I was pleased to see on marlborough.news that three Wiltshire Councillors are urging a compromise on the Town Council’s reckless decision to scrap free parking in the High Street as a Covid-19 recovery measure.
My own view tallies with that of Robert Warner in his letter to you. The free parking encourages me to make quick trips into town by car. Without the free parking I shall prefer Pewsey for the Post Office and short term food shopping. An alternative could be to offer more 30-minute paid parking spaces beyond the High Street – as, in more normal times, these are often not available on the High Street.
In her letter, Councillor Jane Davies calls for a strategic plan for the town centre. The problem with Marlborough is that Wiltshire Council – as the planning authority – has been intent on both packing the town with housing and selling off any land and assets it owns to raise money. There has been no consequent investment in infrastructure – apart from its small share of St Mary’s School.
We should be aware that Wiltshire Council has treated Marlborough as a cash cow and denied the town the kind of investment it has lavished on other towns in the county.
The decisions on where to spend the money on the ‘Campus Policy’ appears to have been political. Huge sums for Melksham – something of a LibDem stronghold, and for Corsham – to help oust the only LibDem MP in the county. If this seems far fetched, when a Freedom of Information application was put to Wiltshire Council to see decision-making emails etc among councillors and officers about the denial of Campus-type funds to safely Conservative Marlborough, I was told there were none. Therefore the decision must have been taken by Wiltshire’s Conservative councillors meeting as a political entity.
And do not let them tell you that they are obliged by law to sell assets to the highest bidder. Wiltshire Council has given Melksham House (the centre of the now redundant community and sports centre) to the community. Would that the Council had done the same with St Peter’s School.
So we should not expect very much at all from any strategic plan – beyond the town’s own Neighbourhood Plan. And we should be clear that for years several of Marlborough’s town councillors stood out against investing in a Neighbourhood Plan. They said it was too costly. But one wonders about their real political reasons.
Finally, everybody should remember that the High Street is actually the A4 in disguise. Until the A4 traffic along the High Street is reduced in some way and the new speed restriction policed, the High Street will remain a problem rather than an obvious asset to the whole town.
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