Marlborough’s past heritage should be projected into the future to make its famous High Street more attractive to visitors, and less dominated by traffic by introducing creative changes.
That was the message Marlborough town councillors heard last night (Monday) from Louisa Davison when she presented an exciting project inspired by the community arts and culture group We Love Marlborough.
And to their surprise she launched into poetry at the start of a meeting packed with political argument by quoting William Henry Davies:
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see in broad day light,
Streams full of stars, lie skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
“When I was preparing this presentation, I was inspired by this poem written by WH Davies in 1911,” said Louisa. “Compare it to Marlborough High Street. Does it say ‘stand and stare’ or ‘full of care’? Does it encourage us to ‘turn at Beauty’s’ heritage of the town? Or does it encourage us to rush in, do our shopping and leave?”
“Do we want our High Street to welcome people to stay, linger, enjoy or ‘please pass through’?”
She pointed out: “More and more Marlborough people – Transition Town, town centre planning group, Chamber of Commerce, Vision Marlborough, brand Marlborough – are considering how the town can be more attractive and friendly for local shopping and a tourist trade that lasts longer than a visit to Polly Tea Rooms.
“Part of this is to lift the High Street from under the weight of cars and parking and allow our beautiful town to shine through, how to shift importance away from cars and towards pedestrians. After all, unless traffic is simply passing through, even those people in cars need to get out and walk.”
“At the moment there are just two public places to sit. Even a bench bought and paid for by the Community Area Transport Group and sitting in a Devizes depot has found no home.”
“Despite the record breaking width of the High Street, the pavements are too narrow in places to stand and chat. And, apart from the library, there are no public notice boards.”
She added: “So 'We Love Marlborough' are conducting an experiment. To create something new and exciting that will contribute to the history and heritage of the town and show what can be achieved with a little imagination and co-operation.”
“It would do the following:
Create a focal point in the middle of the High Street;
Provide a place to display community information.
Be a place where teenagers to tourists, men in flat caps to shoppers can meet up, watch the world go by, or find out what they can do at the weekend.
“This beautiful and functional piece of public art would be created by an artist chosen by a panel of local people. It would have seating and possibly a bike rack.
“We see it as sitting right in the central strip of parking, taking up two or tree spaces. It would have a special road texture from each pavement to function both as a courtesy crossing and to help it claim its space in the road.”
All we need now is the support of the town council, local people and to raise the money…”
Marlborough’s mayor, Councillor Edwina Fogg, generously thanked Louisa for the concept but declared that the ideas needed far more detail and costings before the town council could contemplate such a leap into the future.
But Louisa insisted that while she had discussed the project with Wiltshire Council, she was in a “chicken and egg” situation whereby Wiltshire needed her to gain the support first of the town council before putting the project through its paces.
The town council agreed that talks should take place between We Love Marlborough and Councillor Richard Pitts, who chairs the council’s Amenities and Open Spaces Committee. “We are all looking forward to working with Rich Pitts,” Louisa told Marlborough News Online.
Claire Rumbold Debbie Hartley of SpiritFashion retailer Spirit may be the latest victim of Marlborough's sky-high shop rents, said to be among the highest in the UK outside of London.
But despite To Let signs going up outside her three-storey High Street shop, proprietor Rose Webster has vowed to do all she can to stay in Marlborough, where she has built a loyal customer base of funky thirty to fifty-somethings.
This week, Rose – why opened Spirt at 112 High Street seven years ago – said rents in the town were “astronomical”.
“I'm paying £31,500 a year to be here,” she said. “My shop in Bradford on Avon has the same floor space, and the turnover is about the same, but I'm only paying £12,000 a year.
“I have a friend in Bath who has a lovely boutique, and she's paying less rent than I am.
“People look at Marlborough, they see the grand High Street and the College and they assume there are millions of shoppers.
“There aren't; and the economic downturn since 2008 has had a serious knock on profits.”
SpiritSpirit, which employs five part-time members of staff, replaced the clothes shop Pavilion in 2005. Rose's builder husband, Roy, fitted oak floors and an oak staircase.”We've created a lovely, inviting retail space here,” said Rose.
In an attempt to manage the spiralling costs of running a boutique, Rose is now looking for a complimentary business to join her at 112 High Street.
“It could be another fashion retailer or something else, like a beautician,” she said. “I'm prepared to share ground floor window display space, and the first floor room – which I'd like to sub-let – has three big sash windows.”
Rose, who owns Spirit outlets in Devizes and Bradford on Avon and, until recently Frome said she had looked at other retail premises in Marlborough, but had found nothing suitable.
“If we don't find another business to share our lovely space, we will have no option other than to relocate,” she said.
- High business rents has been a concern for some time, and is even highlighted in the Marlborough Area Plan 2012 to 2017, which reads: “The high cost of business premises and the need to support new and small enterprises in the face of business closures and job loses is... a cause for concern.”
CCTVBusiness leaders are being urged to make their views known over the a Town Council-funded CCTV scheme in Marlborough High Street.
Town councillors will be discussing the issue on Monday (November 5) at the Town Hall, and Marlborough Chamber of Commerce this week wrote to businesses to jolt them into action.
In a letter to business leaders on Wednesday, Chamber president Paul Shimell wrote: “The Town Council meeting will review the option for having CCTV in Marlborough High Street, where the proposal is for this to be funded by the Town Council.
“You are invited to attend the meeting and the CCTV debate is the first item on the agenda. This is your opportunity to make your views heard, and it is important that if you support, or do not support, the idea that you attend the meeting so that a decision can be made which reflects the majority opinions of the local business community.
Marlborough is the only town on the M4 corridor between London and Bristol without CCTV. Police have said gangs of criminals see the town as a "soft target".
The Worship Mayor of Marlborough, councillor Edwina Fogg, cuts the ribbon to officially open the new Fraser's Budgens of Marlborough convenience store and forecourt. Also pictured are company director Hugh Fraser with his wife Diana, the mayor's consort, councillor Nick Fogg, and company director Robert Fraser with his wife Liz. The first week's trading at Marlborough's new petrol forecourt and convenience store at exceeded expectations, bosses said at the official opening on Friday.
And after years of a fuel monopoly by controversial trader Zubair Dean – whose pump prices were at times the highest in the UK, and who was convicted in 2005 of short selling fuel to the tune of around 2p a litre – Marlborough motorists seem delighted to be offered an alternative.
Franks Stevens, manager of the £2m Fraser's Budgens of Marlborough development, said: “The fuel has been flying out. We had queues at the eight pumps on Saturday [October 20, the first weekend of trading] and people have been telling us they couldn't wait for us to open.”
The Subway food outlet has also proved immensely popular, especially with students from St John's Academy.
Last week Marlborough News Online reported that pupils were queueing six abreast to buy filled sandwiches; and by the day of the official launch a new queueing system had been put into operation, so that other customers could easily access the store at busy times.
There was also praise for the store's Community Giveaway initiative, which saw three £1,000 cheques being donated to local good causes in a competition that ran on Facebook and culminated in a fun Dragon's Den style event – with good causes pitching their ideas to a voting audience – at the end of September.
A further £3,000 will be given away during the next three months of opening via a customer token drop scheme. “We want to give something back to the community,” said Frank, “and people really appreciate that.”
Mark Wilson, group operations manager with the family-run Fraser's business – added: “A week in we're already ahead of the plan with Subway and the carwash, and the fuel and retail offering have proved very popular.
“It's a terrific start, and this will just grow and grow.”
The store was opened by Marlborough's mayor, Edwina Fogg, who cut the first turf at the site back in July, and helped present prizes at the Community Giveaway in September.
- Bridge Garage has been owned, run and managed by Mr Dean's son, Alex, since November last year as a completely new company in his sole ownership. He told Marlborough News Online this week that, working in conjunction with Wiltshire Trading Standards, he upgraded the pumps to ensure the correct amount of fuel is delivered. "I have spent tens of thousands of pounds, and the reaction of customers has been very positive," he said.
He bought a new tuxedo and hoped he would be shaking hands with Princess Anne at the British Quality Foundation Awards held last night (Thursday) at the InterContinental Hotel in London’s Park Lane.
But 55-year-old Marlborough town councillor Richard Pitts, battling on behalf of his international company, Oracle against Marks & Spencer as finalists for the Sustainable Future Award, walked away empty handed.
“Yes, I was very disappointed,” he told Marlborough News Online. “But M&S had a team of 20 working on their entry. And I lost out, which is a shame.”
“Winning would have given the public an idea of what Oracle is doing in the world, which is very important when energy has become such a vital subject.”
Mr Pitts, who lives in Manton, is a trained biologist who went into IT software development when he was 28 and has since become a global specialist for mapping products with Oracle, where he has worked for the past 15 years.
He revealed his potential triumph at Wednesday’s annual meeting of the now thriving Transition Marlborough organisation, the community sustainability group he helped set up in the town and now runs the monthly Communities market.
And it is through that experience has been able to devote spare time at Oracle creating an energy reduction and sustainability programme given to all 5,000 Oracle employees in the UK.
“All my experiences in Transition Marlborough and my community work with the town council has helped me shape how we deal with sustainability in business,” Mr Pitts told Transition members.
“So I have a big thank you to say tonight to everyone responsible in creating and working with Transition Marlborough because it has helped me save energy within a huge multinational company that works in 164 countries.”
The winner of the Sustainable Future Award needed to demonstrate an outstanding environmental or social contribution to achieving a more sustainable world.
He/she also had to provide evidence of the positive impact on society such as energy saving, waste reduction, lower carbon emissions, community involvement and supply chain involvement.
Available at the AGM were copies of the booklet Mr Pitts wrote, entitled Sustainable Living and Working, that has been distributed to all Oracle employees in the UK with the aim of instilling a low energy, sustainable approach to home-working.
Three Tory MPs, including Marlborough’s Claire Perry, are due to meet Transport Minister Simon Burns on Tuesday to discuss the threatened cuts to local train services.
Thousands of constituents who use Pewsey, Bedwyn and Hungerford to travel to Newbury, Reading and Paddington will be affected if the current Great Western services are not maintained under a new franchise.
The other MPs so far involved are government junior minister Richard Benyon (Newbury) and Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire).
Commuters worries have been outlined in more than 100 letters signed by Marlborough residents, which delivered to Claire Perry’s constituency office in Devizes yesterday (Monday).
A special message was sent to Nick Fogg, a Marlborough and Wiltshire councillor, before Marlborough town council’s meeting last night by Dr Sam Page, chair of Transition Marlborough, which includes a specialist transport group.
“We note that this issue is not on this evening's agenda and are, therefore, extremely disappointed that Marlborough town councillors are not following the example of their colleagues in Great Bedwyn, Hungerford and Pewsey, in condemning the DfT's failure to ensure that the current level of services is maintained by the next Great Western franchise holder.”
She also complained that the town council was “failing to support Ms Perry and Wiltshire councillor Richard Gamble in their efforts to persuade the Minister to revise the 'Great Western Franchise Invitation to Tender', so that it does not lead to cuts in future train services.”
And she pointed out on the grounds that they would lead increased road congestion and associated CO2 emissions, because of increased dependence on private cars, reduced job opportunities for people without cars and an associated acceleration in the exodus of young adults from our town.
A third issue would be falling house prices as our town becomes even more isolated from public transport.
|Pause in West Coast tender battle will help us, reveals Tory MP Claire Perry
Some headway has been made through parliamentary pressure and the delay in granting the West Coast rail franchise, Claire Perry has revealed to Marlborough News Online.
“We have also written repeatedly to the Department of Transport requesting that they review the services specifications in the franchise documents,” she said.
“And I was very pleased to see that there was some movement in this area -- such as reinstating the peak time service to London Paddington and requiring that the service provides a call at Bedwyn.
“However, I do not yet believe that these amendments give us enough reassurance and I will continue to press the Department for more specificity on these services.”
The time element has also changed following the Secretary of State's decision to cancel the West Coast service franchise, when it was about to be awarded to First Great Weston.
“Our own local franchise programme has been ‘paused’,” said Mrs Perry. “I think this pause is very helpful as it will enable us to push for a further review and re-specification of the Invitation To Tender to ensure that any winning bidder is obliged to safeguard our local services.
“While I am reassured by the operating companies that not electrifying the line will not necessarily mean a reduction in services - as dual train modes can still operate - I do think it would be helpful to increase the speed on the line and therefore this is something we will continue to explore.”
Mrs Perry met members of the Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group at Bedwyn station last Friday.
“Claire was very reassuring and is actively trying to resolve the issue,” said spokesman Steve Smith. “She is very aware that any cuts to direct services to Paddington or Reading are not acceptable.”
“Among other anecdotal stories, we made it clear that the hourly Exeter semi-fasts, being removed from the ITT by the DfT, make no sense when it would have provided an adequate service.”
“We asked her to press the DfT to do the decent thing and re-instate the requirement to run an hourly Exeter semi-fast. We pointed out that this would make faster journey times for Plymouth passengers, resolve all our problems and act as a suitable stop-gap until the line is fully electrified.”
Everyone hit by the threatened services is being asked to write to their MPs telling them how they will be hit by a loss of rail links.
“What we need is personal evidence,” said Mr Smith. “How the cuts -- to a diesel shuttle service to Newbury -- will affect you. This can include your rail journeys, your house price fears, fears on the local economy.”
“Does your business depend on the rail service? Quite simply please write to Claire on how it’ll impact upon you or your business.”
Marlborough Mushrooms proprietor Dewi Williams (left) with restaurateur and chef Antonio Carluccio on The Great British Food Revival Exotic fungi business Marlborough Mushrooms took a starring role in an episode of BBC2 series The Great British Food Revival on Tuesday.
During the series ten of the BBC's best known chefs and cooks go on a mission to popularise traditional British food.
And it took an Italian – Antonio Carluccio – to show us how to cook and eat mushrooms, and urge British cooks to move away from the traditional white mushroom.
“You've all become lazy,” he told viewers. “You buy just one kind of mushroom. Between sixty and seventy varieties grow in the British countryside. British shoppers spent £360 million a year on mushrooms, and two thirds are the white variety.
“Come on Britain, be courageous! Mushrooms are not just something to have with your fry-up.”
The restaurateur and chef, who was awarded an OBE in 2007, visited Marlborough Mushrooms, which specialises in the growing of shiitake and oyster mushrooms.
When proprietor Dewi Williams showed the chef the incubation rooms, where mushrooms are growing on rotting logs and harvested by hand, Antonio exclaimed: “My goodness gracious me! Look at this. It's fantastic; spectacular.”
Dewi – a regular at Marlborough Communities Market - spent five minutes of screen time talking to Antonio about shiitakes, which he admitted suffered from their name, because people assumed they could only be used in Asian cooking.
Antonio agreed that the mushrooms were versatile, and popping an uncooked mushroom into his mouth he said “these are small and they taste wonderful.”
“We have to overcome our fear of the unfamiliar and keep British growers like these in business,” he urged viewers.
The chef then headed back to the kitchen, where he used exotic mushrooms to create a Trio of Mushrooms Antipasto.
This week Dewi's wife and business partner Kathryn told Marlborough News Online: “We were so chuffed that Antonio was impressed with our golden oysters.
“Antonio is an absolute guru on our favourite subject and a really lovely man. He and his film crew spent two and a half hours with us, talking to Dewi about mushrooms.
“We then sent two kilogrammes of mushrooms up to London to be used in the cooking element of the show.”
The episode can be viewed on the BBC's iPlayer here.
They say it’s the election nobody wants or knows about, the election nobody will bother to vote in because they have so lost trust in the political system.
But six candidates have now been nominated to stand – on November 15 – for the right to become the Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire, known to be one of the safest counties in the country where crime is at a low level.
But none of the candidates have direct links with Marlborough and only one has so far organised a public meeting within striking distance – at Devizes Town Hall on Thursday (November 1) when Labour candidate Clare Moody will set out her stall and answer questions.
Meanwhile, one of the two independent candidates, Colin Skelton has been threatened with libel action by Conservative candidate Angus MacPherson about a statement he made on his campaign website.
As a result that Mr Skelton has apologised and re-written the statement, which wrongly suggested Mr MacPherson would sack 200 police officers.
“I had been inarticulate in what I had meant to say,” Mr Skelton told Marlborough News Online. “The point I was trying to make was about Conservative Party policy.”
The cut-backs government policy has enforced has not only upset many of the 41 separate police forces across the country but brought forth criticism that electing Crime Commissioners will politicise policing, former Metropolitan police chief Lord Blair controversially telling the public not to vote.
“We have got ourselves into a terrible tangle,” one retired officer told Marlborough News Online. “It is not as if those standing to become commissioners have any serious experience of the complex task of policing, but how one man or women in a huge county can represent the public as a whole is hardly credible.”
“If justice is to be done in this country, then it is those who caused the economic disaster who ought to be seen to be paying for their greed, let alone fraudulent activities. Making the banks pay enormous fines simply reduces their powers to lend money for much needed investment and mortgages.”
“As yet, not a single banker has gone to prison. While that kind of inequality exists, then voters will unfortunately continue to have no faith in our politicians –or the police for that matter.”
The Wiltshire six are:
Conservative – accountant Angus Macpherson, a former councillor in Swindon and a member of the Wiltshire police authority. His election pledges are to help reduce crime, re-offending and to improve police efficiency.
Liberal-Democrat – Warminster bike shop businessman Paul Batchelor, a former town, district and county councillor. He currently chairs the Warminster Neighbourhood Police Tasking Group.
Labour – Unite trade union official Clare Moody, who stood as the parliamentary candidate in Salisbury at the 2005 general election. “It is not the job of the Commissioner to be an alternative Chief Constable,” she declares.
UK Independence Party – John Short, a former deputy chief executive of Swindon Borough Council, where e managed a work force of more than 3,500 and helped control a budget of over £65 million.
Independent – Liam Silcocks, currently employed in IT/Telecoms who has experience working with the Citizens Advice Bureau and is a known anti-police corruption campaigner and wants to set up a commission to review historical complaints.
Independent – Colin Skelton, who has spent 20 years in counter terrorism research as a civil servant and now works to help protect soldiers in Afghanistan. He wants to put 300 new officers on the beat.
Colin Skelton - IndepenentClare Moody - LabourAngus Macpherson - ConservativePaul Batchelor - LibDemLiam Silcocks - IndJohn Short - UKIPWhat will the new £70,000 a year commissioner be responsible for?
1. Appointing the Chief Constable and holding them to account for the running of their force.
2. Setting out a five-year police and crime plan based on local priorities, to be developed in consultation with the Chief Constable, local communities and others.
3. Setting the annual local precept and annual force budget.
4. Making grants to organisations aside from the police, including but not limited to community safety partnerships.
Caffe Nero’s arguments for its right to trade in Marlborough High Street after opening its new café without planning consent have been swept away in a devastating attack from the Kennet branch of CPRE.
John Kirkman, the district group’s chairman, has labelled them as “spurious”, having “no foundation” and also as “rather grandiose” in a comprehensive report he has prepared for the planning inquiry due in January.
He demolishes in particular the claim that Caffe Nero’s takeover of the former Dash fashion store in April has caused “no harm” to the town as not a “highly relevant” planning issue in Marlborough’s case.
And he has damned the survey evidence the company has produced which insisted it has boosted trade and the vitality of the shopping centre.
“If localism is to mean anything, the wish of the local community to preserve the balance (of trade) in favour of A1 retail activity by independents should be given overriding weight in this case,” he declares.
Objectors to Caffe Nero’s appeal against the refusal of Wiltshire’s eastern area planning committee to give its change of use retrospective planning consent have only until the end of October to submit their protests to the Planning Inspectorate based in Bristol.
What is significant is that Dr Kirkman refuses to accept the results of a similar planning inquiry in Stockton – one of 16 out of 17 Caffe Nero has won across the country – as relevant precedent affecting Marlborough.
The district policy involved there made no mention at all of harm or good being caused by the takeover of retail premises.
“In the Marlborough case, absence of harm is not an appropriate measure, since the policy calls for evidence of positive good,” he says. “Absence of harm – or a negative contribution – does not automatically imply presence of good or a positive contribution.”
“There is a neutral position, which is maintenance of the status quo – in this case, the filling of the gap left by the departure of Dash with a store that neither adds to nor detracts from the level of vitality and viability that existed in Marlborough town centre while Dash was present.”
The he adds: “To support their contention that the Caffe Nero shop makes a positive contribution to the vitality and viability of Marlborough town centre, the appellants rely principally on evidence of numbers of visitors, or footfall in the area. “Agents for Caffe Nero counted the customers visiting shops neighbouring 21–22 High Street on Thursday–Saturday, 14–16 June. They counted visitors to five shops to the north of 21-22 High Street (Hamptons estate agents, Marlborough Jewellers, Robin’s Travel Agency, Marlborough Tile Factory Shop, and Maythers gifts and cards), and two shops to the south (Haine & Smith opticians and Dorothy Perkins).
“They claim that their results show that ‘Caffe Nero adds to the vitality and viability of the town centre and generates additional visitors’. We refute those claims.”
“The counting of customers visiting neighbouring shops was notably selective, extending c.63 metres north of 21–22 but only c.25 metres south of 21–22, and not at all down Hillyers Yard.”
“The agents carefully leapfrogged Waitrose, which has a well-patronised coffee shop, and stopped short of The Polly Tearooms, probably the most famous source of morning coffee and afternoon tea in Wiltshire. They ignored Hillyers Yard, which has two more outlets offering coffee.”
“From their counts, they derive an average number of customers visiting the shops ‘in the vicinity’ over a three-day period; then, they base their claim that ‘Caffe Nero adds to the vitality and viability of the town centre and generates additional visitors’ on the strength of the fact that the number of visitors to Caffe Nero ‘significantly exceeded the average’.”
“That is spurious ‘argument’, setting up an artificial criterion for assessment in order to be able to claim a favourable judgement.”
“The fact that their shop attracted more visitors than those counted is not surprising or relevant. The different retail offers in the other shops amply explain the different numbers visiting those shops.”
“It is reasonable to accept that a coffee shop will have a higher throughput of visitors than, for example, an optician’s or an estate agency.”
Mr Kirkman further points out: “The appellants have not even shown that any of the visitors to their store on the days surveyed were ‘additional’ in the sense that they would otherwise not have visited Marlborough town centre on that day if the Caffe Nero shop had not existed.”
“303 customers were interviewed over four days -- Sunday added -- about their purpose in visiting Marlborough town centre. Of those, 153 (51 per cent) said they specifically planned to visit Caffe Nero during their visit to the town centre; 150 (49 per cent) said they visited Caffe Nero because they were just passing and decided to enter.
“To use the planning statement’s own expression, Caffe Nero was ‘parasitic on existing pedestrian flows passing the premises’.”
“Only 52 (17 per cent) cited ‘to visit Caffe Nero’ as the main purpose of their visit to the centre: but that is not the same as saying they would not otherwise have visited the centre, or that there was no other motivation for their visit.”
“The appellants’ claim that ‘It (Caffe Nero) attracts additional visitors to the town centre and generates additional footfall’ has no foundation.”
Claire Perry on Question TimeCaring for the victims of the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal is the most important aspect of the claims now being made, not the media firestorm over who knew what when at the BBC.
Viewers to BBC Question Time were told that last night (Thursday) by outspoken local Tory MP Claire Perry, who was applauded for her views when a questioner asked: Has the BBC been fatally damaged in the public’s mind as a result of the Jimmy Saville scandal?
Mrs Perry replied: “The more that comes out the more disgusting and distressing actually the situation becomes. This is a man who was obviously a predatory paedophile who plied his trade for 40 years and defied successive BBC director generals.
“I don’t think it is particularly helpful now to have a firestorm over who knew what when on the Newsnight programme. The thing I find most worrying – and I think it is the same in the Rochdale grooming cases – is that the voices of the victims have been completely ignored.”
“I am sick to death of young women coming forward years later for whatever reason feeling they could not be believed or listened to. That I think is the real tragedy. And I want to focus on that and make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
“Frankly I think the BBC is doing too much navel gazing over who knew what when.”
But Mrs Perry frequently clashed with other members of the panel, in particularly on whether the latest economic figures showing the UK coming out of double-dip recession are the first green shoots of growth.
“We are coming out of the biggest recession we have had in Britain in peacetime and we are starting to see real growth,” she said. “It might be choppy going forward but it is real growth.”
However, she then asked the audience: “Who actually will go home tonight and talk about the growth figures and the deficit? We won’t.”
“We will go home tonight and talk about the cost of living which is still tough, it's 60 shopping days till Christmas, people are going to have to start paying utility bills because we have a cold snap coming.”
“What we have to keep doing is relentlessly focusing on the cost of living because in my constituency we don’t talk about the deficit and borrowing we talk about what’s coming into our households and what’s going out.”
“And that’s why freezing the council tax, freezing fuel duty, these are the real things that actually make a difference in people’s pockets.”
There were further clashes on child benefit and the suggestion by welfare minister Ian Duncan Smith that it should be paid only to the first two children in a family.
“Child benefit has already been restructured and it is not going to be paid to the richest 15 per cent of families in the country,” said Mrs Perry.
“The average income of families in my constituency is £25,000 and I don’t think it fair to tax those people compared to MPs like Emily (Labour panellist Emily Thornberry) and myself. I don’t think that’s right.”
“It’s a question of fairness. I don’t think it’s fair that families on benefit – and I don’t what to stigmatise people in a certain way – that the decisions they make are different to those people in work have to make.”
“Many people here think very hard about the cost of bringing up a child, the cost of moving house, what it would cost to provide the next bedroom. What IDS (Ian Duncan Smith) is saying that people on benefits should be making those same sorts of decisions.”
It was essential that families were not trapped on benefits for a lifetime, she pointed out, and she added: “IDS is 100 per cent committed to resolving the very tough problems we have in that we have an incredibly complex, badly structured welfare system.”
“The most popular thing we have done is to introduce a welfare cap which means those in benefit can’t earn more than those in work. And Emily voted against that. It’s shocking.”
Alex Dean, owner of Bridge FuelsThe owner of London Road petrol station Bridge Fuels has outlined ambitious plans for the site, which include restoring an historic but dilapidated building.
Alex Dean took over the ownership of the filling station from his father, Zubair, in November last year, and this summer erected Under New Management signs to tell motorists about the takeover.
This week the architecture graduate told Marlborough News Online how he has been working on a plan that will see two 18th century buildings – which served as a Porsche showroom for motor company Dick Lovett in the 1980s, before being converted into a filling station, and have listed features inside and out – restored and converted into two family homes.
The adjoining Antiques Emporium, which is not listed, could either be converted or demolished, and a new house built on its footprint, said Alex.
And he denied rumours that that the whole site would be levelled to make room for a riverside housing development.
“I've had regular approaches from developers,” he admitted, “but it's not something I'm interested in. I've got a viable business here, and I want to make a go of it.
Alex said he had bought his father's assets – which include the Golden Arrow services on the A4 between Marlborough and Hungerford – in November last year.
“I set up a new business, called Bridge Fuels,” he said. “I own it, and my father isn't an investor in it. He's retired now. I looked at the figures and reckoned there was a viable business opportunity here.”
Alex Dean in front of the 18th century buildings on the Bridge Fuels siteWith his brother Daniel, Josh and Oliver – all of whom grew up in the town, attending Kingsbury Hill House School – Alex said he had spent a year building his customer base.
“Every day we get busier,” he said. “Even the opening of the Fraser's Budgens site has failed to dent that.”
Part of the attraction of the new Bridge Fuels, he said, is competitive petrol prices. Logging on to the website PetrolPrice.com he said: “I'm selling unleaded at 132.9p per litre. At Chiseldon it's 136.9p per litre.”
“I chose to be an independent fuel retailer, rather than sign up with a big brand, because it gives me greater flexibility.
“At the moment, the prices for unleaded are coming down. If the wholesale price is low today, I can order it today at that price, get a delivery tomorrow, and sell it at that low price, passing the savings on to my customers.”
He admitted that pump prices would rise again if the wholesale cost went back up, but said that all retailers were in the same situation.
“There's a very small margin for manoeuvrability,” he said. “For every £30 spent at the pump, sixty percent – £18 – goes to the government in fuel duty and VAT, and 40 percent – or £12 – covers the cost of the fuel. Of that, the retailer takes about a pound.”
Other plans for the site include the reopening of the workshops behind the filling station. Alex said he was fielding approaches from mechanics eager to make use of the three-bay workshop.
But, having spent thousands of pounds tidying up and rebranding the forecourt and convenience store, it is the listed buildings that are Alex's next priority.
“I've been working with the conservation and planning officers at Wiltshire Council,” he said. “I grew up in the town, so I appreciate the need to sensitively restore these buildings at one of the main gateways to the town.”
Claire Perry, Conservative MP for the Devizes constituency, has been ordered to pay compensation to the friend she sacked from her office. The judge who heard the case at the Bristol Employment Tribunal also criticised Mrs Perry’s handling of the reshuffle of her office staff.
The complaint against the MP was brought by Mrs Penny Nurick who had worked for Mrs Perry since 2010 and was sacked in February this year. The case was heard before Judge Jenny Mulvaney in September – as reported by Marlborough News Online.
Mrs Perry had claimed that Mrs Nurick was not able to cover a new role in her office that covered both policy and constituency-surgery roles. In her evidence to the tribunal she had admitted that the dismissal by reason of redundancy was unfair – and the judge agreed.
Mrs Perry was ordered to pay Mrs Nurick £1,296.88. This was made up of a basic award based on age and service of £332.29, compensation of £664.59 and £300 for loss of statutory rights.
The sum was calculated to reflect the length of time Mrs Nurick’s employment would have been extended had a fair redundancy procedure been followed.
Finding in Mrs Nurick’s favour, the judge said that the sacking had taken place in an ‘absence of consultation’. There had been no discussion about the new job with Mrs Nurick.
“In addition no notice of the meeting at which she was informed of her redundancy was given and she was not informed of her right to be accompanied at that meeting.”
The new role in Mrs Perry’s office was filled by Tamara Reay. Mrs Nurick lives in Marden, near Pewsey.
Colin Brown, who rode Desert Orchid to 17 wins, councillor Andy Ross, Mike Gatting, mayor Edwina Fogg and consort councillor Nick Fogg, Sport Forum committee member councillor Guy Loosmore and partner Fiona LawsonFormer England cricket captain Mike Gatting, champion jockey Colin Brown and Olympic medal-winning equestrian Jonnelle Richards were among the big names at Marlborough Sports Forum's inaugural fundraising dinner on Thursday.
But as the forum's chairman, town councillor Andy Ross, reminded the sell-out event at Marlborough's Town Hall, the forum was about grassroots sport, as well as giving a helping hand to the stars of tomorrow.
“When I was mayor, I chose youth and sports as my theme for the year,” said Councillor Ross. “I wanted to recognise and publicise the incredible work our clubs do in introducing sport to young people.”
He said Marlborough Rugby Club was attracting 260 young players to its youth and colts teams, while Marlborough Cricket Club boasts around 80 academy members.
“The figures are astonishing,” he said. “It requires a huge commitment in time and effort to bring sport to our young people.”
Now just over a year old, one of the forum's jobs was to fight for better facilities. “Clearly lack of facilities in the town is a constant theme,” he said. “
“The junior football club were desperate for an additional pitch. The forum made a request to the Town Council to consider re-installing an old pitch on The Common.
Lambourn-based national hunt jockey Colin Brown, who rode Desert Orchid to 17 wins, with guest speaker, former England cricket captain Mike Gatting“Now, the pitch is prepared and posts are up and 120 youngsters are now training every Saturday morning using the excellent facilities of the rugby club.
“The coach tells me he is watching the youngsters playing football and rugby and switches them to where they show their greatest aptitude, so we now have some 400 young people playing football or rugby on The Common each Saturday and Sunday.
“I call this a result.”
The forum was also helping the town's sports stars of tomorrow to fulfil their potential. Cricketer Duncan Lorraine was one of the first three recipients of £1,000 grants from the Sports Forum, and updated the 160 guests on his progress and that of the others.
He told how a grant had enabled hockey player Will Seward to join the England squad on a Four Nations Cup tour to Holland, where he scored twice. Will has now been selected to play for the Wessex Leopards under 18 squad, and will be taking part in under 18 England trials.
Basketballer Pip Armitage used her grant to help with travelling costs to attend matches across the UK and to Prague, Poland, Sweden and Belgium. She is now a member of the under 16s England squad.
Duncan's grant funded a tour of Dubai. “Those nine days in the desert were probably the best experiences in my life so far,” he said. “We played four matches, and won three. As for my own performances, I kept wicket and took two catches and two stumpings.
Mike Gatting with Jonnelle Richards, the Minal-based member of New Zealand's bronze medal-winning London Olympics equestrian team “Dubai was an expense my parents had not known about or budgeted for and I am extremely grateful for the grant given to me from the Sports Forum
“This year has brought sport to the fore front of our lives and young children watching athletes excel in the Olympic and Paralympic games can only be inspired and it’s great to know that opportunities are out there for us.
“As a country we want our youth to achieve but the reality of it is our parents still have to pay and organizations like this help massively.
“I’m sure that the Sports Forum will help many other local children achieve their dreams.”
The Barge Inn Community Project (BICP) has had to call in the Insolvency Service (see Lottery-backed Barge Inn community project collapses in debt), close the pub and make the staff redundant. But the rebuilding of the nineteenth century barn that was attached to the Grade II listed pub is to continue and it will open next spring as a visual arts and performance space called ‘The Barefoot’.
The Barge’s owner, Surrey-based businessman Ian McIvor told Marlborough News Online that the barn project has not had ‘a penny’ of Lottery money. He explains that he has a personal interest in the arts: “It’s all my own money.”
click to viewThe autumn issue of the Council for British Archaeology’s newsletter features the barn as an example of a planning application on an important (if dilapidated) building that had ‘a positive outcome’. The nineteenth century wooden barn was not a listed building but, as Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Society’s John Baumber wrote: ‘the barn was “listing” in its own right’ and had become an eyesore.
These barns with their overlap boarding and ad hoc alterations done by ‘agricultural’ joiners, are becoming an endangered design in Wiltshire. Planning permission was granted on the understanding that the barn was dismantled rather than demolished, and a new structure was put up that featured the original timbers.
As John Baumber told Marlborough News Online, “One of the conditions for granting planning permission was that the new building would enhance the look of the Grade II listed pub and also provide a community facility for the village.”
Work has gone ahead. The wood frame was constructed by Green Oak Carpentry from Liss in Hampshire – and their work is finished. The architect, Howard Waters of the Devizes office of Mathewson Waters Architects, says that the structure is now “weatherproof and watertight”.
Work has started on cladding the exterior in oak – something that can only be done when the weather is damp. As Mr McIvor admitted wrily, they could have gone ahead with this work during the summer – had they known how wet the summer was going to be.
Mr McIvor describes ‘The Barefoot’ as “A nice little project” and believes it will be a good thing for the pub – attracting custom. The Barefoot’s own website will be launched later this year and an announcement will be made as to how the space will be used – whether for exhibitions or for hire for performances “that fit its ethos”.
As to The Barge, he sees the financial failure of the BICP as a “temporary setback - we’ll soon get a new tenant taking over the pub to run it professionally.”
The whole site – including The Barge, the barn and the surrounding canal-side land – was bought by Ian McIvor in March 2010. He sold a twenty year lease on the pub to the BICP who won a grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s Village SOS programme.
The BICP closed the pub for a major refurbishment from February to April 2010. Its reopening was heralded by a BBC television documentary and the Honeyfest music festival – which brought Laura Marling to Honeystreet.
It is reported that Honeyfest lost the BICP over £50,000. In Mr McIvor’s view it was “A bit of a vanity project.”
The sign on the new barn structure says it will be ‘An inspirational space for the Arts – Funded by Honeystreet Ales.’ Honeystreet Ales appear to be easier to drink than to locate as an organisation or company. In fact Honeystreet Ales are brewed by Stonehenge Ales of Netheravon – it says as much on The Barge website.
Honeystreet Ales is apparently what they call in the trade a ‘phantom brewery’ and the BICP had to buy their beer from Honeystreet Ales. And Honeystreet Ales is owned by Ian McIvor. In that respect The Barge was like a ‘tied house’.
Mr McIvor has not been able to get to the bottom of where all the money has gone – “And we may never get to the bottom of it.” He reckons that the BICP has had well over £1.5 million through its books since they bought the lease just over two years ago.
It is understood that the major Big Lottery grant was £430,000 and prior to that there was a £50,000 grant for a feasibility study. BICP had a loan from the local Lloyds TSB of £25,000. They also had £25,000 from the closed Pewsey Arts Centre – though some of that may have been returned. The pub’s turnover was £480,000 in the first year of trading and £550,000 in the second year – that’s net of VAT.
Mr McIvor is quite critical of the Big Lottery as the objectives set in the grant have not all been met. These included building a village shop and a new toilet block for the camp site, proper drainage for the site and renovating the exterior of the pub and surrounding areas.
It is reported that BICP owes a six figure sum in VAT payments. Mr McIvor cannot understand why it took the BICP two years to get VAT registered: “Two million or so other firms seem to manage it.”
There was a warning that BICP’s finances were in some difficulty in June 2012 when their auditors found “the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.” This warning appears to be connected to the looming VAT crisis.
The Big Lottery Fund told Marlborough News Online: “We are sad that after so much hard work and determination, the Barge Inn Community Project has reached this point. It is an incredibly difficult time for any new business to get on its feet, not least one run by community volunteers - with exacerbating factors including wet summers, harsh winters and a difficult financial climate. BIG will continue to work with the BICP project team to ensure they are supported, and help them find the best way forward.”
“Being a distributor of Lottery funding allows BIG to make innovative investments and take the kind of calculated risks that funding from other sources may not be able to. Funding this project did present some risks, especially as the group were a newly formed organisation that had not managed a Lottery grant before. BIG felt these risks were appropriately balanced against the outcomes we were seeking to achieve: inspiring rural communities across the UK to take positive action to tackle local problems or answer local needs.”
A spokesman for the Big Lottery added: “We do monitor grants throughout their lifetime and we have worked closely with the project since the grant was awarded to help them try and overcome challenges they have faced.” Marlborough News Online has put several specific questions to the Big Lottery and awaits their reply.
An exploration by young people of the iconic white horses and chalk hill figures across Wiltshire is being boosted by a £30,100 grant from the Hertitage Lottery Fund.
The money had been awarded to Wiltshire Council for its exciting Virtual Landscapes project, due to take place in four locations – Pewsey, Ludgershall, Westbury and Tidworth.
The project, being carried out by young people aged from 11 to 25, will focus on the heritage of the white horse figures, providing an opportunity to explore their identity and significance through creative media activities, storytelling and reworking old media and archives.
The aim is to bring new life to the figures from the landscape that surrounds them, Wiltshire’s chalk hills being unique in the UK as the home of eight white horses dating from ancient to modern day.
The project looks at why they are important to young people in Wiltshire and their significance for the transitory military communities.
“It’s brilliant we have received this lottery funding to help young people from the county learn all about the heritage, history and significance of these recognisable landmarks,” Stuart Wheeler, the council’s Cabinet member for culture, told Marlborough News Online.
And commenting on the grant award, Richard Bellamy, HLF's acting head of south west, said: “Although chalk figures are found in other parts of the country, they are a characteristic feature of Wiltshire’s rural landscape.”
“The fact that so many have survived in the county and that in some instances new figures have been created, is a tribute to the motivation of local people in caring for them. We are delighted to support this project, which will stimulate the interest of a new generation in the figures, ensuring their survival into the future.”
The project will enable young people from the four areas to discover the origins of them by working with heritage professionals, visiting the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, in Chippenham, and the chalk hill figures. Professional artists will work with the young people to help them create their own interpretations using a range of creative media technologies and to share them with friends and relatives online.
Virtual Landscapes will also offer young people involved the chance to achieve an Arts Award, a nationally recognised qualification by taking part and sharing their experiences with others.