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THE work to transform and improve Melksham’s Market Place has finally come to an end after nine months of diggers, roadworks and rubble.
With the transformation now complete, the market will return to the Market Place next week on Tuesday 31st October and pitch up on the new plaza outside the Town Hall.
From rising costs, scaled back plans, uncovering of wells and the delay of Christmas lights, the Market Place re-development has been anything but plain sailing for Melksham.
Work started early February 2017 with an expected completion date of six months and an initial budget of £560,000.
And now, nine months later, and after a scaled-back finish, the price soaring up to £660,000 and uncertainty with the town Christmas lights, residents are unsure whether the whole scheme was worth it.
The development came to a halt in early May when councillors heard of skyrocketing costs being added by Wiltshire Council. The project originally included tarmacking the eastern stretch of the Market Place from the Kings Arms up to Spa Road. Melksham Town Council asked for this to be paved instead and Wiltshire Council said that this would cost £25,000 to £30,000. But, at the town council meeting held on the 15th May, the price had soared to £47,000, not including the pavement outside of the Kings Arms.
Councillors said they faced a difficult decision because either they paid the money or would see that part of the Market Place be tarmacked, rather than paved. The increased spend in the Market Place would have had a detrimental impact on the campus project, with the additional spend having to come from the campus budget. Melksham councillors voted unanimously to not proceed with the additional costs.
The works hit another problem when two wells were uncovered underneath the area of redevelopment, causing even further delays as decisions were made about how to proceed. Residents wanted one of the historic wells to be made into a special point of interest but the decision was made to cap the wells so the Market Place work would not be held up any more.
Due to the continued problems and delays, the development also has had a detrimental impact to the preparation for Melksham’s Christmas lights. Paul Weymouth, leader of the group of volunteers said, “We’re now in a position where we physically cannot do what’s required of us” and plans have been scaled down, due to a tight time-frame and revised schedule.
Now finally, the tedious months have come to an end with the completion of the improvement works, resulting in mixed reviews about the final result.