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Surprise resignation of Tory town councillor Martin Houlden

Tory town councillor Martin Houlden announced his surprise resignation last night because he has moved his family – and his computer technology business – out of Marlborough to a new location in Dorset.

Mr Houlden, who stood as an independent conservative against Claire Perry in last year’s general election, subsequently became a member of Marlborough town council in a by-election last August.

In his election leaflet for Marlborough West Ward he declared: “I think my local knowledge and business experience would be a useful addition to the town council.”

“Proud of our town, I want to ensure it continues to be a nice place to live, with its rich history and unique character.”

But he told colleagues at the end of last night’s Planning Committee meeting that family problems to do with housing and his children’s education has resulted in him moving out of Marlborough – and Wiltshire too.

“I had hoped to be able to continue serving on the council, but as I no longer have an office here, and consequently am not in the town five days a week like before, I feel that I cannot continue to represent the people of the town to the level that they deserve,” he said in a statement.

“And so it is with regret that tomorrow I shall be resigning from the town council and will inform Wiltshire Council at the same time.”

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the council staff and, of course, council colleagues.  The last year has certainly been an experience.  Please let me wish all of you the very best for the future.”

Mr Houlden, 38, married with two children, had this year proposed a computer-controlled programme to solve parking problems.  He had also been criticised for his views concerning traveller sites in the area.

The mayor, Councillor Alexander Kirk-Wilson, told him: “I would like to thank you ever so much for bringing a young spirit into the town.  We will seriously miss your absence.”

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Elinor Goodman joins Lord Leveson’s official inquiry into ‘phone hacking, the press and the police

Elinor Goodman has been appointed to the official inquiry into the ‘phone hacking scandal.

Elinor, a former political editor of Channel 4 News, got the phone call asking her to join the inquiry team while she was at the Marlborough Jazz Festival on Saturday (July 17.)

Elinor, who has lived in the Marlborough area for many years, left Channel 4 News in 2005 and became chair of the Affordable Rural Housing Commission.  Since then she has been heard regularly on BBC radio chairing The Week in Westminster and reporting for countryside and farming programmes.

She told Marlborough News Online: “The scandal has shown up the two poles of journalism – the high and the low.  The question is how you stamp out the low without endangering the high which includes the kind of investigative journalism which has revealed this scandal.”

The inquiry, chaired by Lord Justice Leveson, will investigate the ethics and culture of the media as well as specific claims about hacking at the News of the World, the shortcomings of the initial police inquiry and allegations of illicit payments to police by the press.

And today (Wednesday, July 20) the prime minister, David Cameron added another element:  he wants Lord Leveson to consider the limits on media ownership.

The first part of the inquiry – into the ethics and culture of the media – will start immediately.  The inquiry into hacking and the police’s role will have to wait until the police investigation is completed.

The others on Lord Leveson’s inquiry panel  are: Shami Chakrabarti (director of Liberty), Sir Paul Scott-Lee (former chief constable of the West Midlands), Lord Currie (former chair of the media regulator Ofcom), George Jones (former political journalist with the Daily Telegraph and the Press Association) and Sir David Bell (former chair of the Financial Times).

Elinor joined Channel 4 News when it (and Channel 4) began in 1982 – she was previously a political reporter on the Financial Times.  She became political editor of Channel 4 News in 1988.

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Marlborough’s cash points – and pubs -- bled dry as those jazz fans hit town

The biggest and the best. That was the verdict on Marlborough’s International Jazz Festival at the weekend, the 25th of its kind.

The event attracted more than 4,000 fans to the town to listen to some 50 acts at 20 locations. And they boosted Marlborough’s economy by some £700,000.

“There’s the Arts Council formula we use for working that out -- and some anecdotal evidence too,” revealed Nick Fogg, the festival’s founder and Marlborough’s former mayor.  “On Sunday night every cash point in town was empty.”
Robert Hiscox, High Sherriff of Wiltshire, announcing the opening of the festival
“You can say criminal gangs were operating if you want to but you can also say that actually so many people were taking cash out to spend in Marlborough that obviously the cash points were bled dry.”

“Every pub reckons it is their best weekend of the year, even those pubs that we don’t put bands into.  There are additional benefits too. People come for the first time and like Marlborough so much that they come back for a return visit.”
Vocalist Alice More with the St John's Jazz Band at the opening ceremony
And he added: “It was certainly the best festival artistically.  I am not completely party to the finances or the numbers but our treasurer was looking as happy as a treasurer ever looks.  We are getting all sorts of approbation coming back to us from the audience.”
Claire Teal - signing CDs after her performance at Priory Park


“So it is quite a good feeling. We had a number of hiccups.  The weather wasn’t wonderful. And we had a power cut too. But it was the Dunkirk spirit yet again that made it such a success.”An indication of the impact came in the run-up to the festival with 3,741 hits on the festival website from 41 different countries, American interest in poll petition.  Overall attendance figures were marginally down because of the weather, but it didn’t stop a sell-out 900 listening to Clare Teal, Britain’s top jazz singer, and every one of the Priory Park events attended by around 1,000 admirers.”The festival also attracted record sponsorship some £80,000 of the £180,000 budget coming from a variety of companies headed by Brewin Dolphin.  

“Each year we think we can’t do that again,” said Mr Fogg.  “Some sponsors are one-off sponsors and don’t return.  So we have to replace them.  We managed to do that despite the economic downturn.

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Gamekeeper found guilty of driving his Land Rover at hovering Army helicopter

A Pewsey gamekeeper who drove his Land Rover at a hovering helicopter and could have killed two Army pilots was fund guilty at Salisbury Crown Court today (Weds) of endangering the safety of an aircraft.

Malcolm John Hughes, 61, of Raffin Lane, Pewsey was angered on the afternoon of December 9, 2009, as an Army helicopter was hovering 10 feet above a field at Wootton Rivers, near Pewsey, while it was on an exercise.

He deliberately drove his vehicle at the tail of the Squirrel helicopter, narrowly missing it, and then gestured aggressively to the crew, the pilot’s action narrowly avoiding disaster by seconds.

Hughes, who pleaded not guilty, not only risked his own life but his actions could have had serious, even fatal consequences for the crew, his disregard for their safety being considered wholly irresponsible, the court was told.

Hughes is now due to appear at Swindon Crown Court next month for sentencing.

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Judy’s conceptual IT garden design wins RHS silver award

A prestigious silver award was won at last week’s RHS Hampton Court Flower Show by local interior designer turned landscape gardener Judy Cornford from Kintbury.

She decided to “have a go” at 72 and walked away with the medal with her design for a small conceptual garden, which she created with the help of fellow garden designers Joanna Kent and Tony MacBride plus her son Jesse.

Entitled “The Eye of the Internet Maze”, the theme of the team’s garden was the intimidation of the older generations by the fast developing world of IT.

“It was more an arts installation originally,” said Judy.  “But as it developed I was asked to expand the garden and it now occupies one of the larger sites at the show.”

Pictures shows Judy with Jo Kent and her son Jessie.

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Major army cuts are “good news” for Wiltshire bases declares Claire Perry

Major government cuts in Britain’s Army by more than 11,000 soldiers is “good news” for the Devizes constituency of Tory MP Claire Perry, which includes five army bases.

It will have a minimal effect, she revealed today in a statement to Marlborough News Online.

Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox revealed in the House of Commons yesterday that the effect will reduce the size of the Army to its lowest level since Victorian times, the aim being to pay for an extra £3 billion of new equipment.

And the effect in Wiltshire will also be affected by the government’s decision to take over the now vacated Lyneham air base as a new multi-service training base instead of selling it off for commercial development.

“ The statement was good news for Wiltshire as it will be the base for one of the five main brigades and the Lyneham takeover will happen quickly,” said Claire Perry.  

“The proposed  losses are to be phased in over next 10 years so, hopefully, the impact will be minimal. The Army and Wiltshire Council are working on how to retain army leavers locally so they can work and continue to live in Wiltshire.  

“The investment of £1.5 billion, £400 million in this Parliament, in building up territorial and reserves is especially welcome.”

What will be the effect on domestic Army life?

“I was also on my feet for most of the session trying to ask about impact of all the moves on spouses,” she added. “I had to grab the minister in the lobby and he reassured me that extra support with housing etc would be provided.”

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Literature from everywhere is our guest says Mavis Cheek at second LitFest ticket launch

The first of 3,000 brochures for Marlborough’s second literary festival went on display this week as the box office opened for the sale of tickets for a splendid array of exciting events due in September.

They include the appearance of a range of poets, debut novelists, acclaimed biographers and specialists, among them Sir Michael Holroyd, Deborah Moggach, Anna Sebba, David Edgar, Lauren Child and Marlborough’s own George Orwell expert, Professor Peter Davison.

Judy Golding (pictured), daughter of the Nobel laureate and Lord of the Flies author Sir William Golding, who grew up in Marlborough, will be talking about her family memoir, The Children of Lovers, and former Marlborough mayor Nick Fogg about his forthcoming book on Shakespeare.
Judy Golding
“Marlborough is the town that hosts the festival, literature from everywhere is its guest,” novelist Mavis Cheek, who inspired the first festival last year, told Marlborough News Online.  “It's such a delight to be able to invite wonderful writers to the town.   

“We may be provincial in setting, but we are never provincial in outlook.”

And she added: “The importance of this four-day event is that -- thanks to both its national and local sponsors  -- it is not bound by any commercial considerations. The best literature never is - and this is wonderfully reflected in our 2012 programme.   

“As G K Chesterton put it, 'While thought exists, words are alive and literature becomes an escape, not from, but into living'.  

“Our tag, when we began, was that this would be a Festival Where Literature Comes Alive and it has honourably lived up to that maxim.  At the Marlborough LitFest it is never who you are that matters, but what you write.  

“And we're sticking to that!”

Brochures for the festival, which runs from September 22 to 25, are initially available at The Merchant’s House and the White Horse Bookshop, the latter offering tickets too, as well as on the festival’s own website, www.marlboroughlitfest.org.

Brochures will also become available at Marlborough town hall, Marlborough public library, at St John’s School and other outlets.

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Help wanted to launch Guide Dogs branch

National charity Guide Dogs is looking for volunteers to start and run a branch in Marlborough.

The group will be autonomous, but run under the auspices of Swindon Guide Dogs to organise collections, run events and manage collection boxes.

Banking and buckets will be provided. Anyone interested should contact Alan Fletcher on 01793-827589 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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New £7,000 projector will turn Marlborough town hall into a cinema for all

Kennet Valley Arts Trust has received a boost – a donation of £7,000 to provide a new digital projector for the revamped improvements at Marlborough town hall so that it can become a cinema in its own right.

KVAT is the local charity pursuing the development of an arts centre in the heart of Marlborough aimed “to enhance and enrich the cultural life of the Kennet Valley and surrounding area”.

Chairman John Cornwell told Marlborough News Online: “The provision of these wonderful new facilities to show film in the centre of Marlborough is a project to which our trustees give their full support”.

KVAT has concentrated its efforts on bringing film to the Marlborough area over the past couple of years and, to this end, has formed Marlborough Downs Movies (MDM)  in partnership with the town council and St John's School.

St John’s has already become the venue for children's and family films.  Meanwhile, KVAT has run a successful season at Rabley Drawing Centre, concentrating on showing foreign and arthouse films.

It is now intended that Marlborough town hall becomes the "third" cinema for the area running a programme of popular mainstream film with the emphasis on supporting British ventures.

Marlborough’s mayor, Councillor Alexander Kirk Wilson, and Guy Loosmore (pictured), chair of the town council’s Property Committee, have both thanked KVAT for its generosity and applauded the help that the local community has given to the new upgrading of the town hall facilities.

Stay tuned to see the new projector in action – the 2011/12 programme dates are on the KVAT box office website at www.kvat.co.uk/film.html

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Diesel spill holds up High Street traffic

Lunchtime traffic was held up in Marlborough High Street yesterday (Wed) when a broken down four by four vehicle started leaking diesel on the parking area opposite the Waitrose supermarket.

Police cordoned off the area and called in town council staff to grit the contaminated roadway before vehicle was taken away by a recovery company.

A local road safety expert commented that "Diesel spills are an extremely dangerous hazard, particularly for cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians as they make the road surface as slippery as ice, but can't always be seen".  They also added "any diesel spill should be reported immediately to the police or local authority so that prompt action can be taken and accidents avoided".

PCSO Jon Mills said later that there was a mechanical fault in the fuel pump of the vehicle.  It started pouring out diesel as the driver  parked in the High Street.  “It was just one of those things,” he added.

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Discount parking scheme now being considered by Wiltshire

A parking discount  scheme based on how much you spend in the shops is now being considered by Wiltshire Council in a bid to stem the rising anger – and a threatened revolt -- over increased parking charges.

The county has decided to carry out a major review of its decision in February to bring all the charges into line with those operating in Marlborough and put an end to its one-hour free parking concessions.

And they have hit on the idea used in Hungerford whereby parking charges are discounted according to how much shoppers spend in their local High Street.

Nick Fogg, one of Marlborough’s two county councillors, has revealed the possibility to Marlborough News Online, pointing out: “Everyone nationally is upset about being fleeced by parking charges – absolutely.”

“Most of the county has now been brought into line with Marlborough.  Some towns like Chippenham are really up in arms and down in Salisbury there’s actually a revolution going on about the rise in parking charges -- because they are really hitting trade.”

“One idea they are considering, which I think is a very good idea, is this scheme whereby if you can show that you have shopped to a certain level then you get cheaper parking, as they already do in Hungerford.”

“The council is thinking of a county-wide scheme affecting all the towns.  They will have to persuade the shops to take part but I would have thought it is in the shop’s interest, especially if supermarkets like Waitrose agree.”

He used to make a weekly trip West Byfleet, in Surrey, and, at Waitrose there, if you spent £3 in the store then you were allowed 90 minutes free parking, a scheme that is also used in other towns.

“It is that kind of thing that is being considered,” he added. “And I hope it will work.”

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