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As 2015 gives way to 2016: some highlights - and other lights - in the slowly changing face of Marlborough

For the most part, the planners and developers and their contractors took a year off from actually building Marlborough's future.  There was a lot of talk, a lot of people walking the walk, but little bricks-and-mortar action during 2015. 

The only building work of substance was at Priory Court - the Beechcroft development of homes and a large care home to the east of the Salisbury Road - which sped ahead with openings scheduled for early in 2016.  

And demolition began at the foot of Granham Hill - with perhaps another construction crane due soon on Marlborough's skyline.

Priory Court: new homes Priory Court: new homes No foundations were dug on the Crown Estate land opposite Tesco, on the land off Rabley Wood View or on Aster's in-fill mini sites or in the Hilliers Yard car park, let alone north of Barton Park and College Fields.

This lack of action was greeted with relief by many people.  But we may well see the go ahead for the Crown Estate development during 2016.  

St John's Academy successfully opened their Sixth Form Centre - slightly reduced to a size suitable for the current austerity regime.  

Plans for Marlborough's new primary school were put on hold in the summer while cost sharing was negotiated between central and local government.  It is now due to open fully in September 2017.

Fiona Esmarch at The RoebuckFiona Esmarch at The RoebuckEateries and 'watering holes' came and went.  The Roebuck on London Road closed very suddenly and was quickly re-opened by licensee Fiona Esmarch.  She has had a career as a caterer - including catering for pop stars - and will be moving to Marlborough from Bristol.  

With her partner Will Phillips running the bar and chef Karen Cairns, it is very much 'The Roebuck Pub and Dining': "It's good pub food with a twist - everything's fresh."  Their first quiz night was a sell-out with 13 teams and they will be having occasional live jazz - and a Sewing Club on Thursdays.

In February the Bollywood Indian restaurant opened, soon morphed - if only briefly - into Jyoti and then became No 48 Tapas and Grill - filled with happy Europhiles.

In July the closure of The Marlborough Deli was confirmed and the High Street welcomed 100 Chai Street bringing real tea and spicy treats.  
 
On The Parade, The Crown closed yet again and is in the process of becoming Marlborough's first Piano Lounge.  

There seems to be a big welcome in store for a Rick Stein restaurant at Lloran House in the High Street.  Town councillors seemed about to start booking their tables when they debated the Stein planning and licence applications.  Not so occupants of the nine homes - four of them new - just behind the building that will probably become the restaurant.  They fear it will disrupt their lives.

The Food Gallery produced a spin-off take-away coffee shop - Kat Holman's gaff - giving its famous coffee a presence closer to the Town Hall and the market.

The East fashion shop at 121-122 The High Street (photo left) finds itself in a bit of limbo.   The front of the building is being supported by Acrows and if there is a lot of work to be done, East may have to move - east or west along the High Street.

The count of charity shops rose.

The Town Mayor, Councillor Margaret Rose cheered things up with her celebration in Priory Gardens of the 150th anniversary of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  Alice's Enchanted Family Picnic was a great hit with young Alice fans - and with fans who just pretend to be young.

The Mayor was also instrumental in bringing the pop trio Scouting for Girls back to the town for the Christmas lights switch-on.  The group used the occasion as the setting for their Christmas video.  Marlborough's Scouts fared less well - threatened by a shortage of responsible volunteers.

Long-serving Town Crier Alfie Johnson decided it was time to hand over his bell. 2016 will see the search begin for a new Town Crier.

Politically, while all around the country politics changed dramatically, in the Devizes constituency the rural backwaters closed over the ballot boxes leaving Claire Perry as MP.  

For the record, four of the five candidates increased their share of the vote - Tories up 2.7 per cent, UKIP up 10.9 per cent, Labour up 2.8 per cent and the Green candidate up 4.1 per cent. Only the LibDem candidate, suffering from her party's role in the coalition government, saw her share of the vote drop - by nearly 19 per cent.

After a bout of tweeted Punch 'n Judy politics over election night Mrs Perry stopped tweeting.  Then towards the end of the year she attracted headlines about 'wasting police time' and stopped writing her weekly very party political newspaper column...  

...for a few weeks until Christmas Eve when her column returned and ended rather abruptly: "With an EU referendum possible next year, London mayoral elections and many council seats up for grabs, it is going to be a politically in-...."

No prizes for completing the sentence!  

Mrs Perry kept her job as railways minister.  Part of this job is to field Westminster Hall debates at which South East of England Conservative MPs complain about the service their commuting constituents get.  As Parliament is not well reported by mainstream media, we thought readers might like to read how Mrs Perry ended one of these debates:

"I will share briefly my theory of railway management. The railways have historically been run by gentlemen - only 17% of the workforce across the whole network is female - who probably had train sets on their bedroom floors as little boys, but the problems with train sets are twofold. First, all the trees are evergreen - bits of broccoli will do - and do not shed their leaves, so leaf adhesion is never a problem."

"Secondly, there are no teeny-tiny passengers to stuff into the train as it whizzes around the floor. I have been told by a departed senior person in the railway industry that were it not for passengers, the timetabling would be perfect. I assure all Members here that that my Department and I utterly reject that view. We will do all that we can, working with Network Rail and the operators...to ensure that passenger interests are put front and centre of this unprecedented investment in railways."

Which leads us to ask about all those who in their earlier years used stuffed toys to play hospitals, mummies and daddies and schools...you can, we are sure, fill in the answers.   We will know we are in real trouble when the grandchildren start playing Border Police.

And finally, it was the year that Savernake Forest and its famous Big Belly Oak were immortalised on the label of a new stout from the Kennet and Avon Brewery - which happens to brew its beers in Melksham.  

'The Savernake' announces itself as 'The stout without' and carries the symbol that means it is gluten free and so okay for coeliac sufferers.  It is also an unfined brew and so is okay for vegans. 

It was launched on 30 January 2015 and is a very tasty brew.   It is very okay for non-vegans and non-coeliacs too...

...have a very Happy New Year.

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  • Marlborough-2013-04-18 St Peters
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