Last week was one of our committee weeks and that meant there was plenty for the Council to discuss. Applications for larger housing developments are always something that the Council takes seriously and whilst they are nearly always controversial, as a Council we have to be mindful of their compliance with the local development plan. The proposal to build 180 houses off Marshall Road is such a plan and whilst much of the application is in compliance with the local plan the Council did raise concerns with the Planning Authority about the layout of the site as it abuts Slate Lane, which is a rural environment and therefore should have some form of buffer between this area and any new housing. The Council also felt that improvement could be made to the layout, as changes in National Planning Policy places greater emphasis on the quality of design through “Build Beautiful Concept” and it was felt that there were some shortcomings here.
Other issues discussed by the Council included the operation of the café in the park and how we can improve profitability, whilst ensuring it still delivers the community benefits it does. Shortly we will be launching some consultations to gauge views from both users and non-users of the facility about what we can do better.
Away from Council decision making, you may have seen that our open spaces team are busily putting out hanging baskets across the town centre and flowerbeds are being planted up. It will take a week or so to complete this work, but it will mean that summer truly has arrived, even if it does not always feel like it. We are also pleased to see that some of our managed wild areas are coming into flower, which is always nice to see and it means wildlife habitats are being increased year on year, thanks to some of the great work being done by members of the community to help us manage some of our public open spaces in a more environmentally conscious way.
At the end of last week, I had a chance to take part in the Wiltshire Towns Conference at County Hall and for my sins, I was asked to talk about how we are working with the community on various projects. I really believe that community partnerships are the key to supporting Town Councils to be more effective organisations in our communities which in turn helps to make our towns great places to live, work and visit. I do recognise that we have more to do, but I genuinely believe that the partnerships we have made with many community groups have helped to deliver projects like wider sustainability initiatives, greening our town, the operation of the Covid 19 Support group and helping to increase the plethora of community arts events so many of us enjoy.
For many, the condition of the Crammer is becoming of growing concern and the Town Council understands this. We all recognise the importance of the Crammer as a town asset and therefore great care needs to be taken in its future management to ensure we respond to the town’s concerns but also balance its historic legacy, environmental impact and cultural legacy. Following a peer review by Council’s Sustainability Working Party, a small task group was set up and is currently engaging with the Environment Agency to better understand the problem affecting the Crammer and to gain a better idea of what our options are. Once that work is done, we hope to set up a group of key stakeholders to develop an action plan which will be followed up with consultation with the wider community to help set priorities for the project
Finally, with many in the country celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen, I hope you will have a chance to join many of the street parties that are going on in the town or enjoy some time in Hillworth Park on Sunday afternoon at the “Big Picnic” and also visit the Town Centre on Saturday morning for the market and street entertainment as well as see many of the fantastic Jubilee window displays put together by our independent businesses.
Town Clerk, Simon Fisher