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Graham Ellis - Views, beliefs, policies
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• Views and thoughts - Town council responsibility
• Views and thoughts - Unitary Responsibility
• And other things too
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Look at each of the maps on the right and you will see how Melksham has grown and grown through the ages. Whilst we may at times have concerns about infrastructure and services keeping pace and the need to plan carefully, I welcome the progress of a town made better by new arrivals irrespective of colour or creed and alongside existing residents. A vibrant town looking forward, and not a town looking to resist all change. If elected as a town councillor, I will help that happend to the best of my ability within the very limited authority and influence it gives me.
The final frame looks forward to the future, indicating where the town might expand in and around Melksham Town South.
Views and thoughts - council responsibility
Councils should provide services for their communities to fill gaps, taking on a modest loss for doing so and perhaps taking modest but assessed risk in doing to. These services should look to being available to all in target groups. Services should not compete with viable commercial operations which are directly parallel.
The Melksham Community has a great number of voluntary organisations, and council support does and should continue to be provided. Small grants, information, training, events that bring groups and others together, publicity, etc ... all things which can (and for the most part are) usefully be provided by a larger central operation rather than leaving each group to struggle with what are big tasks for smaller and keen (but perhaps not totally informed) groups.
The Council should take an active interest in travel to, from and within the town, and an interest in helping to ensure that traffic passing through the Melksham area but not stopping can be persuaded to stop and use our facilities if appropriate, otherwise be helped on its way with minimal interference (traffic jams and safety, noise, clean air) with the town. Town Council responsibility for transport provision is limited (much at a national , subnational or unitary level) but never the less the town can provide inputs to those levels. Information, waymarking, stationary facilities making travel (car, taxi, walk, bus, cycle, train) easy to understand and find, and better to use, is an area where The Town can help
Town Centres have changed so much in recent years, and that change is accellerated though the last year. We have a rump of remaining "classics" - and long may we support and encourage them at a sustainable level. We also have some specialist shops with a shopfront in Melksham but most of their business online, and some finanicial establishment though we have lost three out of four of the "Big Four" banks. But we have a growing sector of social and personal service - you can't get your hair cut, nails done, or teeth fixed online, and takeaway, restaurants, cafes and pubs thrive.
Markets and Small Retailers
The area in front of the Town Hall, the weekly market, Melksham Maker's Market https://www.facebook.com/pg/themelkshammakersmarket/posts/ , Sunday Markets at Avonside (in North Ward), Christmas Fayre, Carnival, Party in the Park all very much helped and encouraged. Not only do they help by giving local businesses an outlet, but they also bring people happily into the town to the other permanent busineeses for mutual benefit
Melksham in Bloom and Town Tidy
You will find me supporting these events, but only minimally taking part on the ground. Phyical exercise tires me quickly (medical issue) and I don't have green fingers - but rather brown one which kill plants. I do and will help with limited physical activity at Melksham Station, helping keep that small area tidy when allowed under Covid restrictions, but I am better not exhausting myself away from my specialist area, and doing things other community members can do far better.
The Town Council has an excellent team of staff and part of a councillor's role is to work alongside them, facilitate their job, and help motivate and enthuse them. There is an HR management task which may in very rare circumstances include actions seen by some parties as negative.
The following issues are for Wiltshire Council, but the town council can have a strong advisory role
Views and thoughts - Unitary responsibility
I am disappointed that so many of the originally planned facilities have been lost in the cycles of planning and re-design as other spending by Wiltshire Council has been slipped inside the Campus money's ringfence leaving much less for the build.
Having said that - we still have the possibility of a good facility (though perhaps no longer "Wow!") and
I welcome the much delayed start of the Campus build and - more important, the opening, use and benefits flowing from the opened Campus to Melksham. If I were a councillor I would look to be working with others to help get anything that needs to be decided along the way right, and make it work - just as I did when sitting on the SCOB.
Melksham House itself is no longer included in the public Campus / build. It's gone from those plans, including the promised exhibition / museum area and none-sport elements have moved into the main, predominantly sport, building. I need to update on some of this and other elements on or behind the Market Place, and what is funded and how. But ... see housing section.
With the Campus alongside the Town Centre, the two will be mutually supporting - with people visiting the town to visit both where otherwise they might use one or none in the town.
I would actually encourage some growth in Melksham, though ensuring that infrastucture issues were taken into account and dealt with in parallel. Housing should take into account climate friendly and lifestyle concerns for the future; I am not averse to Melksham House - where the frontage is listed and historic and the rear needs knocking down and rebuilding becoming a residential development if the other aspirations under "Melksham Campus" are addressed. It makes big sense for people who don't need cars - walking and cycling distance to town and transport.
Within The Ward - an eye out for Melksham Hospital and the area behind it. Just outside The Ward - actual and potential brownfield sites across the river in Melksham North, and just across the A350 in Melksham Without - a potential canalside development.
I am very much in favour of "Access for All". That includes more that you might think at first - for example, thinking of flat / wheelchair access may conjour up images of old people being pushed around - but it's much more than that - it's Mum or Dad pushing a buggy with the kids in it, it's people with heavy luggage, and it's mobility chairs too. There is also sense in "not overdoing it"; as my daughter-in-law (a wheelchair user) explains, you need to make sure that plenty of the housing stock / parking spaces / loo stalls are wheelchair friendly - and not all of them which would be a needless expense.
Disabled (horrid word!) does not just mean "wheelchair" - that's just an example. It's other physical constraints too - including sensory ones such as eyes and ears, and medical and mental issues too. For some not greatly affected (I'm an example here - technically disabled by some measures) it's something that requires no more than us adjusting ourselves to limitations. For others, it can be such that they require adaption and certainly consideration on a day to day basis.
But it's also individual and a strong but pragmatic approach needs to be taken to adaptions, especially where they are ones to the general town furniture.
I remember, though, that people who are in a wheelchair, hard of hearing, can't hear what I say, frail are just that - PEOPLE. If in the company of a carer, I will talk to / with the person ... and with and to the carer, who is also a person.
We live in a beautiful old town - which in the centre was built before the era of the ubiquitous motor car, and in the suburbs was build before multiple car ownership. Recent builds may allow for more cars, but they often fail to allow for public transport which - if we are to use public transport more in the future - is a potential problem. And as we don't yet know what an autonomous vehicle system might be shaped like, new build cannot allow for that.
I would encourage change that reduces traffic in the town centre, and provides safer walking and cycling routes too. As an example, that might include making the Church Steet to Lowbourne Corner of the High Street into a pedestrian / cycling / bus road only. This might be contentious with business owners, but I'll speculate that they would quickly see an improvement. Rephased lights would reduce traffic jams and cars idling over in the roads remaining open too.
Wilts and Berks Canal; tourism
I would encourage the (re)opening of the Wilts and Berks Canal from Semington up to the River Avon just downstream of the Challeymead (bypass) bridge then up the river through the town before veering off on a side cut to regain the old canal course northwards to Lacock. I believe it to be impractical to reopen the canal on its old route through the heart of the Melksham South ward, and the new route offers an opportunity to bring it through the heart of the town - good for the town and for the businesses. Each boat travelling a canal is said to bring 25 people to th canal - to watch, to walk, to "gongoozle" as well as travel on the boat. Care needs to be taken to ensure the rich and varied wildlife at Conigre Mead Nature Reserve is safeguarded; in normal practise, the opening of a waterway to boats may cause initial disturbance, but things settle back down. With the specialties involved at Conigre Mead, consideration may need to be given for specific species.
Two hundred years ago, Melksham was the largest town for many miles and we have fine selection of building dating back 200 years or more. However, none of them is a focal / tourist point nor open to the public so we tend not to get too many visitors into the town. We do have (when not in restrictions) a variety of places to eat, but lack attractions; the coming canal will attract some and (re)development along the waterway.
We may well have opportunities to repurpose or encourage the repurposing and development of parts of Melksham with a view to encouraging social and visitor activity over coming years. Examples include the Riverside, old Melksham House, and I question what plans are / where the hospital is going.
Zero Carbon and the environment
We can't go on burning fossil fuel like we have done, and we must change at a pace uncomfortably fast for some. It's not just global warming - it's running out of fuel (peak oil - remember?) and air quality too. And it's only half a job done if we replace a dirty queue of vehicles with a clean queue of vehicles. Transport has made the smallest improvement so far, but much work needs to be done on domestic and other building heating, and from a Town Council viewpoint that will include the Town Hall, Assembly Hall and other buildings.
I am proud to have attended the event / visit of Greta Thunberg to Bristol in February 2020 and listened to her talk. There is criticism that she herself is talking and not doing the science research and development stuff; maybe - but there is a need to raise awareness so that people do consider and act, in addition to the technocrat and community actions. My attendance has helped me think, talk about and bring the need for change to the attention of those I interface with.
School and roads around them
The roads around schools get very busy indeed at school start and end time, sometimes with Mum's or Dad's taxi making a short journey for a single child. Better set up street furniture and road layout to encourage walking to school? The Government's "Buses Back Better" initiative launched 15.3.2021 may add bus vehicles into the area, and they could be routed at school start / end time to give a wider coverage of transport to and from school.
There are very much safety concerns about children taking themselves to school; perhaps there was always a problem but in the modern information age people are more aware of the problem and measure to re-assure and reduce risk perhaps needed.
Young people's facilities
I commend the work done by our schools, Young Melksham and others for the young people of the town, and I also commend the responsibity of the vast majority of parents in the town and area. Positive provision for our youth and younger people is part of the fabric of our society; seeing that as a positive in terms of helping upcoming generations develop into full adult society members, but also countering the negative spiral that bright but bored young people might fall into.
Under the headlines we see when things go wrong, we have a wonderful core of younger people here in Melksham. I have been delighted to have worked with a number of them over the years.
And other things too ...to be written up during April, looking to write more about issues that come up more often, and less about those rarely raised
Little changes - big differences
Coming out of CoVID
Crime including speeding and antisocial behaviour
NHS / Defibs
Pedestrians over Challeymead
Dog fouling and facilities
Trees and safeguarding nature areas