Earlier this week a number of the Town Councillors and I met with traders from the Shambles to discuss the massive increase in the utility charges for the building. It was a positive meeting with all those involved recognising that these are difficult trading times, but the burden of extra costs on a commercial operation cannot simply fall on the Council taxpayer. In December the Council deferred making a decision on setting its annual budget as the late notification on the level of increase in utility costs for Shambles resulted in the planned budget not balancing and without further discussion with the trader, it was felt it was not right to go ahead and set it. Now that we have met with traders, next Tuesday the Council will meet again to set the 2023/24 budget and therefore council tax charge for Devizes Town Council. For a full copy of the draft budget, visit the Town Council’s website and look for the Full Council agenda.
Regular visitors to the Shambles will know that this time of year could be likened to a wind tunnel, with any energy used to make it warmer for the traders simply being lost. We are currently working with an energy-efficient company to see what future investment in the space will deliver a much more energy-efficient environment. I will keep you updated with our plans as they unfold.
The Council has been working in partnership with Devizes Budo Club for some time to try and find a suitable site for a martial arts centre in Devizes. Many local people in Devizes have been associated with Devizes Budo Club over the last 50+ years, as they have trained young local athletes and taught them respect and discipline. In 2013, the Budo Club lost their own facility, when the land it was on was sold for housing and since then they have been looking for a new home. Working with the Town Council, we have been trying to support them by looking at suitable sites on land we own. Next week, the Council will again review the options, following discussions with interested parties and decide if Council land can be made available.
Last Monday a few councillors attended a Devizes Development Partnership meeting and were given an update on the work being undertaken by the Council’s consultant to support the justification of a train station for Devizes. It is an immensely complex and drawn-out process, with many factors to take into consideration but it is hoped to submit the Strategic Outline Business Case for the Gateway Station to the Department of Transport in the spring. This Strategic Outline business case pulls together an outline justification for the station. The station will support the local economy and local employment, traffic management plans, railway scheduling implications and the impact on the local environment, as it will be placed within the local Area of Outstanding Beauty, amongst other factors. On 8th February the DDP will be holding its AGM at the Town Hall, and a further update will be given to those who are attending. Devizes Development Partnership will be working with a number of organisations, individuals and businesses to help develop initiatives but also build other strategies such as tourism strategy as this will strengthen the business case. If you would like to know more about the work of the DDP come along to the AGM or get in touch with me. We are also looking for support for projects as the railway station scheme progresses.
Today, official notification has been posted that there is a casual vacancy for a Town Councillor at Devizes Town Council. What happens next is 10 residents need to ask the Returning Officer at Wiltshire Councillor to hold an election, for a new Councillor. If the Returning Officer fails to receive such a request, then it will be for the Town Council to co-opt its own new members, but in the nearly 30 years that I have been at Devizes Town Council, no new Councillor has ever been co-opted. By the 3rd of February, we will be officially told if an election is to be called and at that point, those who wish to become involved in the work of the Council will need to seek nominations, with an election taking place no later than the 6th of April 2023. If you would like to know more about what is involved in becoming a Town Council, feel free to give me a call for a general chat or if you feel more comfortable, speak to one of our Councillors, who will be able to give you first-hand experience and advice
Town Clerk, Simon Fisher