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I am delighted to take this opportunity to wish to you all Season’s Greetings as we reflect on 2017 and look forward to 2018.
Once again this year we are able to enjoy the most wonderful Christmas lights display. We in Melksham are extraordinarily proud of our Christmas lights which are entirely due to the hard work and efforts of a fantastic group of volunteers. The extended works to the Market Place placed enormous time pressures on the Christmas Lights Group this year, but despite this, they have still managed to provide a magical display for us all.
It was a fantastic accolade to achieve gold at the South West in Bloom awards this year. Congratulations are due to our Bloom in Melksham committee and everyone involved, particularly the Tidy Town volunteers, and local shops and households who contributed such fantastic displays to earn this stunning achievement. It is lovely to see the gold award flag flying proudly over the Town Hall.
Party in the Park, Carnival and the Food and River Festival once again proved to be highlights of the town’s social calendar this year. Our thanks go to the organisers and volunteers of these and all other events and activities.
We are truly blessed to have such a wide variety of organisations and groups whose activities and endeavours do so much to benefit our community. It was pleasing that the town council was able to provide over £30,000 of grant funding this year to over 50 charitable and community organisations.
The work of the Christmas Lights and Bloom in Melksham and so many other voluntary groups does so much to engender pride in the town; celebrate and showcase our community; and enhance the sense of belonging to make Melksham such a very special place. We owe all of them enormous thanks for their efforts.
Thanks to the efforts of our town caretakers, our floral displays once again provided a colourful, vibrant and pleasant backcloth for our town during the summer, enhancing our streetscene and contributing to a pleasant shopping experience.
The Market Place improvements seemed to go on forever but were finally completed in October with the result that we now have a new amenity area, which can host a wide variety of events, including a weekly market. The new pavement, greater pedestrian space and specially commissioned street furniture have contributed greatly to a much improved and safer Melksham townscape.
The new Market Place layout literally paves the way for the entrance and exit to and from the prospective new facilities proposed for the Melksham House campus (Health and Well Being Centre). We look forward with eager anticipation to the new facility coming to fruition and opening for the community to enjoy in 2021.
In the meantime it’s brilliant to see our football and rugby clubs enjoying such prestigious and fantastic facilities at Oakfields. The opening of the new skateboard park has provided a facility for the younger members of our community that is the envy of many towns.
Sadly Wiltshire Council is facing enormous financial pressures at the current time which has inevitably impacted on the level of services it is able to provide for our community. The town council has taken a proactive stance in addressing some of the key issues arising from this shortfall in services. By way of example, we have recruited a town warden and, with the assistance of financial support provided by the area board, an electric powered pavement cleaner to enhance the cleanliness of the town’s streets and public areas.
Similarly the lack of funding has placed the ongoing provision and maintenance of Melksham’s play areas under threat. The town council has funded refurbishments to Wiltshire Council-owned and operated play areas at Riverside Drive, Primrose Drive and King George V Park, to ensure that play equipment in the town remains available for the community to enjoy.
We are in the process of discussing the transfer of responsibility for these play areas and the King George V Park to the town council in order that we can progress a programme of repairs and remedial works to bring all the town’s play areas up to a safe standard. Our ultimate goal is to refurbish and enhance the play equipment and facilities on offer, such that children and families have improved social and recreational facilities to enjoy. For example, we are determined to install a splash pad within King George V Park by 2019 to reintroduce a wet play facility for children following the closure of the much-loved and well-used paddling pool two years ago.
Plans are now being developed to refurbish the Assembly Hall, which is the primary social and recreational amenity provided in Melksham. The town council recognises that the hall provides a vibrant and valued social and recreational hub at the heart of the community, which helps to improve the quality of life within the town. We are determined to redevelop the hall in order that it will provide a state-of-the-art facility and a focal point for events, activities and entertainment for the current and next generation of our community to enjoy. We are starting the process of consulting with users and the public to help inform decisions about how we move forward.
Whilst the retail sector generally has suffered in recent years, we are fortunate to have such a wide variety of retailers within the town. However we must be particularly conscious of the difficulties faced by our smaller local traders, so I would urge you to support these businesses by shopping locally wherever possible in order to retain a vibrant and prosperous town centre.
Your town council is also working hard to preserve our heritage and continuously improve our services, amenities, facilities, street scene and shopping experience for residents and visitors alike. Melksham is such a great place to live, work and visit.
I was delighted and honoured to be elected as Town Mayor earlier this year. Clearly there are challenging times ahead, but we have good reason to feel positive and optimistic about the future and our ambition to move Melksham forward.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a safe, peaceful, and prosperous New Year!
Cllr Adrienne Westbrook
Melksham Town Mayor