A major four-day consultation exercise is to be launched on Monday to give Marlborough residents a chance to express their views on continuing plans to revamp the historic town hall.
The aim is to seek support for the council’s project to make improvements that will enable better use to be made of the building, in particular providing better value for money for local council taxpayers.
And it is being carried out against a backdrop of controversial claims that the council wants to dump the million pound plus cost on local residents, which have been proved to be totally fallacious.
More than £250,000 in grants and donations have enabled the council to carry out already highly visible improvements to the town hall entrance and in particular to the assembly hall, now fitted with big screen and sound facilities first used at the time of the Royal Wedding in April.
And the improvements will be staged over time, as and when the finance, partly through low interest Public Loan Board finance now extensively used by Wiltshire Council and town councils throughout the county, becomes available.
As from Monday, residents will now have their chance to see in detail plans of the proposed further changes, bringing into action former unusable areas, to make their own suggestions -- and to give their views on the project.
Councillor Guy Loosmore, chairman of the council’s Property Committee, which has masterminded the plan, told Marlborough News Online: "This is an exciting proposal to transform the use of the building into a living, breathing focal point for the community.”
“And at the same time we want Marlborough town council’s activities to be open seven days a week while at the same time maintaining the heritage of this iconic landmark.”
“We hope that many people will come in to see our proposals and respond to the consultation. This plan is about turning the building into one that is fit for the future of this town”
The consultation event will be held in the town hall over four days from Monday to Thursday next week.
An exhibition will be on view between 10.30am and 4:00pm, and on the evenings of 23 and 24 November between 7.00pm and 9.00pm
“We shall also be mailing out a leaflet to all households in the town asking informing them of the proposals and asking for comments,” said town clerk Liam Costello.
It is approximately 100 years since the last major work was undertaken on the town hall and the building was in a state of neglect when this council came to power in 2007.
“Slowly and surely we have moved to allow the building to command respect in the town,” said former property committee chairman Councillor Richard Pitts. “I started not long after taking office to seek funds to do just that.”
“Councillor Loosmore took my work forward very positively. The new steps replaced badly worn access and discretely created disabled access to the court room area in a way which is completely inclusive.”
An essential part of the project is to transfer the council’s current offices at No 5 High Street back to the town hall by bringing unusable areas back into action, then renting out No 5 to add to the council’s income stream.
And it is hoped that all future elections, parliamentary and council, will again be held in the town hall in the heart of Marlborough.
“This council has a good track record of consultation,” added Councillor Pitts. “We hope as many people as possible will visit the town hall and see the plans.”
“We will listen, take onboard the community’s view and develop and enhance the project based on those views. We are keen to show how we can extend on the work to date, which has been overwhelmingly well received.”
“We hope to show with this public consultation what careful considered design can produce in a sustainable way, which enhances the building, reduces its operating costs, and allows flexible spaces which can be used in many ways to contribute to the life of the community.”
Since August, Marlborough author Grace Conti has been donating royalties from her novel Through an Icon’s Eyes to Breast Cancer Research. She had planned to end this generous fundraising at the end of October, coinciding with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, instead she’s extending it until Christmas.
This is Grace Conti’s debut novel, and with steady sales she hopes to increase her fundraising by catching people who are given Kindles and iPads over Christmas.
Grace explains, “In recent years a shocking number of friends and neighbours have been touched by this insidious disease. The day I decided to publish my novel in Amazon's ebook format I received the news that another close friend had been diagnosed – so donating the royalties seemed the right thing to do."
“ I know people who run marathons for charity, but I haven't got the stamina for that. The best thing I can do is offer practical support through friendship and hope that sales of my book result in a significant donation."
Through an Icon's Eyes is a magical story of love, heresy, murder and betrayal. Set in 1440s Europe against a turbulent background of inflammatory politics and religious divisions. Benedict Paston a former sundial-maker, is lost to the world. His self-imposed exile in a remote monastery is relieved only by the task of painting an icon.
As the hours of devotion mark the progress of one day in his monastic cell, escape from self-destruction is brought about by the painted image of Mary Magdalene. Meanwhile, in England, Annie Carter, a young widow beset by visions and facing death, finds that she too has an unusual guide and confessor as the light and shadows mark the progress of her day in a very different cell .....
Grace explains the background to her novel: “The historical research really took the time, it is the cusp between the medieval and the renaissance periods when Europe was teetering on the brink of dramatic change.”
“The story of Benedict & Annie began to unfurl the more I read, although it wasn't until I went to Greece on holiday and stumbled across some fifteenth century icons in a little Church that the character of Mary Magdalene joined the story and the novel took shape. She is their confessor, therapist even. It’s a story of two people who misunderstand their intentions and let that destroy their relationship. A little bit of magic helps unravel their story.”
The rising popularity of the ebook is gradually changing the face of publishing, an industry that’s dominated by large corporations which hold sway over bookshops and readers. Writers like Grace Conti have chosen to remain in control of their work by using Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing.
Grace has found the process fascinating: “I had always thought the only route for a writer was to find an agent and hope they can sell your work to a big publisher. I knew that my novel was difficult to pigeon-hole, they like genre-specific books and these days it seems to be more about authors’ personalities rather than their actual work.”
“I was given a Kindle earlier this year and I was very dubious to begin with. Like so many people I love holding a book in my hands, but the more I read the more I enjoyed it. It is great to be able to take a whole library on holiday with you, or on the train.”
“Publishing for Kindle was easy. Just a case of formatting it correctly, designing a cover and away it went. My partner designed a website to go with it and I created a facebook page ... I even tweet excerpts of the book."
Commuters who use Bedwyn Station near Marlborough to work in London are campaigning to secure rail services as the government looks to roll out rail electrification.
The electrification of the rail line between London and South Wales will mean faster travel times for rail passengers using that route – including commuters who catch the train at Swindon.
But electrification of the line will stop at Newbury, and rail users on the Berks & Hants Line, on which the Bedwyn-to-Paddington trains run, fear a reduction of services at Hungerford, Kintbury and Bedwyn.
Transport minister Theresa Villiers has told MPs Claire Perry, whose constituency covers Bedwyn, and Richard Benyon, the member for Hungerford and Kintbury, that after 2016 diesel-only trains will not be able to run on the electrified line between Reading and Paddington.
It is proposed that through services to Exeter will be in two categories: a fast service between Paddington and Reading, stopping at Reading and Taunton, using the existing high speed trains, and a slower service using 'bi-mode' trains that can run under the wire to Newbury and on diesel thereafter, between Paddington and Exeter, stopping at additional stations including Newbury, Pewsey and Westbury.
A worst case scenario after electrification could be the loss of direct trains into Paddington. Instead, passengers would have to catch a diesel shuttle service to Newbury, and change for the electric service.
Now Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group has taken up the cudgel to secure services for the Kennet Valley stations.
In an official response to the Great Western Draft Route Utilisation Strategy, the group says: “Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury have enjoyed an hourly off-peak service with additional peak trains for some years. More recently a sizeable percentage of these trains have operated directly to Paddington.
“We are concerned that from 2016, with only partial electrification, stations west of Newbury may be given a reduced or lower standard service.
“BTPG would strongly oppose either a shuttle service to Newbury or ‘skip-stopping’ for stations west of Newbury. The pointless attempt to reduce the service to Bedwyn and Kintbury in 2006 directly led to the formation of the BTPG and we see no valid reason for this to be considered again.”
The passenger group is concerned that rail operators underestimate the number of people using Bedwyn station because there is no ticket office or ticket machine, meaning the collection of accurate data is difficult. A November 2010 passenger survey by BTPG showed that 200 people used the outbound services from Bedwyn.
Meanwhile, Transition Town Marlborough and BTPG are campaigning for a better bus service between Marlborough, the villages and the station, for more information log on to www.transitionmarlborough.org and http://betterbedwynbuses.wordpress.com
Campaigners will be surveying train users about the viability of new bus services on Wednesday, November 23 from on the 8.40am train and the evening trains.
The hunt is on for Marlborough's Citizen of the Year.
The award – now in its fifth year – recognises the outstanding contribution of an individual or group to the town.
To be nominated, a candidate must live in the parishes of Marlborough or Manton.
The Citizen of the Year will be named during a ceremony at St Mary's Church on Thursday, November 24. They will then be invited to help turn on the Christmas lights display.
A royal tribute to the Queen on her diamond jubilee or a personal memorial to a loved one – residents of Marlborough are going to be given the chance to plant mature trees to celebrate next year’s historic occasion or a loved family member or friend.
With plans to plant 17 red horse chestnut trees in Frees Avenue, the road across the Common, the town council’s Amenities and Open Spaces Committee decided on Tuesday to make the event a special one.
At the cost of £200 a time, individuals or organisations can use the run up to next year’s diamond jubilee to provide a permanent new look to the road, possibly starting this year and continuing into next.
Ten of the new trees – in the gaps between the existing ones --- will be on the Common side of the road and the other seven opposite them, providing an annual avenue of red conical flowers as the trees grow to a majestic height.
Already Councillor Edwina Fogg, next year’s jubilee mayor who came up with the idea, has promised to pay for one of the chestnuts and Councillor Caroline Jackson, who pointed out that the project might follow a memorial scheme run by the National Trust, a second tree.
And Councillor Bryan Castle is contemplating a third in memory of a family member.
“It is an excellent idea to tie in the planting with the Queen’s diamond jubilee, and a very positive suggestion for residents to plant memorial trees as well,” committee chairman Councillor Richard Pitts told Marlborough News Online.
He has himself planted a memorial oak tree in Cornwall to his late father, Gordon Pitts, a wartime navigator flying Lancaster bombers over Germany, who worried whether he would ever return from the dangerous raids.
“People only die when they are no longer remembered,” he said. “A tree that will last decades has a positive meaning and a direct connection that keeps their memory alive.”
“It’s a fantastic way to remember people and I hope other people in the town will want to do the same, either to celebrate the Queen’s jubilee or provide a memorial to a loved one or someone special in their lives.” “I do hope we get a good response."
The trees project has been designed by the council’s head gardener, Dave Purkiss, who has also suggested that the council create a Marlborough in Bloom site in the High Street to mark diamond jubilee, possibly in time for the Olympic torch relay through the town in May.
The Aldbourne Band is ending 2011 on a strong note – they’ve been awarded second place in the open section at the sixty-fifth annual championships of the South West Brass Band Association. The contest was held at the Riviera Centre in Torquay with thirty-seven bands competing for the top prizes.
Musical director David Johnson chose an extremely challenging test piece for the band – On the Shoulders of Giants composed by Peter Graham. This piece was commissioned for the British Open in 2010. The ‘giants’ that the music reflects are the composers who have influenced the style of brass bands over the past hundred years.
The piece took a great deal of concentrated practice and rehearsal.
The band’s chairman, James Sheppard said: “It was great to see so many supports and ‘Friends of Aldbourne Band’ with us on the day. We had a marvellous result being placed above four other championship section bands.”
“We achieved the task we’d set ourselves – to play a challenging test piece in preparation for the area finals in March 2012.”
The adjudicator, Peter Bassano, praised the band’s performance and even noted the loud, prolonged and enthusiastic applause from the audience who appreciated a piece well executed.
The band has now moved up into the top world rankings and lies at sixty-first in the world. The band aims to be within the top fifty by this time next year.
You can hear the band play at several Christmas concerts including one at St Michael’s Aldbourne at 7.00pm on Sunday, December 11.
A bid by Marlborough MP Claire Perry to change the mind of Marlborough Town Council on its opposition to the government’s new draft planning policy, which has outraged the National Trust, has met with a silent rebuke.
The council wrote to government minister Grant Shapps opposing the planning framework, which it is feared will give developers carte blanche to build extensively on open country sites in rural areas.
And in a reply to that, Tory MP Mrs Perry sent a detailed two-page letter declaring that the policy was “incredibly important” and “vital that we get it right”.
She pointed out: “I love our green county of Wiltshire and I completely agree that if the result of the changes was to create ‘rubbish homes in densely populated estates’, as some constituents have suggested, then that would be a very bad outcome.”
“This is not what the government is proposing. Instead these changes have two key aims – to simplify the voluminous and complex national planning policy now to over 1,000 pages, and to enable a far greater degree of local control over development.”
And Mrs Perry added: “I don’t agree with the view that these reforms will undermine important protection of the countryside, or that it will lead to ‘Los Angeles urban sprawl’ as the National Trust, of which I am a member, suggested rather irresponsibly in my view.”
“The new guidelines safeguard national protections such as green belts, areas of outstanding natural beauty and sites of special scientific interest, and include measures to protect wildlife, biodiversity, cultural heritage and tackle light pollution.”
But the town council’s Planning Committee decided last night (Monday) to let the letter lie on the table unanswered.
Councillor Nick Fogg (pictured), angered that massive local opinion has been overruled by a government planning inspector in allowing Marlborough’s Ivy House Hotel to become a hostel for Marlborough College students, remains unconvinced about the new planning strategy.
“It's a politician's illusion that house-building creates economic growth,” he told Marlborough News Online. “It reflects it. It doesn't create it. That's done by increased trade.”
“I know a lot of informed people are extremely worried about changes in the planning laws. Our countryside should continue to be protected. It's our heritage to pass on to the next generation.”
Councillor Richard Pitts, one of the pioneers behind the “transitional town” project for Marlborough, aimed at limiting energy costs, had reservations too.
"Its very clear to me we need to develop a community/neighbourhood plan, which is crafted to take account of the needs and wishes of Marlborough town,” he said.
“I believe under the Localism bill this would allow us to set the agenda to suit the community here. Given our aim for a sustainable community our own neighbourhood plan should empower us to keep Wiltshire Council and developers dancing to our tune rather than the other way round.”
And he added: “Given how Wiltshire responded to the overwhelming community demands to retain Ivy House hotel as a Hotel, based on the economic data. I suspect we are facing ‘you are allowed your own neighbourhood plan provided it agrees with our version of plan’.”
“I hope we can call on Claire Perry to defend our plan should this happen."
Mums, babies and toddlers in the Marlborough area may be left without vital support if the local branch of the National Childbirth Trust is forced to close.
The departure of parent support co-ordinator Holly Scott-Donaldson after four years in the role has cast a shadow over the future of the local branch of the charity.
In a letter to members, branch chairman Lucy Brenk explains: “This role is one of the mandatory four roles that a branch must have to continue to operate.
“The key function of branches is to provide support activities such as bumps and babes and open venues for parents-to-be and new parents – many parents speak warmly and gratefully about the friendships made through branches so the role of the parent support co-ordinator is vital and brings the satisfaction of knowing that you really are helping others.
“So much is already in place and the committee is very excited about its revamped bumps and babes programme and is ready to launch, but we need someone to help us.
“The parent support co-ordinator is amongst other things:
the organizer of the branch parent support system – NCT Café, bumps and babes groups (well supported by the rest of the team).
the main contact for parents and health/children’s services professionals about the services and support on offer.”
Ten publishers may have rejected it but now the original manuscript of The Lord of the Flies, that classic novel that won fame for William Golding, is on show to the public for the first time.
It holds pride of place in a special exhibition at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, which is being staged to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Nobel Prize-winning author, who wrote the novel here in Marlborough.
The epic saga, all about anarchy among a group of schoolboys stranded by a plane crash on a deserted island, was written by schoolmaster Golding in 1952, who started sending it off to publishers the following year.
“We’ve got a record, in his own handwriting, of him sending it off to various publishers who all rejected it,” says his daughter, Judy Carver, who suggested that the manuscript and other items from her family archive should feature in the exhibition. “Eventually, eight months later, it went to Faber and Faber.
“The first person who read it had recommended that it should not be taken on.”
In fact, the reader’s report labelled the novel, later filmed and now regularly part of the GCSE syllabus for schools, as “an absurd and uninteresting fantasy – rubbish and dull.”
“But very luckily for us, a newish editor named Charles Monteith happened to pick it up and was gripped by it,” adds Judy.
Nevertheless, his interest resulted in further dilemmas for Golding, who had original called the novel Strangers from Within. The final title was reached only after 19 attempts to find one acceptable both to Faber and Golding.
And the correspondence now on show at the Bodleian for the first time reveals the arguments that went on between Golding and Monteith over the latter’s insistence that references to Christianity and to nuclear war had to be edited out of the finished manuscript, published in 1954.
But Judy Carver points out that correspondence in Faber’s own archive shows that there was a good relationship between the two men, though visitors to the exhibition can now compare the published edition of Lord of the Flies with the original.
“Charles was a tactful, perceptive editor and I think he helped greatly in my father finding confidence as an innovative novelist,” she told Marlborough News Online. “The cuts made to Lord of the Flies were prudent and effective.”
“Charles did not, I think, make additions to the text at all, except the chapter headings. It's undeniable that the cuts helped greatly to make the book accessible.”
Also, when Charles received the typescript of my father's second and arguably more adventurous novel, The Inheritors, he felt it was perfect as it stood. Through Charles's help my father had developed the confidence to be the novelist he wanted to be.”
The exhibition, Lord of the Flies and Beyond, runs until December 23.
Two other companies have joined Waitrose in giving a boost to Marlborough’s Christmas lights decorations by making a direct donation to the town council.
On top of Waitrose’s £520 collected from its green disc community matters scheme, the Talk Talk mobile phone and broadband company have added £1,400 and the High Street store Lighting of Distinction a further £150.
“That’s fantastic and we hope other firms will follow their example,” Councillor Richard Pitts, who chairs the council’s Amenities and Open Spaces Committee, told Marlborough News Online.
There is to be no Christmas tree on the The Green this year. Instead the council proposed lighting up the yew tree that stands outside St Mary’s church and the adjoining avenue of lime trees.
But lighting up the limes on a permanent basis will cost £1,800 alone. So only this part of the project is to go ahead this Christmas.
“The limes will provide a canopy of twinkling lights everyone can see as they drive into the High Street and create a good Christmas atmosphere,” said Mr Pitts.
The council will cover the cost of the main High Street lights – there is no contribution from traders in general this year – the bill being reduced thanks to the contribution of Wheelers, the local firm who maintain the cascades of blue lights.
“People are being supportive and helpful and we are grateful for that,” said Mr Pitts.