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Plans for George Ward country park stumble as councils fail to agree

PLANS for a mini country park on the site of the former George Ward School playing fields are yet to get off the ground as the town and parish councils struggle to agree on a way forward.

Since the joint project was announced in October, councillors from Melksham Town Council and Melksham Without Parish Council have so far failed to agree on how to form a committee to support the project.

Initially, the town council proposed that a joint committee to move the project forward, should be made of eight members, five from Melksham Town and three from Melksham Without, to reflect the size of the councils and the populations they represent. It was also proposed that the budget for the project was to be agreed by both councils and funded on a per capita basis.

However, this proposal was rejected by the parish council who described the proposal as “cumbersome and unlikely to lead to rapid progress on this project.” Instead the parish council proposed that two officers from each council meet to develop a budget and an outline project, to then make recommendations back to their respective councils.

The town council discussed the counter proposal from the parish council at their asset management committee meeting in early January. Deputy Mayor, cllr Jon Hubbard said, “I was concerned that we’d end up ping-ponging ideas, going backwards and forwards, and that’s what it seems we are doing already.”

Cllr Hubbard proposed that a meeting be arranged for both councils to meet to decide on a way forward. “This is too good an opportunity to miss, to try and develop some form of country park,” he said. “We don’t have the time and capacity to be ping-ponging this backwards and forwards for however long it takes.”

However, it looks like the councils’ game of ping-pong is set to continue, as last week at the full parish council meeting, councillors rejected the new town council proposal, describing the ongoing saga as “tedious”.

Council chair, cllr Richard Wood said, “We want it (the country park) to happen, but we want it to get going; we are spending a lot of time discussing protocols. I find it so distressing that we can’t sort something simple out here. This is so bureaucratic and suspicious, everyone is so suspicious of each other. We are trying to do something good for the two parishes.”

Cllr Paul Carter said, “Let’s keep it as simple as possible. As far as I’m concerned, we should have a committee and split it 50:50. Four months have gone by and we’ve done bloody nothing! It’s just getting nowhere.”

At the meeting it was agreed to send the town council another counter proposal stating that the council does not want to have a full meeting with both councils, but instead propose that a committee be formed of three councillors from both Melksham Town and Melksham Without, with an alternating chairperson who does not have a casting vote. Decisions by the committee will be made by a simple majority. The parish council also decided that the project should be funded by a 50:50 split between the two councils.

The proposal from the parish council will be discussed by the town council’s asset management committee meeting on Monday 12th February.

Ideas for the use of the green space have included a public open space with footpaths, a community orchard, a wildlife and woodland area, allotments and the planting of trees to commemorate the lives of Melksham soldiers who died during WW1.

17 Responses to Plans for George Ward country park stumble as councils fail to agree

  1. Paul Taylor

    February 2, 2018 at 10:38 pm

    In ‘Letters’, I think in the last issue of Melksham News, one of the Town Councillors called for a merger between Town and Without. One of the reasons was to stop this sort of thing. As a Melksham Without Councillor I concur.

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