I have recently attended meetings in Devizes on forward planning for our town. The government has decreed that Wiltshire as a county has to build 42,000 houses before 2026 and Marlborough's share of that number is approximately three hundred new homes.
I know this sounds a lot for a small market town like Marlborough to absorb but, two hundred and twenty new homes are designated for the Salisbury Road site opposite Tesco which leaves us roughly eighty more homes to reach government targets. There are several small planning applications in the pipeline at present which will account for a number of our quota. As the rest do not have be completed until 2026, one hopes that small infill slots over the next ten years can accommodate most of this number. We are very lucky that the town is not one of the three Principal Settlements in Wiltshire which will take the lion's share of Wiltshire's quota and that we also sit within an AONB (Area of Natural Beauty), so we are afforded some protection from massive development.
The Town Council has already objected to the proliferation of luxury retirement homes being built in our town and we continue to state clearly that this type of development makes our community top heavy. We continue to press for affordable starter homes which we all know are in short supply.
I spent a very pleasant evening at North Wiltshire Girl Guiding Awards in the Legends Lounge of Swindon Town Football Club. Eight girls from the Marlborough area did very well indeed with four of them being awarded the Baden Powell Award and a further four awarded the Chief Guides Challenge in the presence of the Lord Lieutenant and the High Sheriff of Wiltshire. There were at least two hundred girls representing packs from north Wiltshire, and it was delightful and very interesting to hear the challenges that these girls take on and about their many overseas trips.
I did mention in my December blog that the Town Council has applied for a Community Asset Transfer for Coopers Meadow - an asset which is currently owned by Wiltshire Council and now being transferred to Marlborough Town Council. I also asked that if anyone had any ideas to enhance the meadow to let me know. So far, suggestions include enlarging the play area, adding seats and tables for picnics and something recreational such as a trim trail for older children.
All good ideas and I think if these are combined with the lovely river walk (which really looks at its best in the spring and summer thanks to ARK (Action for the River Kennet)) plus a visit to see the lambs then it would all add up to make a pleasant afternoon out at little or no cost for Marlborough families. Anyway, please keep the suggestions coming in. Nothing is set in stone yet and we really do appreciate your suggestions.
January for the Town Council is a time for planning the new year. The outside staff are cutting back shrubs and overhanging trees as well as catching up on some TLC on the town's benches, fences and litter bins. The Estates Manager has already ordered the bedding plants for our gardens, hanging baskets and tubs for spring planting. Apparently we are going to have "hot" colours this year interspersed with some cool cream and whites, I really can't wait to see them.
The planning committee has already been busy this year considering lots of applications for new signage for some businesses, extensions for existing homes and applications for new builds. Amended draft proposals were debated by the committee concerning the land adjacent to Rabley Wood View. Sangsters in partnership with Wilts Council want to build houses on the recreation ground that serves Rogers Meadow, the Thorns as well as Rabley Wood View. As you can imagine the residents of these three estates are not very happy about it and have protested loudly. The planning committee felt that the new draft proposals did not meet local demand which is for low cost smaller homes and also that traffic difficulties in the area had not been addressed by the new proposals.
The planning committee is still awaiting an update and final plans from the Crown Estates on the proposal to build 220 houses on the Salisbury Road site. On a happy note the Tennis Club has finally received planning consent for their new tennis courts. These courts will be situated adjacent to the Swindon Road on the north east side of the common within the Golf Club's perimeter; the club does amazing work with the youngsters in the town and will be a very welcome addition to the town's sporting facilities.
It is not widely known but Marlborough Town Council own a meadow situated at the end of Tin Pit and behind Rabley Wood View. The river bank in the meadow has now been opened up for the public to enjoy walking by. New fences are in place marking a walkway down to and along the river bank. The entrance to the meadow is through a gate at the end of Tin Pit. I do hope that residents will use and enjoy this public amenity.
Councillors at Tin Pit next to the River Ogg
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.