At Monday evening’s (12 April) meeting of the Full Town Council Councillors overwhelmingly agreed to move forward – in principle – with the proposal to create an additional training area primarily for the use of Marlborough Rugby Club juniors and members of the Marlborough Youth Football Club
The wording of the agreed proposal is thus: that the Town Council supports in principle the request to create an additional training area subject to a satisfactory flora and fauna survey and satisfactory cost/benefit analysis.
The vote followed an extensive debate (discussion?). There was clear support from most Councillors for the creation of such an area, although tempered by the comments and results of the consultation, a fifty eight page document which included many of the comments from those for, against and undecided.
In total there were 1,584 responses, most of which (1,525) were via online. Of these two thirds – 66% – were in support of the proposal whilst of those respondents actually living within the Town boundary – 951 – the level of support was 58%, still firmly in the majority.
“That Common is unused” stated Cllr Vanessa Hillier, adding “apart from when I walk there on Sunday and it’s lovely to see the boys playing football and the Rugby Club, and let’s not forget these people are the people of Marlborough” she added.
Whilst Cllr Hillier’s comment was representative of most by Councillors taking part in the discussion, many other such comments noting that the number of people using this area was relatively low.
“I think this project is very important for the children of Marlborough” stated Cllr Mervyn Hall, adding “I think the people of Marlborough have expressed a very definite view in terms of going ahead with it … I’d like to see us make a firm decision as soon as we can make a decision”
Whilst the majority of comments were clearly in favour of proceeding with the creation of this training area, respectful of the proportion of respondees who were in favour, whether they lived within the town boundary or not, it wasn’t universal. Cllr Nick Fogg made the point forcefully that whilst remaining “as objective as possible about this…There is some confusion between a ‘Consultation and a ‘Referendum'”
As ever with this subject there was the unspoken issue of how the entire area of The Common is used. More than half of The Common is taken up by the Golf Club, and whilst many against the proposal were giving their view that this area – 1ha out of around 45 would cut down on the potential area where residents could walk dogs or roam, the area 25ha or so of The Common land occupied by the Golf Club took up over half of ‘everybody’s space’ with limited access afforded to normal members of the public, i.e. non-members of the Club. This is in contrast to the space occupied by the Rugby Club and the Model Aircraft Club, where anyone can walk, at any time (although probably unwise during a rugby match or when model aircraft are taking off / landing). But such times represent only a very small period of the week. A further criticism of this proposal, voiced by many in the consultation is that many of the Rugby Club and Youth Football Club don’t live within Marlborough. Maybe so, but many do, but how many members of the Golf Club also live within Marlborough? And Golf Club land isn’t fully open at all times to non-member users of The Common.
A subject that is never going to coalesce opinions to a universal end. The Common is a valuable asset, potentially there for use by all, which must be respected. If there is any universal agreement it’s that. But it’s not sacrosanct land to be kept ‘pickled in aspic’, it’s there for the people of Marlborough and there to be used by the people of Marlborough. The Consultation made that clear and this was the one theme that emerged from comments by all, whether in favour or against, something that all users of The Common will see, hear and respect.