Unless a compromise route can be reached, then a proposal by Wiltshire Council to create a controversial footpath through the gardens of properties in Manton High Street should be decided by a planning inquiry.
This was Marlborough town council’s stance when asked on Monday for its views on the scheme outlined by Barbara Burke, the council’s senior Rights of Way officer, for the route of foothpath 39 before it reaches the grounds of Manton Mill.
Councillors declared that a scheme that did not put the gardens of up to a dozen properties in the High Street “into jeopardy” was essential.
They hoped that a compromise could be reached that was not disruptive and that “goodwill and commonsense should prevail”.
“There is an element of bureaucracy here,” said Councillor Nick Fogg, who is also a member of Wiltshire Council. “We need to find a solution, but there is a problem of procedure. I favour a compromise solution that does not impinge on residents’ gardens.”
Councillor Peggy Dow, also a member of the Wiltshire authority, said: “Can we pleasure ensure that this issue goes to a planning inspector to decide.”
But the property owners, four of whom living nearby have not been consulted, claim that a map of 1792 shows the ancient footpath on a bank outside of their garden boundaries.
They point out that that neither the old Kennet District Council nor the new Wiltshire unity authority revealed the ancient footpath on solicitors’ searches made when they originally bought their homes.
But in letters to them Barbara Burke insists: “I am aware that members of the public have been walking a route through the field but this is not the legal line of the path as shown on the definitive map. It is precisely this anomaly that is making the council seek a workable solution.
“Issues regarding the route of this right of way and other routes the public have used within the field have arisen several times over a number of years and it is for that reason that the council is seeking to establish a route which is convenient for users and landowners affected by it.”
One resident whose family has lived for 60 years on the site refutes the claim and declares that there is no evidence at all to show that the original footpath went through back gardens. Another points out that the Land Registry map received when the property was bought showed no existing footpath through the garden.
Solicitors who made searches for house purchasers were also not told of the existence of any such footpath. And a third resident has already complained to local Tory MP Claire Perry about the footpath proposal.
The greenfield site through which a footpath runs to the banks of the River Kennet was sold in 2007 to Tim Clarke, the owner of Manton Mill, by Marlborough Tory town councillor Stewart Dobson, who declared an “historical interest” when the proposed footpath was discussed.
Residents fear the field is being divested of its original footpath so that unwanted development can take place.
They are contemplating collective opposition by forming an action group to fight the loss of garden land and are also considering making a formal complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.
A final chance is being given to Zubair Dean, owner of Marlborough’s Bridge Garage in London Road, to restore the currently condemned grade II listed building adjoining the site or face legal action.
Wiltshire Council has answered a plea from Marlborough town council for action to be taken to make the former housing accommodation on the site habitable again, and also to repair the adjoining former Antiques Emporium, which is not listed.
“As the site is obviously neglected repairs and maintenance wise, I will be writing to the owner to inform him of his obligation to maintain the listed building, as it is of national importance,” senior conservation officer Pippa Card says in a letter to town clerk Liam Costello.
“It is, quite obviously, within his financial interests to maintain the site and the buildings to avoid depreciation in their value. I hope this will prompt the owner into some form of action, as was suggested last year when he had spoken to a builder about various repairs.”
And she adds: “If the possibility of further action does arise, then the council will need to prove that it has attempted to seek repairs to the buildings before other options can be considered legally.”
Back in April, Wiltshire placed an emergency prohibition order on dilapidated No 111 London Road, which adjoins the Bridge Garage, whose high prices for petrol and diesel have been claimed to be the highest in the county.
This prevented the listed property from being used for housing, council officers boarding them up so that they cannot be entered. A notice posted on the door pointed out that the order could be appealed before a tribunal within 28 days, as from April 19.
The premises have since been monitored by the council’s planning and building control departments but, following the latest letter from Mr Costello, Wiltshire is now considering what step to take next.
Pippa Card points out that Mr Dean is aware “and hopefully concerned” about the condition of the buildings, although no visible repairs appear to have been initiated so far.
Wiltshire Council meanwhile has limited funds to pursue the control of listed buildings, which is why she is writing to Mr Dean before asking the council to consider other remedies to ensure the restoration of the property.
Beware! This Saturday is Community Speed Watch day throughout Wiltshire when volunteers will be taking to the streets to carry out 'on the spot' checks on those going too fast.
The Speed Awareness For Everyone event aims to give a visible presence on roads throughout the county to encourage motorists to think about road safety.
Those carrying out the checks will include a mixture of Community Speed Watch volunteers, police officers from both neighbourhood policing teams and the roads policing unit, plus council staff.
Motorists travelling above the limit will be dealt with in a number of ways. They will be sent a warning letter, stopped and given words of advice or be given a fixed penalty notice which will mean a fine and points on their licence.
Community Speed Watch co-ordinator Elizabeth Ngero told Marlborough News Online: “It is important that motorists appreciate that their vehicle does not stop as soon as they see a hazard. The faster they are travelling the longer it will take to stop and avoid a potential accident.”
“We have a total of 50 volunteer groups from different parishes throughout Wiltshire that have been taking part in Community Speed Watch and 55 groups that are trained to go out. We hope this day of action will help educate drivers and make them think of the potential consequences that are associated with excess speed.”
Lord Crisp, a former chief executive of the NHS (2000-2006) and now a crossbencher in the House of Lords, has recently identified the excessive number of hospitals in England as an urgent issue – saying that hospitals will have to be closed. He believes there will have to be more money spent on treating patients, especially older ones, at home.
And, as the government’s Health and Social Care Bill is debated in Parliament, others have made similar warnings about the need for hospital closures – either to help meet the £20 billion of savings the NHS has to make or as a direct result of the changes to commissioning in the government’s health service reorganisation.
How might this affect the Marlborough area? In an interview with Marlborough News Online, Lord Crisp emphasised that deciding whether a hospital should be closed “is a local issue and it depends on what sort of mix of services you have in your area. In any case, there’s no one size fits all solution.”
“Sometimes NHS planning – as with some other policy areas – is too focused on London” which has thirty major hospitals. And often the oversupply of hospital beds can be resolved by amalgamations and changes to the balance of services.
One of the main needs with an ageing population is to see “How much you can keep people at home and treat them there.” And this must involve changing how the budget is spent – too much spent on major hospitals can mean too little spent on mobile services treating people in their homes.
As Lord Crisp made clear: older people need to be kept out of hospital where they can quickly lose functions and then, once no longer sick, need residential care.
Although he does not know in detail about Wiltshire’s balance of services, it is clear from all he told Marlborough News Online that Lord Crisp would approve of the GWH managing Wiltshire’s community health services with its successful ‘neighbourhood team’ programme which does treat people in their homes.
On the broader issues of the coalition government’s Health and Social Care Bill which is being debated in the House of Commons this week, Lord Crisp said that ‘one of the big sticking points’ was the decision to do away with the Health Secretary’s duty to provide a health service to all.
Although Lord Crisp has in the past called for greater separation between the health service and the secretary of state, “Doing away with the ‘duty to provide’ is not the same thing at all.”
He is worried “the whole thing will degenerate into an insurance contract as opposed to the present social contract – it’ll be more of a commercial contract. And we don’t want to be looking at the small print of an insurance policy all the time. There needs to be someone in the cabinet to ensure a health service is provided for all.”
One of the major problems Lord Crisp sees with the government’s Bill is the potential conflict of interest for doctors when they are directly involved in both commissioning and providing services. “More than that, there’ll be a public perception of a potential conflict of interest – you don’t just have to be clean, you have to look as though you’re clean.”
How will the Bill fare in Parliament? “It depends on the LibDems.” Lord Crisp thinks the political deal has been done and it will pass the Commons. The most likely outcome is that the Lords will press some ‘significant amendments’.
[This month Lord Crisp has published 24 Hours to Save the NHS – the Chief Executive’s account of reform 2000 to 2006 (OUP)]
Marlborough MP Claire Perry has given her initial support to the plea made by Housing Minister Grant Shapps that local canals should be used to provide more homes for people with an influx of house boats.
He has urged local authorities to grant planning consent for more residential moorings on waterways such as the Kennet and Avon, to help solve the UK’s housing problem.
And while the move has been welcomed by British Waterways, conservation groups such as the CPRE claim it is little more than a bribe to allow more building to take place on greenfield sites.
“Anything that can be done to increase the supply of affordable homes would be welcome and more canal boats would in general be a good thing,” Claire Perry told Marlborough News Online.
But that is conditional on as long as “we have the right set up to collect mooring fees and the right amount of infrastructure along the canals.”
She pointed out: “Unlike developments on land, those don't come for free. So I will want to see the details on this and the implications for the Kennet and Avon trust before giving it an unqualified welcome.”
Mrs Perry has already been in contact with Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott concerning some of the proposals in the government’s new national planning framework, which allows easier access to green field sites for housing development.
This has caused consternation among major conservation such as the National Trust, based in Swindon, which sees the policy as opening the door for developers seeking to build new housing estates that will spoil treasured areas of the countryside.
“There is concern over some of the assumptions,” said Mrs Perry. “I'm suggesting that she and the Wiltshire MPs work together to clarify the pro-development assumptions.”
Duncan Hames, LibDem MP for Chippenham, has told Marlborough News Online that the LibDems are working hard to write into the Health Bill a cap on the amount of private work carried out in NHS hospital trusts. If this demand does not crystalise during this week’s debate in the Commons, they will pursue it in the Lords.
Hames told Marlborough News Online: “The area about which most people have written to me is ensuring some kind of cap on the amount of private health care within NHS hospital trusts. We’re seeking to have some safeguards to achieve that cap. We shall be interested to see what attention is given to that [in the Commons debate.]”
He emphasised that LibDem MPs and Peers were working closely together on the Bill and would be pressing their case for a cap when the Bill reaches the Lords. However he is clear that LibDem MPs will be voting for the Bill:
“We got a lot of changes to the Bill over the summer. We need to support the government amendments to achieve the third reading.” The vote on the third reading is today (September 7).
We wanted to ask Mr Hames for his views on the Bill because the new Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG – replacing the Primary Care Trust or PCT) covering the Marlborough area stretches from Ramsbury to Corsham and so includes much of his Chippenham constituency. And, of course, the LibDems have been instrumental in changing the Bill.
One of the LibDems' main beefs about the NHS has been its lack of democratic accountability and they were successful in getting into the coalition agreement their policy of having elected members on PCTs. That was in May 2010. By July 2010, when Mr Lansley’s White paper came out, the abolition of the PCTs was set in stone and any shred of democratic legitimacy lost.
Duncan Hames believes that democratic accountability will now come via the new Health and Wellbeing Boards (HWB) which will be based with local authorities - in our case Wiltshire Council. The boards’ role has been strengthened following the re-think on the Bill.
“The form of democratic accountability is through elected members on the HWBs. … They will oversee strategy, making critical decisions in setting out what we’re going to provide for the people of Wiltshire.” The elected members will be councillors and Mr Hames says that the greater role given to councils in the provision of health services “is long overdue.”
These boards will have the right to refer back any local commissioning plans that are not in line with the HWB strategy. This has put another layer of oversight onto the CCGs. Are doctors happy with this? “Commissioning services within a budget is never easy, it’s a hefty challenge. But since the pause, it’s a good thing that clinicians are right at the forefront and the groups are now more broadly based.”
After the ‘pause and re-think’ process, the government decided HWBs should have more members of the public on them. But it seems that the boards’ only elected members will still be councillors.
Other members will be local authority officers, clinicians from the CCGs and patient representatives – the latter will be from the new Local HealthWatch organisations which are to be run and funded (with non-ring-fenced funding) by local councils. It is not yet clear how these HWBs will access the sort of expertise and detailed knowledge of local health care needs currently available in the PCTs.
Duncan Hames was successful when the Bill was first considered in ensuring that the new commissioning groups – now run mainly by doctors – would be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Will the increasing number of private, commercial firms working for the NHS have the same sort of transparency – and transparency was one of the key elements promised in the White Paper?
It has been alleged by critics of Mr Lansley’s restructuring that commercial confidentiality and competition rules will override transparency. Mr Hames told Marlborough News Online that as these private providers would be operating “with money coming from the NHS budget we can expect the NHS to demand high standards of transparency.”
Is Mr Hames optimistic that the promised savings on NHS bureaucracy will be achieved? “I am. The NHS is not having its budget cut: whilst there is a tighter financial regime, there is scope in an organisation of that size to make further efficiency savings. We are not allowing that to interfere with local democratic accountability.”
Only 18 out of 180 businesses in Marlborough bothered to complete a simple questionnaire hand delivered to their shops and offices in a bid to boost trade in the upmarket town.
A majority of them reacted negatively, rejecting any desire to play a positive role in the future of the town’s economy when asked the question, “What’s your vision for Marlborough’s future?”
Now Paul Shimell, newly-elected president of Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, who issued the survey, has accused traders of “hiding behind their retail doors.”
He told Marlborough News Online: “It’s almost as if the town has a death wish. We are currently suffering from the worst recession in 40 years with businesses across the country failing and shops covered with 70 per cent off sale notices.”
“Yet here in Marlborough businesses seem to think they are immune, that it is going to pass them by like Hurricane Irene and that no action needs to be taken.”
He sought the views of businesses on imminent problems such as helping to fund the High Street lights this Christmas –- there is a danger they won’t happen at all -- the effects of the closure of Marlborough’s tourist information centre and the possible conversion of the Ivy House Hotel into a students’ hostel.
Mr Shimell, the franchise-holder of Specsavers, launched successfully in Marlborough 18 months ago, told traders he is seeking ways in which “working together we can promote Marlborough and attract people to the town, and help grow our businesses.”
His message to businesses declared: “We need to take action to keep Marlborough vibrant, a great attraction for tourists, an essential shopping centre and service point for its residents. “But first I need to know what you think.”
Following the poor response – the questionnaire was hand delivered by two volunteer employees of Waitrose, Marlborough’s biggest business – Mr Shimell is looking at alternative ways of promoting Marlborough.
He is in discussion too with members of Marlborough town council, who are equally alarmed by the refusal of traders even to provide details of their phone numbers and email addresses by which they can be regularly contacted.
“We shall not give up,” he said. “I come from Wootton Bassett, where the amazing community spirit has earned it a royal accolade, and I have been to Hungerford, where the traders work remarkably well together to make the town prosper.
We shall build on the contact with the 18 positive responses. Slowly but surely, we shall attempt to make Marlborough’s businesses understand that the days of automatic affluence are over.
“We all need to act together if Marlborough is to survive the worst aspects of the commercial storm ahead.”
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NHS Wiltshire and Wiltshire Council have worked together to provide specialised exercise classes at leisure centres around the county for people who have survived a stroke. The first class starts in Trowbridge this month and classes will begin in Marlborough in January 2012.
People who’ve had a stroke need to take exercise to counter reduced body strength, mobility and fitness. It will also help improve mood changes and social isolation brought on by their stroke.
Ten exercise professionals from Wiltshire leisure services – as well as two physios from Wiltshire community health services – completed the specialist instructor training course.
Pictured left are three of Wiltshire’s ‘exercise after stroke’ instructors – (l to r) Paul Needham, Trish Cowie and Richard Latham.
Welcoming this joint development, Councillor Stuart Wheeler, cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture, said: “This project will considerably improve the quality of life of those people who have suffered a stroke, by providing specific exercises and support that will enable to retain as much independence as possible.”
The exercise after stroke service is part of a range of improvements to stroke services in Wiltshire. These have included better ambulance response to stroke calls, direct admission to stroke units in hospitals, a county-wide ‘clot busting’ (more officially ‘thombolysis’) service and special clinics for those who have had ‘mini-strokes’.
A major review of stroke care by the national Care Quality Commission placed NHS Wiltshire in the category of best performing Primary Care Trusts – ranking the PCT twentieth out of 151 PCTs for the stroke services it delivers.
Wiltshire Police will be changing its non-emergency number to the figures 101 together with the rest of the South West region, as from Monday, September 19.
Although 999 is a well-recognised number to report emergencies, the 2010 British Crime Survey found that only half of the public knew which number to call if they wanted to speak to their local police about policing, non-urgent crime and anti-social behaviour issues.
As part of a national programme, 101 will provide the public with an easier and more memorable number to contact the police.
"Changing our non emergency contact number to 101 will make it much easier for people to contact us,” Assistant Chief Constable Mike Veale told Marlborough News Online. “It is a simple number to remember and will be used by all forces across the country by the beginning of 2012.”
“We are constantly looking for ways to improve and build on our service to the public and are positive that this change will be welcomed by our communities.”
To find out more information about 101, visit website www.wiltshire.police.uk or look out for posters and flyers that have been distributed countywide.
Today (Monday) also sees the launch of a 101 countdown clock on the Force website, counting down the days until 101 goes live in Wiltshire on Monday 19 September.
Calls to 101 will cost 15p per call, irrespective of how long that call may last and applies to landlines and mobile phones.
A person with a hearing or speech impairment will be able to use the non emergency textphone number 18001 101.
101 will replace the existing non-emergency number 0845 408 7000 for Wiltshire Police.
Wiltshire Police can also be contacted by email at www.wiltshire.police.uk or in person at one of our enquiry offices.
Dr Nick Maurice is retiring as director of BUILD the national charity he founded and which is based in Marlborough. Since 2002, BUILD (which stands for “building understanding through international links for development”) has worked with government, schools, hospitals and faith groups to create and sustain links between communities in the United Kingdom and developing countries.
Dr Maurice will be succeeded as director from October 1 by Andrew Deuchar whose early career in the diplomatic service has been followed by ministry in the Church of England. He has long experience in international development, communications, management and project management.
After working as a parish priest, from 1994 to 2000 Andrew Deuchar was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Anglican Communion Affairs, managing the Archbishop’s work as leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion. He returned to parish work in Nottingham and has most recently been working for the Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness.
The Archbishop of Canterbury for whom he worked, Lord Carey, said, “BUILD is looking for an outstanding leader. Andrew was one of my best officers. I have great confidence in him. He is a very wise and consensual leader.”
Dr Maurice (pictured left) – a member of Marlborough’s long-standing family of GPs and one of the town’s best known personalities – has worked for Oxfam, been a GP in Marlborough and in 1981 was a founder of the Marlborough Brandt Group which started and still supports the town’s link with the village of Gunjur in The Gambia. He will continue to work for BUILD in whatever ways the new director and the trustees wish.
BUILD believes that global community partnerships make the world better. Working with community, national and global partners, BUILD promotes cross-cultural links and provides services to help communities to link and to develop their work in ways that increase global peace, prosperity and justice.
On his appointment, Andrew Deuchar spoke of his passion for the whole business of linking: “I am absolutely delighted to be joining the work of BUILD, which I believe to be of great significance on the vast canvas which is the international development world of today.”