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Country Park plans for former school playing fields

Representatives from both Melksham Town Council and Melksham Without Parish Council with Friends of Southwick Park volunteers.

A MINI country park, on land which was formerly the George Ward School playing fields, is planned as part of a joint project between Melksham Town Council and Melksham Without Parish Council.

Councillors are looking for ideas for the use of the green space, which have already included a public open space with footpaths, a community orchard, a wildlife and woodland area, allotments and  a woodland burial ground.

To gain ideas, representatives from both councils recently visited Southwick Country Park, where they were shown around by the Friends of Southwick Park volunteers.

Richard Wood, chair of Melksham Without Parish Council said, “Our recent visit to the Southwick Country Park certainly gave us food for thought as we begin to plan a joint project with the town council to develop the remaining land at the George Ward site as a community asset. Allotments, a community orchard, a memorial planting of trees to commemorate the Melksham area men who lost their lives fighting for their country, and public open space with footpaths are all on the agenda.

“The two councils both agreed on Monday to explore the available options and decide how to proceed and both councils would love to hear from residents what they would like to see included on the site.”

Mayor of Melksham, cllr Adrienne Westbrook said, “Melksham Without and Melksham Town had a fantastic joint meeting at Southwick Country Park. The town council is fully committed to pursuing this project and will be putting money into the budget for 2018/19. We believe we need a long-term plan to help us deliver this exciting project, helping us to build up the areas of George Ward playing fields for the World War memorial trees, as well as looking at areas for orchard planting, paths, wild flowers and woodland areas.

“This project is a wonderful opportunity for both councils to work together to deliver a mini country park for the whole population of Melksham.”

During the joint meeting, cllr Mike Sankey, also proposed turning part of the site into a woodland burial ground, saying that during the Melksham Neighbourhood Plan, it was apparent that people want additional cemetery space. He said, “ I believe these woodland burial grounds are quite popular and well used in other areas and I wonder if that would be an appropriate use for this area.” The group agreed to consult Wiltshire Council, as they agreed that the area has a flood risk.

Last week’s asset management meeting, also discussed how to proceed with the project. The joint committee will be made of eight members, five from Melksham Town and five from the Parish Council, which recognises the sizes of both groups and also ratios of population. It would be proposed that Melksham Town will pay more towards the project, working on a budget agreed per-capita. The budget was agreed as the first job for both sides to negotiate.

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