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Fresh start for Melksham campus

Melksham Campus.

Melksham Campus.

EXCITING new ideas have been unveiled for the Melksham campus which could include a brand new entertainment and function hall to replace the Assembly Hall.

Facing heavy criticism over the campus, Wiltshire Council has come up with a range of new ideas to cover a funding shortfall and promised a ‘new era’ of openness to keep local people informed of its plans.

An ambitious ‘wish list’ for the campus would be £5.5million over budget but the council is looking at a range of new initiatives which could bridge the gap.

One key new development is to incorporate a new large function and entertainment hall into the campus to replace the Assembly Hall.

Although these plans could be controversial, council leaders have said they would offer a ‘cast iron guarantee’ that the new hall could not be shut down in the future.

Melksham Town Council, owners of the Assembly Hall, have said it is happy to explore this idea.

At a press conference on Monday this week, councillor Jon Hubbard said, “We have got a really ambitious wish list for the campus but there is a £4.5million shortfall – £5.5million including a redevelopment of the Market Place.

“We are being very open and very honest about this and perhaps, in the past, we haven’t been as open as we should have been. We’re pressing the re-start button.

“Over the next couple of months we will be looking at how to bridge that gap, what we can afford and what we want. We want to deliver all the wish list and we will be looking at ways we can do this.”

Replacing the Assembly Hall would be a key component of bridging the funding shortfall. By having a new community hall, this would allow the Assembly Hall and existing swimming pool land to be sold off for development, with the funds going into the campus development.

Having the hall as part of the campus would also mean significant savings going forward including staffing costs. The hall could also be designed with a more flexible set up, which retains a large hall, but allows it to be split into smaller rooms to cater for a wider range of functions. Its bar could also be used for groups using the campus.

Absolute guarantee

And cllr Hubbard said if the plan went ahead, the new hall would be safeguarded. “There may be concerns about not having control over the Assembly Hall if it is part of the campus but there would be an ‘absolute guarantee’ put in place to secure its future.

“The future of the hall will not be put at risk. The town council is absolutely dedicated to it. It is a massive asset to the town and its future will be safeguarded.”

Monday’s press conference also brought a promise from Wiltshire Council to involve the community in future decisions.

Cllr John Thomson, who has recently taken over as Wiltshire Council’s cabinet member for campuses, promised more openness going forward. And he said there had been no decision to take out any of the facilities planned

“We will try to put at ease any misconceptions which people may have,” he said.


“We are looking at range of ways that the campus could be brought within budget but that does not necessarily mean that we cannot deliver the services that we have aspired to.

“Our target is to deliver the wishlist that Melksham wants and needs. We need to bridge the gap between what we can afford and what the town wants and we are looking at innovative ways to do this.”

Amongst the ideas are attracting new partners onto the site including, for instance, the police and health organisations; looking at ways clubs could share space; and making savings on the design.

“For instance, the curved sides planned on the building are very costly,” said cllr Thomson. “I would rather see priority given to the facilities rather than an award-winning design.”

Wiltshire Council also plan talks with Melksham Town Council on integrating the town council offices into the campus development to save administration costs.

This could free up Melksham Town Hall for a new ‘community hub’ in the town.

The ‘wishlist’ for the campus includes: • 6 lane 25 metre swimming pool • 10 metre learner pool •  150 capacity spectator seating •  large fitness suite •  aerobics studio •  indoor bowls hall •  community spaces, including a large function hall • community ict facilities •  library •  café and catering facilities.

The list has been produced by the Community Operations Board (COB), the group set up by Wiltshire Council to liaise with the community. It is not an exhaustive list of the proposed campus facilities but are those that the COB wished to see included following their research and consultation. You can read a copy of this below.

Cllr Hubbard said that COB had done a “a fantastic job.” He said, “Thank you to every member of that team.  They have done an outstanding job.”

Updates on the campus developments will be made at meetings of Melksham Area Board which are open to all members of the public. The next meeting is to be held on Wednesday 9th September at Seend Community Centre starting at 7.00pm.

Click here to read the COB in-depth report.