Councillors outnumber the public at Annual Parish Meeting
There were more councillors than members of the electorate at last night’s (Monday’s) Annual Parish Meeting in Marlborough.
The meeting is the opportunity for registered electors to hold the council to account. Councillors will have been reassured, therefore, that there were so few parishioners with axes to grind.
Even when attendees did bring axes they were small ones – the type you might use to split a log, rather than fell a whole tree.
Elsewhere the public were treated to a presentation of the council's Annual Report, followed by a slideshow of highlights enjoyed by the mayor, Marian Hannaford-Dobson.
During the presentations, we learned that the Planning Committee had looked at 159 applications and opposed 19, but that Wiltshire Council – the Planning Authority – had given the nod to all but three applications.
We also found out that the Town Hall had been hired 208 times during the year. Income from hire charges was 30 percent above anticipated, which was good news for the council’s bottom line, considering 25 percent of the body’s £165,708 income comes from rents and hires.
We learned too that over the past year the council office had received 1,293 items of post, and over 30,000 emails. And that the grounds team had collected 38 tons of litter from the bins.
These – of course – weren’t the biggest things to have happened in Marlborough since last April: A Royal visit from the Duke of Kent, the Civil War re-enactment, winning four trophies at Britain in Bloom, and the switching-on of the Christmas lights were all highlights of both the council and the mayor – and have been reported at length elsewhere.
The town enjoys a close relationship with Bulford-based 4MI Battalion, and visitors were given an insight into the activities of Military Intelligence post-Afghanistan by Major Rosie Curling, who told of the involvement of some personnel in a very different kind of battle – against the spread of ebola in Sierra Leone.
Recently returned from a back-to-back tour of Afghanistan and Cyprus is resident Alek Sagar, a reservist with the London Regiment. He got home just in time to be involved in the planting of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the installation by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper at the Tower of London of 888,246 ceramic poppies, each representing a life lost in the Great War.
Mr Sagar, who is treasurer of the Marlborough branch of the Royal British Legion, planted around 200 poppies on the weekend before Remembrance Sunday, and was also able to purchase two of the ceramic poppies, one of which he has had framed, and presented to the town.
The mayor, who comes from a military family, promised it would be displayed in prominently in the Town Hall.
As well as receiving, it was also a night for giving. The mayor awarded two grants of £1,500 from the Mayor’s Fund, one to Macmillan Cancer Support, and the other to Leukaemia Research.
Janet Louth asked what the justification for opening a new play area at the top of Orchard Road was, and how much it had cost the taxpayer.
The mayor explained that the initiative had not cost the town anything – the terms of a Section 106 agreement (paid by developers to a council when houses are built) specified the money had to be spent on facilities for children under the age of 11. The land was obtained under Asset Transfer from Aster Homes, and the facility was replacing an obsolete play area at the top of Cherry Orchard.
David Chandler said that parking on Frees Avenue was causing real problems, and asked whether the council had ever considered widening the road and creating a lay-by.
The mayor said that a Traffic Order imposing yellow lines on the road was in process. Marlborough News Online has sought further clarification on this.
Michael Dobie was concerned about the impact that 400 extra planned or proposed new houses would have on High Street traffic. He was also concerned about tractors and tanks using the carriageway. And he asked if a Park and Ride had been considered for the town.
The mayor said she was also concerned about the damage tanks might be doing to the recently-resurfaced High Street. She said that many park and ride schemes were being closed because they were not sustainable. The clerk said that, ultimately, car park provision lay with Wiltshire Council.
Val Compton expressed concerns that the proposed provision of picnic tables on Cooper’s Meadow was not a good use of council funds. She said picnic tables attracted vandalism and caused litter. She accused the council of “seeking to solve problems where none existed,” and said the money could be better spent on saving the youth centre, signage, or tourist information.
She also wondered when the promised Cooper’s Meadow Users Group would be established.
The mayor said that she was waiting for the asset transfer from Wiltshire Council to be completed before setting up the User Group.