Over the last few weeks, we have been in a pre-election period. As such, I have to be careful to ensure that anything I may say does not influence the way people choose to vote. That period ended at 11pm last night at the conclusion of the count when the outcome of the election was declared.
I joined the prospective candidates at the count, where we watched as each of the votes was carefully checked, verified, and counted before the declaration was made. There can only be one candidate elected, but I have tremendous respect for everyone who is nominated as a candidate as it takes great commitment to put yourself forward and a desire to make a difference. In the end, Vanessa Tanner, a Guardian, was elected and will attend her first meeting on the 11th April 2023.
This morning I attended a meeting hosted by Network Rail to update stakeholders with a short presentation on the interim feasibility study and proposals for Devizes Gateway Station. It was clear from the presentation that the wide interest in the project shown by the community has been a big influence in progressing it to the current stage. Discussions with various groups have given some clarity as to where the station needs to be sited, which has meant it moving a short distance east, with access now to the south side of the tracks rather than the north, as this will help to reduce the traffic impact the station may have on nearby villages. It will also make the access point safer and cheaper to build. There are two aspects to the delivery of the new train station, one being the construction of a station which includes good onward transport links, that need to promote sustainable and active travel, but equally importantly, there have to be suitable trains that can stop at the station. This is where the Devizes scheme runs into difficulties as a stand-alone project as there are concerns that it is not cost-effective to either stop the fast intercity services or simply extend existing local services and for this reason, it’s unlikely the project will happen by itself. However; as part of the interim feasibility study, what has become very clear is that Wiltshire has a clear railway strategy, and as one delegate puts in, “we have plenty of railway lines in Wiltshire, just the trains don’t often stop at them!” So, what next? First of all, the Devizes Gateway project is still very much alive and now key to a wider scheme that possibly sees new services between Reading and Westbury that will stop at Devizes every hour, but what is equally important this new scheme will start to sort out issues network rail have in the wider Wiltshire service, so whilst the project has not got the green light yet, it has taken another half step closer to reconnecting Devizes to the railway.
Yesterday, joined by our consultant, I met a number of businesses from the Hopton industrial estate to talk all things gulls. We have brought a consultant on because, despite our best efforted, we have not been able to gain suitable licensing to control the growth in the urban gull population through egg removal. The meetings were very positive and what we do know is we need to start to work with these businesses to minimise the opportunities for gulls to build nests in the first place as this is the most effective way to reduce the local population and only when we have exhausted all we can do Gull proof building can we then start to really put pressure on Natural England to allow us to look at supplementing the work we are going to do with an egg removal program.
Issues around the Crammer management are still giving concern to many in our community with feeling running high at this week’s council meeting. Whilst progress on this project has been slower than any of us would want and whilst it is easy for me to say that the Council is committed to taking this project forward, it is time to deliver some action which is what we are going to do by meeting with stakeholders such as the friends of the crammer to develop a management plan for which is right for both the heritage of the areas as well those who consider it to be their home.
Town Clerk, Simon Fisher