Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary
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Melksham Town Centre
I walked through Melksham yesterday. I counted 169 'shop front' businesses. 10 vacant, 4 more vacant but showing clear signs of work in progress to the opening of a new venture. And that is a remarkably good figure - it's around 6% (or 8.2% if you include those being prepared), when that national average is over 13% (source). We have four things to thank for that:
* The part of the country we're in
* The relative lack of big chains
* More residents - the growth of our town
* Excellent local work helping to promote the time.
Most of the premises I counted are in the South Ward - 119 of them, with 36 in The Forest and 14 in The North. From an election viewpoint, that defines who (of those who live on site) are potential voters. From a later viewpoint, a thriving town centre is for everyone in the town and the whole council should (and does) work together and with partners for the good of the town as a whole, and I will be a part of that.
So - what shops do we have? On my count we have 17 hair salons / barbers, 13 takeaways, 7 Cafes, 5 selling antiques and curios, 5 letting properties and estate agents, 5 charity shops and 5 restaurants. There are 4 pubs, 4 nail Salons, and 4 supermarkets. (Full raw data here)
We have seen a move over the years from a dominance of supplier to service outlets. We have two butchers, but the only bakers that remain are within other stores, and there are no dedicated candlestick makers. On the other hand, where once the only place to take a hot meal away was the chippy, there are now over a dozen.
People ask for / hanker for other shops - a greengrocer, a shoe shop, a fishmonger perhaps. Whilst I too would love to see these and others, I fear that people would like to see them in the town, but use them so little that they wouldn't survive, to the pain of the people who set them up. There will be exceptional cases such as those with wider business plans such as having a walk in shop front and a symbiotic delivery / mail order / production business. Counter sales while working in the back is a good model. In my former role as President of the Melksham Chamber of Commerce and Industry I supported such businesses, and continue to do so.
Takeaways, Cafes, Pubs and restaurants bring people into the town - and business and life in too (writing for th long term - we are in odd CoVID times as I write) and people vote with their feet to use them. Competition is healthy; we could do with just a bit more variety at times, and we need to be aware of the effects on neighbours of late night venues, places selling alcohol, and places that bring in a lot of short-stop (pickup) car traffic, and litter. People do complain about "too many" but it's my reading that the real issues there are the taking of premesies which could be used for other outlets they want (but there are 10 more available!) and the neighbour effects (which can be handled).
Please vote for me - Graham Ellis, Independent, Melksham Town (South Ward) for town council on 6th May. To support a safe, happy, vibrant town centre.
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Illustrations - two (random) Melksham shop fronts, 3 April 2021
Published Sunday, 4th April 2021
An Introduction to Graham EllisMy wife and I remember the warm welcome we got when we moved to the Melksham Area some 20 years ago and that community has been welcoming ever since. And I hope we give back and have given back something over those years. Until my retirement last year, we ran a business here bringing visitors to the town, and many know me from my help in the successful campaign to get an appropriate train service back for the town. But I have become involved in other issues too, such as supporting the town as President of the Chamber of Commerce for a number of years, and ongoing work on the buses with some losses but also some significant gains for the town and its residents.
I filled in the Census form last month and it asked me questions about employment status - but once I selected "retired" it just accepted that as if writing me off. No, no ... I am actively retired, have been doing backroom work for the new normal (see http://option247.uk and http://www.passenger.chat and http://www.mtug.org.uk for example) and now - with a little more time available - I am offering myself for election as one of the Town Councillors to represent you and to help us all forward into the New Normal - into the next ten years which will see changes like we have never seen before. The town needs a sprinkling of strong people, unencumbered by political parties or groupings, living in the ward they represent, to plan in the backroom, pilot through administration and promote in the town to ensure that Melksham is as welcoming - or even more welcoming - to everyone in 5, 10 and 20 years as it was to us 20 years ago.
Please get in touch - contact details at http://grahamellis.uk/contact.html .
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Please vote for me - Graham Ellis, Independent, Melksham Town (South Ward) on 6th May.
Illustration - Promoting Melksham at London (Waterloo) - Community Rail in the City - May 2017
Published Friday, 2nd April 2021
Four in a BedWhen running our Hotel on Spa Road, Lisa and Graham took part in the Channel 4 Reallity TV show "Four in a Bed", where four sets of B&B owners visit each other's places, stay overnight and critique - paying only what they think it is worth.
We visited "Knock Castle" in Crieff, Scotland. We visited "Barton House Hotel" in Blackpool. We hosted. And finally we visited "Applewood Gamping" near Worcester. In payment terms, we came second to Knock Castle. But in our view, almost everyone was a winner and we made many good friends.
We loved introducing Melksham to the world, showing off our history in The Church, Melksham House (which looked much better at that time - 1993) and the Town Hall, and had all the contestants town crying - with many thanks to Peter Dauncey.
Melksham is, very much, a town we are proud of. It was a delight over more than a decade to welcome people to our place on Spa Road (where we now live). All those early morning breakfasts (we were open 365 days a year) made a pleasure by the lovely people who stayed, and we had a fabulous team of people on staff. Don't let anyone tell you that the youngsters of today are [critical word]; they're not - they could (and did) do the job better than I, and handle any and every curved ball customer serice threw at them.
Published Thursday, 1st April 2021
Restoring old buildingsWe bought 404, The Spa, as a wreck in 1999. There were no working toilets, water came in from next door through a lead pipe, and if you stood on the top floor and looked down through the gaps in the floorboards, you could see all the way down to the ground floor - 55 steps lower according to my daughter, who lived there with us until she moved away to University.
The main reception floor at 404 was fitted out as our IT training centre, and from the summer of 2000 we ran specialist IT training course there - four to eight delegates at a time, coming from different companies far and wide across the UK and sometimes beyond. Such were our topics that delegates were always keen to learn, always bright, and interesting people too - we make some really good, and extraordinary, friends. We also got to know Melksham and the area really well - businesses in town, places to take people of an evening (not part of the course - done for pleasure).
By 2006, course were outgrowing our training room, and it was getting harder to find places for delegates to stay, so we bought out "The Old Manor" on Spa Road and christened it "Well House Manor". Another major investment - it had been up for sale for demolition (planning in for 22 retirement flats on the site), but we redid the place from top to bottom (and below when we found foundation issues!).
Two training rooms - one more than we really needed - and the smaller room became a "Museum for Melksham", also known as "The Well House Collection". A winding down over the last couple of years; the museum is now in the larger room (open on request and undergoing re-arrangement this year) and the smaller room now my Zoom Studio - happy to have people around as the rules allow (writing during Coronavirus) but, please, by appointment as retirement has turned out not to be the quiet time we expected!
Published Wednesday, 31st March 2021