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Glimmer of hope for country park as councils set date for first meeting

PLANS for a mini country park on the site of the former George Ward School playing fields could finally see progress, with a date set for the town and parish councils to meet after months of struggling to agree on the subject.

In February, Melksham  Town and Melksham Without Parish councillors agreed to  form a committee made up of three councillors from each council to help move the project forward.

The decision brought to an end months of what was described as ‘a game of ping-pong,’ with proposals from each council being rejected by the other, and counter-proposals made in response.

However, after the agreement was made, the councils did not set a date to meet and the game of ‘ping-pong’ continued until mid-April.

At the town council’s community development meeting on Monday 9th April, the committee discussed a letter from the parish council. The letter  informed town councillors that the parish council had resolved that the Wiltshire Council countryside officer and a representative from the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust be invited to the first meeting of the working group; and that there be exploration into the  interest level for the provision  of allotments on the site.

“They are putting the cart before the horse here,’ said the Mayor, cllr Adrienne Westbrook.“I do think that it is appalling of Melksham Without to put two resolutions to us without actually having the decency to have a round-the-table meeting.

“I thought the whole idea of this was to work together. Please can we have a meeting where we discuss things. The two councils are operating independently and that’s not what we agreed to do.”

The parish council’s letter also stated that members concurred that it was not necessary for the councils to hire a landscaping architect or consultant to design a scheme for the park.

“I object strongly to the fact that they say we won’t need an expensive and extensive landscape architect,” said cllr Westbrook. “We were told that would we need an initial survey so that we know what’s there, what the soil is like and where we need to work from.”

At present, the two councils do not own the land, which belongs to Persimmon Homes. “The land will be signed over to us once the councils have met and reached an agreement,” explained cllr Westbrook.

“Persimmon nearly dropped off their seats when we told them that we would be planting 200 trees down there in November for the Melksham soldiers who died during WW1. As far as they’re concerned, they still own the land and we can’t do it.

“Please can we have a meeting rather than resolutions coming to us from them, for us to disagree or agree with, which then bounces back to them.

“We do not have another community development meeting until July. So this now goes back to Melksham Without and comes back to us in July. We are planting those trees in November! We need a meeting!”

The two councils will meet for the first time on Wednesday 9th May.

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