Marlborough’s Apple Day project to create a community orchard took another step forward this week when Waitrose manager Andy Davies (pictured) braved icy winds to dig the store’s car park site in preparation for the arrival of 11 trees.
Helped by members of his own staff and those from the project team, they turned over a strip of ground on the edge of the car park where last October an initial fruit-laden tree was planted to launch the scheme.
Another 11 apple trees, all rare breed local specimens, are to be planted on February 21 when Mr Davies will be joined by supermarket managers from 19 stores in four counties to prove Waitrose’s commitment to the environment.
On Monday the volunteers included Alan Birch, normally seen as a partner serving on the meat and fish counters, who has been seconded to the apple project on an eight hours a month basis to ensure the new trees are properly pruned and cared for.
he hard work of those using spades – and Mr Birch (pictured) operating a digger machine – was filmed by a crew working on a video to be shown at the annual meeting of Waitrose’s senior managers due to be held at Celtic Manor, Cardiff, later in the year.
Alan Birch, swapping the knives of the meat and fish counter for the controls of a digger“So our directors will be able to see what we have been up to on a horrible cold day in February,” the normally smart-suited Mr Davies told Marlborough News Online as he heaved his shovel full of earth.
The Marlborough store is also taking part in a Waitrose campaign to reduce pollution and transport costs by encouraging partners to share cars to and from work every day.
“It’s been going on now for a year,” said Mr Davies. “About 30 members of staff are involved in what has become an on-going commitment. Every Waitrose store is doing the same.”
The GMB trade union has announced that following the official strike ballot, three one-day strikes of porters, cleaners and housekeepers have been called at Great Western Hospital. The dispute is over allegations of discrimination against the workers most of whom are from Goa, and of bullying by a supervisor employed by Carillion, the hospital’s services contractor.
The strikes will be held on February 14, 21 and 23. Of the GMB’s 150 union members 84 per cent took part in the ballot and 97 per cent of those voted in favour of strike action.
The GMB says that Carillion have agreed to meet union representatives on February 13 to discuss the progress of the collective grievance process, but they will not negotiate with the union which they do not recognise.
In a statement when the ballot results were announced, Carillion said: “The efficient running of the hospital and duty of care to patients is of utmost importance and we are disappointed with the decision to strike. However, we have robust contingency plans in place and are working closely with the Trust to ensure that patient care is not compromised should strike action take place.”
It is understood that the hospital management do not expect the strike to disrupt its daily operations and clinics.
Marlborough’s state of the art Savernake Forest dental practice celebrated its first birthday this week by announcing remarkable anniversary results.
More than 2,000 new patients have joined the practice since it was given 18 months notice to quit at the Marlborough Medical Centre, and, unable to find an alternative site in town, took a huge gamble.
That was to invest in a virgin site on the then undeveloped Marlborough Business Park and call in Paradigm, a leading firm of dental architects, to design its new home, now the envy of its competitors.
And the rise in its reputation as a centre of excellence has been matched – without any advertising – in its patients driving to use its free car park from an area that takes in Swindon, Chippenham, Newbury and Andover.
The other great attraction is that the technology now in use includes an amazing computerised camera system linked to a machine that can produced restoration crowns within 20 minutes, digital X-ray machines, an air abrasion system that can be used instead of drills and an ozone disinfection system.
“It was a shock that came somewhat out of the blue when we were given notice to quit,” recalled Jonathan Taylor, who has masterminded the new practice with Judith Denning, his partner for the past 22 years.
“In retrospect, the doctors had their own agenda. As it happens, everything has worked out to our considerable advantage.”
“We had many sleepless nights after purchasing a perfect corner plot in the Business Park. The big question was whether we going to be too far out from the town centre for our patients to reach us. But it has turned out to be a successful gamble.”
Patient surveys have revealed that free parking plus the most modern technology, which other dentists have yet to install, has proved to be the big bonus for the practice, which is also planning to extend its treatment to more NHS patients.
Building work on the project began in May, 2009, and by February last year one surgery was operational. Now there are seven with a permanent and part-time staff of up to 20, five of them hygienists,
Introducing oral hygiene has been Mr Taylor’s mission since he came to Marlborough in 1982, joined a practice in the High Street before being invited with Judith Denning and Tony Russell, still an associate of the practice, to move to the Marlborough Medical Centre in Figgins Lane.
“We have been pushing oral hygiene for a long time,” he explained. “There has been a significant shift from extractions and the provision of dentures to the preservation of teeth, good oral health and more sophisticated restorations such as implants, which are very popular.
“This applies across the board, not just to young women concerned with their appearance because of today’s celebrity culture.”
He is aware that in austerity times the cost of dentistry can be considerable. But this can be contained with the help of Denplan Excel, which spreads payment through £24 a month direct debits with a separate payment system for children too.
“I wouldn’t be complacent about our prospects for the future,” he added. “We will always ensure we will provide the best possible service for our patients. And their response as our ambassadors in the community has been magnificent.”
NHS patients too have the benefit of the Savernake expertise through a contract it won for acting as appointed trainers for newly qualified graduates from Bristol, giving young dentists the opportunity to perfect their skills.
So far attempts to extend this limited service have been thwarted.
“There is all this talk now about greater access to the NHS but here we have a situation where we want to provide orthodontics and we cannot,” protested Mr Taylor. “I have put in a lot of time and effort putting tender documents to Wiltshire PCT. We have splendid facilities and staff but so far have heard nothing back.”
Damon Albarn, the lead singer with the bands Blur and Gorillaz, will headline this year's Honeyfest pop festival, near Marlborough, playing a set which will consist of songs from his opera Doctor Dee.
The opera debuted last summer as part of the Manchester International Festival and received considerable praise from critics, and the opera will move to London this summer. Its plot details the life of 16th century scientist John Dee.
Albarn will perform the songs, along with some of the musicians who performed in the show, at Honeyfest billed as the first music festival of the summer season - which takes place on Saturday, April 14 in Tumuli Field in Rockley.
Also confirmed to appear at the event are BBC Sound Of 2012 nominees Dry The River, Rae Morris, Nick Harper, Cut A Shine and Kidnap Alice, along with Salisbury-based six-piece indie acoustic band The Gallant Tailors, and folk singer Maria Byrne, who won their slots at a Battle of the Bands competition at the Bouverie Hall in Pewsey last night (Friday).
For more information about Honeyfest, visit Honeyfestuk.com
In related news, Dry the River will be playing live in Marlborough on Saturday, March 3 in support of their debut album, Shallow Bed, which is officially released two days later.
The band will be playing from 7pm at Azuza, and will be signing copies of their album at neighbouring record store Sound Knowledge following the concert.
The London five-piece last played in Marlborough, at one of the Sound Knowledge live PAs, back in November to an enthusiastic crowd.
Free tickets can be booked through the Sound Knowledge Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sound-Knowledge/108109829223506
Dr Richard Hook, who is a partner at the Marlborough Medical Practice, signed the letter in Wednesday’s (February 1) Daily Telegraph which calls for the coalition government’s Health and Social Care Bill to be dropped. Dr Hook is a board member of the North and East Wiltshire (NEW) Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which will take over commissioning most NHS services in our area from April 2013.
The letter - signed by 365 doctors who belong to doctors.net - was in response to an earlier one to the newspaper (January 28) from the heads of more than fifty CCGs who supported the Bill and criticised doctors’ opposition to it.
The letter reads: The CCG leaders who support the Health and Social Care Bill do not represent the majority of GPs, who believe the Bill will seriously damage patient care. More than 90 per cent of GPs polled by the Royal College of General Practitioners said that the Bill should be withdrawn.
The NHS is not in peril if these reforms don’t go ahead. On the contrary, it is the Bill which threatens to derail and fragment the NHS into a collection of private providers. The Bill will result in in hundreds of different organisations pulling against each other, leading to fragmentation, chaos and damage to the quality and availability of patient care.
As GPs, we agree that clinicians need more involvement in planning the NJHS, and that the health service needs to improve. We don’t need a Bill to achieve that. Drop the Bill and let’s work on the real issues: improving safety, efficiency and quality of care.
Dr Hook says that doctors who signed this letter will have their own detailed reasons for doing so, “But I wanted to rebut the suggestion made in the letter to the Telegraph last week which stated that because GPs are involved in the reform process therefore they support it unreservedly.”
As the process has developed with a stream of plans and edicts from the Department of Health, it’s become clear “That the freedom for GPs to drive the commissioning process that was flagged in the White Paper could be lost. I signed the letter because I’m not convinced the Bill as it stands now is going to do what it was supposed to do.”
Some of the provisions that have emerged as the political and administrative process has gone on mean that parts of the original aim have been lost: “The reforms have the potential to do good things.”
“Even though the Bill is not on the statute books yet, GPs in this area are doing our best to make the reforms work. That should not be interpreted as wholesale support for the Bill – it may be qualified support. Many GPs have an increasing suspicion that privatisation of more parts of the NHS are on their agenda.”
Dr Hook also believes that it’s becoming increasingly clear that doctors are being set up to take responsibility and blame when the NHS budget shrinks even further: “From the politicians point of view it’s about who’s left holding the package when the money runs out.”
Church of England clergy in Marlborough are supporting the controversial plea by the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev Nick Holtam (pictured), for there be an open debate on the church’s attitude to gay relationships.
According to the bishop, the church is failing gay Christian couples and must rethink the traditional, biblical portrayal of homosexuality as "idolatrous, promiscuous and exploitative".
He is the most senior member of the church to have spoken out favourably about the possibility of “gay marriage”, a subject on which the church is deeply divided.
In a statement to Marlborough News Online, Marlborough’s rector, the Rev Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, revealed that he has spoken to his clergy colleagues in the Marlborough team ministry, which takes in the parish church of St Mary’s, as well as St George’s, Preshute, and St John the Baptist, Mildenhall.
Their collective view is: “We support the Bishop of Salisbury in his call for a 'proper and open' debate about same sex relationships, most especially because, as Bishop Nicholas said, it is clear that the current position of the Church of England regarding Civil Partnerships "does not meet the pastoral needs of people in our care".”
The bishop believes there are gay couples who are living faithfully and lovingly for life and that the quality and nature of their relationships meant it was appropriate to use the language of marriage.
He told the BBC: "Marriage is between a man and a woman. What has happened now is that we have begun to see in a way, which is not there in the Bible, that there are people in same sex relationships who are living faithfully and lovingly for life.”
"I don't think there is much there [in the Bible] which addresses the issue of faithful, same sex relationships. We have had the experience of civil partnerships for six years now and we need to review where we are."
The Church of England has blocked the registration of civil partnerships in its buildings unless its own parliament, the General Synod, agrees to it.
Present policy is for the Church of England to tolerate clergy who are in civil relationships, but it expects them to be celibate.
Burglary victims throughout Wiltshire can expect a visit from a dedicated resource set up by the police to investigate this crime.
The burglary car initiative, which has been running for some months in Swindon, has now been rolled out across the rest of the county.
This means that a dedicated officer will be assigned each day to visit victims of burglary in order to obtain full details of the incident and explore all available clues to track down those responsible.
Detective Inspector Mike Rees told Marlborough News Online:
“Whilst we currently fully investigate all reports of burglaries that we receive and look to utilise all investigative opportunities, for example forensic opportunities, the burglary car will allow us to streamline this process.”
“By identifying a dedicated officer each day to visit victims, it will ensure the consistent gathering of information and provide timely support at what can be a traumatic time for people.”
“It will also allow us to maximise intelligence gathering opportunities to help identify trends which in turn helps us plan effectively in our continuing effort to tackle this type of crime and ensure those responsible are held to account for their actions.”
Marlborough College has been accused of scoring “a massive own goal” and inflicting “considerable harm” to the town’s economy by taking over the grade II listed Ivy House Hotel as a hostel for its female students.
Retired solicitor Sir John Sykes (pictured) wrote yesterday (Tuesday) to Sir Hayden Phillips, chairman of the College’s council, after it refused to back down on its £1.8 million hotel takeover bid despite the outcry from objectors.
Sir John, one of whose sons was a student at the College, has been an outspoken opponent of the expansion into town property when the College, where the Duchess of Cambridge was once a student, has such a large estate of its own.
Along with Wiltshire Council, Marlborough town council, the Chamber of Commerce and others, he has declared that the loss of the hotel will be a disaster for the town.
But despite his latest outburst, Sir John, who chairs Marlborough’s historic Merchant House trustees, is hopeful that “concrete ideas” to benefit the town might come out of rapprochement initiatives currently taking place.
And Sir Hayden, now recovering from a major operation, tells him: “I would like to feel now that the issue is settled, that the College and those who have opposed our purchase could find a way to re-establish the good relations that have normally existed and which I am sure are the right way forward for both town and College.”
Sir John originally wrote to Sir Hayden in December asking whether the College would negotiate a re-sale of the 28-bedroom Ivy House to another hotelier, as was believed to be a possibility before the contract was finalised.
In his reply, delayed because of his operation, Sir Hayden gives a definite No and says that any such voluntary abandonment “would fly in the face” of the council’s duty to fulfil “this important educational opportunity” to expand.
He adds: “I know you will understand the position that the council is bound to take, even though I realise that you would have liked a different outcome.”
Sir John accepts the fait accompli as “disappointing” and responds: “We now all have to accept that things have passed the point of no return and must move on.”
“However, I would not want the governors to be under any illusion that there is a substantial body of opinion in the town that the College has scored a massive own goal by expanding into the town in this way and in so doing inflicting a considerable amount of harm to the town’s economic interests.”
He protests: “You will have seen how much the average High Street is suffering at the present time and Marlborough’s High Street is no exception with most shops offering ‘70% off’ to try and stay in business.”
“Keeping the tourist trade alive and thriving is a major factor in the local economy, but without the bed spaces to support it would-be visitors will spend their money elsewhere.”
“The College’s role in the local economy is undoubtedly substantial, but it is of course catering to a different market and, in any case, it would be unwise to be too dependent on any one institution or business however solid it appears to be.”
But Sir John accepts there is a positive need to move on and welcomes future discussions, albeit with a decisive caveat.
“I am not sure how helpful this will be in the overall scheme of things unless the College can come up with some concrete ideas to help remedy a pretty dire economic scenario,” he concludes.
St John’s, Marlborough, has hit a high spot in the latest school performance statistic with some 44 per cent of its Key Stage 4 pupils shown to be high attaining students against a national average of only a third.
The percentage too of those achieving five or more A*-C GCSE results was a remarkable 75 per cent last year. This compares with 66 per cent in 2010 and 60 per cent in the year before that.
Of the 75 per cent, the level of success for those classified as high attainers was 97 per cent and those for middle attainers 70 per cent. In English and Maths, 99% of the high attainers achieved A*-C, as did 70% of the middle attainers.
St John’s, perched on Granham Hill, overlooking the town, had a total of 1,635 last year, aged from 11 to 18, of whom 257 are students in the Key Stage 4 section.
And of those a 100 per cent achieved at least one exam qualification with no total failures.
And of the 102 students entered for all English Baccalaureate subjects some 40 per cent were successful, 58 per cent of them in the high attainment category.
Overall absence among pupils at St John’s was 5.58 per cent, a percentage point lower than the national average, while truanting was just over half a percentage point compared with the national figure of 1.41 per cent.
An appeal against Wiltshire Council’s refusal to allow two protected lime trees at Sycamore Cottage, George Lane, Marlborough, to be removed has upheld the decision to stop them from being chopped down.
Arboricultural inspector Simon Pryce has dismissed the appeal made last October by property owner Mr D H Snape for permission to take out the trees, which had preservation orders placed on them originally by Kennet District Council in 1999.
Mr Pryce’s report states that the trees are healthy specimens and accepts that one of the them is “dominating” and promotes the growth of moss on the house roof.
But he concludes that together they “make a highly significant and positive contribution to public amenity,” and adds: “There would need to be compelling reasons for allowing either or both of them to be removed.”