When members of the Marlborough committee investigating how Wiltshire Council’s campus policy could help the town met with senior Council staff and Councillors, they were told firmly that there was no more money and the campus policy was closed.
That was sometime ago. Starting with the Springfield Community Campus in Corsham, several towns have had major new community facilities built under the ‘campus policy’. The Marlborough area gained not a single penny from the Council’s generous funding for this multi-million pound policy.
Last week Wiltshire Council approved an extra £3million pounds for the much delayed Melksham Community Campus project – which includes lots of new sports grounds and sport club facilities. That will take the Melksham costs up to £23 million – and it is certain that the people of Melksham will eventually be able to enjoy their Community Campus.
The press release announcing this extra money described their new facilities: “The designs for the modern Melksham Community Campus include a six-lane swimming pool and a learner pool, fitness suite, dance studio, library and community hub, sports hall, a café and office space. This will be in addition to the cricket pitch and outdoor bowls. Two new tennis courts were provided earlier this summer.”
When Marlborough’s Youth Centre was taken over (on a lease from Wiltshire Council) by the Town Council, Wiltshire Council did not even pay for maintenance that was due on the building. The only ‘Wiltshire Council money’ towards turning the building into a Community and Youth Centre came from the Area Board.
That funding – £10,000 – was very welcome. But it just meant that other worthy causes in the area could not bid for that money from the Area Board’s finite annual budget. It was definitely not part of Wiltshire Council huge Campus budget.
Marlborough.news asked Wiltshire Councillor Nicholas Fogg about Marlborough’s absence from campus project:
“Quite a while ago, I was involved in the initial stages of the proposal for a campus for Marlborough. Rather than go for the heart of the matter and prioritise looking at potential sites and the various outstanding needs that had to be addressed, we were told we had to examine extensively various irrelevant trivialities before moving on.”
“I came rapidly to the conclusion that there was no possibility that such a proposal should come to fruition here and that I was wasting my time. Would I had been wrong, but, sadly, I wasn’t.”
“I am not against the provision of an excellent facility in Melksham, but an extra £3 million sounds unconscionably to me like extremely bad planning. That money could have been used to better effect if spread to answer pressing needs around the county.”
“The youth project here shows what can be done by voluntary effort. Would there was a consciousness of the need to support all this self-giving by essential pump-priming to further progress. Even modest sums can bring huge returns, as Marlborough has shown.”
“I can’t help feeling we were better off under Kennet District Council.”
To add insult to injury, the announcement of the extra £3 million came on the same day that Wiltshire Council adopted new ‘equality and inclusion objectives’. Among the agreed priorities was “Accessibility of services being equal for all…”
It would take irony into the realm of fantasy if it was discovered that this £3 million came from the sale of Wiltshire Council’s ‘assets’ in Marlborough – such as the amenity land off Rabley Wood View or the St Peter’s School building.