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Campaign revived for safer A4 west of the College and more cycle-ways

16-01-2018

Accusations of people driving at excessive speed - sometimes with the result shown above - and evidence of poor safety provision for pedestrians along the Bath Road/A4 west of the College, were discussed by the Town Council's Planning Committee of Monday (January 15).  

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Nursery Administrator - Little Saints Nursery, St Francis School

16-01-2018

  Nursery Administrator   Part Time (15hrs per week), Annual (52 week) contractRequired February 2018   Little Saints Nursery, at St Francis School, is currently recruiting a Nursery Administrator to join our caring, passionate and professional team.  The successful candidate will work with the Nursery Manager, taking responsibility for the financial and administration aspects of...

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Hockey: Marlborough men's first team back on form - a clean sheet & eight goals

16-01-2018 Matt Way

Marlborough started the second half of the season - with their home game against Bristol UWE (January 13) - knowing they needed to get back into the rhythm that saw them win their six opening games.   And reassuringly that was exactly what happened. 

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Town Council's plea to Wiltshire Council as decision on sale of Rabley Wood View open space nears

16-01-2018

The controversy over the sale for a housing development of the well-used and safe open space and amenity land off Rabley Wood View, is about to move to County Hall, Trowbridge.  The deadline is approaching for the final decision by Wiltshire Council's cabinet on their plan to sell the land.

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George Lane and London Road to be re-surfaced in April

16-01-2018

Now for some welcome news:  Members of Marlborough Town Council's Planning Committee were told on Monday (January 14) that Wiltshire Council is to re-surface George Lane and London Road in April - the first month of the new financial year.

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Popular Friendship and Mobility Group receives grant from Friends of Savernake

16-01-2018 Sue Round

Great Bedwyn Friendship and Mobility Group has received a £1,000 grant from the Friends of Savernake Hospital and the Community, which will make a substantial contribution towards operating costs. 

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Nursery Assistant (maternity cover) - Lower Nursery (2-3 year olds) - Stepping Stones Nursery

16-01-2018

Nursery Assistant (maternity cover) - Lower Nursery (2-3 year olds)   Stepping Stones Nursery (Froxfield) is a private day nursery based in a beautiful rural location between Hungerford and Marlborough.  We are currently seeking a Nursery Assistant (maternity cover) for our Lower Nursery (2-3 year olds).  Candidates should ideally have a minimum level...

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General Assistant: Catering - Marlborough College

16-01-2018

General Assistant - Catering   We are looking for a reliable and enthusiastic person to join the catering team at Cotton Boarding House.   Applicants will be required to assist the House Chef with the service of food and all aspects of the kitchen operation, including the cleaning duties to ensure a high...

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Great Western Hospital's supplier of meals and services - Carillion - has gone into liquidation

15-01-2018

The construction and services company Carillion has gone into compulsory liquidation - leaving thousands of jobs at risks and vital srvices to be maintained. 

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Tottenham House could become a family residence again - with £3million annual upkeep costs

15-01-2018

A planning application lodged with Wiltshire Council at the end of last month, reveals how the owners want to restore Tottenham House and its Estate and turn it into a very, very up-market and very large residence for a single family - and their entourage.  The House has 240 rooms.

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Snow provides opportunity for horse play

Snow DropSnow DropMeet Snow Drop, a life-sized snow sculpture by Marlborough artist Deborah Burt.

Deborah is an associate member of the Society of Equestrian Artists, and has been running a ‘Snow Horse’ competition on the society’s Facebook page since the bad weather struck.

“We cater for artists of all ages and abilities and with so many people stuck at home it seemed like a fun activity for our members to take part in and to help build our growing online community,” said Deborah.

From a personal point of view, this gives me an opportunity to work on a much larger scale than I would normally, and of course the materials are free.”

Deborah moved to the area last year and is looking forward to taking in part in this year’s Marlborough Open Studio event with painter and printmaker Rosemary Farrer.

Check out snow pictures from around the area here, and do send us your own snow pictures.

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Rural council revolt threat to government brings about reappraisal of “grossly unfair” funding cuts

Andew LansleyAndew LansleyThe government has backed down in the face of a revolt by 120 rural authorities, including Wiltshire, to take legal action against “grossly unfair” reductions in their funding for vital public services.

Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, was warned that the 3.81 per cent rural cuts compared with reductions of 2.05 per cent in urban areas would “crucify” their activities.

And now the government says it accepts that rural areas are under-funded and will give them a boost before the start of the new financial year in April.

Andrew Lansley, leader of the House of Commons (pictured), has acknowledged that the local government settlement was a "matter of concern" to rural MPs in responding to a parliamentary question from Ian Liddell-Grainger, Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset.

Mr Liddell-Grainger had asked for a debate discuss the difference between urban money and rural money before next year's money.

"That still presents a problem, and now is the time to discuss it so that we can get it right for next year," said Mr Liddell-Grainger.

Mr Lansley replied: "That is a matter of concern to many members, including my honourable friends at the Department for Communities and Local Government.  Ministers agree that the evidence shows that rural areas are comparatively under-funded, and that a correction should be applied so that there is proper recognition of the additional costs of delivering services in rural areas"

"I will not elaborate on the details of those adjustments, although I could do so.  Although we will want to have transitional stability in local government, the government recognise that such costs need to be understood and reflected in the formula."

Mr Lansley's response came after more than 45 MPs called on the government to reconsider the impact its funding settlement will have on rural communities.

The situation is significant as a report by the umbrella organisation Action with Communities in Rural England has revealed that those living in the countryside will bear the brunt of Mr Pickles’ original demands.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that families in rural areas spend £50 more a week than urban households while research by the insurance company NFU Mutual reveal that inflation in the countryside is twice the national average.

The cost of transport is the cause of the biggest difference, rural households spending around £20 more because they have to rely in personal cars due to the lack of available public transport.

“There is no doubt that these latest government proposals are a harsh blow to those low-paid rural families who are already struggling to make ends meet,” said Nick Chase, director of policy and research at Action with Communities in Rural England.

“Countryside residents are heavily dependent on their cars due to a lack of public transport, typically having to travel twice as far to reach their nearest shops, banks and post offices compared with those living in major conurbations.

“Rural dwellers are also hit by the comparatively high cost of heating oil, which is often used as a substitute for gas, as many rural villages are off the grid.

“We are calling on the government to seriously consider the impact of benefit cuts on rural communities before rubber-stamping these proposals.”

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Avebury better than Taj Mahal and Pyramids for tourists, says new report

The Avenue, AveburyThe Avenue, AveburyAvebury is second only to a site in Mexico in being the best heritage site in the world for visitors according to a new report.

A panel of experts placed Wiltshire’s UNESCO World Heritage Site just behind Monte Alban in Mexico for visitor experience, outscoring famous sites such as Peru’s Machu Picchu, Egypt’s Pyramids and the Taj Mahal.

The heritage sites were judged on 25 criteria including visitor experience, the presentation and preservation of the site, the ability to learn from and engage with the site and the holiday appeal of the surrounding region.

Stuart Wheeler, cabinet member for heritage at Wiltshire Council, said the impressive monuments and the unique beauty of the stones and the surrounding landscape attracted over 250,000 visitors each year.

“We have always known we have a wonderful piece of history on our doorstep and now we have official confirmation. Being placed second only to Mexico in providing visitors with the best heritage site experience in the world is a wonderful accolade.

“We work closely with our partners and all those who have an interest in this beautiful and historically significant rural site to ensure it is preserved and protected for many generations to come.”

Avebury is featured in the recent Which? Travel Magazine which refers to it as the “best-preserved and most impressive complex of prehistoric sites in Europe.” The report states a key attraction is the “quiet, bucolic setting, the lack of crowds and the ability to wander freely.”

Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust archaeologist for the World Heritage Site said: “The National Trust owns, manages and cares for over 1,600 acres of the Avebury landscape including the Stone Circle and many of its other iconic monuments.

“Our dedicated team of staff and volunteers work year round to ensure that it remains a source of inspiration and delight. So it’s wonderful to see that the very special qualities of Avebury have been recognised in this way.”

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No added horse meat: Marlborough cookery coach shows how to make a better burger

Androulla DerbyshireAndroulla DerbyshireA healthier eating regime in the new year doesn't mean having to give up your favourite meals, according to Marlborough cookery expert Androulla Derbyshire.

And, in the wake of the horse meat burger scandal, home cooking means you know what you're eating too.

Supermarket shoppers have been shaken by today's news (Wednesday) that horse and pig meat has been found in beefburgers on the shelves of Tesco and Iceland.

Androulla, whose Marlborough-based company Culinary Capers offers personal cookery tuition in people's own kitchens, says such scandals make people think twice about food traceability.

“One of the best ways to ensure you're eating the best quality food is to buy from a reputable butcher and cook from scratch,” said Androulla.

The cookery expert this week published a recipe for burgers, chips and shakes to demonstrate how affordable and easy home cooking can be.

To help people struggling with their new year's resolutions to cut out junk food, she produced a range of recipes to replace the nation's fast food favourites, including burgers, chicken, pizza, curry and oriental food.

“People who are struggling to stick to their new year's resolution to eat more healthily, or just don't know where to start, will find my easy-to-cook recipes invaluable,” said Androulla.

“Home cooked food is much better for you than ready meals or takeaways,” she said, “and I want to dispel the myth that it's difficult, more time consuming, or more expensive to cook at home.

Androulla's better burgersAndroulla's better burgers“How can people be expected to stick to diets when they don't enjoy the food? I believe changing your culinary habits over the long term, and learning to enjoy making and eating your own meals, is the key to success.

“Cooking at home will also reduce the cost of feeding your family. My burgers, chips and shakes meal is tasty, nutritious, and costs less than eating at a fast food outlet. It's better for you too, as a takeaway burger meal can contain your entire day's quota of fat, sugar and salt.

“And you can prepare and cook my curry and rice from scratch in the same time as it takes to oven cook a supermarket ready meal. It's better for you, too.”

Androulla launched Culinary Capers in 2012, after years in the catering industry and feeding a hungry family.

Unlike traditional cookery schools, Androulla offers a cookery experience tailor-made to her clients' needs, using their kitchen and equipment, and teaching people to cook the food they enjoy – whether that's eating for one or catering for a dinner party.

For more information log on to www.culinarycapers.co.uk

Recipe: Androulla's burgers, chips and shakes for four

Burgers
500g minced beef (I used lean minced beef with 20 percent fat in this recipe but use the best you can afford)
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices of bread made into breadcrumbs
1 egg
Salt and pepper

Burger buns/rolls
Fry the onion in the olive oil until it is soft. Cooking the onion first ensures it is soft and sweet. Add to the minced beef with the breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and the egg.
At this point you can add any flavourings you like. I added 1 teaspoon of oregano and some ground cumin. You can add other dried herbs like thyme, and spices like cinnamon or ground coriander.
Mix well and then shape the burger mix into patties. Place in the fridge for half an hour to firm up. When you are ready to cook the burgers place them in a preheated griddle pan, grill or hot oven (gas 7, 200ᵒc) for about 4 minutes per side or to your liking.
Halve your burger buns and put your burger together with your choice of lettuce, tomato slices, mayo, ketchup, relish, gherkins or whatever you fancy.

Baked potato wedges
4 medium potatoes cut into chunky wedges
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon of sweet paprika and 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Mix the olive oil, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper together and toss the wedges in the mixture to coat them all over.
Place on a baking tray in a hot oven (gas 7, 200ᵒc) for about 40 minutes until they are crisp and brown.

Healthy, chocolatey fruity shake
200g blueberries
360ml plain Greek yoghurt
80 ml pomegranate juice
1 banana
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons runny honey
2 scoops of chocolate ice cream

Although this milkshake has some ice cream it is still a healthier option than a takeaway shake as the fruit is one of your five a day.

Place all the ingredients in a blender and whizz up to a smooth shake. You can add some ice cubes at the end and process again as this makes the shake nice and frothy.

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Caffe Nero’s claims of boosting visitors to Marlborough town centre declared “misleading and unfair”

Councillor Richard GambleCouncillor Richard GambleTwo witnesses tore to pieces Caffe Nero’s claims at Tuesday’s public inquiry into its appeal for retrospective planning consent that its added value was that it attracted extra visitors to Marlborough’s town centre.

One was John Kirkman, a retired university teacher from Ramsbury, who has been chairman of the Kennet branch of CPRE for 16 years, who revealed that he personally sat inside the café and counted its take-away customers.

And the other was Wiltshire councillor Richard Gamble, the vice-chairman of its East Area Planning Committee, whose arguments overturned the positive recommendation of the council’s own officers when it considered Caffe Nero’s application in July.

He produced evidence to show that Caffe Nero had used “similar figures” of potential customer use for planning applications in other towns such as Devizes, when there were significant differences between them.

And he declared that their statistics should be given no weight.

“Caffe Nero offers us nothing new,” Mr Kirkman told inquiry inspector Phil Grainger.  “The High Street and its associated Hilliers and Hugenden Yards alone have 13 coffee outlets already, not including restaurants and pubs.”

“They include provision parallel to the Caffe Nero offer from Costa Coffee and from a well-established, locally created equivalent at the other end of the street in The Food Gallery.”

“There is a diversity of take-out and eat-in services, such as Barkers, The Polly, and Mercers, in between.”

Mr Kirkman challenged the allegedly independent reports by Allegra submitted by Caffe Nero as to the value of branded coffee outlets in UK towns and Allega’s own survey in Marlborough.  The first report was in fact sponsored by Starbucks.

He tackled the discrepancies between estimates of the take-away trade at Caffe Nero – that it would rise to 30 per cent – compared to a Marlborough town council survey and his own figures from sitting inside the premises.  These ranged from as low as 14 and 18 per cent but never more than a claimed 24 per cent.

And he declared that footfall claims of Caffe Nero attracting new visitors to the town centre were “misleading and unfair” since there was no evidence at all of surveys conducted prior to the café opening and, in any case, Caffe Nero was not comparing like with like as to differing opening hours.

Councillor Gamble informed the inquiry that Caffe Nero’s appearance on the High Street failed to meet the basic strategy in the current Marlborough Area Plan, which identified the “principal needs and aspirations of the community.”

It identified “maintaining a vibrant and healthy High Street” as an issue and the fact that “independent business are being replaced by nationals”.  The plan’s recommendation was to “expand Chamber of Commerce to encourage a wider range of independents”.

The individuality of Marlborough was an equally vital issue but correspondence from Caffe Nero paid little attention to it.

“This was made evident by the fact that a very similar letter indeed was submitted by the same agent in respect of a subsequent application in Devizes,” said Councillor Gamble. “That letter, dated June  19, was received by Wiltshire Council on June 23 and was thus available to view before the committee meeting about Marlborough on July 19.  I noted that the text of the two letters was very similar indeed.”

“Not least, both letters quoted exactly the same figures for expected use of the respective premises despite the fact that the sites were in towns of different character.”

In fact, Devizes is at least twice as large as Marlborough.  Wiltshire Council’s profiles of each community area stated that the population of Devizes was 16,880 and Marlborough was 8,300.  Marlborough, however, is probably more prosperous.”

“Average house prices at that date were quoted as £229,439 for Devizes and £332,050 for Marlborough.  As a local resident and councillor, these differences are well known to me.  I formed the view, therefore, that the case made by the applicant had no specificity to Marlborough and that the figures quoted should not be given any weight.”

The inquiry has been adjourned until February 7.

See Also:

"Caffe Nero is 'the cynical cuckoo sitting in the heart of Marlborough’s successful High Street'"

"Caffe Nero accused of being “parasitic” at major Marlborough planning inquiry into its future"

"Publish online all those companies like Caffe Nero who escape any taxes due, Chancellor is urged"

 

Quotes from the Inquiry

“Wiltshire Council recognises that money spent in independent retailers helps to keep the local economy buoyant and maintains thriving town centres,” said Marlborough town councillor and Transition Marlborough supporter Richard Pitts.

“As evidence of this, a study by the New Economics Foundation shows 25 per cent spent at independent retailer stays local, versus only 14 per cent spent in national chain.

“Our local businesses are predicated on Marlborough's unique High Street, which further attracts visitors and so ensures the town is kept vibrant.

“I don't not believe the corporate companies do this in Marlborough, they rarely get involved with the local  Chamber of Commerce and put their hands in their pockets to fund things like the Christmas lights to promote the town.

“Given their attitude thus far, I can’t see Caffe Nero contributing to the viability and vitality in this way either.”

Councillor Margaret Rose, chairman of Marlborough town council’s Planning Committee: “This appeal, if allowed, will be in conflict with the national guidance and local policies that seek the safeguard and underpin the well-being of town centres.

“Allowing it would amount to opening up the floodgates to the likes of Caffe Nero to ride into any town and flaunt convention and planning regulations by just setting up shop and throwing down the gauntlet to the planning authorities.”

Calling for the appeal to be thwarted, she added: “Marlborough does not need to rely on Caffe Nero for its footfall. In fact it is the reverse. Caffe Nero hoovers up the trade because of its chosen position and this denies trade to the smaller cafes and independent businesses of the High Street, which consequently suffer.

“ It’s chain retailers such as Caffe Nero push out independents.”

Liz Rolph, a Marlborough High Street resident, told the inquiry: “Having this café in that position means that people are not moving past that point as much as they did when it was a clothes retailer.  So it would be good to see it return to that type of use.

“I have noticed that the other end is given less footfall in many of the individual retailers.  I don’t have any scientific evidence of this but, nevertheless, it is now noticeable.

“Having another chain store does take away from our High Street its attractiveness and uniqueness to visitors.  So all the businesses do suffer as a consequence.

“Marlborough town council does have the support of many of the residents in this.  So I hope the council will be able to keep out High Street attractive for as long as possible.”

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Caffe Nero accused of being “parasitic” at major Marlborough planning inquiry into its future

Planning Inspector Phil GraingerPlanning Inspector Phil GraingerCaffe Nero was accused at a planning inquiry in Marlborough town hall today (Tuesday) of being “parasitic” when took over the lease of the former Dash clothing retailer because of its peak position in the High Street.

And it was claimed that its decision to open last year without seeking planning consent has had a negative impact on the vitality and viability of trade in the town centre.

Sarah Clover, counsel for Wiltshire, outlined the reasons for the unitary council’s decision to issue an enforcement notice in August for Caffe Nero to stop trading after retrospective planning consent had been refused for mixed trading on the site as a café with a takeaway service.

She did so before planning inspector Phil Grainger and an audience of all but one of some 25 objectors to Caffe Nero’s arrival in Marlborough, which has been the target of a boycott campaign following revelations that it paid no corporation tax in the UK.

Referring to the Kennet local plan, she said: “The council does not believe that this adds positively to the vitality and viability of Marlborough because it does not support nor promote the individuality of Marlborough, which centres on its particular retail trade.

“This is one of the most important and prime units in relation to its location in the High Street.  It is very central, very prominent, situated immediately adjacent to the vehicular and pedestrian entrance to the main town centre car parks.”

“It is essentially next to Waitrose which is a major draw to the town centre.”

And she declared: “Caffe Nero is parasitic of these two factors in this locality.  Waitrose and car parking which has the tendency to concentrate footfall and pedestrian activity in one limited area of the High Street, which is a negative thing for Marlborough overall.”

Dash which occupied the premises did not leave because of any decline in fashion retail but due to a disagreement over the lease.

Caffe Nero, she pointed out, took over the Dash clothing outlet and was in before the unit had been marketed in any way.  Dash, it subsequently being revealed, had quit the premises not because of poor trade but due to a disagreement over the lease.

“The council maintains that another clothing retailer would have quickly taken the lease if available,” said counsel. “And this is what would promote vitality and viability in the High Street.”

James Findlay QC, for Caffe Nero Holdings, surprised the inquiry by revealing that the company, which has won 16 of the 17 planning inquiries it has faced round the country, had a fallback position.

He said it would accept either single or mixed use of the ground and first floors of the property.

He also suggested that either of the two floors could be used for retail and/or takeaway services with separate bars or, conditionally, make use of just one of the planning permissions.

This was a significant element at the inquiry as the planning inspector had intimated in his opening remarks that dual use of the premises might not be considered a lawful situation.

In cross-examining Michael Muston, an independent planning consultant with 24 years experience working in local government, Mr Findlay said there was evidence that branded national café chains such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee were acknowledged for adding to the vitality and viability of town centres and for promoting competition.

He indicated that evidence to be given by Ben Price, the finance director of Caffe Nero Holdings, that he estimated that the 2,600 customers a week would rise to 3,000 and even 3,200.

And that the takeaway element too would increase from 22 per cent to 30 per cent making Caffe Nero a substantial business in the High Street.

 

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High Street shopping is being put in danger of collapse by online surge says David Dudley

David DudleyDavid DudleyTown centres and High Street are in danger of collapse unless online shopping is made to share the overheads of rents and rates that retailers face.

The warning has come from Marlborough upmarket jeweller David Dudley, who points out that for every pound spent in the high street 50 per cent goes back into the community while every pound spent online only five per cent returns.

It was only a last minute realisation by people that all they needed was close at hand resulted in slow Christmas trade in Marlborough was finally boosted in the last week, he told Marlborough News Online.

“That saved many businesses from disaster,” he said.  “This applied to private and to the multiple shops too. What is interesting is how many people then realised that most of their needs were in the High Street after all.”

“I have a feeling that initially people were ordering online until the last week when they feared items would not be delivered on time, so business improved.”

He added: “One understands why people do this, as the iPad has changed the way we shop, but do they really understands the repercussions it has?  For every pound spent in the high street 50% goes back into the community.  Every pound spent on line only five per cent comes back.”

“When you go shopping you get personal service and expertise, as in our own shop all the staff have taken the jewellery qualifications to give customers good advice and full backup and support when it is needed.”

“This you cannot get online.  Jessop's provided that service but people purchased online, so now no expert help is available.”

“Marlborough is full of many good shops giving expert advice.  They need your support.”

Mr Dudley believes that what is now needed is help for High Street retailers to compete with online companies, which is taking 13 per cent of business.

“Rates have to be reduced and put onto the online companies, whom we are subsidising, as we are, at present, trading in an unfair playing field nationally,” he declared.

“Companies like Amazon, who pay no corporation tax will have to comply with a new form of taxation/rates or else high streets will be full of coffee shops, restaurants and charity shops.  Is this what we want?

“The specialist shops like mine and Kim Vine (his wife’s fashion shop) will survive but we need to have a good mix for everyone to create a strong community spirit, as this is a wonderful town to visit and live in.”

“This is where the Marlborough Town Council can help and take a more positive role, making a visit to Marlborough a great experience and listening to the needs of the traders.  This is in hand but needs to be speeded up before it is too late.”

“Those who are concerned about carbon waste must surely realise that vans driving round the countryside belching out fumes and delivering parcels in cardboard boxes are not helping their cause.”

“Let us be positive and enjoy shopping in Marlborough.”

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Big Lottery funding secures Home-Start Kennet’s work with families for three years

A three year grant totalling £266,000 from the Big Lottery Reaching Communities Fund has been secured by Home-Start Kennet. This money will help underwrite the continuation and expansion of the local charity’s work helping more families in the Devizes, Marlborough, Pewsey and Tidworth areas.

The grant will cover three-quarters of the funding the Home-Start Kennet needs to carry on and grow its work until 2016.  The trustees have made a point of thanking all those who have helped it financially since the loss of its prime funding grant from Wiltshire Council in March 2012.

And they point out that fundraising will have to continue to raise the other one quarter of the annual costs of their new programme and to meet the Big Lottery’s requirement to match part of their grant.

Bel CromptonBel CromptonBel Crompton, the Home-Start Kennet Scheme Manager, told Marlborough News Online: “We are so pleased to receive this Big Lottery award.  It is great that a significant funding body recognises and values Home-Start Kennet’s support for Wiltshire families.”

“Our charity’s trustees and staff can now plan for the next three years, supporting more local families as we expand our team of home-visiting volunteers.”

Home-Start Kennet is a local charity that has been supporting families with young children in the area for twenty-five years – including young military families.  It provides a very special service: volunteers, who are all parents themselves, are professionally trained to help families under stress.  

The volunteers visit the family at their home to give support in parenting strategies, stimulating play for children, accessing local services, family budgeting – or sometimes simply by providing a skilled listening ear when problems need sharing, lessening feelings of isolation.

Last year fifty-one families were supported and the charity currently has thirty home-visiting volunteers. Each family costs the charity between £1,500 and £1,800 a year to support.

Home-Start Kennet has a very small team of part-time staff and the new funding will allow two additional part-time appointments to be made to manage the increasing case-load.

For several years two-thirds of Home-Start Kennet’s running costs were met by Wiltshire Council to the tune of £50,000 a year.  The rest of the costs were covered by money raised from donations and grant making bodies.

In March 2011 the contract for the work the Council referred to Home-Start Kennet was cancelled – though the Council did provide a £25,000 grant for 2011-2012 – after that Wiltshire Council’s major funding for Home-Start Kennet ended.  The Council’s move was a policy decision to concentrate their reduced resources onto the needs of complex family situations. Home-Start Kennet’s aim is to help families before they become ‘complex cases’.

Home-Start Kennet is affiliated to Home-Start UK which provides guidance, governance and advice, but no financial support.
Home-Start Kennet has a new office phone number: 01672 569457.  This is the number for people to contact who might benefit from this kind of support or want to become a volunteer.  Or they can be emailed at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

There are more details on the charity’s new website.

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Marlborough’s Waitrose hits a record 5.5 per cent sales rise to celebrate its best ever Christmas

Andy Davies, manager of Marlborough's WaitroseAndy Davies, manager of Marlborough's WaitroseWaitrose, the magnet that makes Marlborough’s High Street a hit, had a record-breaking Christmas and New Year with sales up 5.5 per cent to create its best ever results.

And as it celebrated its success with a footfall rising to 30,000 customers a week, the super supermarket issued its own warning of food inflation in a tough year ahead and revealed how it is tackling worrying food waste.

Sunday, December 22, when shopping was confined to only six hours trading, provided the store’s peak performance for Andy Davies, Waitrose’s ebullient manager for the past five years.

“Within two hours that day we reached the same sales figures that we have on a normal Sunday – and that was incredible,” he told Marlborough News Online. “What a hectic time it was – and what a real buzz and really good Christmas feeling there was as customers had finished work and were out to treat themselves.

“This has been a best Christmas. Certainly it was from the figures with sales up nearly six per cent.  Better still, we didn’t have snow, the weather was mild, and the supply chain was good throughout.  I got exactly what I wanted – and when I wanted it, which is so important when there are a massive number of things that can go wrong.”

And on Thursday Waitrose’s managing director Mark Field made an unannounced visit to the supermarket to congratulate Andy and his team of up to 250 staff.

“He normally visits us once a year,” said Andy.  “He was here for about an hour and went round congratulating our people and was very complimentary about the store and our achievements.”

“And it was a great opportunity for me to talk to him.  We had other Waitrose managers here talking about Christmas and discussing the challenges we face in the year ahead.  Then suddenly I heard Mark was here and in the store.”

We charge a premium price only for premium products

Statistics for the core period December 18 to 31 at the Marlborough supermarket showed like for like sales up 5.5 per cent on last year.

“If you think about Tesco’s 1.8 per cent up, Sainsbury’s 0.9 per cent rise, Morrisons down 2.5 per cent and M&S down too, then that is really good,” said Andy Davies.

“When we’re dealing now with 25,000 to 30,000 customers a week going through the tills, that is significant for our little Marlborough store.

“More and more people came to us at Christmas because we have changed – our everyday products like a bottle of Fairy Liquid are brand matched with Tesco and people like to see too the work we have been doing supporting the community.

“They’re saying, ‘I quite like this,’ and are heading straight for us.

“What we charge a premium price for is our premium products. That’s because there is a clear difference between our poultry and meat, but we are no more expensive on day to day products and our own label essential range.”

 

What is clear is the lead Mark Price and his managers have taken in revealing the need to tackle food waste and the challenge of food security caused by changing climates and inevitable food inflation.

Marlborough Waitrose has linked up with Greatwood, the charity for retired racehorses at Clench Common, and supplies it with produce passed its sell-by date.

“So their animals are now dining on our parsnips,” said Andy. “It has been a mission for me as a retailer, as a grocer, to reduce the amount of stuff that is thrown away.  We are delighted with the link.”

Then there is a double dilemma of food production in changing climates and the economic pressures resulting in rising food prices. “They are the two big things that will have an impact,” says Andy.

“Poor weather conditions are going to see higher prices coming through from farms and, whereas we can as retailers cushion some of that, we can’t cushion it all.  That is the challenge we are all going to face.”

He takes relief from the bouquets of customers.

“We get plenty of plaudits, customers making a real effort to tell us what a great tem we have and how really pleased they were with what we did to create a happy Christmas and New Year for them.”

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Caffe Nero is 'the cynical cuckoo sitting in the heart of Marlborough’s successful High Street'

Caffe Nero has come under devastating attack for its “cynical exploitation of the planning system” from Michael Fitzgerald QC, retired eminent leader of the Parliamentary Bar, who specialised in planning for more than 40 years.

He was the star independent witness at yesterday’s planning inquiry into Nero Holding’s appeal against Wiltshire Council’s rejection of a retrospective application for consent or its Marlborough High Street café.

Giving evidence after it had been revealed that the coffee chain company had paid rent of £62,000 a year for its prime retail site, 76-year-old Mr Fitzgerald described Caffe Nero as “a cuckoo in the nest.”

“This appeal is the result of Caffe Nero’s deliberate and cynical exploitation of the planning system,” he told planning inspector Phil Grainger sitting at Marlborough town hall.

“Instead of awaiting on their planning application for a change of use, they decided to take up occupation and challenge the planning authority.

“They have provided no explanation or justification for this precipitate and unauthorised action. The planning system would collapse if such action was widely used.

“It must be condemned and deterred. Whatever the result of this appeal, all the costs incurred should be ordered to be paid by Caffe Nero. It is essential that a clear deterrent message is sent out.”

Opening outlets across the country without seeking planning permission has been a familiar feature of the company’s operations, which has resulted in it winning all but one of 17 subsequent planning appeals.

And in Marlborough it opened just four days after the fashion chain Dash moved out of its retail premises having been in negotiation with its landlords since 2011 and the property not being put on the market.

But this action undermined the unique nature of the individuality of Marlborough’s spectacular High Street and went against planning policies.

“Marlborough is the ideal of the small English country town,” said Mr Fitzgerald, holder of the OBE. “This is a rare character which needs to be cherished.”

By appropriating the property, Caffe Nero had undermined the distinctive nature of Marlborough’s success by reducing the “choice and the comparison role” of its central shopping street.

The town’s success was due to the distinctive feature that it supported a high proportion of independent retailers and a high proportion of women’s and children’s clothing hops, which didn’t need Caffe Nero to stimulate its vitality and viability at a time of recession.

“Although Caffe Nero may well be popular and attract footfall to itself, this does not mean that it is making a positive contribution to the vitality and viability of the High Street as a whole,” added Mr Fitzgerald, who lives in Buttermere.

“It is not likely to attract significant if any new shoppers to Marlborough. Rather it will attract to itself existing visitors thereby undermining the viability of existing coffee shops and the vitality of those parts of Marlborough where they are located.

“In reality, far from making a positive contribution, Caffe Nero will simply prey on the existing popularity of Marlborough. It is a cuckoo in the nest.”

See Also:

"Caffe Nero accused of being “parasitic” at major Marlborough planning inquiry into its future"

"Publish online all those companies like Caffe Nero who escape any taxes due, Chancellor is urged"

 

Quotes from the Inquiry

“Wiltshire Council recognises that money spent in independent retailers helps to keep the local economy buoyant and maintains thriving town centres,” said Marlborough town councillor and Transition Marlborough supporter Richard Pitts.

“As evidence of this, a study by the New Economics Foundation shows 25 per cent spent at independent retailer stays local, versus only 14 per cent spent in national chain.

“Our local businesses are predicated on Marlborough's unique High Street, which further attracts visitors and so ensures the town is kept vibrant.

“I don't not believe the corporate companies do this in Marlborough, they rarely get involved with the local  Chamber of Commerce and put their hands in their pockets to fund things like the Christmas lights to promote the town.

“Given their attitude thus far, I can’t see Caffe Nero contributing to the viability and vitality in this way either.”

 

Councillor Margaret Rose, chairman of Marlborough town council’s Planning Committee: “This appeal, if allowed, will be in conflict with the national guidance and local policies that seek the safeguard and underpin the well-being of town centres.

“Allowing it would amount to opening up the floodgates to the likes of Caffe Nero to ride into any town and flaunt convention and planning regulations by just setting up shop and throwing down the gauntlet to the planning authorities.”

Calling for the appeal to be thwarted, she added: “Marlborough does not need to rely on Caffe Nero for its footfall. In fact it is the reverse. Caffe Nero hoovers up the trade because of its chosen position and this denies trade to the smaller cafes and independent businesses of the High Street, which consequently suffer.

“ It’s chain retailers such as Caffe Nero push out independents.”

 

 

Liz Rolph, a Marlborough High Street resident, told the inquiry: “Having this café in that position means that people are not moving past that point as much as they did when it was a clothes retailer.  So it would be good to see it return to that type of use.

 

“I have noticed that the other end is given less footfall in many of the individual retailers.  I don’t have any scientific evidence of this but, nevertheless, it is now noticeable.

 

“Having another chain store does take away from our High Street its attractiveness and uniqueness to visitors.  So all the businesses do suffer as a consequence.

 

“Marlborough town council does have the support of many of the residents in this.  So I hope the council will be able to keep out High Street attractive for as long as possible.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Tory MP Claire Perry backs controversial profit-making state schools and building on green belt land

Claire Perry clashes with Observer journalist, Miranda Sawyer on Sky NewsClaire Perry clashes with Observer journalist, Miranda Sawyer on Sky NewsTory MP Claire Perry has given her support to a controversial proposal from a right-wing think tank that would allow private companies to run State school for a profit – an idea backed by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

And the local MP also backs plans for affordable homes on green belt land because, according to Planning Minister Nick Boles, it is “immoral” that young people are being forced out of the housing market by high prices.

Speaking at lightning speed, Mrs Perry forcibly expressed her views last night (Wednesday) on Sky TV’s late night newspaper review in which she clashed with Observer journalist Miranda Sawyer.

The “pay schools” plan, already vetoed by the Lib-Dems as a bid to privatise education, comes from Bright Blue, described as a modernising pressure group in an exclusive report in The Independent.

“There are all sorts of think tanks out there, some are in the middle, some are on the right wing, some of the left,” said Mrs Perry, who has three children attending private schools.

“This is one that is a Conservative leaning think tank and they have got a whole series of new ideas of how do we deliver better results in our public services for loss costs.”

“And I think we all want better results for less cost.  This is an interesting idea.  I am not ideologically opposed to anything.  I just want great results from our schools for our children.”

“I am a governor of two academies in my constituency (Devizes), one of which has a link up with Wellington College, which is a very well known private school, which has taken on an Academy sponsorship role.”

“It’s not done on a financial basis, it’s being done from an improving results basis.  There are such enormous opportunities to work together.”

“The other academy (St John’s, Marlborough) is working with some of the primary schools out there.  You don’t have to have a procurement department in every school.  You can share French teachers for example, there are all sorts of opportunities to work together.”

She equated the policy to the coalition government’s announcement on the privatisation of the probation service, allowing private firms to provide the basic services, and added: “If we want to keep people out of jail I have no ideological problem with letting a company that makes a profit to run it if they do it better and cheaper than a State entity.”

“I just don’t see why there is a problem.  We cannot afford to have ideology when we have a huge public spending squeeze and we have to deliver results.”

Miranda Sawyer intervened: “How you can make money out of school if the children who go there don’t pay any money into it, it seems to me the only way you can make a profit is by cutting down on certain things such as a sports division…    Children just won’t go there.”

Mrs Perry: “Parents have free choice now whereas, under a Labour government, if you had one empty school place in an area you couldn’t open a new school. Now we’ve allowed free schools to open and schools to become academies.”

“So there is no compulsion to go to a school if it provides a better service, a better result and it costs less money for the taxpayer.  Why is that a problem?”

She mentioned the issue she had raised Prime Minister’s questions, pointing out although the UK has the best science and engineering universities in the world, yet there is a deficit of 60,000 per annum in terms of science and engineering graduates.

“Why is it? – it’s because we are not teaching children the right level of skills in the schools,” said Mrs Perry.  “Let’s focus on the results and not the ideology. Forgive me, but I just think we can afford the ideology any more.”

Ms Sawyer protested: “I just think it is a very weird way to look at education.  Since Thatcher’s years we’ve had to look at education as something that has to be evaluated in terms of money.”

“Obviously when a lot of people are educated or go through that system it has nothing to do with money.  It is to do with being educated and the ideas..”

And Mrs Perry interjected: “That’s why it is so depressing about 13 years of a Labour government -- a huge amount of spending on schools and a precipitous decline in our global standard.”

The duo then debated a Daily Telegraph report warning that grandparents were threatened with “propping up their kids and grandkids” because of a shortage of affordable housing for them to move into.

“I represent a very big constituency with three towns and 150 villages where there is a huge amount of opposition to new housing,” said Mrs Perry.  “It is a big beautiful green part of the world.”

“Every community could grow by a little bit.  So there is nothing stopping a village growing two or three houses every year.  The point the planning minister (Nick Boles) is trying to make is that if you oppose every development then where are your children and your grandchildren going to live?”

“In my constituency the house price to incomes ratio is now 12 times, one of the highest in the south west.  Young people have to live with their parents because they can’t afford anything else.”

“What we are saying is that we have to start thinking in terms of the next generation.  May be it is right that grandparents should voluntarily down-size and sell their house and move into houses built on the green belt.”

“The green belt is so controversial but I have to say…what people hate is big developments being plopped down from on high.”

Ms Sawyer said the problem equally was housing where the jobs existed. “You can build the houses you want up in the north east but if there is no work there it doesn’t make a difference.”

And Mrs Perry concluded: “Yes, it is jobs, infrastructure and housing.  They all need to be put together. But we have very high house prices, we cannot afford to say No more development.”

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Caffe Nero should be applauded for giving potential to an under-used vital site, says estate agent

Planning Inspector Phil GraingerPlanning Inspector Phil Grainger

The vitality of Marlborough’s High Street has been enhanced by the arrival of branded national companies, estate agent Kevin Ellis claimed at the town hall public inquiry into Caffe Nero retrospective planning appeal.

He told planning inspector Phil Grainger (pictured) that it was common for some of the town centre properties to have than one planning consent for retail (A1), financial and professional services (A2) and restaurant/café (A3).

The row over Caffe Nero’s presence is that it wants both A1 and A3 use so that café and takeaway services can be provided on the first two floors, the third floor now converted into flats.

“During the last 10 years the High Street has gone from having a lot of empty properties and a high turnover of tenants,” said Mr Ellis, a local resident, who has worked in the High Street in the past.

“However, the vitality of the town has been enhanced by the many national retailers that have been drawn to the town and the change of the demographics.”

“The argument for the loss of retailers is a non-starter in my opinion.  Over the past five years Marlborough High Street has seen a significant overall net increase in retail. There are shops now trading as retail which actually have consents such as A2 or A3.”

He highlighted the Tudor Tea Rooms, a family business that used all three floors of a property on the other side of the High Street, which has now become an estate agents.

And also pointed out that Dorothy Perkins was formerly the Portman Building Society offices and was considered a significant gain in retail space, the Food Gallery was for decades an independent gents retail outlet.

“In addition, the most significant point is that the number of independent coffee houses/cafes is lower than five years ago,” added Mr Ellis, a key witness for Caffe Nero Holdings at the inquiry.

“Up to around five years ago the premises in the heart of the retail zone that has been referred to by Wiltshire Council is 115 High Street, which were occupied by the Tudor Tea Rooms.”

“They traded as a family business and was a family concern that traded over three floors in the building. And the result of that (Tudor Tea Rooms) going was a ground floor now occupied by an estate agency, which was an overall loss of amenity.

“The premises that Caffe Nero acquired have been transformed from ground floor retail to maximise the overall floor area that was storage (first floor).  And provides a like for like basis before the Tudor Tea Rooms going.”

“Caffe Nero should be applauded for the care and attention they have given to the building that wasn’t fulfilling its potential.”

Mr Ellis had earlier controversially claimed that the campaign against Caffe Nero had been “driven by a councillor who was co-opted by the council and not elected by public vote, and who has access to local media.”

He said that this had been “fuelled by Caffe Nero’s tax affairs” (the company is based outside the UK and pays no corporation tax) and added:  “But this has no concern in this planning application and has no bearing on it.”

There were other companies who had been “doing all they can to reduce their own tax liability.”

He pointed out: “Certain members of the town council have used in their arguments the number of places in the town where coffee is served.  Frankly the fact that pubs in the High Street serve coffee is not the place where I would chose to take my children or my wife.”

“And I am sure this is endorsed by the many of the people who are now using Caffe Nero.  Independent retailers in this town have to earn our trust and our business and it should not be assumed  by anyone that they take priority over larger businesses.”

The inquiry has been adjourned until February 7.

See Also:

"Caffe Nero encouraged customers to sign their petition more than once planning inspector told"

"Caffe Nero’s claims of boosting visitors to Marlborough town centre declared “misleading and unfair”"

"Caffe Nero is 'the cynical cuckoo sitting in the heart of Marlborough’s successful High Street'"

"Caffe Nero accused of being “parasitic” at major Marlborough planning inquiry into its future"

"Publish online all those companies like Caffe Nero who escape any taxes due, Chancellor is urged"

 

Quotes from the Inquiry

“Wiltshire Council recognises that money spent in independent retailers helps to keep the local economy buoyant and maintains thriving town centres,” said Marlborough town councillor and Transition Marlborough supporter Richard Pitts.

“As evidence of this, a study by the New Economics Foundation shows 25 per cent spent at independent retailer stays local, versus only 14 per cent spent in national chain.

“Our local businesses are predicated on Marlborough's unique High Street, which further attracts visitors and so ensures the town is kept vibrant.

“I don't not believe the corporate companies do this in Marlborough, they rarely get involved with the local  Chamber of Commerce and put their hands in their pockets to fund things like the Christmas lights to promote the town.

“Given their attitude thus far, I can’t see Caffe Nero contributing to the viability and vitality in this way either.”

Councillor Margaret Rose, chairman of Marlborough town council’s Planning Committee: “This appeal, if allowed, will be in conflict with the national guidance and local policies that seek the safeguard and underpin the well-being of town centres.

“Allowing it would amount to opening up the floodgates to the likes of Caffe Nero to ride into any town and flaunt convention and planning regulations by just setting up shop and throwing down the gauntlet to the planning authorities.”

Calling for the appeal to be thwarted, she added: “Marlborough does not need to rely on Caffe Nero for its footfall. In fact it is the reverse. Caffe Nero hoovers up the trade because of its chosen position and this denies trade to the smaller cafes and independent businesses of the High Street, which consequently suffer.

“ It’s chain retailers such as Caffe Nero push out independents.”

Liz Rolph, a Marlborough High Street resident, told the inquiry: “Having this café in that position means that people are not moving past that point as much as they did when it was a clothes retailer.  So it would be good to see it return to that type of use.

“I have noticed that the other end is given less footfall in many of the individual retailers.  I don’t have any scientific evidence of this but, nevertheless, it is now noticeable.

“Having another chain store does take away from our High Street its attractiveness and uniqueness to visitors.  So all the businesses do suffer as a consequence.

“Marlborough town council does have the support of many of the residents in this.  So I hope the council will be able to keep out High Street attractive for as long as possible.”

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Gunjur’s new market hall built by Marlborough students is opened by Claire Perry

Devizes MP Claire Perry faced a very long, hot day when she opened the new market hall for the people of Gunjur – the Gambian village linked with Marlborough.

It wasn’t a typical Sunday (January 13).  Gunjur’s market square, next to where the new hall has been built, was packed with locals, lined with rows of seats and covered with large gazebos to protect people from the very hot sun.

The day started with an all female troop dancing a traditional African dance, accompanied by a group of very enthusiastic drummers.  

Dignitaries, locals and even the odd inquisitive tourist stopped to watch what was happening.  Many crowded around the central area where the Master of Ceremonies – a local primary school head – presented a long line of elders and village officials.  

Each had a speech but the sentiment was the same – the new market hall would make a world of difference to the women who sold their fruit and vegetables in the village every day.  

It was recognised more than a year ago that these women needed a covered area to sell their wares.  

During the rainy season they need cover.  During the hot, dry season having a roof over their heads means their vegetables do not perish so quickly.  So less waste and more chance of making money.

Nyama Janneh, a local vendor, told the crowd: “Our vegetables only last one day when we are outside.  But this new market hall means they will last longer – possibly up to three days.”   

The building, with its corrugated tin roof and open sides and painted in mint green, was built in only twenty days in a collaboration between villagers and students from St John’s Academy and Marlborough College on their visit to Gunjur last summer - organised by the Marlborough Brandt Group.  (The photograph shows the students handing the building over to village leaders at the end of their visit.)

And so the ceremony continued.

Claire Perry sat patiently alongside Dr Nick Maurice - Brandt Group director – in a long line of dignitaries.  Her turn to speak and then officially open the market would come in time – in fact four hours after the start.

In the UK this would be seen as an arduous, painfully long process.  The searing heat didn’t help and I could see some people wilting.

But this is Africa. People like to take time on something as important as this and although one Gambian admitted to me the speeches “did go on a bit,” it was a very special day for Gunjur.

Ms Perry made her speech saying; “I know how important this market is for the livelihoods of the women and their families.  This is a wonderful example of the link.”

Then it was time for her to cut the ribbon, strung across the entrance to the new hall - the scissors did their work followed by a loud cheer from the patiently waiting crowds.

[It was not possible to transmit photographs of the ceremony from The Gambia.]

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Caffe Nero encouraged customers to sign their petition more than once planning inspector told

Councillor Stewart DobsonCouncillor Stewart DobsonCaffe Nero was claimed at Tuesday’s public inquiry to have encouraged its customers to sign a petition in support of its retrospective planning appeal more than once.

Planning inspector Phil Grainger was told this by town councillor Stewart Dobson, who presented a letter of protest written by Mr and Mrs Michael Skinner, who live in one of the three top floor flats at the High Street property.

And they declared too that allowing the second floor of the premises, formerly a storage area, to be opened for public use would devalue their home and create problems for any possible future sale.

“We understand that Caffe Nero has been encouraging customers to sign a petition in support,” said the protest Councillor Dobson read out. “It seems that customers have been allowed to sign more than once.”

“We therefore hope that were you inclined to consider this petition that the fact that customers were allowed to sign more than once that this will be taken into consideration.”

“The opening of Caffe Nero has resulted in great stress to both myself and my wife and we do hope that our comments will be taken into account and the appeal refused.”

The letter stated that Mr and Mrs Skinner, together with Mrs Ruth Pitts, who owns the two other flats, had strong objections to Caffe Nero’s change of use of the property to allow for a takeaway service.

“Little has been said about the change of use on the three flats,” the letter added.  “When we purchased our flat in 2004 we were given to understand that the premises were A1 retail and that there was no reason to suspect that this would change.”

“Until recently when Caffe Nero opened and finally submitted their retrospective application we had not realised the full implications what a change of use would mean to us.”

“We are have been given to understand that were A3 use (takeaway) to be agreed in the event of trying to sell our property it would be devalued as a result of higher insurance premiums and the reluctance of some mortgage companies to fund the purchase of property above an A3 outlet.”

“This would certainly present a problem for any first time buyers.”

The letter pointed out that Marlborough town council hasd always encouraged residential use of all High Street property above ground floor level on the grounds that it resulted in a healthy, vibrant mix of business and residential usage.

“This is a welcome feature of all historical market towns such as Marlborough,” said the letter.

The claims in the letter were not challenged by Caffe Nero’s legal representatives at the inquiry, which has been adjourned until February 7.

See Also:

"Caffe Nero’s claims of boosting visitors to Marlborough town centre declared “misleading and unfair”"

"Caffe Nero is 'the cynical cuckoo sitting in the heart of Marlborough’s successful High Street'"

"Caffe Nero accused of being “parasitic” at major Marlborough planning inquiry into its future"

"Publish online all those companies like Caffe Nero who escape any taxes due, Chancellor is urged"

 

Quotes from the Inquiry

“Wiltshire Council recognises that money spent in independent retailers helps to keep the local economy buoyant and maintains thriving town centres,” said Marlborough town councillor and Transition Marlborough supporter Richard Pitts.

“As evidence of this, a study by the New Economics Foundation shows 25 per cent spent at independent retailer stays local, versus only 14 per cent spent in national chain.

“Our local businesses are predicated on Marlborough's unique High Street, which further attracts visitors and so ensures the town is kept vibrant.

“I don't not believe the corporate companies do this in Marlborough, they rarely get involved with the local  Chamber of Commerce and put their hands in their pockets to fund things like the Christmas lights to promote the town.

“Given their attitude thus far, I can’t see Caffe Nero contributing to the viability and vitality in this way either.”

Councillor Margaret Rose, chairman of Marlborough town council’s Planning Committee: “This appeal, if allowed, will be in conflict with the national guidance and local policies that seek the safeguard and underpin the well-being of town centres.

“Allowing it would amount to opening up the floodgates to the likes of Caffe Nero to ride into any town and flaunt convention and planning regulations by just setting up shop and throwing down the gauntlet to the planning authorities.”

Calling for the appeal to be thwarted, she added: “Marlborough does not need to rely on Caffe Nero for its footfall. In fact it is the reverse. Caffe Nero hoovers up the trade because of its chosen position and this denies trade to the smaller cafes and independent businesses of the High Street, which consequently suffer.

“ It’s chain retailers such as Caffe Nero push out independents.”

Liz Rolph, a Marlborough High Street resident, told the inquiry: “Having this café in that position means that people are not moving past that point as much as they did when it was a clothes retailer.  So it would be good to see it return to that type of use.

“I have noticed that the other end is given less footfall in many of the individual retailers.  I don’t have any scientific evidence of this but, nevertheless, it is now noticeable.

“Having another chain store does take away from our High Street its attractiveness and uniqueness to visitors.  So all the businesses do suffer as a consequence.

“Marlborough town council does have the support of many of the residents in this.  So I hope the council will be able to keep out High Street attractive for as long as possible.”

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Claire Perry arrives in Gunjur - report from The Gambia

The quiet fishing village of Gunjur, Marlborough’s twin on the West African coast, exploded with a mix and excitement and celebration last Friday (January 11) when Devizes MP Claire Perry arrived.

Mrs Perry is here to see the work being carried out by the Marlborough Brandt Group – which has been building links with Gunjur for the past 30 years.

Claire Perry's arrival in GunjurClaire Perry's arrival in GunjurIt’s the first time an MP representing Marlborough has come to Gunjur and so many here are treating this as an extra special visit.  Although Ms Perry is not on government business - this is a personal trip for her and her daughter Eliza - there has been a buzz in the village all week ahead of her arrival.

And so the day came.  

It was like most Fridays here – a hot, sunny and clear day.  Goats and donkeys wandered the sandy roads.  Children marched home from school in their distinctive uniforms.  Women in their bright, colourful dresses carried food, water or sticks of wood on their heads, and men – dressed in their best - filed to the mosque for Friday prayers.  An important part of Fridays.  

By late afternoon the excitement was building.  A troop of women, dressed in striking green - one shouting into a megaphone, others carrying leafy branches from a mango tree - assembled by one of the main buildings in the village ready to perform a welcoming dance.     

A group of drummers also arrived and started banging out a typical African rhythm.  And a small, enthusiastic crowd of villagers gathered.  The anticipation was building as the heat of the sun burnt down.

Then a repeated blast of a car horn signalled Claire Perry’s arrival in a small convoy.  

This was the cue for the dance troop to up their volume, dance more vigorously and start loudly banging their drums.  

The atmosphere exploded – it was met with the same enthusiasm a member of the royal family would receive at home.

As the MP stepped from her vehicle she was surrounded by the official greeting party and other well wishers.  

She stood and watched a demonstration of African dance by the women, and even joined in.  

Then after much dancing, drumming and cheering she was shepherded inside to be met by the village officials.  As she passed me she said: “This is overwhelming, I don’t think I’m worth all this.”  

Inside there were numerous welcome speeches followed by Ms Perry’s acceptance speech.  She said: “I am so very touched by the warm welcome.  After years of wanting to visit Gunjur I am really pleased to be here.  And I am looking forward to finding out more about your village, culture and the work of the Marlborough Brandt Group.”

Her week here will be a busy one.

(Photos by Mark Jones)

For full background to the visit and Mrs Perry and Eliza's views see our earlier report

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Church of England remains strong at local level if divided at the top says Marlborough’s rector

Marlborough’s Rector, the Rev Canon Andrew Studdert-KennedyMarlborough’s Rector, the Rev Canon Andrew Studdert-KennedyWith the Church of England engulfed in controversy over gay celibate male Bishops and women Bishops -- as well as the issue of same sex marriage -- what it urgently needs is a better way for it to speak at a national level.

This is the advice that has come from Marlborough’s Rector, the Rev Canon Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, in response to a request from Marlborough News Online as to his views on the issues

And what he significantly points out too is that the Church of England remains steadfast at a local level with some 2,000 people attending local Christmas services, though inevitably the church is internally divided at the top.

“One thing on which all members of the Church of England can agree is that our publicity has been very poor in the past few weeks,” declares the Rector.  “It is too early to say what effect this is having and whether it is going to turn people away or whether most people remain indifferent about it.”

“It is true to say that the church is at its best at the local level, so what was good about the church before the General Synod debate on women Bishops remains good about it, in just the same way that what was bad about the church remains bad about it.”

“What is good about the parish church is that it serves local communities, offers regular worship and endeavours to meet pastoral needs.  This work carries on regardless of votes by the Synod or statements from the House of Bishops.”

He adds his hope that “in Marlborough all our churches manage to do this” and points out “we estimate that more than 2,000 people will have attended Christmas celebrations in Marlborough churches in December 2012.”

The Rector then adds: “Having said this, there are real problems with the way the Church of England speaks at a national level.”

“We used to pride ourselves on being a 'broad church' and being able to live with difference, but it seems we are no longer able to do this.  The net result, as Bishop Peter Selby put it, is that everything becomes a problem and we end up in a place that satisfies no one.”

“For example, the General Synod agreed in principle that women should become Bishops but couldn't agree on the process and the House of Bishops issues a statement on Gay Clergy becoming Bishops so long as they remain celibate despite the consensus that there should be no distinction between laity and clergy.”

“All involved in debating these issues wish to do so with honesty and with a desire to seek truth.  However, the truth appears to be unpalatable -- at present the Church of England, let alone the wider Anglican communion, is divided and that the attempt to maintain an appearance of unity is forlorn.”

Marlborough News Online has also asked for the views of the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev Nick Holtam, who has a reputation as a radical priest who supports both gay marriage in the church and women Bishops.

No response has so far been received.

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