As the temperature has started to rapidly fall this week, I am sure for many of us the concern of higher energy prices is on our minds. Talking to many people I know, they have left turning on the heating to later in the year, a decision which was made easier with the spell of very mild weather. Now, for most of us, that time has come when the auto button has been pressed and the heating is springing into life. However, for some in our community, it has to be recognised that the increase in fuel cost has meant they cannot heat their home to a level that makes it a warm and comfortable place, which we all should have a right to. To help make a very small difference, we are working with a number of groups in the town that share the concern that people are sitting in cold houses not able to have the heating on when they need it. To support those who are struggling with the cold, a growing network of warm spaces are opening up. The list can be found at www.warmspacesdevizes.org.uk or if you do not have access to the internet, then call the Town Hall on 01380 723333 or pop in, we will be happy to chat with you. The great thing about this initiative is it’s not just about popping in somewhere for warmth, it’s also about having a chat with neighbours over a cup of coffee and making new friends.
On other matters in the town, anti-social behaviour in the town centre has been escalating since the summer and is a real concern for many including the town council. I have joined with Councillors to discuss this growing problem with the police, who share our concerns about the age of many of those involved. As a town council, we are trying to work with a youth engagement agency that is qualified to talk to these young people and find out why they are on such a destructive heading, which not only has a massive impact on those who witness this behaviour, which can be quite frighting to see, but also what they are doing to their own lives and what the longer-term implications might be. Many of these young people are not bad, but peer pressure and lack of support can manifest itself into what we see.
Many of you will have seen that the seating area in the Market Place has reluctantly, been removed as a result of anti-social behaviour and we are working with others to try and put measures in place to control this behaviour. What we don’t want is, to rush to bring back the benches, only to have to remove them again, so I will try to update you as work progresses.
You may have noticed in the Market Place, that 6 giant planters have been placed around the edge, each containing a flowering cherry tree. These are part of our Greening Devizes initiative. Tomorrow (3rd December) the Mayor will be officially dedicating them and giving out small trees suitable for gardens so that a further 75+ trees can be planted in our town. The second phase of this project is to plant nearly 100 trees along Windsor Drive, which will see the group meet this year’s challenge to plant over 100 new trees in the town. Greening Devizes is also working with Wiltshire FA, who are planting 15 new trees on our Green Lane playing field site.
Now that we have turned the corner into December, I can now bring myself to talk about Christmas (or advent as we are technically in). Last Friday, we saw the annual light switching on of the Town’s Christmas tree and the superb display of lanterns made by so many in our community. The event is a collaboration between Devizes Town Council and DOCA and if you were able to attend, I hope you will agree it is one of the best events to start the run-up to Christmas in Wiltshire. This year the event ended similarly to previous years with a fantastic firework display, and even though we had frozen the budget, it was a great display and gave a great end to the event. I would also like to thank our friends from Devizes Town Band who joined us on the night to get us in that Christmas mood.
Finally, our new Market Operations Manager joined us this week. Luke who lives locally and has great organisational skills will over the next year develop a schedule to deliver the sorts of markets we want to see in Devizes. As an organisation, we now have far more knowledge and an understanding of what we want to achieve with the Market Place and Luke will work with our regular traders to help achieve this.
Town Clerk, Simon Fisher