in the little park playing dominoes. A booth loans out the boxes of tiles, and the over-55s enjoy play while the hussle and bustle of the main drag goes on just a few yards from them. A series of pergolas protects the players from the extreme sun and rain, though it was dry while we were there. Nearby eating and drinking establishments make this a heart of the community and what looked like a daily ritual for many.
Lesson here for Melksham as the Pavillion in KGV, and the hub at the station, both move on to new phases?
Published Sunday, 26th March 2023
More tourists for Melksham?I'm away from home at present - and yet wherever I am, I am not really "off duty" - I am looking and learning and asking myself "can we learn anything for Melksham from what's done elsewhere?". And at dinner last night, seated with a gentleman from the West Coast of Scotland, conversation turned to favourite places in the world. He mentioned Sydney and Singapore; Lisa and I looked at each other and came up with Melksham - not necessarily for the great wonders we have, but for the community we love and are very much a part of.
We were in New Orleans yesterday and parts of it are very much a tourist city, yet away from the main sections there is a community to be seen, and the tourist trade brings significant economic benefits to the area and the residents. Could we do things to help bring more tourists to Melksham? They are in the area anyway at Stonehenge and Bath, and closer at Castle Combe, Bradford-on-Avon and Lacock? Pictured here - not the paddle steamers on the Mississippi, not the French Quarter, not the Trams and the 20 storey (yes, really!) hotels - but things that can give us ideas. I am not advocating encouraging tourists to excess, but rather looking proudly forward to us welcoming more tourists for - for example - the USA as they welcome us as tourists from Melksham.
* New Orleans T shirt (modeled by yours truley)
* River interpreattion board
* Splash Pad rules
* The Ghost Tour
* Bridge over the water in a park setting
* Specialist drink stand
... not exactly transportable to Melksham in any case, but ideas and food for thought.
Scroll down this blog or jump here and you'll find a previous article - written within the last week for a vision of Melksham 5, 10 and 15 years hence. And, yes, it includes tourism.
Published Thursday, 23rd March 2023
To whom shall I rant?Are you frustrated at something "The Council" does or does not do, and want to get some answers or action? Please read the rest of this post to help point you in the right direction. And if that doesn't help, please feel free to get in touch with me; I probably cannot offer you a solution/answer, but I can help you find someone who can.
This article is written for residents of Melksham, South Ward. The South Ward includes the High Street, the West side of Bank Street, Church Road and Church Walk, The Market Place, St Michaels Church and The Campus all parts of the Town Centre. Then residential areas off King's Road / Semington Road, and Spa Road out as far as the bypass. So that's areas such as Hazelwood Road, Longford Road, Kenilworth Gardens, Queensway (south of Clackers Brook) and Campion Drive.
First - choose from A. B. or C.
A. Are you looking at an issue which is concerned with day to day activities and operation of facilities? If so - you probably want to speak with Officers or staff at the organisation you are frustrated at, and if you've done that already, you'll want to speak to their managers.
B. Are you looking at a longer term issue to do with what the organisation actually does? If so - you probably want to speak initially with one of your elected representative; he or she may advise you that your concern may be addressed by a senior officer, or that the issue is something on which the council is legally constrained, or he or she may take the cause up for you. You probably won't be the first person to raise a concern.
C. Are you looking at an issue with what an organisation is allowed to do? If so, this might be a matter to raise with your Member of Parliament. And it could turn out to be the first step in a very long process.
Second - choose from one of these activity areas but noting these is massive overlap
1. Street Scene, Refuse collection, The Campus, Car Parking, Care in the Community, Planning and building, vulnerable people. Wiltshire Unitary Council may take the lead on these.
2. Parks, Play areas, Allotments, Assembly Hall, Street Furniture, Flowers, Special events in the town. The Town Council may take the lead on these.
3. Health. The National Heath Service is your first point of contact.
4. Public Transport. The train or bus operator is your first point of contact.
5. Crime and security. The police are your first point of contact.
So - have you decided whether you're an A1, a B2 or a C4?
Some quick links:
A1 - Web Application: myWiltshire. Web site wiltshire.gov.uk
A2 - Email: email@example.com
A3 - Your doctor's surgery, 111, or in an emergency 999
A4 - Try GWR for rail and Faresaver for bus issues.
A5 - Phone 101 or in an emergency 999
B1 - Your Wiltshire councillor is Jon Hubbard
B2 - Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or another town councillor (Colin, Jon, Jacqui)
B3 - [I would have to make enquiries]
B4 - Ask me on this as I am an active public transport exponent
B5 - Police and Crime Commissioner
C[Any] - our MP is Michelle Donalan; emails to her reach her office team who will route your enquiry as appropriate and may well be able to help you
Published Tuesday, 21st March 2023
Vision 5, 10, 15 yearsA vision for Melksham. Where might we be in 2028, 2033, or 2038?
I was copied on a senior (but incorrect) regional rebuke to our mayor pointing out that the travel and transportation section of the Neighbourhood Plan is out of date. Too right it's out of date - it illustrates progress that has been made in the three years since that plan was written. Some things at the top of the list have been ticked off already (even though the plan is dated 2020 - 2026) and we need to look ahead further. At what we want
Jump in this article
to Economic Infrastructure of Town
to Travel and Transport planning for the future
to Public Transport interventions
to Public Transport Interchange Hub
So where might we be 5, 10 and 15 years hence?
The economic infrastructure of the town
A vibrant Riverside, from the Challeymead (bypass) bridge all way up to the old farm bridge to the north of Scotland Road Bridge. Walkways on both sides. On the "Town" side preserving the Conigre Mead Nature Reserve and the riverside path from there passing along to the KGV Park, the Riverside Centre and the top of the Millennium Walk. On the "North Bank", a continuous waterside path alongside the waterway, now open to broad beamed craft (Kennet and Avon gauge) as far as Melksham Gate, with a narrow lock there and the navigation picking up the old canal route to the north of the town along the backwater across to Melksham Forest, climbing several further locks to do so and reaching at least as far as Lacock. Moorings all along the River Avon on that north side, from the green field area just inside the bypass past the historic industrial attraction of Avonside, ducking under the wide western arch of the Town bridge and continuing past the leisure /restaurant / entertainment area on the river frontage of the old "Avon Tyres" site, then into the parkland of Riverside Drive with formal and informal play areas.
From the southern end of the Riverside, a walk up though the little old Graveyard to the Historic Quarter. Melksham Church dates back some 800 years, and the medieval Church Walk and Georgian buildings around Cannon Square reflect a town that, 200 years ago, was substantial when Chippenham, Trowbridge and Swindon were just villages. Behind the church are the old buildings of Place Road and Melksham House, leading through to the Market Place, with the old Cheese Hall and Cheese Store in use as the Town Hall and "The Assembly" venue and "Blue Pool" bowling alley.
An attractive Pedestrianised Town Centre, with the High Street, and Church Street open for access and public transport only, forms a real community hub for residents and visitors to the town alike, supporting many of the types of personal service business that are thriving and have grown there at the time of writing (March 2023).
Melksham has a long and proud history and yet attempts at bring that history alive in a town museum have not been a great success in the past. The Round House housed exhibits and one time in the past, as did the Rachel Fowler Centre. Both suffered from a very thin flow of visitors to our little town which is great for living in, but has not had that magnetic attraction to bring crowds. While our "Well House Manor" was open as a hotel, we were able to host a dedicated museum room there, overcoming the need for environment, security and staffing that a museum needs by donating our own business resources to keeping it running. To this day, the museum is there, but open and available only by appointment. We are custodians for some material and much knowledge, as are the Melksham Historical Association, who have their materials in store at present in an upstairs room at the Assembly Hall.
As our town has grown, so has Town Centre living on old "Brown Field" sites and in redundant shops on the periphery. I'm looking at sites such as the old Library on Lowbourne, the section of the old "Avon Tyres" site away from the River, and the old "up yard" at the railway station as a major extension of this.
With the closure of one door, another opens. The end of tyre manufacture in Melksham isn't actually the end of "Avon Rubber" in the area. Avon Protection deal with everything from protective chemical suits, via rubber / inflatable boats to teats for automatic milking machines, out of town at Hampton Park West. And there's a desire to keep the name alive in the Town Centre too - with a rubber museum piloted by some of the many employees and former employees. Two buildings on the Cooper Tires site stand out - the Headquarters building, an old and listed Georgian Mill House, and the canteen building - a unique art nouveau building of perhaps 70 years vintage which holds so many memories for people. That latter is located just a few yards from the memorial to Avon Tyres employees who gave their lives in the World Wars and is centrally located - perhaps a wonderful opportunity to bring the two strands of museums together into something broad enough to be able to support its costs and attract much more than a trickle of visitors. Add in river exhibits, and river visitors, and you're coming up with a viable and attractive proposition.
Travel Planning for the future
I started writing this piece (scroll up) commenting about transport and travel. And yet I have looked at just about everything except those topics. For travel is something that's primarily there to get to and from (between) places and rarely (unless scenic) an end unto itself.
I have painted a vision for much of the Town Centre, but I'm also taking a wider view for everyone - residents, business visitors, tourists, people passing by, with how they move around. We fairly know / can assume that the Melksham area will continue to grow in terms of numbers of residents. We can fairly assume that the environment, including climate change, will have an increasing influence on our world and our area going forward. We know that we need to review assumptions made on the background during the work 4 years ago which was preCovid, before the completion of Brexit, when the economic climate was very different, when concerns about energy, plastics, global warming and biodiversity were much more muted. So - let's get back to travel and transportation issues bearing some of those thoughts in mind, and against the background of the Town Centre and area model I have projected above.
Have you come across the 15 minute neighbourhood or the 20 minute city? They are all about having things close to home and close to each other. A 15 minute walk or cycle or perhaps shuttle bus, through "green and pleasant lands", or a 20 minute (max) journey to the next town by frequent shared (public) transport to reach facilities shared by a series of market towns linked into a connected city. Although they may not be explicitly declared as goals in mainstream planning in our area, there is much to be said for plans to re reviewed against their contacts.
Melksham has a maze of Walking, Cycling, Scooting paths. But it is a maze. Many are there because of history, others changed, diverted or partially closed because of developments, and often they are hard to find, poorly waymarked / mapped, and not joined up. The Neighbourhood Plan (1) has a number of strategic paths mapped onto it, and they remain broadly good. There are other needed, such as a path over the bypass (current A350, Challymead) bridge to give a foot crossing of the river, and links to the Hazelwood Road and the rear of The Campus on the south side, and to Asda and the Railway Station on the north side; the actual path needed is no longer than 150 yards, and the bridge itself already has a parapet that's wide enough. But I need to be careful in what I write here - that is just an example and I could come up with a dozen other places where an intervention would be really useful. Another day perhaps?
I am known as something of a walking, cycling and public transport proponent, but private cars very, very much have their place too. You can't have every journey at every time of day catered for by a bus, and there's a limit as to what you can carry on a bus. The future may bring us autonomous shared vehicles - shuttling around the town and perhaps the wider urban area, but for the time being we need to allow for substantial car parking space at both residences and detonations, enough road infrastructure to have the safe capacity, and refuelling stations be that for fossil fuels, hydrogen, electricity or summat else. And we also need to have sensibly direct routings along the way. You'll note from earlier comments in this article that it looks like I'm loosing some parking at Church Street and Lowbourne. I would look to gain some at the Riverside site, and via a rear access to the Campus / Melksham House area, all intended to keep Town Centre / Market Place traffic at a lower level.
One of the private car journey types that's a particular concern is "the school run" - in particular to primary schools; I note Manor, Aloeric, Forest and Sandridge, Bowerhill, Shaw all of which have traffic issues. And it can only get worse as schools like Forest and Sandridge expand, as does housing that's not within easy walking distance of any of these such as Pathfinder Way and Upside Yard.
Private Cars are pretty inefficient. If you drive your car 10,000 miles a year, that'll be under an hour a day and it will be sitting idle for the other 23 hours. And changes are that your car has five seats and most of the time it's moving that hour it will only have one or two people in it. Surely there is scope for Car sharing schemes and ride sharing schemes in the Melksham area? Can a car be in effect a mini-mini-bus??
Taxis and private hire vehicles; Uber; Lyft A small but vital part of the travel market, of especial use where people cannot drive. But also very useful for low-mileage people who really don't want the outlay of a car. In Melksham at present we have no central booking system and it can be a problem finding a taxi, and to my knowledge no Uber or Lyft. Looking to the comments about pedestrianisation I've made above, there would be a need for decisions as to whether they taxis could pass through in the same way as buses.
Buses - scheduled services and demand responsive services, long distance coach services and passenger trains should form a network allowing people to get from where they start to where they need to go, and a time that works for them, at a sensible price with through ticketing, and fast, frequent, comfortable and reliable enough to be attractive.
Melksham currently has limited active bus gates and no priority schemes to help speed services and make them attractive (and at the same time allow each vehicle to make more trips). There is scope for more (but no point in putting them in without the services to use them, and the passenger to use those services)
It has a disjoint between rail, bus and coach services. Some frequencies are poor, routes not going where people want (or in the classic case of the 14 making the outward journey they want, but an awkward return journey involving a change and wait). Connections feel random, and yet so many journeys could best be made with a network and not an individual route philosophy, and through ticketing is almost non-existent! Many services run only in the middle of the day; just one evening bus route in Melksham at present.
So - where do people want to come and go in Melksham? For residents, to and from their homes, the Town Centre, the supermarket, the Riverside, the Historic area, the Campus, the medical facilities. To and from work, primarily Bowerhill and Hampton Park West. And to interchanges / connections on to other towns - to Bath, to Chippenham, Trowbridge and Swindon, to Devizes, to Corsham, to Calne, to Bradford-on-Avon, perhaps to Bristol and further afield. For visitors, how much do we have at present to attract them? There are, many, business visitors to the Bowerhill Industrial area but the public transport offering to there is supremely unattractive. The historic area and magnetism that I suggest as a goal much earlier in this article is not there yet at a sufficient volume to tip us into the "quality and quantity destination" category, but it could be. The social and visiting of friends, cafes, pubs and local events from the regions is somewhat there, but the evening "get you home" is not there for public transport users except in exceptional circumstances.
Public Tranport Network - future and interventions
So - what public transport network should our town support into the future? Let me look at some features.
Local Buses to serve stops within 100 yards of sources / destinations during the day, and within 400 yards in the early morning and evening. Service targets to be every 30 minutes during the day and every hour in the early mornings and evenings. Buses on major flows to nearby towns to run every 30 minutes, and on minor flows every hour. Less that hourly the service becomes a difficult sell.
Train services to be at least hourly in each direction, and run daily from early morning until late evening. That is twice the current frequency, which is much poorer than other comparable towns, and that shows in the poor passenger numbers. The service at Melksham has dramatically improved in the last decade and that shows in the numbers, but we still have a long way to go. Double the number of trains, run them reliably, and you'll see the number of passenger rise fourfold - and that's even before you consider the extra population of the area and Melksham as a visitor's destination. There is a need for rail industry interventions to reliably add capacity, or to improve performance of use. This intervention is likely to be outside the immediate Melksham Town area and will be or much wider regional benefit.
Bus gates / access for buses, probably taxis, possibly shared use vehicles
1. Riverside Drive
2. High Street
*3. (Old) Bath Road to Beanacre Road and perhaps to (New) Bath Road
4. Foundry Close to Station Approach
5. Dunch Lane
6. Bowerhill Industry to Halifax Road
7. Hazelwood Road into Campus
8. Campion Drive to Longford Road
* - to clarify, the cul-de-sac alongside Cooper Tires from the Unicorn up to the main A350 / A365 corner to be remodelled to allow buses from and to Bath and Chippenham direct access into the town without doubling back at Farmer's Roundabout.
Changes to the Cooper Tires / Riverside site are almost inevitable. A change to the current A350 (Beanacre Road) seems very likely - be it with a new bypass on another route around the town, or engineering works to raise speed and capacity on the current route. And changes to the railway infrastructure, allowing for Melksham to have an appropriate (as opposed to thin) service are projected, all be it we have just been told not to expect any of the needed interventions until 2029.
Public Tranport Network - Interchange Hub
Melksham's Transport Interchange Hub. The railway line cannot realistically move , but could the station could go another location on the line. Whilst now is a good time to think "out of the box", I see no overriding benefit in relocating the station, with big benefits to having it remain where it is - benefits in next paragraph. To complete documentation of the main options I have thus ruled out: (a) - to the south / behind ASDA, (b) - to the north / off Dunch Lane and (c) At Thingley on the A350, as a parkway. So - what am I suggesting?
Melksham Railway Station to remain at its current location. Accesses:
1. (As at Present) from the Bath Road - all vehicles, foot, cycles
2. From Foundry Close - buses (perhaps taxis), foot, cycles
3. Directly east - past / via Spencer Sports and Social Club to A350 opposite Scotland Road, foot and cycle only
4. Steps up to A365, foot only
5. Bridge to upside yard development, foot and cycle. Potential - not shown on map
SECTION B (shown as * on map)
Crossing the A350. So much of this depends on whether this remains the trunk road or gets bypassed but an optimum, user friendly, bus crossover to rejoin Bath Road, with access also to A365 Bath Road and A350 Chippenham Road
On Old Bath Road. Bus stops on all routes into and out of Melksham / possible pull in to transport hub on Avon Tires site. Waiting shelters, but stops, information, etc. Good walking links to Riverside, Town Bridge, towards north Melksham along A350, to new facilities
Sections A and C are normally walkable to each other
Section A - Railway Station - to be servered by
* Trains to Swindon via Chippenham, moving up from every 2 hours to every hour
* Trains to Westbury via Trowbridge, moving up from every 2 hours to every hour
* Buses (current route x34) to Lacock and Chippenham, and to Semington and Trowbridge
- every 30 minutes (as at present Monday to Friday daytime, but extended to 7 day operation)
- every hour in the evening
* Rail Link Bus (service 16) as per demonstration last September to East Melksham and Bowerhill
- hourly, connecting to and from trains
* Town Bus (service 14) similar to current service; Granville Road routes running via station
Section C - Old Bath Road for RIverside - to be served by same BUSES as Section A, plus
* Service 271 to Whitley, Atworth and Bath, and to Melksham Forest and Bowerhill. Hourly
* Service 272 to Atworth, Box and Bath and to Bowerhill and Devizes. Hourly
* Services 68 and 69 to Corsham, and to Bradford-on-Avon. Every 2 hours / hourly to Corsham with x76
* Service 273 Bath to Devizes, picking up 271 and 272 evenings and Sundays. Hourly
* Service x76 to Corsham, Bath and Royal United Hospital, and to Bromham, Calne and Marlborough. 2 hourly
Published Saturday, 18th March 2023