Former Town Mayor, Mrs Hannaford-Dobson, raises some issues in her letter of 9 November about the play area at Cooper’s Meadow. Your readers may like some clarification on it all.
Councillors certainly agree that this needs upgrading. A S106 contribution of £23,746 was made towards children’s outdoor recreation facilities following development at Ailesbury Court, just off the High Street. This is not a grant, Section 106 payments are legal contributions towards community infrastructure linked to new development. It has not been paid to the Town Council, it sits with Wiltshire Council until drawn down for legitimate projects meeting set criteria and it has been agreed that an upgrade of the Cooper’s Meadow play area fits that. A time limit applies to these contributions, usually 5 years, and this one doesn’t expire until 2019/20.
This means we have time to plan it properly. After some initial consultation with young people and obtaining quotes, it’s clear that this funding won’t be enough for the improvements needed. For example, the play area sits in a meadow, floods and is frequently wet and muddy. This is an opportunity to get that surfacing right and to look at opening up some of the surrounding amenity land with picnic benches, additional seating, etc. So, we are likely to apply for grant funding to stretch that S106 money much further.
Our partners at Action for the River Kennet have no objection to a reduction in the size of the grazing area but, obviously, we don’t want to impinge on the excellent restoration work undertaken by them there. We receive a lot of positive feedback about sheep grazing so close to the Town Centre and a petition was handed over a couple of years ago calling for the Council not to change that arrangement. The site even won a top award in this year’s RHS South West in Bloom Its Your Neighbourhood competition helping to win the coveted gold award for the whole town. It’s conservation at its best but, there’s no reason why a good amenity cannot sit alongside the natural environment.
In the last few years the Council has made proper use of S106 contributions using the money for levelling ground at The Common for junior football and rugby players, a trim trail has been installed there too as well as a new play area at Orchard Road. Money linked to the retirement development at Salisbury Road was used to upgrade facilities at the Bowls Club. All facilities benefitting the community.
Like Mrs Hannaford Dobson, Town Councillors are keen to improve facilities for young people and alongside the new play area are currently working hard towards re-opening the Marlborough Community & Youth Centre at St Margaret’s Mead taken on from Wiltshire Council to prevent it from being moth-balled earlier in the year. Our Action Plan also includes improvements to the recreation facilities at Jubilee Field, Manton.
Finally, please be assured that everyone attending council meetings is very welcome, encouraged to ask question during public question time and will always be treated courteously by the Mayor or Chairman.
Town Clerk, Marlborough Town Council