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News that the campus project has been granted planning permission has been welcomed by the community.
Wiltshire Council says that it will now look to appoint a lead contractor so that work can begin at the Melksham House site next year, with construction expected to be complete by 2021.
The latest campus development comes after months of delays to the planning decision caused by changes to the design submitted in March, and an in-house ‘battle’ at Wiltshire Council between project leaders and the planning department about the future of Melksham House – a Grade II listed building.
A timeline for the project given in October 2017, indicated that construction was estimated to start in July this year, with completion in January 2021.
Speaking to Melksham News, mayor of Melksham, cllr Jon Hubbard said, “I am delighted that we are one step closer to finally seeing the campus delivered for our town. I hope that we can continue to all work together to get the project completed at the earliest opportunity and see no more slippages and delays.”
However, whilst some residents have welcomed the news, others have expressed a sense of ‘déjà vu’, as a previous campus design for the Melksham House site, which was originally expected to be completed by 2017, was also given planning permission in 2014.
Local resident, Adrienne Westbrook, who is also a town councillor said, “Planing permission was granted in 2014 as well. So I still think it’s a ‘let’s wait and see’ when Wiltshire Council start the actual build.”
Sarah Watkins said, “(I’ll) believe it when I see it.”
Tracy Wright added, “Praise the Lord! And the next hurdle is…?”
The planing decision is one of many obstacles overcome by the project in recent weeks.
Last month the project was saved from potential collapse when Wiltshire Council, who are financing the project, agreed to fund an additional £3million as the project was ‘over budget’ and could not be delivered within the previous approved budget. However, Wiltshire Council has said that this is subject to final approval at a full council meeting on 26th November.
The future use of Melksham House, which has caused delays to the project, was also agreed in principle by Wiltshire Council cabinet members last month.
Current proposals suggest that the building could be used for residential care facilities to support children and young people aged 10–18 years in the main house; a community resource centre in the former dance hall; and 16 supported living units to be built on land at the rear of the building.
A detailed business case for the future of Melksham House will be presented at a Wiltshire Council cabinet meeting early next year.
Cllr Allison Bucknell, cabinet member for communities and leisure at Wiltshire Council said, “I’m absolutely delighted we have now reached this crucial stage. This has been a long complex project, but getting permission to construct will now allow for our vision to become a reality.
“Despite the complexities and setbacks along the way, we never lost sight of our aim to provide a facility that the entire community can use and be proud of.
“I look forward to seeing spades in the ground next year and I thank our team for working so hard behind the scenes to get us here.
“We are also committed to seeing Melksham House being brought back into use for the benefit of the community and we’ll have more details on that early next year.
“I would like to thank the community for working with us, and pay tribute to our amazing officers who are putting so much time and effort into providing this state-of-the-art facility.”
The designs for the modern Melksham Community Campus include a six-lane swimming pool and a learner pool, fitness suite, dance studio, library and community hub, sports hall, a café and office space. This will be in addition to the cricket pitch and outdoor bowls. Two new tennis courts were provided earlier this summer.
Regular updates on Melksham Community Campus can be found at: www.wiltshire.gov.uk/community-environment-melksham-community-campus