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Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary

Links in this page:
Assembly Hall - next six weeks
ClimateFest, Melksham, 9th September 2023
Email Policy and Conditions
Repair the roof? Council Objectives?
Communication Guidelines - Vital we get them right
Why has the fix price gone up so much?
Transport Hub - could Melksham learn from this?
Two rapid decisions afoot on Thursday?
Splashpad - busiest day ever!
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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.

Melksham Free Dining - Fundraiser


Charity FundRaiser last night in the Melksham Assembly Hall for Melksham Free Dining, organised and hosted by Michelle Donelan MP. I understand that over £4000 was raised for the charity, founded by Louisa Lewis, postCovid, and providing a real weekly lifeline for many lonely people - literally changing their lives. Behind every successful woman is a team, offering assistance and support. And our thanks to both teams who were there supporting last night; lots of names, some o which will be familiar to readers - far to many to name, and many of them helping so quietly I don't have a note of their names. I will mention just the principle's lieutenants - Tom Turner and Deedee MacLeod.

Very much a community event. A huge "Thank You" also to the members of Melksham Free Dining who come along to the event every week and took the courageous step of entertaining us on stage. A huge "Thank You" to all the businesses who donated items to be auctioned - some of considerable face value - and raffle prizes. A huge "Thank you" to everyone who came along, bid and won in the auction or who dipped into their pockets to buy raffles or "heads and tails" game spots. A huge "Thank you" to the Assembly Hall team running the hall and bar before, during and after the main event, and to the suppliers of our Fish and Chips from Union street, the delivery team who brought it up to us, and to the folks who had so long in the kitchen (at home) baking cakes.

Good to see everyone having an enjoyable evening, in addition to the raising funds objective. The real work by Deedee, Louisa and team carries on, week in, week out and what a life-improving that work is for so many as it expands from one to multiple days per week. The biggest "Thank You" is to them.

Published Saturday, 26th August 2023

Assembly Hall - next six weeks

What's happening for the public ...
31st August - Assembly Hall Quiz Night, 18:30 for 19:30
1st September - Shania Twain, 18:30 for 19:30
2nd September - Food and River Festival in the park
3rd September - Food and River Festival in the park
4th September - Melksham Movies, 14:00
9th September - ClimateFest, 13:00
14th September - Joseph and the Amazing Techicolour Dreamcoat, 19:30
15th September - Joseph and the Amazing Techicolour Dreamcoat, 19:30
16th September - Joseph and the Amazing Techicolour Dreamcoat, 14:30
16th September - Joseph and the Amazing Techicolour Dreamcoat, 19:30
18th September - Melksham Movies, 14:00
21st September - Melksham Historical Association, 19:30
22nd September - New Jersey Boys, 18:30 for 19:30
23rd September - The Mee Kats Rock and Road Band
28th September - The Unravelling Wilburys, 18:30 for 19:30
29th September - Assembly Hall Quiz Night, 18:30 for 19:30
30th September - Seriously Collins, 18:30 for 19:30
2nd October - Melksham Movies, 14:00
4th October - The Scoliotic Knight: Reconstructing the real Richard III, 11:00
7th October - Classic Rock Revival, 18:30 for 19:30
8th October - Roller Disco, 14:00
8th October - Roller Disco, 16:00

What's happening with urgent temporary roof repairs
Awaiting hear back ... after 17th August meeting

What's happening on longer term planning
Structural Engineer to look at Blue Pool and Assembly Hall for 25th September

Friends of Melksham Assembly Hall produced documents
July 2023 to September program - (here)
October to December program - (here)
Business Case - Blue Pool option - (here)
Complete library - (here)

Published Friday, 25th August 2023

ClimateFest, Melksham, 9th September 2023

Our climate is getting more extreme and as a race we're abusing and damaging our environment beyond what it can recover from. We used to say "in the long term" but the long term is with us NOW.

• What can we do about this locally here in Melksham and the rest of Wiltshire?
• What can YOU do about this as an individual?
• How much are YOU using resources beyond what is naturally regenerated?
• What changes could you make to come within 'limits'...
• and how can you do so in a cost effective (perhaps money saving) way, and with positive (or at least neutral) changes to your lifestyle?

Come along to Melksham Assembly Hall on Saturday 9th September 2023 from 13:00 for our ClimateFest where we will help you think about the issues and become more environmentally aware - it's a hugely complex topic and we are all learning.

Our program for the afternoon:
13:00 - Arrival
13:15 - Speakers
14:30 - "Any Questions" panel
15:45 - Personal Audit - 52 things to think about
17:00 - Close

Should you have an environmental message you would like to get out, please contact the organiser by the end of August and we can arrange for your group to have a table - arrival between 12:00 and 12:30 please but must be pre-booked. Spaces available as I write, but limited.

It will be a busy afternoon - between and during each of the hour-long sessions you will be able to visit a handful of stalls / displays looking at topics such as building insulation, reducing food waste, cleaner transportation, local entertainment and the effect of climate change on your wellbeing. The Assembly Hall bar will be open, serving primarily non-alcoholic drinks (but full range available) and there will be plenty of seating to sit and chat, and encouragement to meet new people and talk.

ClimateFest is brought to you by the Environment and Climate Working Group (ECWG) of Melksham Town Council. All are welcome and it's free entry. ECWG comprises councillors and others who all give their time free as volunteers to help inform and to keep an eye on the environmental effects and influences of the activities of the Town Council. Project Manager for ClimateFest is myself (Graham Ellis) reachable via or on 07974 925 928. My thanks to Shirley, Mike, Pat and Sue who make up the rest of the core team, and to speakers and panel who will be announced in the lead up to the event.

This event is designed to attract you to come along, to think, to learn. It is not designed to entertain. None of our organising team is in the first flush of youth - but this is all about our environment for the future and we encourage younger generations to join us. For those who do not yet run a household, our audit will let you take a look at what's happening in your home and help inform you to suggest change, and indeed to update your own activities to take better care of the environment for your future.

Published Wednesday, 23rd August 2023

Email Policy and Conditions

This would be a long footnote on my emails, so here it is if you want to read it!

My email policy and conditions

Please feel free to make appropriate use of the contents of this email. If I have said it's confidential or internal or not to be shared, or attachments are copyrighted, please respect that but mostly I'm all about making information available in public. If you are quoting or copying me, please credit me as your source; as a Town Councillor, my name and contact details are in the public domain and so may be shared.

I do my best to ensure that me emails are correct and complete, and free from malware, including selection of formats for attachments that are reputed to be robust - but it's up to you to check if you have concerns, especially on things I forward in good faith.

There is a big difference between an email from a Town Councillor and one from the Town Council or its staff. This one is from me as a Town Councillor and expresses my view and not necessarily the view of the council, though I will usually support the overall view.

If you receive this email and it's not for you, please let me know and please delete it without copying it onward or storing it.

Please consider the environment before printing this email. Every unprinted email helps the environment.

Further background to my emailing

Emails from me will sometimes reach you at odd hours. Don't feel you need to respond straight away, especially outside the "working day". But is would be appreciated - especially if I have take time and trouble to write a personal note, to at least acknowledge receipt.

If you are emailing me via is it helpful for you to include your name and contact details so that I can get back to you. Please let me know your postcode too as that lets me confirm which parish and ward you'r in. I do work with other councillors, so don't be put off from asking somethings if you're not in South Ward, but I do need to work with colleagues where appropriate.

The more councillors you include in your email, the less likely I am to respond. We are all volunteers, and want to make effective use of our time rather than all answering the same question.

I very rarely do an "out of office" message because I don't have an office to be out of. In any case I'm an enthusiast for my voluntary councillor role who checks in even if away on holiday and you'll hear back - possibly just an acknowledgement - within a couple of days. That is my personal choice; you should not expect it of other councillors, and if something is official and urgent you should get in touch with or copy the Town Council via

I am not just a Town Councillor - I have a personal life and other interests too and much of that involves public campaigning. My other email address is and much bus, train, environment, and other activity is from there.

My Town Councillor Signature - as just updated

Graham Ellis

Melksham Town Council, South Ward
Blog at
Email policy statement at
Facebook at
I only visit other social media occasionally.

Email: or
Phone: 01225 708225 / 0797 4 925 928
Home: 48 Spa Road, Melksham, SN12 7NY

Town Council staff email conditions

Here is what (I understand) to be the Standard Town Council staff member disclaimer, provided for completeness and comparison as at August 2023:

Disclaimer and Confidentiality Notice
This email and any attachment are confidential to the intended recipients and access to this email by anyone else is unauthorised. If you should not have received this email, please notify us immediately by reply email and then destroy any copies and delete this message from your system. Unless authorised by Melksham Town Council, copying, forwarding, disclosing or using this email or its contents is prohibited. Melksham Town Council is not responsible for controlling transmissions over the internet and makes no representation or warranty as to the absence of viruses in this email or any attachment. No contract is intended by this email, and any personal opinions expressed in this message are those of the sender and should not be taken as representing views of Melksham Town Council. Receipt of this e-mail does not imply consent to use or provide this e-mail address to any third party for any purpose. Melksham Town Council will not request the disclosure of personal financial information by means of e-mail any such request should be confirmed in writing by contacting Melksham Town Council.

Published Tuesday, 22nd August 2023

Repair the roof? Council Objectives?

Update - 18th August 2023. The Councillors decided to go back to the company that quoted for roof fixes and ask them to look at vital fixes while we work out what's happening to the hall and Blue Pool in coming years. There is an urgency to some fixing but at the same time absurd to spend £90,000 if we're looking at a shutdown to move something new. We have also instructed our clerk to proceed with a structural engineer survey of both the Blue Pool and Assembly Hall to understand the options we have - I rather thought we had agreed this already, but tat seems to have got lost in the minutes and messages being passed round - lesson to read back minutes very carefully. Statement made that WC haven't actualy said we are their preferred new owner for the Blue Pool and there's an element of risk that we may find that they find a different new owner. Headline - the Assembly Hall remains marketed and looked after to the extent it has been, though we remain limited in staff, management and maintenance resources.

I thank fellow councillors Price, Goodhind, Aves, Rabey and Westbrook for supporting these votes, and councillor Hubbard for his words of support via Zoom (you have to be in the room to vote). Sad that yet again we have to put off a decision an a repair, but we need to know what we are doing and it should be done in a few weeks, with the proper data available to us. There were no votes against, though one councillor abstained. A thanks also to the officers supporting the meeting; they know I was disappointed that some data only reached me a few hours before the meeting and it was impractical to give it full consideration, but I do appreciate they have a great deal on their plates and cannot prioritise everything.

The elephant - big decision made the bigger as the consequence of our previous actions or lack of them - remain. To some extent we have kicked it down the road again which is very regrettable. The committment to the ongoing venue, though, is to be celebated as are activity changes to help move that forward.

Written and posted prior to the meeting as prepared 17th August:

Ladies and Gentlemen - fellow town councillors and residents of greater Melksham,

We have before us a single quotation for around £90,000 + VAT for what are described as temporary and urgent fixes to the leaking Assemble Hall roof, where the leaks were the butt of comedian Rich Hall's jokes when he did a show here on 8th March 2019. He is back on 2nd November - "Making his long-awaited return to Melksham" says the advertising for 2nd November 2023. I wonder if he'll make comment on the long waited "urgent" repairs to the full house of around 400 he's expected to draw.

Three questions:
1. How did we get here?
2. What are our long term goals?
3. So what we going to do?

There is much of importance to consider, and so as well as speaking to councillors tonight I have posted an extended version of this text online and have emailed a link to all councillors.

How did we get here

The longer term

The Assembly Hall is a mature building like others owned by the Town Council and requires upkeep to maintain its fabric. Failure to do so can result in spiralling costs until minor repairs become major, or indeed impractical.

Under the previous council, a significant annual sum of around £100,000 was put aside for the maintenance of the Assembly Hall and other buildings, but that money was re-allocated to projects in KGV park. So no major budget for keeping buildings in order.

In 2020, we were dealing with Covid and that rightly was extraordinarily all encompassing.

In 2021, you the electorate voted in 13 new councillors with just 2 continuing, and within the first few months 12 out of 15 councillors had voted to declare the Assembly Hall Manager redundant. A major decision with papers issued in secrecy a few minutes before we voted, though it's my understanding this had been agreed ahead of time by the "Together for Melksham" and Conservative teams. We (but not I) divested ourselves of our expert in managing and booking the hall, and looking after the building. I questioned the future prior to the vote, and was re-assured that our Head of Operations would step in with remaining work.

We also had a visioning day - in the hall - in the summer of 2021. A good look forward to our plans for the next four years. I've (frankly) forgotten much of that - the strategy document that was to follow written up by officers has yet to be delivered and we are working and doing budget planning ruddeless

Assembly Hall hire charges had been unchanged for a number of years, and rightfully a review was undertake in 2022. Proposals were made by the Head of Operations to the council as an agenda item, but the report was left out of the agenda pack to be replaced by a worked spreadsheet which it transpired had been put together by Councillor Hubbard and we all sat around playing about with figures. What we came up with was remarkably good in the circumstances, but never the less with the changed structure as well as prices resulted in a significant issue with some bookings. However, you can't keep a good hall down

The Assembly Hall Working Group was set up, but every time it came to full council to ratify its terms, it was bounced back. It's main purpose was to review hire rates ahead, but in practise officers and a couple of members interpreted the rules to regain things like the Roller Disco events and the popular summer and Christmas shows. In Spring 2023, we voted to keep prices unchanged - "The prices were reviewed for the last financial year and anecdotally have been well received ..." - good, but a business with a six figure turnover should work with more data than anecdotal - it's a ship sailing rudderless!

Also from those reports - "VAT has not been treated consistently in the past and now this has been identified, we’ll need to make some changes to the way we invoice hirers and event bookings". Yes, but we haven't properly done so yet. A meeting in May confirmed that VAT has been charged twice so that of £24 ticket price, only £16.66 reaches the act rather than £20, but I'm still waiting to see the instructions we worked on with the accountant to fix that.

So, come this spring to have a hall that's been staggering on, vital works undone, excellent deputy managers and team and friends but very limited management from a very busy Head of Operations. But with so much community support that it's been able to carry on - booked every Saturday in September and we've been squashing the newsletter to include all the other things going on.

The Shorter term

In May and June, it became was confirmed that the future of the Blue Pool which adjoins and shares a wall with the Assembly Hall didn't have to be with Wiltshire Council and that there is potential for it to be considered as part of the future by Melksham Town Council.

With illustrative work of the sort of thing that could be done to help meet the need assessment survey of late 2022 and the Neighbourhood / Town Centre Master Plan consultation of February and March 2023, the Town Council voted on 26th June to ask for an appropriate expert to take a look at the existing building and advise us on their condition and advise us on future use with 3 options of purchase the Blue Pool and merge the buildings to meet extended needs, purchase the Blue Pool with a view to demolishing and rebuilding *something" on site to meet needs, and say "no thank you" to Wiltshire Council who are offering the Blue Pool for sale as surplus to their requirements for a token payment.

A timescale of 3 months and a budget of £10,000 was put on this work - to come back to full council, then, on 25th September with AHWG and FoMAH progressing it. Councillors and Friends toured, measured, inspected the Blue Pool in early July with our (FoMAH) expert volunteers and we worked with other groups to consider the public needs assessment and other internal needs such as that of the amenities team.

FoMAH brought to council on 17th July an early business plan, looking at all three options mandated, with an example of how some of the elements could fit in a joined building which is the best defined option at this point. The locum clerk reported that the town clerk was waiting to hear back from a quantity surveyor; she was unable to tell me whether this was prior to engagement, interim, or final work. Instead of being thanked and questioned by fellow councillors for the early work, I felt that FoMAH were criticize for going ahead with the very work we said we would do, and I took this as an example of "the best form of defence is attack". It looks like the were either embarrassed because nothing substantive had been done, or that they are motivated to look for a solution other than what is best for the town.

The locum promised to check with the Town Clerk on her return a few days after - on her return - and let me know more about the survey engaged and its timescale. I still await to hear.

I have asked about the next date for the Assembly Hall Working Group to meet. On 1st August the Committee Clerk wrote "Heather has asked me to set a meeting date for AHWG. The first suitable date she has is 2nd October 2023.". I am puzzled as to why a full council meeting can be called on 11th August to be held on 17th August, but the working group must be held off for 2 months.

What are our long term goals?

I can declare mine - to do the best for the people of the Melksham Area and what they want, as defined in consultations above and enhanced by other view too. References are made by fellow councillors to the silent majority. Other who do not use the Assembly Hall and Blue Pool are massively being encourages to join in and we can and should meet their needs too - provided that they will actually use the facilities provided and will be there to support it along the way. Both existing and future user bases are important - the existing base has shown its loyalty over many years. Future users need to get sufficiently involved now to show that they, too, will be there.

Other need to speak for themselves. Moving repair budgets away from the Assembly Hall, making the manager who runs the hall business redundant, then calling (recent MIN) for it to be knocked down and replaced by something suitable for more comedy acts (when the hall is suitable for them anyway) looks like a pattern that could almost be designed to close the hall. So does bringing this motion to an extra council meeting at short notice in the middle of the holiday season. From my councillor feed today - "Hi everyone, just a reminder about the meeting tomorrow. I know we have a lot of members on holiday at the moment and want to ensure we are going to be quorate for tomorrows meeting. 2 really important items." so there's an admission that a big decision may be being taken with a minimum of councillors.

Sadly, in my view there is so much evidence that others do not share my view and are working with the objective of closing down the Assembly Hall as we know it. There is much more than I have written here. Whether that's to knock down the buildings on the site and build something new (which perhaps could have a ceebrarort new name) on it. Or to sell of the whole building and site to some sort of development (be it commercial, housing or something else). In both those cases, it would take years for anything to happen if at all, and the loyal customer base that will be using the hall day after day would be lost.

So what we going to do?

I hate to say it after all the delays and with the hall being allowed to rot through water damage, but in my view we should wait a further six weeks until we know what we are going to do.

I am minded that we are looking to cut a spend of £68000 on lighting in the park to a quarter of that, based on what we really need and want. We have a single quote before us which contravenes our standing orders and we could and should investigate that same avenue on the Assembly Hall roof, with experts in our community.

Let's have a full, complete report in the agenda pack when first published. for the next full council meeting on 25th September, which is the end of the three month period set in his proposal by councillor Alford and accepted without demur by the Town Clerk.

We run the risk of making a decision tonight that could set our course for the long future, while a report that we have commissioned is being worked on. Tonight is an opportunity being taken by those who don't use the Assembly Hall to try and put a nail in its coffin.

We should invite all councillors along to see the hall in action. Ladies and gentlemen of the council, I invite you to pass a motion that each councillor be funded from our training budget to attend an event of their choice in September (there are four) so that we can all be better informed having seen the hall and met the customers first hand when we soon make a major decision.

This article was written in haste as some papers were only supplied in the afternoon of the meeting - I may come back to correct typos and clarify things. Major changes I will declare an highlight if there are any.

Published Thursday, 17th August 2023

Communication Guidelines - Vital we get them right

I feel that having a good set of communications guidelines in place right across Council activities would make sense. But having a set of poorly written, incomplete and woolly ones would do more harm than good. We don't really have any at present.

In amongst all the busyness at the moment our clerk and her team have found time to take an example set from elsewhere and amend them into a set which they put to full council for review and adoption last month. It was such a full meeting that the agenda item got lost - for which relief much thanks, as I had only seen them with the agenda pack a few days previous, and hadn't had an opportunity to clarify certain things, nor to use my experience to suggest improvements.

I have now had an opportunity to go through the proposal and "red line" the elements I query. I have also added a section on things that could be usefully added - covering (for example) all communications and not just electronic ones. You'll find the proposal at and I would welcome thoughts / comments / inputs.

This may all look a bit theoretic, but it's actually a foundation that underly the fabric of our work. Even since the proposals of last month, what can and canot be communicated has been brought into question. In a separate incident, a comment of mine on a Town Council Facebook post was deleted by an officer; I felt I was being positive, but "comments on Facebook should really be for the public and any posts should be made by officers". I was a bit surprised so, yes, I'm in agreement with our officers that a good communications policy is overdue.

Published Wednesday, 16th August 2023

Why has the fix price gone up so much?

The figure for fixing the Assembly Hall roof is shocking - why has it risen so much? Reg gives us a clue in his report; associated information and reports (here).

* From New Civil Engineer, 7 JUL, 2022 BY TIM CLARK: "The cost of construction materials rose by almost a third in May compared to the previous year, according to the latest data from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy". Over 3 years from the 2020 report to the work being done with building inflation at 27% puts the cost up by to 2 times what it was.
* Significant continued damage over the three years adds perhaps a further 50%
* Lack of allowance for scaffolding - another 40%
* And as the original was not tested by getting quotes but an optimistic estimate, a further 40%

Multiply those factors together and the price has gone up 6-fold ... £15,000 becomes £90,000

Perhaps not such a shock. The council planned to build a new maintenance shed in KGV Park, but with the price rising steeply has decided it should not do so after all. So there is a precedent. We seem to be good at sitting on our hands while prices go up out of our budget.

* We could ask "how did we get into this mess" but that won't solve the issue.
Admitting it is a scandalous failure of some sort won't solve anything

* We could question the brief that the report answers.
It's always good to know what the question was as you read an answer.

* We could ask for an intermediate update from the structural engineer we asked to be instructed in June for a report back in 3 months.
At the very least, we could usefully be copied on the brief (s)he has been given.

There is a huge difference between spending £15k and £90k. Hindsight and saying "we should have done this as soon as we were elected" is not an option. Inputs welcome

Published Tuesday, 15th August 2023

Transport Hub - could Melksham learn from this?

Here's a picture I took yesterday showing a rail interchange in a market town somewhere in the South West of England. As well as taking picture to update my "days out by train" library at I've been looking at ideas and inspirations for Melksham. In this example you'll notice how (or I can tell you):
• the platform backs out onto an active circle
• there are shops, coffee houses and restaurants with residences above
• there is and a wide pedestrianised walkway to the Town Square and attractions
• there's a local bus waiting at the station
• bridge over the railway to houses across the line
• station building with customer support staff at busy times
• trains were calling hourly in each direction, same time in each hour ("clock-face")
• trains are electric and call on the way from London to the seaside
• there were people of all sorts out enjoying themselves
• I heard so many tongues being spoken - only some I could recognise
• there's cinema, a performance and probably much more I don't know
• there are several specialist museums
population of this market town is just over 20,000

Published Sunday, 13th August 2023

Two rapid decisions afoot on Thursday?

At 18:47 on Friday evening, an extra full council meeting agenda was sprung on us for next Thursday (17th August). There are two substantive items on the agenda and they are:

4. Cricketers Cafe - Pavilion KGV
Members are requested to approve the investment of £25,000 for refurbishment costs to the pavilion and agree whether the funding is to come from the Major Projects Reserve or the General Reserve.

5. Assembly Hall Roof
To receive the report of the consultant and consider next steps. If members are in agreement that the works are to go ahead to also agree to waive Standing Orders and Financial Regulations in light of the fact that only one contractor has submitted a quote. The report demonstrates what lengths have been taken in trying to obtain three quotations. (Report to follow)

There is an opportunity prior to the meeting "Public Participation - To receive questions from members of the publici" and those can be on any topic including the above. Once the main meeting starts, members of the public are there purely to observe unless the council "suspends standing orders" to invite wider input.

The agenda has no "Questions from Councillors - To receive questions from Councillors" which is a standard agenda item on 'all' full council meetings. And there is no "Any other Business" - but then there never is on full council or committee meetings.

Personal comment

I am dismayed that we are told "report to follow". The rule is that there must be 3 complete working days between the publication of the agenda and invite to attend the meeting. This is intended to give councillors and the public the opportunity to read into the matters, make further enquiries, ask people (briefly) for their views and so be able to make a considered rather than rushed input. The agenda "rule" is being followed, but it my view the spirit of the rule is being ignored or even flouted.

I am mindful of the provision of "to follow" papers in the past:

* On 28th June 2021, when in closed session staff redundancies (including the Assembly Hall Manager) were made without a chance for those of not on the business review working group who brought the plan to mull it over and think through the consequences.

* On 28th March 2023, at an extra meeting called at minimal notice, a proposal to bid £2.1 million for the purchase of Melksham House was raised actually in the meeting.

In both examples, I feel the outcome was rushed and wrong both at the time and in hindsight. There WILL be times where extraordinary short notice meetings and papers are justified (I suspect there were such when Covid hit in March 2020) but as being applied on the Assembly Hall roof this week, it looks to me to be decidedly odd.

I am chair of the "Assembly Hall Working Group" which should be primary in making suggestions and educated inputs for the hall. On requesting a meeting, our committee clerk has advised me "[redacted] has asked me to set a meeting date for AHWG. The first suitable date she has is 2nd October 2023." Odd, then that this can come to full council this week!

The background

The Assembly Hall Roof has been leaking for a very long time with buckets catching rainwater. It has needed fixing both for public perception and safety ("Any Questions" guest - including three MPs - shepherded around the wet and slippery floors) and to avoid it getting worse with water damage internally to ceilings, walls, electrics, and so on. In February, a spend of up to £20,000 was approved, changing "replace" to "repair" in the motion before council knowing that at the time the question of moving to Melksham House was on the table. But that hasn't happened.

The Assets and Amenities Committee received a written brief from the Head of Operations on 31st July for our 7th August meeting: "Our retained consultant for the building repair survey works has struggled to generate responses from the roofing companies that initially expressed an interest with exception of a local contractor who has been to site. We will continue to persevere as this is a time critical item but may have to concede that only one contractor is interested and make appropriate arrangements in the light of this situation.". The Head of Operations did not attend that meeting, and no-one present was sufficiently informed to answer councillor's questions on what he had written.

A thought - I think that we (as a council) have failed to take the necessary steps to safeguard our asset in the Assembly Hall. I am fully aware that my opinion that the Assembly Hall should remain as a public hall and event venue is not universally shared. If I was a proponent of conspiracy theories, I might be suggesting that it's very convenient for those who want to close the hall and sell the land for development, and also for those who want to knock it down and start again, if it's allowed to decay through lack of maintenance. I am minded that there may be some sort of surprise brought to council on Thursday.

For the absence of doubt, I understand why we need to clarify the Pavillion investment which is already agreed as far as I'm concetned

Published Saturday, 12th August 2023

Splashpad - busiest day ever!

Yesterday, 10th August 2023, the Splashpad was its busiest ever. "Even busier than opening day" someone said, and I understand that was in 2019. It was wonderful to see it so crowded with children enjoying themselves. The Cafe was open, with extra staff called in to help serve, and ActiveTrowbridge had a bouncy castle in the park. There were hundred of people there enjoying themselves and that's exactly what it's there for. I was the "duty operator" of the splashpad - assisted, supported, overseen by our amenities team manager. I've been on a training course for the role I was in, and that's backed up by past training and activity as a swimming pool lifeguard, and on emergency first aid. I'm also rather used to handling unexpected happenings having run a customer facing business here in Melksham.

A wonderful day in the park - though not without incident. The suppliers of the loos beside the splashpad had scheduled work they were doing, and closed the loos for the day. Chocolate Ice Cream ran out at the cafe, and for the first time ever (I believe) the splashpad reached its locally set capacity of 60 and people had to wait a few minutes to get in. There was more litter than we would like around the park, and amenities team members were re-assigned from other important but not urgent duties to the Park Ranger role to pick up abandoned rubbish and clear Town Council bins.

Through the 7 hours (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) we had two short unscheduled closures of the Splashpad totalling about 45 minutes, and there has been criticism about this on social media. I am in a unique position on the Spashpad team of also being a Town Councillor, and that gives me a little more leeway to explain what's going on to answer those comments; written as a councillor as my view, and not the official view of the Town Council. I am also unusually well informed about yesterday, and I did (and repeated) the water test that went out of limits. So I can help explain, and also tell you how you (as a splashpad user) can help us keep it open right through the busiest of summer days.

We have to keep our water clean, with a plant and pump room around the back of the pavilion doing clever things with chlorine just like in a swimming pool. The water quality is monitored automatically, and we make additional manual checks too. Yesterday was extreme - the system tripped once, and once one of the check went just outside the very safe limits we have set. I'm sorry I had to clear the pool while the system was reset and recovered. The outages were far shorter than might have been, and I hope I kept you informed enough as to what was happening - though of course as this was the busiest day ever, we were in new territory!

So how does water get "dirty"? There are natural causes such as perspiration of course, but to those we need to add things like suncream washing off and people wee-ing in the pool. Yesterday, I was also litter picking around the pad, and a plastic wrapper or two can restrict the pumps and water flow. Recycling / cardboard containers are "clever", but when they get wet and break down, they add a lot of fibres and stuff to the water that our systems have to clear out. The systems are built to cope with a lot of this sort of thing, but volumes on the busiest day in 4 years pushed us over for a few minutes. Please help us help you if you're using the pad - use waterproof suncream, use the loos before you go in, etc. And, yes, I am aware that the loos close by were having work done on them yesterday and we were having to direct people to the other side of the park.

A long answer - but I hope that helps fill you in. It was heartbreaking to have to close the pad even for a short while, but the safety of our users is paramount and we won't take the slightest of risks. Our amenities manager stopped around way after the 5 p.m. public closure to run a series of "backwashes" to clean out the filters further and help us start tomorrow (now today) totally cleaned out. No guarantee that it won't be another really busy day, though I suspect that yesterday was a one-off with Active Trowbridge activities on the main field, and the immediate loos out of use, and it being a hot sunny day.

We count numbers in the splash pad from time to time - hundreds and hundreds of you yesterday enjoying yourselves. Great - please come down again and all through the month If you've not tried it, please come along and do so.

Published Friday, 11th August 2023

Thank you for voting Graham Ellis onto Melksham Town Council

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