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MELKSHAM Town Council has accepted an offer from Wiltshire Council to take on a seven-year licence to manage the town’s play areas.
The seven-year licence has been offered to the council as an interim measure whilst the full asset transfer of the play areas, which was originally scheduled for 2018/19, is completed.
According to deputy mayor, cllr Jon Hubbard, the full asset transfer has been delayed due to a backlog of work and Wiltshire Council underestimating the amount of work needed to complete the transfers.
However, the town council has welcomed the news, explaining that the licence means that they can continue with their ongoing work of maintaining and repairing the town’s play areas without having to seek permission from Wiltshire Council first.
As part of the deal the council will be given a one-off payment of £1,000 from Wiltshire Council towards the cost of maintaining the parks in Awdry Avenue, Dorset Crescent, Dunch Lane, Hazelwood Road (the play area and the multi-use games area), Methuen Avenue, Primrose Drive, Riverside Drive, Speedwell Close (Campion Drive), Spring Meadow, Woody Park (Queensway).
Speaking to Melksham News, cllr Hubbard said, “Melksham was in the last batch of community asset transfers. The transfers for Salisbury took significantly more work than Wiltshire Council anticipated and now they are massively behind. The reality is that we still could be waiting for an asset transfer in seven years’ time. The campus is more on schedule than the community asset transfer!
“The town council has taken a proactive approach and have shown that they won’t wait – we have already got on with repairs and improvements. The problem at the moment is that we have to ask permission each time we want to do something – Wiltshire Council has not said no once, and has said that they really appreciate the town council’s proactive response. But it is irritating to have to faff about asking permission each time – it’s time-consuming.
“The seven-year licence means that the town council can take over responsibility for the parks and get on and do what we want to do – our officers can get on with the job rather than ask permission – this gives us the proper ability to manage our parks.
“There is a theoretical risk that Wiltshire Council could take back ownership after the licence expires – but the town council has already spent £30,000 on recent repairs and at the end of the day, the community doesn’t care which council owns the parks, as long as the service is being delivered.”
A spokesperson for Wiltshire Council said, “We are working with communities across Wiltshire to transfer assets so they can be looked after locally and tailored to meet local need. The programme of transferring services and assets to local communities is currently going through the approval process. When the programme is approved, town and parish councils will be advised. We are actively engaging with Melksham Town Council on an interim solution to ensure the facilities remain open.”