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THERE has been a mixed reaction to the news that construction of the Melksham Campus has been pushed back to next year due to the impact of Covid-19.
Construction of the campus was expected to begin this summer, however, Wiltshire Council announced earlier this month that construction is now hoped to start in early 2021.
The revised timeline marks another delay to the campus project, which was originally planned to be opened at the Melksham House site in 2014. A revised timeline in October 2017, estimated delivery of the campus in January 2021.
Whilst the news that the campus is still going ahead has been welcomed by the community, some locals have raised concerns that the project may not go ahead at all, and that Wiltshire Council’s decision is delaying the inevitable – despite assurances from the council that they are ‘fully committed’ to the project.
Chances are low
Melksham town councillor, Adrienne Westbrook, told Melksham News, “The campus was expected to be delivered to the Melksham community in 2014, so I can understand why the residents of Melksham are fairly cynical of this update. Given Wiltshire’s difficult financial situation I hope that this will happen in 2021 but I, like most of the residents, believe those chances are quite low.”
Phil McMullen, former community area partnership officer and secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, has speculated that Wiltshire Council are playing for time, holding off on cancelling the project until after next year’s elections. He said, “Elections in May, and then the new council can blame the previous one for profligacy and cancel the project altogether.”
However, clarifying his comment with Melksham News, Phil said, “It’s a suspicion rather than a genuine concern and I have no evidence whatsoever.
“It’s a sad situation to be in and I’m hopeful that next year will see things finally start to progress on the campus. Goodness knows we need something to celebrate here in Melksham after the year we’re all experiencing at the moment.”
In contrast, local resident Colin Goodhind, who was part of a local initiative in 2017 to shadow and watch over the progress of the campus, holding Wiltshire Council to account, has taken the news of the revised timeline as a positive move by the council.
He said, “I’ve been sceptical like a lot of people for the last few years that Wiltshire Council truly wanted to build the campus.
“However, the recent news has given me some confidence that it will go ahead. The pandemic was almost a gift to the council if it was their intention to not go ahead with the campus – they could’ve used it as the reason to scrap the plans, and that would’ve been difficult for anyone to argue with.
“So the fact that they have not done this, gives me hope. I’m still sceptical, but a little more confident. However, I will only believe it when I see it – but I do think we may in fact get a campus of some kind.”
Cabinet member for leisure at Wiltshire Council, cllr Ian Blair-Pilling said, “We’re obviously disappointed that we can’t proceed as originally planned, particularly after the fantastic progress the project has made in the last year.
“However, the most important thing is that this revised timeline will help ensure we can still provide the campus and that’s something we are fully committed to doing.
“We know what a positive impact the campus will have on the health and wellbeing of people, as well as the local economy and we’re determined to see our long-held vision come to fruition.
“While we understand there will be some disappointment from Melksham communities, these are unprecedented times and as a council we have to adapt to help ensure those who need it most are getting the help and support they need.”
For more information about the Campus visit: www. wiltshire. gov.uk/community-environment-melksham- community-campus