PLANS to refurbish Melksham House ‘cannot be delivered’ within Wiltshire Council’s current budget of £2million.
These are the findings of a report submitted to Wiltshire Council’s cabinet, that will be considered next week, requesting ‘access’ to an additional £2.2million – ‘to be funded by borrowing’ – for the plans to refurbish Melksham House into a ‘multifunctional and flexible hub’ for the local community.
According to the report, a total of £4.2million is needed to ensure that the Grade II listed building can be ‘brought back into use’.
The council has requested access to the additional £2.2million in light of their failed bid for government funding from their ‘levelling up’ fund.
“A total capital budget of £4.2m is included within the approved capital programme for Melksham House, however £2.2m of this required approval from cabinet to proceed if the levelling up bid was unsuccessful,” explains the report. “The £4.2m budget will all be funded from borrowing and has been budgeted for within the existing programme.”
The future opening of the Melksham campus, currently under construction adjacent to Melksham House, is also ‘intrinsically linked’ to next week’s decision.
Planning consent for the occupation of the campus building is conditional on having an approved scheme and timescale for the redevelopment of Melksham House.
“The first part of this condition is complete – a scheme for the redevelopment of the house was approved by planning on 7th October 2021,” says the report. “In order to open the campus there still needs to be a commitment to undertaking the works to Melksham House.”
The report also proposes that £600,000 be approved for the demolition of the Blue Pool building.
The report says, “Whilst the future of the Melksham Blue Pool site has yet to be agreed demolition of the building is recommended. This will not only increase the value of the asset but provide the ability to look at development opportunities in Melksham town centre together with other redundant council assets such as the library building when it locates to the new campus.”
And to discuss the future of ‘redundant council assets’ a ‘Place Board’ working group is proposed to be established for Melksham to discuss a potential masterplan for the town.
The proposed Place Board could involve Wiltshire councillors, Melksham Town councillors, and other community stakeholders, discussing the future use of sites such as the library and the Blue Pool that will be ‘surplus to requirements’ when the campus is open.
As the community awaits the outcome of next week’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday 14th December, Wiltshire Council’s cabinet member for housing, strategic assets and asset transfer, cllr Phil Alford – who is also a Melksham Town councillor – has offered some reassurance about the council’s commitment to the plans.
“Rest assured we are fully committed to Melksham House,” said cllr Alford in response to a question from cllr Jon Hubbard, in his role as a Wiltshire councillor, at a cabinet meeting last week.
Cllr Hubbard had asked for reassurance about the council’s commitment to the Melksham House plans following the failure of their bid for around £5million from the government’s Levelling Up Fund.
In response to an additional question from cllr Hubbard about when Melksham residents can expect to see evidence of ‘spades in the ground’ at Melksham House, cllr Alford said, “Subject to consideration of that report [on Melksham House at next week’s cabinet meeting] the works are intended to commence in the summer of 2022. In advance of this, enabling works will commence in early January 2022.”