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High Street shops grab late night shopping initiative for Summer School students

Marlborough’s retailers have grabbed a chance to boost business this month by taking part in a new late night shopping initiative launched by Marlborough College’s unique Summer School.

And when the College opens its gates on Sunday for the arrival of the first of more than 3,000 students, local residents too will be welcome as well to attend evening lectures and an array of musical concerts without having to sign up for courses.  The two-way connection between the Summer School, the High Street and residents’ own interests is contrasted by the fact that scores of students fly in from 25 countries around the world to enjoy courses run over three weeks by some 200 expert tutors – and at the same time have money to spend.

But feedback from them shows that too often courses end too late for them to enjoy shopping.

“At least 500 cars a day are coming into our car park and we are very keen to bring our students into our wonderful High Street as well because it benefits the town,” Summer School director Jon Copp (pictured) told Marlborough News Online.

“We produced a flyer and handed it in to every shop.  We wanted to know how many retailers were interested in late night opening between 5 and 7pm on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays.”

“We said if we could find a core of retailers willing to do so then we would advertise them widely to our customers here at the Summer School and try to bring them together.”

“And we have had an avalanche of replies, some from shops we didn’t even approach.  We seem to have struck a new cord and so far we have 18 shops who will be taking part (click here for list) and more will follow.”

At the same time, the Summer School wants residents to feel free to enter the College gates, where strict security normally operates in term time, and become part of the event, whether or not they have signed up for a vast array of courses.

“We want to get the message out to residents that they can come after work to lectures at 5.15 pm and to musical recitals at 8pm paying £5 at the door,” said Mr Copp, now in his tenth season as director.

“They will be welcome here and won’t be stopped by any security. We have a little booklet we are putting around the town telling them what’s on.”

And that is apart from six featured gala concerts, which include An Evening with Blake, the eclectic group that mixes classical and pop music, which takes place in the College’s Memorial Hall on July 22, tickets costing £20.

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Preshute primary school celebrates eco award

Preshute Primary School in Manton this week celebrated gaining a bronze ‘Ecoschool’ award for environmental performance.

An eco-council of pupils from the school, led by assistant head teacher Kelandie Ash, put together an environmental management plan looking at issues such as energy use, playground tidiness and sustainable transport.

The pupils then helped to raise awareness throughout the school by designing posters and displays to help meet their targets.

Celia Hicks, head of Preshute School said: “We are really pleased that the pupils have been able to contribute to creating a more sustainable future. The eco-council has learned a great deal from the process that we hope they can now pass on to others“.

Preshute used the plan to secure assistance from the North Wessex Downs AONB Sustainable Development Fund and Wiltshire Council to purchase composting bins for their nature garden and install bike racks to encourage more pupils to cycle.

The Mayor of Marlborough, Alexander Kirk-Wilson, himself a keen cyclist, officially unveiled the improvements at a ceremony on Tuesday morning.

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Keep the old wood fires burning is the new energy message

Keep the wood fires burning. That’s the message from Marlborough MP Claire Perry, who cut a ribbon and declared open the new Sarsen Stove’s Warehouse, in Collingbourne Ducis, on Friday. 

She is an advocate of renewable energy, has several wood burning stoves at her home near Salisbury, where she plans to introduce solar panels on the roof.

“I was delighted to open the wood burning stove centre in Collingbourne Ducis with its wide range of burners and boilers,” she said.

“This expansion is perfect as the government is committed to producing 15 per cent of the UK’s energy from renewable sources such as wood by 2020.”

“The new Renewable Heat Initiative scheme will provide long-term support for the sort of products sold by Sarsen Energy.  As a committed wood burner user, I am pleased to see this great local company succeed.”

John Barber-Starkey, managing director of Sarsen Energy Ltd pointed out: “The new government grant scheme for wood fuelled central heating coupled with rising energy prices means that a lot of customers will be interested in replacing their oil, coal, gas or electric systems with wood.”

“We find that more and more customers are now turning to the ancient fuel of wood which is now the fuel of the future as it is renewable, efficient and clean.”

There are to be two Open Days at the Sarsen Wood Burning Centre – on July 29 and 30 -- for domestic and commercial customers to view the latest designer appliances, kitchen ranges and log burners.

Under the government’s Green Energy policy all households that install an accredited biomass boiler will be eligible for tariff payments know as the RHU Premium Payment (RHIPP).  This will mean that for a typical house the customer will receive a payment in line with the size of their boiler output for up to 15 years.

For more information on Sarsen Energy, call Colin Stevens 07796 453 472.

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The Fogg family celebrate as Martha and James wed at Marlborough town hall

A romance that began when they met in the sixth form at St John’s School resulted in the wedding at Marlborough town hall yesterday (Saturday) of Martha Fogg and James Paterson.

And among the 100 relatives and friends there to see Martha walk down the aisle on the arm of her father, town councillor and former Marlborough mayor Nick Fogg, were guests who had flown in from New Zealand and Canada.  It was very much a teenage romance that has stood the test of time as the couple, both 29, stood on the town hall steps as guests showered them with confetti.

“I never, ever believed I could be this lucky,” declared James, the son of David and Sharman Paterson, from Collingbourne Ducis, who took a degree in photography at Westminster University and is features editor of a photography magazine.

While his bride, the daughter of Marlborough’s deputy mayor Edwina Fogg, added: “It’s been a real effort to organise, but every moment has been worthwhile.  It’s glorious to be surrounded by so many loving people.”

Martha read English at University College London, did an MA in Victorian studies at Royal Holloway College, and is now a commissioning editor with Adam Matthew Publications, the Marlborough-based high tech publishers.

Her ivory silk and chiffon wedding dress, by Amanda Wakely, was bought at Bertie Golightly, in Marlborough. The simple design with long flowing train provided a stunning vintage look inspired by the glamour of the 1940s.

Martha’s three bridesmaids were Kate Burningham, Josephine Lewis and Tamasin Coates.

Guests at the wedding – the reception was held at Rockley Manor – included the Axworthys from Toronto. Tom Axworthy, once Cabinet Secretary to Canadian premier Pierre Trudeau, kick started the Middle East peace processes and is now Secretary-General of an organisation of older statesmen that includes American president Jimmy Carter and German chancellor Helmut Schmidt.And from the other Marlborough, in New Zealand, came Andy Bibby, who makes the celebrated Marlborough wine now a favourite, particularly in its namesake town.

As Nick Fogg toasted the couple, he declared: “Here’s to Jim and Marfie. They’re an example to the world.”

All the younger guests camped on the Downs overnight, including bride and groom, who are honeymooning in Slovenia.

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The new treatment for Wiltshire’s health care: divide it into three parts

It now looks certain that under the coalition government’s plan to put GP’s in charge of most of the NHS budget, Wiltshire will be divided into three Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) – groups of medical practices which up to a month ago were called ‘GP Consortia’.  After the pause in the legislation ordered by the prime minister, major change will come more slowly to the NHS, but change is coming fast and furiously to the government’s plans.

These new developments were outlined to Marlborough News Online during an interview with Dr Helen Kingston (pictured left) in between her surgeries and ward rounds at Warminster Community Hospital.  She wrote the application by Wiltshire’s first cut of five GP consortia to take the initial step towards official approval. Dr Kingston is now joint chairman of one of the new groups and is in continuing talks on the final shape of services across Wiltshire.

For Dr Kingston’s views on the developing process of ‘NHS modernisation’ and background information see the companion story on her interview with Marlborough News Online in our features section.

These CCGs will commission the healthcare and treatment for the patients in their area – arranging and paying for contracts with hospitals and many other services.  Marlborough will be in the group that runs from Ramsbury in the east to Corsham in the west, to Pewsey in the south and north to the border with Swindon.

This group has not published a name yet.  But under the government’s ‘post pause’ rules its name will have to include those valuable brand initials ‘NHS’.

It will cover about 167,000 of Wiltshire NHS’ 455,450 population.  When we spoke to Dr Jonathan Glover of the Marlborough Medical Practice in April, he expressed doubts about the size, as it was then planned, of the GP consortium which included Marlborough.  He had hoped it would cover just a hundred thousand patients. As Dr Glover put it: “So far we have been advised that the bigger the better.”

Dr Kingston revealed that the three groups are likely to co-operate in an ‘over-arching’, Wiltshire-wide organisation to manage and administer the three groups’ human resources and payrolls, and the collection and reporting of statistical information.  This is still being negotiated among the leading GPs in the three CCGs.

Dr Kingston welcomed the government’s change in attitude towards the management of the NHS.  She said that the White Paper had implied that NHS managers are “a waste of space”: “There’s more talk now about having managers and recognising the value of good management.  We have some really good managers in Wiltshire – and we need their expertise.”

As the government’s new plans become clearer – formulated in 181 amendments to the Bill still waiting in Parliament and a flurry of guidance papers – more tiers and frameworks of oversight, proper governance and consultation are being designed.  These account for some of the several hundred new NHS quangos that Ed Miliband referred to in prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Dr Kingston spoke about an impending regime of new “frameworks and frameworks within the frameworks”.  And she believes that if the governance and consultation processes become too complex and expensive, so requiring the CCG’s to employ higher calibre management, then even these three Wiltshire CCGs might be too small to cope.

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Marlborough’s St John’s School hit by teachers’ strike action

Marlborough’s major state school will be hit by tomorrow’s teachers’ strike but the town’s primary school will remain open.

A notice on the website of St John’s announces that it will be closed on Thursday, pointing out: “Due to the teaching unions' industrial action, the school will be closed to students on Thursday 30th June. School will be open as usual on Friday 1st July.”

“Please note that the Sixth Form Induction Day will not now take place on this day. The new date for the induction day is Thursday 7th July. Timings for the new date will be the same as previously planned with an 8:30am start in the Theatre on the Hill.”

And it adds: “Please note that the Year 6 Open Evening scheduled for the 30th of June will still be going ahead as planned. The College Experience visit for year 10 students on June 30th has also been postponed and will take place at a later rearranged date.”

But St Peter’s Primary School is to remain open, according to a list issued by Wiltshire Council informing parents which schools will be closed, some partially closed and others open.

Industrial action has been called by the teaching unions in protest against the government’s proposed changes in teachers' pensions.

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Minor injuries hospital treatment row explodes again

New serious concerns over the treatment of people suffering from minor injuries has resulted from an exchange of letters between Savernake Hospital champion Val Compton (pictured)and NHS Swindon.

(See letter of response from Sarah McLennan of NHS Wiltshire)

She is to challenge the decision of NHS Swindon to send some of  the cases that would previously have been treated by Clover Unit, in the Great Western Hospital, to the Carfax Street health centre, Swindon.  Patients from Marlborough and the surrounding villages will now be directed to go to a site three miles further on if their minor injuries are deemed to be non-urgent.

Before closure in 2007, more than 8,000 patients a year were treated at Savernake Hospital Minor Injury Unit (MIU).

The changes have happened in the wake of the failed High Court battle to prevent the MIU at Savernake closing down following a decision by Wiltshire PCT to close most MIUs in the county.

Mrs Compton is demanding to know in particular whether the changes fly in the face of Wilthsire PCT's, (now known as NHS Wiltshire) self-imposed condition in their High Court victory that MIU services should be available within a 15-mile limit of the homes of those living in the county.

 The only minor injury units remaining open within Wiltshire are in Chippenham and Trowbridge, NHS Wiltshire is relying upon surrounding areas to provide this service, for which they pay a pre-arranged national tariff rate.

And she is claiming this will raise important issues for patients:

 * confusion over which of the three categories their injuries may fall into and what action needs to be taken.

* travelling the extra distance, since the Carfax Street health centre is a further three miles away from Great Western Hospital in Swindon.   

* lack of communication -- most people do not even know Clover Unit has a new ruling on the definition of the urgent minor injury cases it can deal with, non-urgent cases being sent to Carfax Street.

* most patients will require a printed map to find Carfax Street and, on arrival, will be fortunate to park because of the confined space available.

* what action, if any, NHS Wiltshire has taken to inform patients of these significant changes -- and whether they satisfied they are fulfilling their own 15-mile limit availability of treatment for patients living in Marlborough and surrounding villages.

 * why is there no indication on NHS Wiltshire’s own website that Clover Unit and Carfax Street centre treat different categories of minor injuries.

“The situation is alarming,” Mrs Compton told Marlborough News Online. “The closure of the MIU at Savernake has created a real mess that must leave potential patients totally confused.  To add to this, we now have three categories of minor injury.”

"The most minor is treat at home or with pharmacy advice, the second to take to Carfax Sreet, Chippenham or Trowbridge, and the third category is an urgent minor injury that can be treated at the Clover Unit.  It is outrageous that patients should have to make all these decisions at a time they are injured, in pain and possibly not thinking straight.”

And she demands to know: “Who made these decisions and when?  Why on earth has no one issued information to the public about these changes affecting the Clover Unit?  Will other units in surrounding areas also change the rules?

“I understand the drive to keep all but life threatening emergencies out of A&E, but there now seems to be huge confusion over minor injuries.”

“Why hasn’t Swindon NHS or Wiltshire NHS explained the situation?  I have found nothing in the press and nothing on NHS Wiltshire's website.  I have asked questions of NHS Swindon but, as yet, I have had no satisfactory answers.”

“They seem unclear about what they are doing and the posters and press release they have now sent simply create further questions.”

Mrs Compton is writing to local MP Claire Perry and raising the issues with  the NHS bodies covering Wiltshire because of her concern that the proper procedures may not have been followed and the changes now operating made without any consultation taking place.

Following the judicial review, she explained, it would be a serious matter as the Department of Health has made it clear that consultation should take place, particularly with "hard to reach" groups of people such as minor injury patients.  There is a laid down procedure and it appears to have been ignored.

 “The question of consultation was one of the prime issues when the MIU and the day hospital at Savernake were closed and we sought a judicial review,” she pointed out.  “It seems we are again back to square one, but in a worse situation now, given the air of uncertainty created by the coalition government."

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Police delve into the mystery of dead badger in Coopers Meadow

Police have now ruled out the possibility that a dead badger found with a rubber ring round its neck on the edge of Cooper’s Meadow, Marlborough, early on Sunday may have been a victim of badger baiters.

But how it got there – and how it died – remains a mystery unlikely to be solved, one new factor being that injuries to its abdomen are likely to have been inflicted by rats or even birds.

The young animal, found under trees on the edge of the River Kennet, just beyond the bridge to the Waitrose car park, by early morning dog walkers, is more likely to have been dumped there by a motorist who killed it on the road.

A black plastic bag in which it might have been carried was found close to the body. The rubber ring too may have been a means of dragging it to the spot.

But that theory is also open to doubt as a local naturalist pointed out that badgers are more often gassed or shot on farmers’ land.  They are then deposited on busy roads, to make it appear as if they were killed by a passing vehicle.

“It really remains a bit of a mystery,” Wiltshire Police’s rural crime team officer PC John Bordiss told Marlborough News Online.  “It is clearly illegal to kill or injure a badger. If anyone has any information that may be of help to us then will they please contact Marlborough police station.”

PC Bordiss contacted a local badger group and Natural England after police received reports of the dead badger and they photographed the scene.

An RSPCA inspector subsequently visited Cooper’s Meadow, examined the dead badger, took more photographs and ruled out the need for a post mortem. He concluded that it was not a case of badger baiting.

And it now appears that the injuries to the badger are likely to have happened after it was dumped.

Val Compton, a Wiltshire Wildlife Trust rescue volunteer, who lives nearby, saw the dead animal after she was alerted of its discovery. She reports that it had no injuries when she too took photographs (see picture).

“I suspect the injury that was photographed some time later may have been caused by another animal or bird having a feast,” she told Marlborough News Online. “Knowing the number of rats in Cooper’s Meadow, I can imagine they would not have taken long to find it.”

“But the rubber band around its neck could have been used as a tourniquet to strangle it.”

PC Bordiss pointed out there was no evidence of badger baiting taking place in Wiltshire, the crime being more prevalent in neighbouring counties like Gloucestershire.

 “Usually they cut off the front paws, terribly as that is, but that hadn’t happened here,” he said.  “We have heard of no similar incidents happening.”

“And if it is badger baiting, then why leave the animal there?”

The police have logged and recorded the badger’s demise. “It’s very difficult for us to dig deeper,” added PC Bordiss. “There is no trail that we can follow. We have done all we can so far.”

“We shall keep a watch out in case there are further incidents happening.”

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Vandalism outbreak closes George Lane toilets overnight for a month

An outbreak of vandalism has resulted in Wiltshire Council carrying out a trial closure of Marlborough’s  George Lane public toilets overnight for four weeks.

There have been ongoing problems from night time vandalism at the toilets causing an increased expenditure in repairs, maintenance and extra cleaning costs.

The toilets will remain open during the day as normal. The facility will be closed at 8pm each night and opened at 6am each morning.

The disabled toilets will continue to be available for 24 hours a day.

Marlborough Town Council has been consulted about the closure, says a council spokesman.

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MPs are to take the same pension hits as public sector workers

All MPs will be subject to the same significant pension changes as thousands of public sector workers now on strike across the country, Prime Minister David Cameron has revealed – all thanks to a question in the Commons from Marlborough’s MP Claire Perry.

She asked him during question time yesterday (Wednesday):

“The Prime Minister alluded earlier to the contract between taxpayers and public servants, but there is also a contract between taxpayers and MPs.

“Does he agree that MPs should be in the vanguard of reforming pensions by reforming our own, so that we can look our public sector constituents in the face?

Mr Cameron replied: “I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Members of the House are public sector workers too, and we should be subject to exactly the same changes that we are asking others to take on.

“Therefore, the increase in contributions should apply to the MP system, even though we already pay in quite a lot. We are saying that right across the board, the increase in pension contributions is right to create a healthier long-term system.”

Mrs Perry has today also written to the Leader of the House, Sir George Young pointing out: “In light of the tough choices the Government is having to make on public-sector pensions, I believe that Members should be leading by example and reform their own final-salary pension arrangements in the near future.

“I am aware that Ministers have been consulting with ISPA on the proposals however the lack of activity in the public eye could be construed as an attempt by MPs to not share the same brunt of the deficit reduction as the public sector. 

“I would therefore like to urge for an acceleration in these reforms and would welcome your involvement to speed up the progress of the proposals.”

But one Marlborough teacher on strike today, who asked not to be identified, claimed that Mrs Perry’s “planted” question was all part of a government propaganda exercise to disguise the fact that it was unwilling to negotiate the core issues in its “so-called pension reforms”.

“All this talk about unsustainable and untenable public section pensions is not reflected in Lord Hutton’s report to the government, which is being used to manipulate the system,” said the teacher.

“According to him, despite the increase in longevity we all welcome, the cost of public sector pensions is declining, not rising. This is just another blatant attempt to bash the workers.”

The teacher accepted that strikes were unhelpful to the economy but insisted that the government’s “slash and burn” policies were as well.

There was concern that the pension changes would harm future recruitment of graduates already burdened with paying off tuition fees, and this would have a knock-on effect on Education Secretary’s Michael Gove’s reforms, some of which were welcome.

But the teacher returned to the pension debacle and added: “You only have to listen to government ministers on radio – or watch them on telly today – to see them squirming when they are asked pertinent questions they can’t answer.

“There is just this eternal mantra about people not going on strike while negotiations are still going on. They want to discuss the finite details and just refuse to budge an inch on the basic changes they are pushing through to our detriment. It’s so shameful.”

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Land sales go ahead to boost Stonebridge Meadow project

The sale of five small parcels of land  on the Stonebridge Meadow for an estimated £14,000 is to go ahead as part of Marlboroughtown council’s partnership project with ARKto revamp the 15-acre site.

The sites will add space to the back gardens of houses on the edge of the meadow, bought jointly by the council and ARK for £150,000, and provide an initial boost for the estimated £43,000 cost of the scheme.

Its aim is to protect and enhance the area, which a botanical survey has revealed contains rare Black Poplar trees on the Kennet river bank, and to introduce community activities once major outside funding is obtained.

“The point of selling this land is for the benefit of this important project,” Councillor Richard Pitts told the town council, who approved the sale.

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