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Marlborough Rugby's promotions-winning 1st XV applauded by Mayor Lisa Farrell for last season's outstanding achievement


Marlborough Rugby Club's 1st XV will next year be rubbing shoulders with some of the bigger clubs in the South West.  Last night (Thursday 21 June) their achievement in gaining promotion to a new level of competition was recognised by Mayor Councillor Lisa Farrell when she publicly thanked the team...

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All change on the High Street - sign of regeneration?

22-06-2018 Sue Round

The Rohan store opened a few weeks ago and now a new independent retailer, Willow & Wolf is coming to Marlborough at 95 High Street, the site formerly occupied by FatFace.

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New Sponsor for Marlborough Rugby Club - Vets4Pets


Marlborough's Vets4Pets, locally owned veterinary practice located on Marlborough Business Park alongside Tesco and Budgen have committed to a 3 year sponsorship arrangement with Marlborough Rugby Club, which will include new kit for the Junior Team.

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Service Delivery Assistant - Full Time - Foregenix Ltd


Service Delivery Assistant Full Time    Foregenix Ltd is a leading global independent information security consultancy, headquartered in the United Kingdom with additional offices in South Africa, South America, Australia, continental Europe and the United States, and we support a wide range of organisations across the globe. We are growing rapidly and from...

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Police raid Marlborough address and seize a number of vintage firearms


  Police last night (Tuesday 19 June) raided an address just off Kingsbury Street and siezed a number of vintage firearms.   No arrests were made and no-one was injured.  

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MantonFest to be 'Walking on Sunshine' on Saturday next week


MantonFest will be here again on Saturday next week (30 June).  Great bill of national/local favourites - Katrina of the Waves will be Walking on Sunshine, Quo, or more precisely John Coghlan's Quo will be reminding us (of a certain age) why we spent so many hours 'Rockin' all over...

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Volunteer Drivers - Kennet Community Transport


Kennet Community Transport   Volunteer Drivers reqiuired       Kennet Community Transport is a charity, and run on a shoestring.  It takes old people to the Jubilee Centre and on outings, and has one employee - Roly the driver.We need volunteer drivers to cover when Roly is sick or on holiday.  And we need a...

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FROTH being brewed up in Burbage over the change of use application for the Three Horseshoes


Although Burbage's 'Three Horseshoes' at Stibb Green has closed and ceased to trade as a public house, a group of Burbage residents who used to regard the pub as their local and an important cornerstone of the village community are banding together to oppose the change of use application submitted...

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Ogbourne Maizey Fly-Tipper caught after witness’s tip off


  A fly-tipper was issued a fixed penalty notice of £400 after a vigilant citizen tipped off Wiltshire Council when he saw the culprit dumping a van-load of rubbish in a country lane.The quick-thinking witness watched the man unload cardboard boxes and carpet on a verge off Rockley Road, Ogbourne Maizey,...

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“A seamless educational journey” for Burbage children as Burbage Preschool joins Excalibur Academies Trust

19-06-2018 Sue Round

There is cause for a double celebration at Burbage Preschool. Judged good in all areas by Ofsted in May, the Preschool joined the Excalibur Academies Trust at the beginning of June.

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Local Wiltshire Councillor's mistreatment of female member of staff

Councillor Chris Humphries, who chairs the Marlborough Area Board, has been reprimanded by Wiltshire Council after a hearing in Trowbridge which he refused to attend.  Mr Humphries is the Conservative councillor for Aldbourne and Ramsbury. 

The two-day hearing found he was guilty of five breaches of the Council’s code of conduct.  He strongly disputes claims that he bullied and made sexist comments about a female employee of the Council.  He has been reported to the Standards Committee.

The complaint was originally made in June 2011.  The employee - Julia Densham - accused Mr Humphries of sending her inappropriate emails and touching her in an inappropriate way.  Ms Densham worked for the Marlborough Area Board in various capacities from April 2009 and became permanent area manager in September 2010. She later left that job.

Mr Humphries’ solicitor, while saying his client ‘strongly disputed’ the evidence, claimed he could not defend himself satisfactorily because the Council had changed its procedures.

The complaint against Mr Humphries, was heard under new procedures which came into effect on July 1.  The dispute over the hearing arose when the complainant gave ‘late notice’ that she wished to have legal representation.

Mr Humphries and his solicitor objected.  And at a pre-hearing meeting it was agreed she was ‘as a matter of fairness entitled to legal representation’.  On legal advice, Mr Humphries decided to withdraw and take no further part in the hearing.

A Wiltshire Council statement explains: “Had he remained in the hearing Councillor Humphries would have been able to challenge the complainant’s evidence by way of cross-examination.  By withdrawing he chose to deprive himself of this opportunity.”

“After careful consideration of the evidence the Sub-Committee found that Councillor Humphries had breached the members’ code of conduct in respect of five out the seven allegations before them.”

The investigator's full report has now been published on the Wiltshire Council website.  It runs to 199 pages and is redacted in parts.

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Poor harvest highlights importance of Community Orchard

Apple that were brimming with fruit last season are barren this yearApple that were brimming with fruit last season are barren this yearYou wouldn't know it from looking at the supermarket shelves, and some local gardeners are pooh-poohing the headlines, but officially we're suffering from the worst apple harvest in 15 years.

Branches that were last year buckling under the weight of fruit are bare. It's the reason, say organisers, why the Marlborough Community Orchard initiative and this month's Apple Day are so important.

“This is a wake-up call,” says respected food writer and broadcaster Lynda Brown. “We need to encourage the growing of different varieties of native apples, so that when one crop suffers, others will provide us with a crop.

“We have become used to buying the perfect cosmetic fruit from the supermarkets. There are early, mid and late blossoming apple trees and some will fare better than others from season to season. Variety is the spice of life, and we shouldn't put all our eggs – or, in this case, apples – in one basket.”

This year's harvest has been hit hard by the wettest summer on record. “The cold, rainy summer discouraged the bees from flying at crucial periods,” says Lynda, “while the lack of sun has meant that apples haven't ripened on time 

“And for the past couple of years we've had bumper crops, so yields have been worse as trees recover.”

Marlborough's community orchard scheme – conceived in 2010 with the ambitious aim of creating a town in an orchard – has already seen 35 trees planted around the town.

Ninety-one pre-ordered Wiltshire variety apple trees will be arriving on Apple Day and between 30 and 40 others will be planted in and around the town before next spring.

The showcase Apple Day event will be held in Marlborough Town Hall on Sunday, October 14 from 11am to 5pm. One of the leading experts on English apples, Dr Joan Morgan, will be on hand to identify apples for gardeners who have a tree, but have no idea what variety it is. Identification costs £15.

Other attractions include:

  • Opening welcome ceremony with cornet fanfare to greet the Mayor and 'Wiltshire Maidens': rare Wiltshire apple tree saplings specially grafted for Marlborough Community Orchard by Barters Nursery.

  • Announcement of the winners of the A4 Apple Art Competition and prize giving by Juliet and Peter Kindersley of Sheepdrove Organic Farm.

  • Apple pressing outside the hall, so everyone can enjoy freshly-squeezed apple juice.

  • Pip planting, face painting and other activities for children.

  • Fabulous retail line-up: local food and produce and hand-made preserves; local apple juice, honey and real cider; bee-beautiful local beauty products; bird boxes, ladybird houses, apple trugs and other bespoke woodwork ; hand-stitched linens and hand sewn gifts; Sarah Raven’s bee-friendly bulbs and seeds, gardening accessories and kitchenalia; Marlborough Community Orchard’s new series of limited edition apple cards; Apple Day treats for dogs, and much more.

  • Sumbler’s ‘Best -Ever Hog Roast’ with windfall apple sauce plus, new this year, scrummy cakes and drinks provided by Bow Belles@ Little Apple Café.

  • Gloucester Old Spot competition, sponsored by Haine & Smith, starring a sow and her piglets, specially filmed for Marlborough Community Orchard by Orchard Pig.

  • Display and tasting of rare native Wiltshire apples, growing advice from experts and Wiltshire apple saplings for sale.

  • The opportunity to sponsor orchard fruit trees for the new Diamond Jubilee Plantation on Marlborough Common and other sites around town.

  • Four-star luxury raffle brings the chance to win: Four tickets to a special performance of the Nutcracker, followed by afternoon tea at Sheepdrove Eco-Centre and Organic Farm; a case of fine wine from Waitrose; a three-course dinner for two at The Bell at West Overton; an hour long aromatherapy massage at Indulgence Beauty salon.

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A minute’s silence at Sunday’s communities market in tribute to late town clerk Derek Wolfe

Derek WolfeDerek WolfeTribute to Derek Wolfe, Marlborough’s late town clerk, is to be paid at Sunday’s communities market in the High Street when stallholders and visitors will be asked to stand for a minute’s silence. 

As it is to be a Harvest Festival Market, the event will take place following the civic harvest festival service at St Mary’s, which will be attended by Marlborough’s Mayor, Edwina Fogg, and town councillors. 

At the close of the 10am service, the mayor and councillors, joined by the Rector, Canon Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, and Mr Wolfe’s widow, Lynette, will walk in procession to the High Street.   There the Town Crier will ring in the minute’s silence, to be be followed by a blessing on the market and all those involved.

“Derek was a director of the communities market and someone who was incredible supportive of the whole ethos of what we are doing,” market organiser Ellie Gill told Marlborough News Online.

“He was a great help to us and his presence is going to be sadly missed.”

The market will start earlier than the normal 11am start because the Mop Fair will have been operating in the High Street the night before.

Stallholders in the covered town hall section are expected to be operating by 8am.

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Community Giveaway celebrates Marlborough good causes

Robert Fraser, the  Mayor of Marlborough Edwina Fogg, and Hugh Fraser present a winner's cheque to Marilyn Mason and the children of the Phoenix Brass Band training sectionRobert Fraser, the Mayor of Marlborough Edwina Fogg, and Hugh Fraser present a winner's cheque to Marilyn Mason and the children of the Phoenix Brass Band training sectionMarlborough's grassroots community organisations and good causes were celebrated and rewarded at a special event thrown by new convenience store Budgens of Marlborough on Thursday, September 27.

The store's Community Giveaway saw £3,000 given away on the night with a further £3,000 to follow when the £2m shop, Subway food outlet, car wash and petrol forecourt open on October 18.

Nineteen community organisations competed for a share of the jackpot, with the final nine – chosen by the public on the store's Facebook page – battling it out during the final at Theatre on the Hill, St John's School.

The final decision was left to the public using Wiltshire Council's voting handsets, with the process managed by community area manager Andrew Jack.

Phoenix Brass Band, Savernake Forest Scout Group and Wiltshire Air Ambulance walked away with cheques for £1,000 each after pitching their organisation to the voting audience.

18-year-old Rebekah Tew, one of the success stories of Splitz, which works with children aged 11-17 who have witnessed or been exposed to domestic abuse18-year-old Rebekah Tew, one of the success stories of Splitz, which works with children aged 11-17 who have witnessed or been exposed to domestic abuseAll of the finalists, who included Carer Support Wiltshire, Marlborough Communities Market, St John's School, We Love Marlborough, Marlborough Brandt Group, and Splitz will get a share of £3,000 through an in-store customer token scheme.

The event, which was free to attend, also gave members of the public the opportunity to meet directors and staff involved with the new Budgens store, look over the plans, and sample some of the wares.

And members of the audience were so moved by one of the presentations that the charity was handed a cash donation by a member of the public straight after the event.

The initiative was well received by members of the public. Kate Major, a supporter of Phoenix Brass Band, said: “It was a fabulous evening; very enjoyable,” while Susan Dickins said: “It was an excellent evening. When I did finally get to sleep after all that excitement I woke up the following morning still smiling!”

Robert Fraser and Nick Fraser, of Fraser Retail Group, with Craig Adams (centre) of Box Steam breweryRobert Fraser and Nick Fraser, of Fraser Retail Group, with Craig Adams (centre) of Box Steam breweryDiane Barkham of Carer Support Wiltshire said: “A big thank you for giving us the opportunity to take part in such a great and generous initiative.

“It is because of kind businesses like yourselves that we are able to raise awareness as well as have the chance to try and gain a little extra funding which really makes a difference.”

Mark Wilson, of Budgens of Marlborough, told guests that Fraser Retail Group had been trying to move into Marlborough for over 10 years. And explaining the thinking behind the Community Giveaway, he said: “We are all about how we can work with the community and become part of the community and rather than just take, give a little back.

“It’s also about working with local suppliers in giving them an opportunity to bring their products to market where otherwise they would struggle and often struggle to even survive.”

The event was officially opened by the mayor of Marlborough, councillor Edwina Fogg, who praised Budgens of Marlborough for their community spirit and welcomed the creation of 50 new jobs in a tough economic climate.

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Lord Cardigan left without legal help as his solicitors withdraw from court case

Criminal charges against Lord Cardigan have been adjourned after Judge Euan Ambrose was told at Swindon Crown Court that he has parted company with his legal aid solicitors. 

He was due to enter pleas on charges of theft and criminal damage but Judge Ambrose adjourned the hearing until November 2 after learning his lawyers have withdrawn from the case.  This will give him time to find a new solicitor. 

Lord Cardigan, of Savernake Lodge, near Marlborough, also revealed that he had to go to America where his wife is due in court seeking custody of her son.

Appearing under the name David Brudenell-Bruce, the 59-year-old peer is accused of damaging a pheasant feeders and drinkers to the value of £66 between June 4 and June 29.

He is further accused of the theft of a battery and electrical power unit worth £80 on Saturday June 23 following  events alleged to have taken place on the Savernake Forest estate.

Marie-Claire Amuah, who had represented him when the case was before magistrates, told the judge on Monday that her instructing solicitors had decided to cease representing him that morning.

Cardigan told the court that he had “heard on the grapevine” that his solicitors, London based J.D. Spicer and Co, were going to cease to represent him.

"I didn't think today would be going ahead because I heard some time ago that they would be walking away from the case,” Lord Cardigan told the judge from the dock.

"I have heard from a mutual friend that they are pulling out -- not very professional.  indeed I was slightly surprised to see Miss Amuah here this morning."

He said he would seek new representation immediately as he was due to fly to Arizona next week as his wife, an American citizen, was due in court on a child custody case.  He hoped to be back in the last few days of the month.

Lord Cardigan was released on bail until November 2 on condition he does not have contact with five named people or go within 50 metres of their homes.

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Marlborough’s third literary festival kicks off without footballers and big boobs

Mavis Cheek Launches the festivalMavis Cheek Launches the festivalMarlborough’s latest literary festival was launched last night (Friday) with a reception at the town hall attended by Marlborough’s own celebrities – and a message from its chairman, the novelist Mavis Cheek. 

“Welcome to our third year,” she told Marlborough’s mayor, Edwina Fogg, and the guests. “The important thing about this festival is that it proves that you don’t have very large breasts or be a footballer to be a success as a literary festival.” 

“We only invite people who write books beautifully.  We only have real literature at our festival and it works every time.  We are living proof that literature soars.”

She revealed that the festival was born out of a meeting in a wine bar with former mayor Nick Fogg, creator of Marlborough’s international jazz festival.  She then went cap in hand to the Author’s Licensing and Collecting Society for support.

“And they immediately wrote me a cheque to start this festival,” said Mavis. “So I must continue to thank them because without them we would never have dared sail into the dark.”

She then went on to thank too the festival’s lead sponsors, Brewin Dolphin, and other sponsors Robert Hiscock, whose international company insures the festival, and the family of Marlborough’s own literary Nobel laureate William Golding, who have created a festival lecture in his name.

Sir John Sykes, a member of the Litfest committee, invited all the guests to toast the festival “and all who sail in her.”

Sir John went on to pay tribute to the leadership of Mavis, who chairs its committee. “Thank you Mavis for being inspirational in getting the third festival under way,” he declared.

Boker Prize winning novellist Howard JacobsonBoker Prize winning novellist Howard JacobsonMavis Cheek with Sir John SykesMavis Cheek with Sir John SykesPeter Davison, Marlborough's George Orwell guruPeter Davison, Marlborough's George Orwell guruEdwina Fogg in conversation with journalist Elinor GoodmanEdwina Fogg in conversation with journalist Elinor GoodmanRobert HiscoxRobert Hiscox

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Breakthrough in solving fuel poverty problem for Marlborough’s social housing tenants

The problem of fuel poverty, affecting the lives of hundreds of social housing tenants in the Marlborough area, is set to be solved by making use of the government’s CERT funding scheme, whose existence too few of them know about. 

CERT – the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target – ensures that all the major energy providers can utilise generous grants on offer for loft and cavity wall insulation and enables people to switch to more energy efficient and flexible heating systems. 

To date this generous funding has been drastically under-utilised in the county, despite Wiltshire Council identifying 985 dwellings in the Marlborough area that have inadequate heating and insulation.

This makes them more vulnerable to rising energy costs, creating fuel poverty if more than 10 per cent of the household income is spent on energy.

Members of Transition Marlborough set up a meeting with town councillors, a local tenant, Wiltshire Council’s SEACS energy ambassadors and Aster Housing Association's energy and asset manager officers, which produced some startling statistics.

They discovered that of Aster’s 911 local properties, some 591 have an average SAP energy rating of 55 out of 100, which means that are moderately to highly inefficient, in terms of energy conservation.

As a result of this meeting and Transition Marlborough’s discussions with families in fuel poverty plus investigations of the most appropriate schemes available, a plan is now being prepared by Aster's energy manager and British Gas to take advantage of the CERT funding, before it runs out at the end of December.

And this will result in all of Aster's local tenants considered to be vulnerable, will have the energy efficiency of their homes improved, free of charge.

“This is an amazing breakthrough,” Marlborough town councillor Richard Pitts, who is also a member of Transition Marlborough, told Marlborough News Online.

“People suffering in these austerity times need  help and by involving Aster directly in the process up to 600 homes can be insulated, not only saving an average of £175 per year in energy bills but also by contributing to the government’s greenhouse gas emissions saving target of 293 MtCO2e (Metric Tonne CO2 equivalent).”

He added: “It seems that the CERT funding has not been taken up by individual families because of the lengthy form filling process. So we are delighted that Aster managers have agreed to take on this task here in Marlborough, so that we can take advantage of the help that is on hand for those in serious need.

“And that is very much thanks to the determination and effort of Dr Sam Page and the Marlborough Transition group in seeking ways to provide help and support to those under the cosh of rising energy bills.”

Members of Transition Marlborough will be displaying information about the CERT scheme, the Warm and Well Scheme and the Warm Home Discount Scheme, along with free draught-busting kits at Sunday’s communities market in Marlborough High Street.

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Another blow for Marlborough College in students’ Puffin safety crossing row

Councillor Richard PittsCouncillor Richard PittsMarlborough College received another slap in the face from town councillors on Monday when a planning application for new gates to be erected in the College’s listed boundary wall in Bridewell Street was rejected. 

Members of the planning committee, who had voted unanimously in August against the College’s plans for a new Puffin crossing at the spot, again turned it down. 

But Councillor Richard Pitts declared that students didn’t use the two existing Pelican crossings, which made another crossing and the new gates unnecessary.

The College’s aim was to provide a safer crossing into the College for students due to occupy its new female hostel in the former Ivy House Hotel, the second application providing attractive new gates for students on the narrow pavement edge.

Committee vice-chairman Councillor Gordon Francis suggested that the new crossing was also for the use of students crossing from the College’s School of Art.

“Nevertheless, this is for a change in their listed boundary wall. This is all subjective and entirely dependant on whether approval is given for the new crossing.”

“There are some photographs of the wall which show that there are two different courses of bricks at the place where they want to put this gate.  That’s what makes it somewhat ugly.”

It will be up to Wiltshire Council to decide the fate of both applications, but Councillor Peggy Dow, who is one of Marlborough’s two county councillors, also objected.

“We haven’t got many walls now that are still listed,” she protested.  “We seem to be losing them all the time.  The wall will lose its attraction.  Personally I’m against this.”

Councillor Pitts agreed.

“The point is that they don’t use the crossings that they have already,” he said.  “There was a point the other day where the kids were running across the road.  There is no reason to have this crossing.  So therefore there is no reason to knock a hole in this wall.”

Councillor Stewart Dobson followed suit.

“I think we should stick to our guns and say there should be no crossing at all,” he said.  “We should go back to our old argument that they have two crossings already in the vicinity.  They are perfectly adequate.”

Councillor Francis pointed out that the application was about a listed wall, not the new crossing.

And Councillor Pitts retorted: “I am happy to propose we should reject this and turn to next business. It is unnecessary damage to a currently listed wall.”

The committee agreed.

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Council survey of all cafes and pubs goes ahead in planning battle against Caffe Nero

All the cafes, pubs and outlets providing beverages in Marlborough are to be asked to complete a questionnaire on how their business has been affected since the arrival of Caffe Nero five months ago. 

This is being done on the initiative of Councillor Margaret Rose (pictured), chair of the town council’s planning committee, who announced the mission at the committee’s meeting last night (Monday). 

“If this council doesn’t stand up for small businesses then it will be very remiss of us,” she told fellow councillors in seeking their support in joining her conducting the survey, details of which are now being prepared.

The survey results will provide the town council’s evidence when the belated public inquiry into Wiltshire Council’s refusal to grant retrospective planning consent to Caffe Nero, now likely to take place on January 6, is held.

As yet, the exact date and venue of the event has not been agreed by the Planning Inspectorate (based in Bristol), but October 29 has been fixed as the deadline for the appointed planning inspector to receive all objections and comments – in triplicate.

Councillor Rose said that Caffe Nero, which has won 16 out of 17 planning appeals in towns across the country after it had opened for business without planning consent, would provide figures of how well it had done since arriving in Marlborough High Street in April.

“I would like to survey all the cafes to see how many of them have lost business,”  she pointed out.  “I believe Caffe Nero’s decision to cream off customers is detrimental to the town.”

Councillor Peggy Dow, also a Wiltshire councillor, interjected:  “That’s an excellent idea.”  And other councillors too gave their blessing to the survey – there are some 20 outlets in the town -- being carried out.

Councillor Rose added that Councillor Richard Gamble, vice-chairman of Wiltshire’s eastern area planning committee, would be presenting the case on “strong planning issues” as to why Caffe Nero should be denied retrospective consent.

“But as a council we must be concerned by the effect Caffe Nero’s decision has had on businesses,” said Councillor Rose. “If other councillors want to come round with me they can.”

“That will ensure that every café and bar is done.  It is the smaller cafes who are suffering . I want us to cover every outlet that sells beverages.  I thank you for your support.  I appreciate that.”

Anyone may submit their views in writing direct to The Planning Inspectorate, 3/26 Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6PN, quoting the reference APP/Y3940/C/12/2183497 and E/2012/00077/ENF.

They have to be made in triplicate, any representations made after that deadline not normally being seen by the planning inspector will be returned.

Views expressed will be disclosed to Caffe Nero and are liable to be read out at the inquiry hearing.

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Comic novelist Michael Frayn reveals the art of making fun from mistaken identity

Michael FraynMichael FraynMistaken identity makes the world go round – creating the laughter so traditionally found in comedy and farce dating back to the Greek gods, who reinvented themselves in search of love. 

That was the delightful theme Michael Frayn, the prize-winning novelist, playwright and author of screenplays, as he retold the basic ideas behind his new comic novel called Skios, a totally fictional name for a Greek island he invented. 

Yet, to prove his point, he recalled at the Marlborough literary festival last night (Saturday) that admirers had come up to him on his promotional tours for the book to tell him they knew the island well. 

And that brought down the house at Marlborough town hall where a packed audience succumbed to his exceptional tales of true events that ought to make them wonder whether he was really Michael Frayn and not some commercial franchise aiming to dumbfound them.

He revealed how this was in fact the case with the pop star Little Richard -- and a major Moscow orchestra too -- who appeared in different places at the same time without their audiences being aware they were being cheated.

One man who protested vehemently at a Little Richard concert  some years ago was hauled off by security guards as if he were mental.  Yet 18 months later his claim was proved to be true, people always willing to hide their identities for nefarious purposes.

“How do you know I am Michael Frayn?”  he asked them.  “Who knows, some shaven haired security guards might come and haul me off at any moment.”

Indeed, he pointed out that the festival aide who had picked him up at Swindon railway station had never met him before, as was the case in Skios where his colourful hero, an ebullient Boris Johnson-type character, changes his identity without difficulty.

Having stupidly picked up the suitcase of an eminent scientist on the baggage carousel and seeing a young woman with a placard with the man’s name on it, one of half a dozen waiting to collect people, goes off with her, in more than one sense.

“Have you ever been tempted?”  asked Frayn.  “I confess I have always been tempted to go round and claim I am the name on the card because it would be so interesting to step into someone else’s life and see someone else’s world.”

“Those waiting at airports don’t know person they have been sent to pick or what they look like.  I wouldn’t do it because I’m far too timid.”

But he had a manic depressive friend who was a danger to himself because nobody knew what he might do next.

“He was walking along Fleet Street, he was a journalist, and saw in the slow-moving traffic a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce with white ribbons on it,” Frayn recalled.  “What he wanted to do was to get into the car and tell the bride and groom the story of his life.”

“That’s what he did.  According to him it was a great success because he is such a charming fellow.  And no doubt somewhere today there is the bride thinking how much her life might have turned out very differently if she had gone off and married him.”

Indeed, he pointed out, the masked ball of the 18th century was a perfect ploy for people to have secret assignations thanks to being able to hide their true identity, providing endless possibilities for fun and frolics.

Fact or fiction, it didn’t matter, the laughter from 79-year-old Frayn’s delicious stories undoubtedly adding to the audience’s sheer enjoyment.

As he told them at the start, when he set out on his Skios travels he received an email from the Society of Authors telling him that he needed public liability insurance.

“People nowadays sue their doctors for miss-diagnosis, they sue the council for making them trip up over paving stones, they sue their lawyers for failing to collect damages,” he pointed out.

“But I am not at all clear what I can do to you which will be so awful that it will get you suing? The only thing I can think of is getting a writ from someone who says my beloved mother-in-law passed away following the event the other night because you bored her to death.”

That Michael Frayn failed gloriously to achieve.

See Michael Frayn reveals hidden trauma - September 17

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Wiltshire’s NHS: new GP-led Commissioning Group faces old problem

From Monday (October 1) the new GP-led Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) take over operational running of the county’s health services from NHS Wiltshire (the Primary care Trust or PCT.)  It’s one of the quirks of the coalition government’s restructuring of the NHS that statutory responsibility for the service remains with the PCT until the end of March 2013.

One of the major problems the CCG inherits is the seemingly unstoppable drain on the NHS budget for Wiltshire from delayed discharges from hospital – known as DTOCs (for delayed transfer of care.)

This is not only a local problem.  Here’s Katherine Murphy, head of the national Patients Association, getting to the heart of the matter: “At the moment, health and social care are not joined up, so people are left occupying beds in hospital when they could be treated in the community if the right services were provided there – domiciliary care, physiotherapy and so on. That would mean happier patients, less chance of people getting hospital-acquired infections and less cost for the NHS.”

NHS Wiltshire’s Chairman, Tony Barron, puts it simply: “DTOCs are the end product of an appalling pathway of care” – care is not being planned beyond hospital admission and treatment.  The trouble is, as Katherine Murphy underlined, it’s not ‘joined up’ - hospitals are in the hands of the NHS and social care is in the hands of Wiltshire Council.

In Wiltshire the situation is bad and is draining money from a very stretched budget. The latest figures from NHS Wiltshire show that in the week to September 20 there were seventy-four patients in hospital beds who need not have been there – that was ten more than the previous week and sixty-four more than was planned and budgeted for.

Thirty-nine patients were waiting for care homes; nine for assessment as to where they ought to go; seven for a ‘care package’ to be arranged; six for transfer to non-acute hospitals; five were the subject of disputes; and three were waiting for their care home of choice. Over the week there were 414 lost bed says – up forty-four from the previous week – which equates to an extra cost against the PCT’s budget of £100,602 for the week.

They used to be called “bed blockers” – which seemed to imply that they wanted to be in the beds, when in reality it was the social care authorities keeping them there.  So they now called DTOCs – and during that week they were spread across the hospitals used by NHS Wiltshire: eighteen in community hospital beds; thirteen at Salisbury Foundation Trust; twenty-five at Bath’s RUH; twelve at Swindon’s GWH; and six in beds run by the mental health partnership.

It is the view in the PCT that “Wiltshire [Council] have not got the infrastructure in place” to cope with this problem. The Council have made changes and are still making changes - some of these were described recently to Marlborough News Online by the Council leader, Jane Scott.

And there are other changes in the pipeline such as increasing the Council’s teams working within the three acute hospitals (Bath, Salisbury and Swindon) so they can achieve faster assessment of patients’ needs as their treatment ends and they are ready to be discharged.

The PCT have over the past three years passed funding to Wiltshire Council aimed among other things at resolving the DTOC problem.  In 2010-2011 it was £1,420 million; in 2011-2012 it was £7,082 million (including a payment for winter pressures.)  This year it is £4,651 million so far with another £2,268 million in the budget which can be passed on as soon as agreement is reached on how it will be spent.

Some of the results can be seen.  In 2011-2012 the NHS money helped the Council provide 175 extra long-term care home places; more extensive care to support people at home; an extra five social workers in the acute hospitals; and support for a 24/7 telecare response service.

There is also the Council’s STARR scheme which finds short-term beds - on the one hand to prevent people going into hospital because they urgently need social care, and on the other hand to help people coming out of hospital.  This may become part of an urgent social care response service that could be better for patients and for the NHS budget.

Aditional information: Wiltshire Council runs twenty-two re-emablement beds which are at present in the STARR scheme - these will be increased to 'thirty plus'.

In June, Sue Geary, Wiltshire Council’s Head of Social Care Policy, confirmed to NHS Wiltshire that the Council had received extra funds due to the increase in patients being admitted to hospital.  She said there were enough beds available, but thought too many patients were being transferred to residential beds unnecessarily.

In July, Ms Geary admitted that much work still had to be done on the STARR scheme, and the CCG’s leader, Deborah Fielding, urged that the funds should be put to use by the Council ‘as a matter of urgency’.

It was suggested to the Council that they could use an empty ward at Salisbury Foundation Trust hospital as a temporary measure to take patients ready to be discharged. The PCT is firmly against this.  As Tony Barron put it: “I’m totally opposed to a bed-based solution – hospital is not the right place for people to be – to use that ugly word – warehoused.”  This suggestion was quickly turned down by Wiltshire Council.

The GPs and their CCG will have to take this problem on. And it is an enduring problem partly because there is no one solution – as the PCT was told last week: “It needs a multi-pronged approach and we have to keep working on every prong all the time.”

The GPs will find themselves in something of a quandary on this issue because they are both commissioners and providers of health care.  In the former role they have a budget to control and use as they think best. In the latter role they will be told by the executives in their CCG that they have to stop admitting people to hospital unnecessarily – people who when they are ready to be discharged have nowhere suitable to go.  

The transition from PCT to GP-led commissioning that is the foundation of the government’s restructuring of the NHS, has six months to run. As it continues the PCT’s risk register is showing a lot of red ink – and will do so until March 31, 2013.  The red ink that surrounds DTOCs may continue a lot longer.

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Do new ways with dementia diagnosis give a glimpse of Wiltshire’s future NHS?

The big-bang day for the coalition government’s restructuring of the NHS is either March 30 or April 1 next year – depending on which side of the divide you are on.  But some of the changes are being brought on stream gradually giving us a glimpse of what the new NHS might look like.Dr Celia GrummittDr Celia Grummitt

In Wiltshire  there is a single Clinical Commissioning Group, but it is dividing itself up into three ‘localities’ or local areas so as to keep closer to patients – there’s even talk of sub-localities.  One of the first practical fruits of the new organisation has come from the GP commissioners Sarum locality which covers the south of the county.

Dr Celia Grummitt from the Cross Plain Practice which has surgeries in Shrewton and Durrington, has been master-minding a pilot scheme to bring the diagnosis of early stage dementia closer to home.

This pilot is for those with moderate and uncomplicated memory impairment where the memory loss is affecting a patient’s daily living. In the past this diagnosis and any prescribed treatment has been done by specialists and may involve an eight or nine month wait.

It is estimated that Wiltshire has about 6,300 people with dementia – and of these only about a third have a diagnosis.

Using money from the government’s push on dementia treatment which was passed to the Primary Care Trust (NHS Wiltshire), doctors in five Sarum practices covering 25,000 patients have been carrying out diagnoses and have got permission to prescribe Donepezil.  This drug is one of a group of drugs (called ACIs) that can help memory loss and it’s been on the market the longest, so doctors know a lot about it.

Dr Grummitt sees this pilot scheme as “Bringing care nearer to home with support from specialist teams, but done by GPs.”  She is adamant that this is not about taking work away from the centres of specialist care and so destabilising them, but creating a new balance between the GPs and the big hospitals with their specialists: “The phrase the funding follows the patient remains valid.”

It will, of course, take a while for the effectiveness and economics of the pilot to be gauged. It remains to be seen, for instance, how many of those who are diagnosed will take their Donepezil.

Stephany Bardzil, from the independent Wiltshire charity Alzheimer’s Support, told Marlborough News Online: “We are very interested to see the outcome of the pilot and for it to be extended to other parts of Wiltshire. The current waiting times for memory clinics are scandalously long. If some people can get the support and treatment they need more quickly through their GPs that is to be welcomed. However we do have some concerns that not all GPs will have the specialist skills needed to recognise more complex cases.”

In the near future, Alzheimer’s Support will publish a report on the barriers to dementia diagnosis in Wiltshire, based on surveys of patients and health service staff and on focus groups.

Dr Grummitt is very aware of the potential conflicts of interest as the GPs take on more work for which they will be paid. GPs will in many instances be commissioning themselves and their surgeries to carry out work and agreeing payments for that work.  And the closer to home treatment comes, the more work the doctors will be commissioning from themselves.

She is optimistic about the future of GP commissioning: “It is going to work because of relationships.  Professionals work better in a smaller area.”  

“When the[Lansley]  Bill was passed there was no going back – we couldn’t just hope it would go away. If we don’t drive it, the government will put someone in over us.  So much has been dismantled – there’s only forwards.”

Some people say that the government’s already put that “someone” over the GPs – in the shape of both the Council-run Health and Wellbeing Boards and the NHS Commissioning Board with its local offices acting as a discreet (so far) strategic health authority.

The day Dr Grummitt spoke to Marlborough News Online another practice outside the Sarum area, over in the west of the county, had asked to join the pilot scheme: “The dementia pilot has opened clinicians eyes to what can be done.”

Once the genie is out of the bottle the pressure will be on for more of the same. The GP commissioners will not only have to manage their budget, they will also have to manage expectations.

And there’s a way to go yet. A report in 2011 on the relative rates of diagnosis for dementia put NHS Wiltshire at 161st out of 169 primary care trusts.

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Summer deluge hits an amazing new peak reports Marlborough weather station

The summer rainfall in Marlborough, as you might have expected, has hit a new peak, the highest since Eric Gilbert launched his weather station in 1984.

“ With a total of 328mm, it was 183 per cent of the long-term average, superseding the previous record of 305mm for the summer of 2007,” he told Marlborough News Online.

“The frequency of heavy rainfall is not surprising as with global temperatures rising the air can contain greater quantities of moisture and, I understand, that globally it now contains four per centmore than it did in the 1970’s.”

“Although the wettest months in Marlborough over a 28-year period are November, December and January respectively, the highest daily totals are in the summer when daily temperatures are much higher.”

“With a total of 108.8mm August 2012 was the fourth wettest with 171 per cent of the long-term average, this follows large totals in recent years with 104mm and 108mm in August 2008 and 2010 respectively.”

He added: “The highest daily totals have also occurred in recent years with 41.7mm in August 2012 and the 45.4mm in May 2007. The trend is upward for more modest falls of 10mm or greater by four a year since the 1980’s.

“Records were set in September when the barometric pressure dropped to a very low 984.4Mb and the diurnal maximum temperature (daily range between minimum and maximum) with a difference of 25.3 degrees centigrade."

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Overseas aid destroys the democracy of African countries claims award-winning author

Overseas aid to foreign countries, to which Prime Minister David Cameron has committed millions despite our economic troubles,  destroys their democracy rather than helping them. That was the unexpected message from award-winning journalist and novelist Aminatta Forna (pictured) when she spoke at one of the last events of Marlborough’s literary festival at the town hall on Sunday. 

She is the daughter of a Scottish mother and a Sierra Leone freedom fighter, who spent part of her childhood in Africa as well as in Zambia, Iran and Thailand,  and whose memoir, The Memory of Love, won last year’s Commonwealth Writer’s Best Book Award prize. 

And questioned about her attitude to the UK’s refusal to reduce international aid given our double-dip recession, she confessed that her disenchantment stemmed from the end of the 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone, when the Revolutionary United Front tried to overthrow the government of president Joseph Momoh. 

At first she welcomed the arrival of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and agencies but then dramatically changed her mind when she saw what was happening in the country.

“I thought the arrival of the NGOs was the best thing that happened to us,” she said. “Then I got very disenchanted. I am not at all convinced of the efficacy of aid on the ground. But then I have a much bigger and much more troubling feeling about it, which is that I don’t think it is really meant to work.

“I don’t anyone in western governments care a damn about it. I think aid is really investment for business. Actually aid is completely tied to markets. It’s about opening markets and that’s what developing countries do in order to get the aid.”

And Aminatta then declared: “I think aid destroys democracy because our president in Sierra Leone -- and it is true of very many other countries -- is much more concerned about what the aid donors think than he is to what his electorate thinks.”

She complained that it was the electorate is to whom the president was answerable to, not the providers of aid.

“We here in Britain may think we stand for certain principles and it doesn’t really matter if he answers to us. He is going to be answering to China very shortly. But it undermines fundamental relations in a democracy where he is answerable to his people.

“It is that relationship between aid and trade that bothers me most. In any case, I don’t think much aid is effective, it’s not long term, it’s not thought out.

“Quite often we have discussions like this and people quite genuinely want to help and they become very upset thinking that the help they are giving doesn’t seem to be appreciated by this woman talking to you here on stage.”

There were exceptions, she admitted, and she said she could name one or two agencies who did good work. “But I say to young people, if you want to change the developing world, if you want to help the developing world, please go and lobby for fair trade terms,” Aminatta added.

“That is much more acceptable than spending a year working with an NGO. If you do want to do something, then please switch all your assets into emerging markets.”


 Aminatta Forna with Nick MauriceAminatta Forna with Nick Maurice

The need is to help people to help themselves

Support for Aminatta’s views came from Dr Nick Maurice, founder of Marlborough’s famed Brandt Group, which supports people in The Gambia to help themselves.

“She raised a vitally important issue namely the relationship between aid and development,” Dr Maurice told Marlborough News Online after hearing her speak.

“Aid suggests help for the helpless and, as an African, she rightly criticises this approach which takes no account of the extraordinary resourcefulness of African people. It suggests ‘hand outs’ rather than ‘hand ups’ – i.e starting from where people are and working with those that want to bring about change for the better.

“The word ‘development’  comes from the French ‘De-envelopper’ i.e. ‘to remove the envelope’, the envelope referring to the constraints of lack of literacy and education, lack of medical services, lack of access to business opportunities, and thus enabling people to reach their maximum potential.

“It means working with people rather than working for people."

Aminatta is right to be critical of some aid agencies who very often come with their own agendas and pre-conceived ideas of ‘what people need is....’.

“There is a fine African saying, ‘We are given two ears and only one mouth for a purpose, namely that we should listen more and we should speak less!"



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Howard Jacobson warns Marlborough’s literary festival of a dire decline in reading

Howard JacobsonHoward JacobsonBooker prize-winning novelist Howard Jacobson, admired for his black comedy, was in dire mood about the state of literature when he launched Marlborough’s third literary festival at the town hall last night (Friday).  

While the packed house laughed and hooted, giggled and applauded the hilarious stories he told, especially his  encounters with his Jewish mother, 70-year-old Jacobson was in fearful mood about the decline in reading. 

And the rise of a generation of uninformed people, mainly critics and bloggers on the internet, who believed their opinions are as good as any others.  

“Through all the wonders of the internet and computers, one of the terrible things that has happened is that people have been empowered to believe that if they have an opinion they have a right to that opinion -- and that it’s a good as anybody else’s,” he protested.

“It isn’t.   It quite simply isn’t.”

He wowed the audience too talking about Zoo Time, his latest novel about the end of everything, which stemmed from a true story of a depressed author going into a bookshop and stealing his own novel.

He warned them:  “My comedy is very bleak, very black…I remember Ian McEwen once saying the comic author is wrestling you to the floor and tickling you.   I don’t.   I wrestle you to the floor and put a knife in your heart.”

Yet he insisted:  “It is the most terrific fun to feel we are at the end of everything.  I love the feeling that it’s over, it’s finished.  It gives me, for some reason, enormous joy.”

“In this room there is nothing wrong.  In this room the world is fine, beautiful, there is nothing to complain of.   But outside, elsewhere, things are quite dark.”

“Bookshops are closing.   Libraries are closing.   We do not know what will happen to the physical book from the threat of technology, the ebook.”

“I am not horrified of the ebook but I am no great fan of the ebook.  And I don’t know where it will leave us.”

One reason for the worrying decline in reading was poor teaching in schools, where pupils considered “bits of books”, not the whole structure.

“We should say we will not have our children taught like that,” he said.  “We should demand better teaching.  We should be altogether much more demanding.”

I owe so much to your Nobel laureate William Golding

Howard Jacobson, the first author to give a Golding lecture inMarlborough, offered his thanks and told the audience: “I am honoured to be the William Golding speaker. I owe him a great debt.

“First of all, I read him when I was a schoolboy. He was very important to me.  He was one of the writers who showed me how the novel is a serious thing, how absolutely crucial the novel is.

“The other thing I am grateful to William Golding is that without him I would have been the oldest person ever to have won the Booker Prize.  That’s not a distinction one wears lightly.  And I’m glad he’s still got that.

“It is a good thing that older people win prizes.  And I hope as the years go by many, many novelists older than Wm Golding will win the Booker.  You hear a lot about supporting the young.  Let’s support the old.”

He explores in Zoo Time confrontations with reading groups telling authors they can’t identify with their characters.

“I have had this said to me,” recalled Jacobson, who was interviewed on stage by Boyd Tonkin, literary editor of The Independent newspaper.  “Every writer living has had it said to them.”

“And when anybody says that you want to kill them.  You want to kill them because it is irrelevant whether you want to identify with someone in a novel. It can be wonderful.  There are wonderful reading experiences when you think I am Jane Eyre.”

“But you can’t demand that because books do something else.  You can’t demand that the characters in a novel be likeable.  That’s the other thing you get – I didn’t like the characters in your novels. So bloody what!”

“What’s so nice about the MacBeths, do you really want to spend an evening with King Lear, where did this idea come from the literature is the story of the people you most like living next door?”

“It’s part of what drives me round the bend.”

So did questions about who were the great novelists, people scoffing when he listed Jane Austen, Dickens, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy.

“There is a assumption abroad that the really good stuff isn’t fun, that there is a secret thing that we do at night that we put a torch under the covers and we read JK Rowling,” he declared. “Well, we don’t.

“The most entertaining book you will ever read is always the best book you will ever read.  I am committed to that.”

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Town councillors prepare for New Year public inquiry planning battle against Caffe Nero

Councillor Richard GambleCouncillor Richard GambleJanuary is now the likely date for a public inquiry into an appeal lodged by Caffe Nero against an enforcement order issued by Wiltshire Council for it to stop trading illegally from its prime location in Marlborough High Street. 

Now the appeal has been made, Marlborough town council’s own planning committee will on Monday set out its priorities to present its case to a government planning inspector, seeking to uphold its objections and those of 60 retailers and individuals opposed to Caffe Nero’s presence in the town. 

Those priorities will probably be an initial  plea for the inquiry to be held at Marlborough Town Hall so that traders and residents can attend, the more so as the planning process has been so slow to reach an inquiry stage.  

And the second is preparing its own dossier of evidence to back up its case, a town survey of all existing coffee shops and bars at the heart of it.

This follows the refusal more than three months ago of Wiltshire Council’s eastern area planning committee – on a vote of seven to one -- to grant the international company retrospective change of use permission for the premises.

Caffe Nero opened its coffee shop in a former fashion store in April without seeking permission first, abusing regulations that it should do so in a trade mark decision by the company in similar cafe launches in towns across the country.

They have subsequently still resulted in it winning 16 out of 17 appeals, calls for tougher legislation ignored by the government which has wanted to speed up planning decisions.

“We are only a small town, but unlike others who have capitulated to Caffe Nero, we refuse to roll over and will stand our ground on this major planning issue affecting a site that has A1 sales retail and is in a prime location,” Tory Councillor Margaret Rose, who chairs the town council’s planning committee, told Marlborough News Online.

“I shall be seeking to carry out a survey of all the coffee bars and cafes in Marlborough to see the effect Caffe Nero has had on their trade since it abused the laid down regulations and opened up in the High Street without change of use planning permission.”

“I shall be calling on the Chamber of Commerce to help us with the survey, which will identify those businesses that have suffered from Caffe Nero’s arrival here.”

 “Caffe Nero is in a position to cream off all retail trade that smaller cafes would receive and therefore  small cafes are loosing revenue.  I hope our survey will enable use to assess exactly what has happened since April and enable us to bring those who have been seriously affected on board.”

She added: “Sadly we are now without a  our late town clerk, Derek Wolfe, but with the support of my fellow councillors, the  Chamber of Commerce  and Wiltshire councillor Richard Gamble, who is vice-chair of the area planning committee, we shall be ready  for the fight.”

It was Councillor Gamble who led the attack on Caffe Nero – and Wiltshire’s own planning director Mike Wilmott – at its July meeting that resulted in the seven to one refusal vote.

He virtually accused planning officers of failing to understand the existing planning legislation and the county’s own core planning policies.  And he dismissed as “unproven and unsubstantiated” a survey of customers report Caffe Nero had submitted to the council supporting its claim that it was adding “vitality and viability” to the town.

Councillor Gamble told Marlborough News Online: "I will be attending the public inquiry and hope to be able to speak in support of the planning committee's decision to reject Caffe Nero's retrospective planning application.”

Mr Wilmott told Marlborough News Online : “I can confirm that Caffe Nero have lodged their appeal against the enforcement notice.  The inspectorate has confirmed that the appeal is valid and that it will be determined by a public inquiry.”

“The date for the inquiry is not yet confirmed but is likely to be in January.  The venue cannot be confirmed at this stage as we have no firm date yet.”

He pointed out hat the appeal is being made on two specific grounds.

One is simply that that planning permission should be granted for the use of the High Street premises.  The other is that “the steps required to comply with the requirements of the notice are excessive - on the grounds that there is no policy reason why a mixed A1/A3 use could not be retained on the first floor - so the steps for compliance should only relate to the ground floor.”

Mr Wilmott added: “We will be sending notice of the appeal out to those who made representations on the planning application in due course.”

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