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THE decision by the town council to recommend coaches be allowed to use King Street car park once again has sparked a row between councillors.
In July 2010 residents near to the car park were relieved when Wiltshire Council closed the car park to lorries and coaches after numerous complaints from residents.
The closure came a full 20 months after complaints were first made which led the council into spending over £18,000 on a feasibility study to decide where the lorries would park if the facility was closed.
Now, more then three years later, the town council has recommended that the car park be re-opened but for coaches only and to be used only during the day. The decision has sparked a row amongst councillors as to the suitability of the decision with one councillor describing the decision as ‘spineless’ and ‘backward-looking’.
Town councillor Terri Welch feels the move will be a positive step for the town. She said, “Firstly it will decrease traffic through the town and enable more coaches and people to access Melksham, so it can only be a positive.
“Being right next to the A350 and close to places such as Lacock and Stonehenge means we have an opportunity to tap into the tourism trade which we currently aren’t doing as it’s so difficult for coaches.
“The town has worked extremely hard to make it a floral town with many attractive floral displays that would attract coaches to Melksham. We want to share our success and allow people access to that.
“Coaches were never the problem. They got caught up in the complaints about lorries and it’s not fair that coach parties should miss out because of this. I know recently the Kings Arms had to turn down business due to the lack of coach parking facilities in the town and it’s not right that our businesses should suffer.
“I have spoken to a resident who was one of the more vocal complainants when the issue was raised in 2010 and she has no problems with coaches re-using the car park during the day, saying that coaches were never the problem. We have also considered other locations and had the mayor drive a coach into the numerous car parks across town, but King Street was the most suitable and safest as some required him to mount pavements to gain access.”
However, the decision has outraged fellow town councillor Jon Hubbard, who has blasted the decision as “spineless” and “backward-looking”.
Cllr Hubbard was absent from the meeting when the recommendation was made as he was away on holiday, but had sent in a written submission asking the council to delay making a decision until alternative sites had been properly addressed, and Wiltshire Council have undertaken the transport analysis for the new campus being built in the town.
Speaking after the meeting cllr Hubbard said, “I will now do what Melksham Town Council could not be bothered to do and speak again to the local residents and ask how they feel. I still get stopped in the street by people to thank me for helping get rid of the coaches and lorries in the first place, and I don’t think they will be happy by this decision.
“Other alternatives are much more suitable such as Lowbourne where coaches could easily access it and would cause less disruption for residents.
“It’s sad that a decision of this magnitude was taken without any thought being given to the impact it will have on local residents’ lives. Melksham Town Council has today failed its residents and councillors should be ashamed.”
Cllr Hubbard has vowed to continue to fight the proposal as it will now be considered by the Community Area Transport Group and then the area board before a final decision is taken by Wiltshire Council.