Wiltshire Council stung into action over traffic chaos - Town Hall traffic lights to go

Written by Tony Millett on .

Hold-up by the Town Hall caused by the temporary lightsHold-up by the Town Hall caused by the temporary lightsMarlborough.news has learned today (February 8) that Wiltshire Council has asked Scottish and Southern Electricity (SSE) to postpone their road works where the High Street meets New Road.


The traffic lights beside the Town Hall, which have been causing such chaos both along the High Street and down to the War Memorial roundabout, will be taken away on Friday.   

These works on laying new cables are now scheduled to restart on March 2.  The SSE works to lay high voltage cables at Cold Harbour Lane will continue.

Wiltshire Council's intervention follows a storm of criticism on social media about the time it has been taking to get into and out of the town.  Owners of two of Marlborough's main food outlets - The Polly Tea Rooms and The Food Gallery - have sent strong letters to Wiltshire Council and to the Town Council complaining about the plethora of simultaneous road works and their evident effect on trade in the town.

David Clarke, the owner of Polly Tea Rooms , wrote on Monday to the Town Clerk and to Alistair Cunningham, Wiltshire Council's Corporate Director.  In his letter to the latter he wrote:  "You may not be aware of just how much damage all of this is doing to local businesses within the town appearing to be like a ghost town at times. I am sure some businesses must be close to closing as a result."

He put three questions to Mr Cunningham - and similarly to the Town Clerk:

"Did the Wiltshire Council knowingly approve of the number and timing of these roadworks?  Did Wiltshire Council think about the impact on local businesses of such actions ?  Does Wiltshire  Council support the refund of Business Rates to all business effected by these roadworks from the beginning of these works in December 2017 through to the completion of such works?"

Bob Holman of The Food Gallery urged fellow retailers to write to Wiltshire Council - especially to Councillor Bridget Wayman (the Cabinet member for Highways, Transport & Waste):  "You may be experiencing lower trade, as a result of the horrible traffic lights by the town hall - and now also in George Lane? Why not email your thoughts to Wiltshire Council too?"

Then on Wednesday afternoon Mr Holman sent a very full email to Messrs Cunningham and Wayman (copying it to the Town Clerk).  In this he spelled out the day by day needs of retailers to attract customers not just into their premises but into the town:  "I write, in really simple terms, so that you can both fully understand the negative impact to retailers and other businesses in the town, directly due to the current road works by the Town Hall."

He went further:  "The negative view that ‘Brand Marlborough’ is now acquiring (and at an escalating pace if what my customers say is true) is not only hurting the town now, but much more importantly it will hurt the town into the future. Why?"

"I, and many other business owners that I talk to, are hearing from their customers that they 'have given up and gone home’ having attempted to get into town on two or three occasions." 

He points out that those at particular risk are services that work on an 'appointment only' basis - hairdressers, solicitors, private health care providers such as dentists.  The traffic chaos results in "Customers not even bothering to get in, because they know the traffic (and the parking) is horrendous [and] customers phoning in to cancel appointments and going to another town for the service."

"These comments are generally from our regulars - which is very irritating and provides much angst for our cashflow, but are not the death knell."

"Where the town is going to be penalised, along with all the retailers, is the 'further afield visitor’, who will simply divert to another destination and spend their money there."

Regarding the other roadworsk in the area, the Salisbury Road works for the new Redrow development are scheduled to finish on 2 March, but this is likely to end earlier as this phase is ahead of schedule.   The Thames Water works on the A346 at Ogbourne St Andrew are due to finish next week on 16 February, but there will be some 'off peak' works in the days after to repair the surface following all of the digging.