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PLANS to refurbish Melksham House into a ‘multifunctional hub’ have received the support of Melksham Town Council. But some town councillors have questioned Wiltshire Council’s commitment to deliver on its promise to put the Grade II listed building back “at the heart of the community once more”.
“There is a cynical view here that they are going for planning permission so that they can open the campus,” said cllr Graham Ellis, highlighting that Wiltshire Council must get planning permission for the future use of Melksham House before the campus, which is currently being built, can be brought into use.“Whether they actually go and build anything there is totally up in the air,” he added.
Mayor cllr Jon Hubbard added, “Speaking personally, the very last thing I would want to do is object to what they are proposing to do with the house. I may be cynical as to whether they will achieve what they are proposing, but I want to encourage what they are proposing at every opportunity.”
The plans submitted by Wiltshire Council, proposes that the Grade II listed building be converted to provide office, meeting room, and co-working spaces, with the hall at the rear of the building “restored for use by the local community”.
“Personally, I think it is fantastic that there is something actually happening to it [Melksham House],” said cllr Hubbard.
The mayor went on to highlight that the town council should focus on the planning application at hand, rather than question how Wiltshire Council will deliver the plans.
“I think as a town council we should welcome the restoration of a Grade II listed building,” continued cllr Hubbard. “It is shocking when you look at the building now and what is happening to it – it really does need to be sorted out.”
The planning application received the unanimous support of the town council’s economic development and planning committee at the meeting, held last week.
The consultation on Wiltshire Council’s planning application to renovate Melksham House closed last week – a final decision on the application will be made by Wiltshire Council.
Funding decision imminent
Another decision is also imminent regarding the future of Melksham House.
The scale of the house’s refurbishment rests on an upcoming funding decision to made by the government.
Wiltshire Council told Melksham News in July that “around £2million” has been set aside for the refurbishment of Melksham House.
In addition, Wiltshire Council has also bid for “around £5million” from the government’s Levelling Up Fund – which is designed to re-energise town centres, improve community space and help local businesses – which they told Melksham News will support its plans to refurbish Melksham House.
The government is expected to make an announcement in the autumn on which Levelling Up Fund bids have been successful. However, in June, local MP Michelle Donelan, who supported the application – described the process as “highly competitive”.