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A BMX bike track could be created in Melksham, providing young people with a dedicated area to ride their BMX bikes, practise tricks and congregate.
At the full town council meeting on Monday 28th February, councillor Jon Hubbard put forward a proposal for a BMX pump track, a track designed for BMX bikers to practise tricks and to gain momentum with minimal pedalling, at a cost of around £62,000.
Councillors backed the scheme but were divided about a suitable location for the track and how the project would be funded.
Cllr Jon Hubbard said, “This is a proposal to take one of the very tired and little-used, but significantly sized play areas, between Burnett Close, Cornflower Way and Windsor Avenue, to convert it into a BMX pump track.
“When we have done work with young people over the years, when the skate park was being developed, this was one of the things young people always talked about wanting to use. I have spoken to some people who actually know what these things are, which is a distinctive advantage over me just thinking about it. They have come up with some indicative layouts. They think it’s a great site to build it on and they have given some indicative costs of about £62,000 to be able to do this.
“I am confident through my conversations with young people and others that there is a demand for this facility within the community. It’s a good site because although in a residential area, there is a gap between it and the properties.”
“There is another play area offering very similar play facilities close by on Speedwell Close. There will be no tangible loss of facility for young people. It is one where older young people congregate in the evenings anyway. I don’t think there will be any increased challenges of anti-social behaviour there. There will also be a degree of community policing of it because it’s overseen by the residential area. It would be a great thing to deliver for the town, wouldn’t it?”
Whilst councillors were in support of the idea, not all councillors were in support of the proposed location. Cllr Phil Alford suggested other areas might be more suitable.
He said, “I love the project idea but don’t like the location. Speedwell Park is really quite small. Burnett Close Park is a much bigger space. However, it’s not a huge space in terms of cycling round on a BMX. It’s also incredibly close to the residential area. I would have thought a better location for it would be up by the Forest Community Centre area. My feeling is Forest would be a better location.
“The proposed location is too small, too residential and it might not go down well with residents living adjacent to it. I think we should look at other possible sites as there might be a better location for it in the town.”
Cllr Sue Mortimer said, “I think the Methuen play area would be an ideal place for it. They already have a cycle track and a shelter there. I think that area there would suit a BMX track.”
Cllr Hubbard suggested that the project could be funded from funds set aside for play areas and a contribution from solar farm money, a pot of funding received annually by the town council from the Sandridge Solar Farm. Councillors were further divided over which areas of the town should benefit from the solar farm monies as it was suggested that an agreement would need to be sought from solar farm representatives to spend the funds in any areas except those in closest proximity to the solar farm.
Discussing funding for his suggested location Cllr Hubbard said, “I think we approach the solar farm people and ask for permission to use it (funds for the BMX track). I don’t think that there would be a major problem with that.”
Melksham’s mayor cllr Simon Crundell objected to the solar farm money being spent in the suggested location. He said, “I absolutely love the idea but I don’t like the location because of how we’d be financing it. There are two areas where it (solar farm money) should be spent – most of Melksham Forest and most of Melksham East. Melksham Forest is one of the most deprived areas in Wiltshire. I wouldn’t be comfortable asking to spend money outside there just as a point of principle. I think if we are not going to build it in Melksham Forest or Melksham East, then we should not be using that money. I think it is immoral to take money that is supposed to be for the people of Melksham Forest and build it in the most affluent area of the town. I do think the Methuen area will be a better location for this all round. That area is currently eligible for the money to be spent in there.”
Cllr Phil Alford suggested that the council focus on finding a suitable location for the track and then review funding options for the possible locations.
Cllr Hubbard responded, “I am not saying this could not be funded from elsewhere. It could. We could spend two months looking for other opportunities for funding. There is an opportunity there. The solar farm money that comes to us and the parish has always been spent wherever people have wanted it to be.
“I wholeheartedly have heard the argument about the location and I am sure there probably are some better alternative locations. What I am scared of is that this, like so many other great ideas that we as a council have had, ends up in the long grass, bouncing along, with us looking at this, then looking at that. I want to see this delivered. I don’t want to see us talking about it forever.”
Councillors voted in support of an amendment to the proposal, to undertake an exercise to explore other potential sites in the town that could be used for this facility.