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Protests mount over Wiltshire Council closure of outdoor education centres - they will be raised at Monday's Annual Town Meeting

The decision by Wiltshire Council to close two outdoor education centres - Oxenwood near Marlborough and Braeside in Devizes - has caused mounting protest and opposition across the area.

 

The change.org petition organised by Lucy Gomes now has more than 15,000 signatures - and is still open for signatures.   It will be presented at Wiltshire Council's next meeting on May 22.  She says simply: "This isn't going away." 

Lucy Gomes is also organising a peaceful protest in Devizes on Saturday, April 28 at 10.00am.  She is appealing for help to make sure this protest is effective. 

In Marlborough, the issue will be raised during the Public Question Time at the Annual Town Meeting in the Town Hall on Monday, April 23 at 7.00pm. 

Also in Marlborough, a protest meeting has been called for May 8 at St Peter's Church starting at 7.30pm.  It is being hosted by the Devizes constituency Labour Party and they want it to be a "community meeting" - open to all.

There were protests this week in Devizes and at least one Conservative member of Devizes Town Council is reported to be unhappy with the decision.  He is that council's youth network representative and has said he had no prior warning of the decision.

Devizes Town Council is holding a special meeting on Tuesday, April 24 at 7pm to discuss the closures. 

Speaking to marlborough.news, one organiser of the protests emphasised three points. 

First, the Council's justification for the closures was partly that they needed £1.4million spent on them to bring them 'up to scratch'.  It has since been revealed that this figure came from a 2012 report - and since then no maintenance or up-grading work had been done:  "This makes it look highly likely that the Council was running the centres down so they could be closed."

Secondly, no Council member has explained how schools on ever tightening budgets will be able to afford to send pupils to non-Council run centres - further afield and often outside the county.  As usual extra costs are likely to fall on parents.

And thirdly, Wiltshire Council has not said whether the savings made by the closures and the money from the sale of the premises will be spent on education or simply put into their general spending pot.

Councillor Laura Mayes, who took the decision, has said that the centres were "simply not a priority". She claims that "Outdoor education will continue for Wiltshire children" - but has not yet said how.

Watch this space for a further article about Oxenwood...coming soon.


 

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