Jazz Festival road closure debate - a spirit of compromise erupts and engulfs the Town Council
“There is a misunderstanding that people against the road closure are against the Jazz Festival. That is certainly not true, definitely not true of me and many other people, and my question is "Surely the Jazz committee and this council should be able to find a way of keeping a good Jazz Festival and not disrupt the travelling public”."
Audrey Peck’s opening 'question' set the tone for Monday night’s meeting of the Planning Committee at the town hall. Rarely do the numbers of attending public outweigh the number of councillors present, but the inclusion of the road closure application for July’s Jazz Festival on the agenda caught the interest of Marlborough’s residents and traders, most of whom echoed Audrey’s belief that whilst the Jazz Festival is important to the town and must be supported, closing the High Street for most of the day was unnecessary, disruptive and without widespread support.
The task for the Planning Committee was to consider a response to the consultation on the road closure application submitted by the Jazz Festival committee. Wiltshire Council appealed to the Town Council to propose compromise solutions along the lines of a closure - somewhere - commencing at 5pm, which Wiltshire Council recognised would be acceptable to the objectors, the number of whom had reached an ’unprecedented level’.
The aim for the council was to come up with a series of compromise proposals - is the suggested 5pm closure a reasonable option as it was recognised by Wiltshire Council that most objectors to the blanket closure would accept this time, and then, which area of road to close?
Cllr Cook spoke of the need for compromise rather than conflict, that the council should look to guide the decision that will eventually be taken by Wiltshire as there is a need to respect both the traders and the Jazz Festival for what it brings to the town.
Cllr Hannaford-Dobson suggested that the lower end of Kingsbury St be closed and the bandstand sited there, leaving New Road and the High Street open for through traffic.
Cll Dobson acknowledged that whilst there is an acceptance of the importance of the Jazz Festival to Marlborough consideration must be given to the traders in the High street area and also the residents in the villages surrounding Marlborough who bear the brunt of the accumulated traffic. He urged that the application as it originally stood of a blanket early closure be rejected, but acceptance of the 5pm closure.
Eventually the Council came to a vote for a compromise - rejection of the original application, but proposal for a 5pm closure of one of three areas - the New Road area, the lower section of Kingsbury Street, or The Parade. This was carried by a majority vote.
So a way forward emerged that reinforced Audrey Peck opening statement (question?) that any Marlborough resident critical of the Jazz Festival’s ‘right’ to a complete closure of the High Street wasn’t against the Jazz Festival itself. The debate was wholeheartedly supportive of the Festival but revolved around how the other aspects of life in the Town could thrive and benefit from the Festival rather than suffer.
A night of compromise maybe, but possibly laying to rest one of the thorniest longstanding issues between the Jazz Festival and Town. Now, over to Wiltshire Council……