So I’m at the end of a two-year service (my family might say sentence!) as Mayor.
It’s been an amazing 2 years with many highs and a few lows. But certainly two years that I will cherish.
After the elections in 2017 the new council set about making the changes that we had promised to the electorate of Melksham.
The run up to those elections had seen play areas closed, the grass not being cut in our cemetery and parks, and the public toilets being closed. All by Wiltshire Council in the name of austerity.
Since 2017, Melksham Town Council has spent over £250,000 on taking over services that Wiltshire has scrapped. Yes, the council tax has gone up but every penny raised in Melksham is spent in Melksham. Spent on essential services that local people say they want.
Residents wanted the Town Council to take on the play areas and the park from Wiltshire. But prior to 2017 Wiltshire had refused to negotiate with us. Luckily we did manage to work with their officers and we started our move towards having more control of open spaces.
We are not there yet. Nothing is signed. It’s been stuck with Wiltshire Council’s legal department for many, many months. In April 2018 the Town Council started to maintain the play areas, mow the park and cemetery. Residents tell us that it has made a huge difference.
So what about the jewel in our crown. The King George V Playing Fields. Usually in Melksham just referred to as the park!
It had been sadly neglected. The paddling pool was left dirty and smelly. Families didn’t go there because it was unwelcoming. The first big decision we had to take was whether to refurbish the pool or remove it.
How would you have voted?
It was such a difficult decision. Wiltshire Council had stopped funding for the paddling pool in November 2015.
With all party support, we took the decision to remove it – but we also promised to replace it with a splash pad in the park. This decision has been widely supported by local people of all ages.
In 2017 the Town Council wanted to improve the park. We put some new toddler play equipment in the area of the former paddling pool. The grass has been cut regularly and the area just given some TLC by our wonderful caretaking team.
The full plans and the phasing of our future plans for enhancing the KGV Park can be found on our web site.
A huge amount of work by Councillors and officers has been needed. I am delighted to report that we will start the work to install this much-needed facility this week.
It has been 90% funded from outside the Town precept by Grant Funds and Solar Farm Funding. The splash pad should be open for the school holidays. Please could I put in a request for the same weather this summer that we had last year?!
I suppose one of the most frustrating things in the town is the continued delays in Wiltshire Council delivering the campus buildings at Melksham House.
The Town Council had wanted to make alterations to the Assembly Hall. However with the delay and Wiltshire Council’s plans changing all the time, the Town Council has been forced to reluctantly put the plans for the Assembly Hall on hold. We must be more secure on the dates for the removal of the Blue Pool.
Access to the Assembly Hall from the Melksham House site would make such a difference to both hirers and punters of the Hall.
The centre of Melksham looks so much better now. The Town Council took on more caretakers to look after our open spaces and Town Centre.
Whether it’s the Christmas Lights or our amazing flowers and flags in the summer. The Town Centre now looks pretty good. We look forward to the Makers Market setting up this month Good Luck to them; any more initiatives like this can be helped and developed by our team in the Town Hall.
A huge thank you to the Christmas Lights and to the Melksham in Bloom Volunteers. Can we go for gold for a third time this year?
I am constantly amazed by the number of groups we have here in the Town. Melksham has to be the volunteering capital of Wiltshire.
From working with young people, older people, vulnerable groups, uniformed organisations…It really doesn’t matter your age or interest. There is a group here to get to know people and make new friends.
Melksham is building quite a reputation for the range of community events that we support in our town. The Christmas Lights, the Party in the Park, the Food and River Festival, all made possible thanks to the efforts of dedicated teams of volunteers, backed up by Council officers as needed.
Wiltshire Council’s closure of Christie Miller was a huge blow to out Town. Sadly some groups have had to leave Melksham – at least for the time being but the Assembly Hall has stepped in to take a lot of classes that used to be held at ‘Christie’
Another low point has to be the loss of jobs at Cooper Tires. The loss of 300 jobs right in our town centre is a devastating blow to our Town. Our immediate thoughts were for the people involved and their families.
The site is a very large area in the middle of Melksham. One’s thoughts obviously turn to think of what the future holds for that site. I’ve been lucky enough to go up the River Avon on a boat – courtesy of the Food and River Festival. It’s an amazing area, full of wild life and actually incredibly tranquil. The possibilities are endless.
That’s why the Town Council is now reviewing plans to regenerate the Melksham town centre. We need to create more local jobs and enhance the shopping opportunities for residents, a huge challenge in today’s internet society where it’s so easy to buy items with just one click.
Melksham is growing very fast. The ever increasing number of new houses is putting huge pressures on local roads, public transport, infrastructure and services to residents. The Town Council needs to be talking to developers to get the best deal for our Town. Sadly new housing developments will go through. Government Policy is for major new house building, and Melksham is now in the Chippenham area for development for 2026 and onwards. This will leave us very vulnerable to more houses on green spaces. So there must be a pay back for residents in terms of improved infrastructure, community, health and education facilities. Built and delivered at the same time as the housing not 10 years later.
I would like to thank the staff at the Town Hall and our caretakers, who are helping us to achieve our vision for the Town.
I want to thank fellow Councillors. We may have had our differences of approach on occasions, but we have worked hard together to achieve consensus over the past two years. It is truly amazing what can be achieved through communication and co-operation. It has been a good way to work.
It has been a privilege to represent Melksham as Town Mayor over the past two years. I have met so many people, at so many events – and to hear from them how much they appreciate what the Town Council is trying to achieve on their behalf.
So I am proud to say that our Town is on the right track. I look forward to more of our Vision becoming a reality.