It really does not surprise me that the people of Marlborough were noted in a national newspaper last year as being among the most generous in the United Kingdom. I am constantly reminded of it when ever the Town Coun
cil or various charitable organisations that I belong to appeal for help, be it monetary or volunteers to help with a project.
This was the case for the Christmas Light Switch on Event staged on the 21st November. This event was co-ordinated for the first time by the Council, mostly because of safety issues in 2013. The Council asked for volunteers to come forward to help with this event and we were not disappointed. The Rotary Club volunteered for and ran Santa’s grotto in the Town Hall, the Lions supplied Santa’s sleigh and both organisation supplied stewards
for the High Street and the barriers on the entrance roads into town to enforce the road closure
Santa arrived by sleigh accompanied by myself and Ella Steele the St Peters pupil chosen to turn on the lights. They were followed by two hundred primary school children along the High Street all carrying little lanterns and singing carols. There was also a Christmas market and rides and swings for the children. The people of Marlborough did not let us down and turned out in force. It has been estimated that between four and five thousand people attended the evening and the feedback directed to the council and to myself has been very complimentary. With that in mind and a big smile on our faces we are planning an even bigger event next year, so watch this space.
On the Friday and Saturday proceeding Armistice Day I was part of a team selling poppies and collecting on behalf of the Royal British Legion. Both collectors and the public gave freely. Marlborough as a To
wn with only eight thousand residents collected over ten thousand pounds, and I am told that not all the money is in yet so it might even be a higher figure. It really is amazing how generous the people of Marlborough are. Then once again on Remembrance Sunday the town’s residents turned out in their hundreds to show their respect for the fallen of two world wars at the war memorial.
The Councillors have started the process of putting together the budget for next year. The budget setting process is a long and often difficult process but is essential if the Council are to maintain the services that they provide for the town. The Council’s outside staff are responsible for the Priory Gardens, the Cemetery, Wye Gardens, Coopers Meadow, the Common, the Recreation Ground and the War memorial, and a fifty one percent ownership of Stonebridge Meadow. They also maintain the Play Areas, and plant and maintain the many flower baskets and troughs around the town. Additionally the Town Council own and administer two commercial premises, two houses, four flats, the Town Hall and offices all of which have to be maintained and must be accounted for in the budget setting process.
The Council have recently been consulted on a planning application from National Grid Property Holdings who have applied to remove two metres of contaminated soil in the western section of the former Gas works adjacent to Kelham Gardens. This proposed work is perhaps long overdue as this land has stood derelict for almost twenty years and hopefully when these works have been completed it can be sensibly used for the benefit of the town.
The council held a public meeting on the 10th November to seek the views of the residents of the town for future parking requirements. Although widely advertised very few members of the public were willing to come out on a cold Monday evening. There was however a high turn out of Marlborough Councillors who joined with members of the public and got down to make some very sensible and productive suggestions. These suggestions were then taken forward to the Wiltshire Parking Review Board held in Devizes on the
19th November by a team of five of us from Marlborough Town Council and one Unitary Councillor who represents the East Ward. One can only hope that the voices from the Marlborough team are noted and our suggestions and comments taken forward.
Another project the Council has been working on is a scheme called “The Coach Friendly Initiative”. When I first moved to Marlborough over thirty years ago Marlborough’s High Street was a regular stopping off point for most of the national and regional coach companies. They brought business to the town and kept the High Street vibrant and busy. Their valued custom ensured that the High Street survived the many vagaries and ups and downs of the economical position experienced nationally. It cannot have escaped your notice that very few coaches now visit Marlborough High Street and Marlborough Town Council along with other retail representatives of the Town are in talks to try to reverse the trend and bring back the coaches to our High Street. It is early days but I have high hopes for this initiative.
Those of you that attended the Lights Switch on Evening will have seen Alfie Johnson being named as the Citizen of the Year. Alfie has been the Town Crier for over twenty one years and has been associated with almost every one of the local organisations in the town, there are far too many to mention them all. He is loved and admired by all and I can’t think of a more deserving candidate for this honour. Well done Alfie.
This will probably be the last blog I shall do before Christmas so I would like to wish you and your families a Happy Peaceful Christmas and a Healthy and Prosperous New Year.
It seems very strange to think that only a few days after Christmas Day all the hustle and bustle and extra work that Christmas entails quickly fades into the background and normal life resumes. We all, of course, over cater for the holiday and will have eaten far too much. Many of us have also had the pleasure of our families around us and have been able to catch up on family news, feeling free just to sit and enjoy each other's company.
Stewart's and my family comprises of seven children, three son-in-laws, two daughters- in-law, one partner and seven very beautiful grandchildren. All came to see us at Christmas and my youngest daughter also brought along a very good friend who had sadly lost his mother. There were babies rolling around the floor, five year old twins trying out their new roller skates on the patio, our eldest granddaughter, who is eight, wanting Nana to teach her to knit while her six year old cousin was dressed up as a Ninja Fighter! Does it sound like bedlam? Well, perhaps, but such happy bedlam and so different to the many people who spend Christmas entirely alone.
Click on the images to expand the pictures
I was privileged to attend the Christmas Lunch held in the Town Hall arranged each year by Nigel and Joy Kerton and their band of volunteers. I spoke to every guest present and all had varying reasons for attending. One lady's family had emigrated to New Zealand and although they would have loved her to join them for Christmas, she felt that the journey would be too much for her to manage. Another chap, who was in a wheelchair, told me that he and his wife managed daily but, it was so good to see his wife give up her caring duties for one day and be waited on herself. As I say, many reasons for attending but the overriding one was a need for good company and to celebrate Christmas Day among friends.
The Town Council will now get back to its normal duties and we are already planning the flower beds and open spaces within the town ready for spring. One or two of our playgrounds need updating and this has been budgeted for. Cooper's Meadow in the centre of town is leased from Wiltshire Council on a 99 year lease. The Town Council at its 15th December Full Council meeting took the decision to ask for a Community Asset Transfer of this land. We have high hopes that this transfer request, if agreed by Wiltshire Council, will pass the ownership of the meadow to Marlborough Town Council by spring this year. This will, of course, increase the land owned and administered by the Town Council and will leave us free to open it up for more community use. So, if you have any ideas of what you would like to see at Cooper's Meadow, we will certainly be pleased to hear from you. Please send us an e-mail or give us a ring, details are on our home page.
This is the year that CCTV will come to town; planning consent has been applied for, positions for the cameras agreed and now just the final push to get it up and running. This is something close to my heart. Having campaigned for CCTV in the town centre for over ten years, I am so pleased it will be achieved in my Mayoral Year.
The Old Victorian Cemetery is long overdue for some TLC and the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Margaret Rose, has declared that this is to be her project this year and is launching a "Friends of the Victorian Cemetery Group." If you have an interest in joining this group just leave your name with our office staff and we will get in touch with you about meetings and our next Community Clear-up Day. The Old Cemetery's history is really interesting and it's fascinating to discover the dates and related families from the last century and so rewarding to help preserve it for future generations.
After our success last year, Marlborough will again be entering 'Southwest in Bloom' and we would love anyone with an interest in gardening or any aspect of making the town beautiful with flowering baskets, tubs, etc. to come and join us.
I close by wishing every single one of you a very happy and healthy New Year.