Further to recent discussion of plans for our High Street, I found myself in a difficult position. I recognise absolutely the need for Covid-safer streets and looking to the future I would love to see a cleaner, greener and even more attractive town centre. However, I felt that the addition of red plastic bollards along the entire length of both sides of the High Street, was not going to move us effectively towards that ambition.
Furthermore, and fundamentally important, I felt the loss of around 2000 plus shopping opportunities each and every day (115 well used parking spaces each offering 20 x 30 minutes free parking per day) would have a devastating impact on our local independent shop keepers. These small business owners are the local heroes who add colour and individuality to the Marlborough retail offer. Their livelihoods depend on our support, and the success of our town depends on the broad range of interesting products they offer for sale.
I would like to see a strategic long term plan developed for Marlborough Town centre. We need a vision for a Marlborough, identified by consulting with the wider community, and the Town Council working together with the Wiltshire Councillors who represent all residents from the whole Marlborough area.
A strategic plan would allow us to identify collective ambitions, establish key walking, cycling and vehicle routes, pinch points and parking issues. We need to recognise the important and attractive spaces which draw visitors. We have some wonderful open spaces, such as Cooper’s meadow, cafes on the river, and the brilliantly imaginative community initiative Kennet Place right in the heart of our town.
Marlborough in Bloom fills the town with colour every summer. All of these things, and many more, make Marlborough special. The Town Council have already put a great deal of work into the well developed and excellent Marlborough Neighbourhood Plan (to be agreed by referendum in due course). Much of the information it contains could be transferred to a strategic plan, so we already have a great starting point.
Several years ago fifteen of the parishes surrounding Marlborough developed ‘Traffic plans’. These plans have allowed the villages to sensitively develop their spaces, and achieve traffic calming measures funded through the Community Area Transport Group.
The plans support strategic development, so that each improvement leads on to the next, all moving cumulatively towards clearly defined goals. Plans and joined-up really thinking do work.
Covid recovery will be challenging, High Streets across the land were already facing significant challenges. We need Marlborough to become an even more attractive shopping and leisure destination, whilst not losing our essential character and regular local trade.
How can we achieve this?
Through better communication, more consultation and a clear long term plan. I love our town and I want us to make Marlborough special — together!
Wiltshire Councillor for West Selkley (the villages surrounding Marlborough)