(Comments are listed with the latest at the top. Any highlighting is by the original author and not CCV.)
Letter to the Gazette and Herald published (with important elements unfortunately removed) on Thursday July 4th, 2013. The parts removed are highlighted in yellow and their removal makes CCV appear to be totally anti-development, which we clearly are not:
Easy and populist? That's what Cllr Melody Thompson claims is any campaign against development. She really needs to wake up and smell the coffee - and I don't mean that provided by her mentors at Chippenham 2020 LLP. I had an interesting discussion last week with one of them at the Examination in Public and her comments are a carbon copy of what I was told by them then.
The fact that Chippenham was designated at a very late stage (in the old RSS) and arbitrarily a 'principal settlement' by some unknown pen-pusher at the now-defunct North Wiltshire District Council doesn't mean that the decision was acceptable then or now, and is certainly important enough for the people of Chippenham to have been consulted. Indeed, as the area to the east of Chippenham targeted by her benefactors is actually in Calne Community Area and not Chippenham's, surely the people of Calne (who are so far mostly very unaware of these plans) should have been consulted specifically on that issue?
Having spent many days at the on-going Examination in Public of the Wiltshire Core Strategy, I know that Wiltshire Council has claimed in response to questions that the people of Chippenham were properly consulted and had plenty of time to respond. That claim is dubious to say the least. Unless you know your way around the planning system, and Wiltshire Council's own very convoluted and messy planning website, and have been able to download, let alone read, the thousands of pages of data that make up the Core Strategy, all of its amendments and Appendixes, and the myriad of other documents needed to arrive at a view in readiness for consultation, then the average resident hasn't got a clue as to what is being planned in their name by their employees at Wiltshire Council. Certainly at the various public consultation events the only focus was on the numbers of hectares of business sites and houses required and a very restricted number of choices for them to be allocated to - leaving out for example the very obvious one of M4 J17, which we were told wasn't included because no developer had signified an interest, which later was clearly shown to be an outright lie. Nothing was ever said about designating the Market Town as a Principal Settlement, or what that would mean in terms of major expansion of the town.
Chippenham Community Voice, which represents many community groups across Chippenham, is not against development per se, but against unwanted development in places of special local interest. If Cllr Thompson read our manifesto she would know that. The landscape of the Avon and Marden Vale is very much of special local interest and should not be built on. Neither should the land at Showell Farm. Both of the local MPs agree with our position and James Gray states that Chippenham has clearly reached its natural size. There is much that can be done within the existing town limits to improve the town - such as the 'Station Square' and Town Bridge area redevelopment proposed by Chippenham 2020 LLP, which has always had our full support - but NOT at the cost of the loss of a huge chunk of beautiful Wiltshire countryside and the imposition of yet another Pewsham or Cepen Park sized dormitory estate. We have had three of those in the last 25 years, increasing the size of the town by around 40%, with absolutely no benefit to the town at all.
Cllr Thompson would do well to reflect on the meaning of 'democracy' and also of 'localism'. The former is about representatives elected by public consent to represent properly the wishes of their electorate, and the latter a promise from the Government that local people should have the major say in what happens in their own localities from the planning point of view. It isn't too late to say no to Wiltshire Council designating Chippenham as a Principal Settlement.
Chippenham Community Voice.
24th August 2011
Dear Mrs Ryder
Re: A Newcomer’s Impression
I have been passed your article for comment on behalf of Chippenham Town Council.
As a relative newcomer myself, only taking up this position with the Council in November 2010, a lot of your comments have resonance with my own early observations, but more importantly on a majority of points there is no doubt the Council would also agree with you. The big question is, what can do we do about it?
Chippenham Town Council is in no way complacent about the town, and is striving to work with other bodies as well as on its own initiative to make changes to counteract, what are now recognised in some cases as big mistakes from the past.
One of the biggest frustrations is the layout of the town and in particular the way the town has turned away from the river, what is now considered one if not the most important feature.
The Town Council is actively pursuing the opportunity to devolve ownership and management of the area know as Monkton Park - effectively the riverside area from the town centre bridge to the wilder flood plain beyond the Monkton Park estate - from Wiltshire Council to the Town Council. Once transfer of this asset is completed the Town Council will be consulting with the residents of Chippenham on what their aspirations are for this focal feature of the town, in order that we can work together to provide what the residents want.
All the shops you mention who are currently in the town fill a certain niche, but clearly, a wider offer would bring in more footfall for the benefit of all.
As part of the drive to improving footfall and focus on the town centre as a shopping and leisure destination we are already actively working on a joint ‘Chippenham Alive’ project for town centre shops by promoting an evening a month as a special family shopping opportunity with added incentives such as street entertainment.
Regular events are organised by the Town Council such as the highly successful Civil War weekend and Christmas Lights Switch On, which this year will offer activities over into the whole weekend and we will also be promoting the wider communities events in a promotional Christmas Activities in Chippenham pamphlet. The Town Council also supports other initiatives including the Folk Festival, which celebrated its 40th year this year, and also the annual
Rivers Festival and Chippenham Half Marathon, all appealing to residents and visitors alike which help bring a very positive focus on the town. The more diverse the range of activities on offer the greater the opportunity to attract a different audience from both within and much further afield.
John Coles Park has been a focus for community recreation for over 100 years, and the Town Council continues to work to make it attractive to a large cross section of the community. Initiatives range from the very traditional Band Concerts (we have around 15 a year) to a new refreshment facility, play areas and both tennis and bowls are still based in the park.
We do not just make provision for young people in John Coles Park. We are just completing further upgrading of the facilities in Stanley Park to include an all weather synthetic floodlit pitch enabling teams to play and train each week year round, plus other children’s play areas and Multi Use Games Areas (MUGA) are maintained around the town.
Your comments about the trees and furniture in the town centre are very welcome, as they are provided by the Town Council in spite of rather than because of Wiltshire Council. The benches on the town bridge were removed by North Wilts DC on the advice of the Police. Following complaints by residents Town Councillors took the decision to put new stainless steel ones back. Wiltshire Council objected but didn't do anything to enforce what they said!
The Town Councils own Neeld Hall, part of the Town and Neeld Hall complex are under review. The Council recognises that there is no point in having a community asset that is one of the best kept secrets in Chippenham, and through planned improvements to the facilities and a wider programme of events we want this to be one of the focal points for Chippenham.
A significant makeover of the Tourist Information Centre and very popular Museum and Heritage Centre will start next year. As well as providing a direct service to people specifically visiting the premises, the Council staff working in these specialist departments are also working behind the scenes on initiatives such as the development and implementation of a tourism and marketing strategy for Chippenham. Other Town Council planned initiatives such as the formation of a town centre forum aimed at bringing together representatives of the Town Council with Wiltshire Council, economic development agencies, Chamber of Commerce, and other businesses and interested groups such as ChAPS, the Chippenham Vision and the Chippenham Area Board to all work collaboratively on projects to support the economic development of the town will also help drive forward improvements.
Town /Parish councils have evolved considerably since their formation in 1894, but one thing remains the same, they are the tier of local government which is closest to individual communities and therefore have the greatest potential for identifying, understanding and addressing the needs of the communities they serve. Chippenham Town Council is only interested in providing quality services for its residents in everything it does, and YES the Town Council is fully behind the lobby to change Wiltshire Councils car parking charges strategy.
All this takes time and money, but almost more important than that is the need for commitment and vision from everyone associated with it. We need the town to be passionate about itself. Residents need to support the town and get behind initiatives to make the town somewhere that people want to live, work and visit. For example litter is not beamed in from outer space, but dropped by people. The Council can provide litter bins, but it is down to the people to use them.
The Town Council elections will be in May 2013, and we want to start promoting the opportunities coming onto Chippenham Town Council could bring to drive those visions forward.
I do not know whether you have ever considered becoming a Town Councillor. If you want to convert words into actions, take a look at the literature attached on what is expected from the modern Town Councillor. Think about how you could make a positive difference to this fantastic town, that already has a lot going for it, but just needs to go that little bit further still.
You are very welcome to attend town council meetings and talk to existing councillors or myself. I also attach a copy of our latest Annual Report which I hope will give you more insight into what we are currently doing, and the ideas we are working on for the future.
Sue Wilthew BSc.(Hons), MILCM
Clerk & Chief ExecutiveChippenham Town Council
The Town Hall, High Street
Wiltshire SN15 3ER
2nd August 2011
Chippenham: A Newcomer’s Impression
I moved to Chippenham in 2009.
My impressions of the Town Centre are as follows:
- There are a few historical gems in the town.
- Unfortunately, the rest of the town has little or no charm.
- Many shops and areas are really ugly and are, for the most part, dreadful.
- The shops in the High Street are dingy and uninviting and most could do with a facelift and more skillful window dressing.
- There are no “little” shops - with their atmosphere or charm. As a result, I would far rather go to surrounding villages or towns such as Corsham, Marlborough and Devizes, to window shop and make purchases.
- There are far too many coffee shops. Most of them are very ordinary and unappealing.
- Dutch Cottage is an exception - it has charm and history - and they serve good food.
- The new coffee shops - Starbucks and Costa have a presence although they are fairly expensive.
- There are too many cheap and not so cheerful stores.
- There are too many Charity Shops.
- There are too many take-way food outlets - the majority of which look totally unappetising and downright shabby.
- There are too many furniture shops all selling the same heavy, chunky furniture.
- The Market in the High Street is pathetic. Many of the stalls are filled with junk. Where are the wonderful traditional stalls such as those in Marlborough, Devizes and Cirencester?
- The new restaurant at the bottom of Station Hill, The Bridge Brasserie, serves excellent food. The front of the restaurant however, could be improved. It is very plain and there is little to show that it is a restaurant - or even that it is open. It is situated next to two gaudy and shabby take away shops, which are distractions.
- The Flower Shop and Elite Fashions, on Station Hill, are charming.
- The question must be asked: “Which stores - if any - would attract outsiders to come to Chippenham to do their shopping?”
- The answer? Not many - if any!
- We need a full Marks and Spencers.
- The few existing clothing stores cater for young people and do not stock clothes that are suitable for the average person.
- The new Waitrose and the attractive, newly renovated Borough Parade have added value to the town.
- Parking is a nightmare.
- The Emery Gate parking garage and Borough Parade car park are useful, but ridiculously expensive.
- I have read that the council has proposed that the individual stores must subsidise the parking fees. Why? And - How? They are already struggling to keep their doors open. Many are failing daily!
- I also do not understand why one has to Pay On Entry. This method causes people to rush back to their cars before their selected time has expired
- When the Pay On Exit system is used, shoppers are more inclined to shop in a more leisurely fashion. They are also more likely to stop and have coffee or a meal.
- The spin-off for the town is that they spend more money.
- The Karma Nightclub must GO. It attracts the wrong sort of people to the town. Why support drunken vandals who damage the surrounding area and who make the vicinity dangerous for passers-by and a nightmare for shop owners in the vicinity?
- The spin-off, sleazy Sensations, also lowers the tone of the area.
- The Town Bridge is the ugliest I have ever seen. Why not paint it an environmental colour and have a more attractive design? The Cut-out metal sides are so ugly!
- I am delighted that the Council, in 2010, installed flower boxes and planted trees in containers. It has helped to "soften" the stark appearance of the High Street. Thank you! We need more of them please.
- Calne is an example of how, with a little effort, the town can be made to look really beautiful with flowers and plants. Let us aim to enter Britain In Bloom in a year or so.
My impressions of Chippenham and its location:
- I adore the rural feel of Chippenham
- The green areas and the River Avon are beautiful. More could be made of these to attract people to the town.
- There are many areas to walk and cycle
- It is close to wonderful villages and other places of beauty
- The Chippenham Folk Festival, The Battle of Chippenham and the Dragon Boat Racing were a delight!
- Allington Farm Shop & Coffee Shop as well as Whitehall Garden Centre are real favourites.
I understand that there is a threat of developers moving in to the town.
- Please do everything possible to prevent this.
? Chippenham cannot support more traffic congestion and further parking problems
? It is the rural and green aspect that make Chippenham appealing - and it is those areas targeted by the developers.
? There are so many houses for sale at any one time. More houses will only compound the problem.
? Where will they go for specialised medical care and for serious medical problems and for Accidents and Emergencies?
? Where will the new people find employment? The last thing we need are more Industrial Estates!
? Will they have to commute daily to other towns and cities?
? If so, it will add to the parking problems around the Station.
? It will add to the congestion on Station Hill.
? It will add to the traffic congestion problems for owners and residents in Monkton Park.
? It will add to the traffic congestion for students and staff at the Wiltshire College and for people using the Olympiad.
? It will add to congestion on the main arterial or trunk roads feeding the town.
? It will add to congestion towards the motorway.
? They will spend their money in the areas where they are employed as they will probably not be in Chippenham during shopping hours
? What benefit then, would new housing estates bring to Chippenham?
Historically and at the present time, Chippenham has been, and is, marketed as a "Market Town". If the proposed development takes place, Chippenham would have to be marketed as a "Commuter Town".
Sadly, it appears that the Town Fathers, in recent times, have lost the plot and have ended up with a town without a soul.
Let us hope and pray that the present Councillors are more responsible.
July 12th, 2011
I would like to offer my vision for Chippenham which is as follows:
My vision is that Chippenham would embrace sustainable transport at the heart of any future developments. It is not inevitable that new housing development will cause traffic congestion on local roads and overwhelm the town centre car parks.
The solution is to design the new developments around a network of exclusive busways (bus-only roads) that also include provision for cyclists and pedestrians. Housing and public amenities/facilities should be clustered around the busways such that nowhere is more than 500m from a bus stop. The busways would provide the only DIRECT means of access from the new developments to the town centre.
The busways would be developer funded and a condition for planning consent. Developers would also have to financially support the new bus services from the day the first residents move in until such time that the population can support a commercial service. The precedent for this can be found in Kent Thameside where the builders of 'The Bridge' housing development funded part of the Fastrack Bus Rapid Transit infrastructure and subsidise the service in its early days http://www.go-fastrack.co.uk/.
Road access to the new developments should be heading AWAY from the town, thus making driving into town the long way round.
High quality diesel-electric hybrid midibuses would provide frequent services to and from the town centre, rail station (Very important for integrated transport), and the various retail/business parks in the town.
A higher density urban form clustered around public transport would counter the tendency towards urban sprawl. The higher density would also make public transport commercially viable, thus attracting bus operators to provide the new services..
The sort of buses I have in mind look like this:
They should have hi-spec interiors like this:
This video clip illustrates how quiet these vehicles are:
My inspiration for such a vision is the Dutch town of Almere. An interesting article describing how this town is built around a network of busways can be found here:
Obviously Chippenham is much smaller than this example, but I believe a similar approach scaled down to suit local conditions could work. The busways only need to cater for speeds of 20 - 30 mph, and simple single carriageway roads similar in width to standard residential streets will suffice, they will not be obstructed by parked cars after all!
Investing in better public transport would be more beneficial to the town centre retail economy than trying to increase parking. Parking capacity is finite, so demand has to be managed through price. The alternative, say of making Borough Parade car park multi story would actually increase town centre traffic levels, and the road network capacity is also finite. Public transport can deliver more people to the town centre at less environmental cost, and thus facilitate a higher level of economic activity than would be possible where cars are the main form of access. Note that car users if deterred by congestion can drive elsewhere, whereas public transport (with appropriate priority measures) will always support the town centre.
Investment in bus infrastructure and better bus services would be more beneficial to the wider UK manufacturing economy as UK bus operators support a thriving domestic bus building industry (Alexander-Dennis, Wright Bros, and Optare). Investment in roads encourages the import of more foreign manufactured cars.
Invesment in public transport would also create local jobs with the bus operators (drivers, mechanics, admin staff etc).
So in conclusion, I think it is possible for Chippenham to grow at less environmental cost if we get the transport right.
Pete , Roman Way, Chippenham
May 11th, 2011
Having just read the latest fiasco regarding the recent Council meeting I am feeling even more sceptical that the right decisions are going to be made with regard to improving what was and should be a beautiful market town. The eyesores of the ugly houses that were built at Cockleberry Road and the dingy woodwork already has one dreading what these properties will be like in a few more years time. It is to be hoped that the proposed housing project that is planned, if not already agreed, for the site along the River Avon opposite Riverside Drive does not contain any such monstrosities as the developments in Cockleberry Road.
I still fail to see how the infrastructure will be able to cope with the run off from all the properties planned to be built and will surely result in flooding of the River Avon. The fields concerned are often flooded in periods of heavy rainfall and a lake planned within a small parkland across from Riverside Drive will not absorb all the drainage from these properties.
I also wonder how long it will take before the land alongside Riverside Drive which is called Jubilee Acres will also be earmarked for property speculation but may I remind all concerned that this land was given to the people of Chippenham not the Town Council and if cash registers are ringing in the Councillors ears I say 'Keep your hands off as that land belongs to all of us!!!'
Beryl Pratt, Chippenham
March 25th, 2011
I was at the Full Town Council Meeting on March 23rd in the public gallery. When I left I was even more disgusted with the way councils are run than I had been previously!
I had already been advised that all of the agenda had been discussed and the results decided – though not unanimously - by the Liberal Democrat majority in a 'pre-meeting' led by the Leader of the Council, Cllr Andrew Noblett!
This means that the entire 'Full Council Meeting' being held in public was a cynical charade, presented to the public to mislead them into believing that they are watching democracy in action. Far from that, it appears that Cllr Noblett decides what is going to be decided and then nearly everyone else just goes along for the ride. I was also told that this is how business is done at County and County Cabinet too, which is very worrying indeed.
I was astounded when I heard with my own ears the Chairman of the Town Council Planning Committee, Cllr John Scragg, presenting a short speech on what is probably the most important issue facing Chippenham for the next two decades, actually have the temerity to announce that his committee has no plan for Chippenham at all, no view on future planning, and will wait for the Wiltshire Council planners to present their proposals BEFORE HIS COMMITTEE WILL MAKE ANY PLANS OR TAKE A VIEW! The mind boggles!
Given that in the Town Annual Report dated March 31st, 2010, there is a net expenditure listed for ‘Planning Policy’ of £10,883 for the year against £9,362 the previous year, and as the 2010/11 Accounts have yet to be published, if we assume that the Planning expenditure will equal last year, what precisely have the Planning Committee been doing for their £30,000+ Planning Policy budget spend for the past three years? The written report to the Council discussed on the 23rd must have cost all of 50 pence plus a number of photocopies? I realise that the planning committee also meets to approve the building of conservatories, garages and extensions, but how many of those need to be discussed to generate a bill of £30K?
In my view, the report presented by Cllr Scragg and accepted by the Town Council represents a gross betrayal of the residents of Chippenham and its Villages, a complete dereliction of duty by the Planning Committee, and with their acceptance of it a clear breach of trust by the Town Council and in direct conflict with the Town Council's own published 'Corporate Aims And Objectives' which are:
- To represent the views and wishes of all the residents of Chippenham.
- To promote equality of access to every resident.
- To preserve and enhance the culture and traditions of the town.
- To work both independently and in partnership with others to improve the quality of life, by developing and improving facilities and services to the highest standards.
- To maintain the highest standards of Corporate Governance in the administration,
performance and conduct of the Town Council.
- To attract investment from both the public and private sectors, in order to promote the economic well-being of Chippenham's residents.
- To seek to ensure the town boundary encompasses the urban area of the town.
- To comply with the requirements of the Government's Quality Council criteria.
I have the distinct impression that any dissenting voices – both inside and outside the Council - are rudely dismissed out of hand by the Leader of the Council. In an email dated February 26th 2011 to Jane Clark (Chair of Chippenham and Villages Area Partnership), Cllr Noblett made clear his feelings about dissenters to developers’ plans – and Chippenham Community Voice in particular - by labelling its members 'extremists' - I quote from his 3 line email "It will be a poor do when our society is ruled by those who shout the loudest. History is littered with such extreme groups." He then made a rather lame attempt, in public at the Town Hall, of accusing me of having made up the fact that he had said it, and was most embarrassed to find that I have his original email! Hoist by his own petard – but still he stubbornly refused to retract or apologise! He had carbon-copied his email to a large number of Town and Wiltshire Councillors and various other groups and their members, one of whom is a member of the Chippenham Community Voice.
Cllr Noblett finds it impossible to grasp the fact that Chippenham Community Voice is actually doing what the Council is elected to do but fails to, in properly representing the views of the people of Chippenham and working for the Town’s benefit rather than that of just the business community or developers. CCV is not an extreme organisation or a 'bunch of Nimbys' as he has also described it. This is the man who is controlling the direction of the town through his leadership of the Town Council, and who has allowed the Planning Committee to flounder and wreck on the rocks of lethargy.
Given the meek acceptance of the Planning Report and the large sums involved apparently in its production, and the poor leadership of the Council, the Council should be dissolved and an election called.
Steven Perry, Hardens Mead.
March 1st, 2011
John, Monkton Park
February 28th, 2011
I attended the meeting this evening in the Neeld Hall and the upshot seemed to be:
1) Wiltshire Council have to tick a box to say that a consultation process has taken place
2) They can take no notice of what the residents of Chippenham feel about 'development' because they have to demonstrate that they have a plan for housing provision for the next 5 years. If they don't have it, a 'developer' can come along with their own 5 year plan and that (for some reason) will go ahead.
The area to the North and North East of Chippenham is beautiful countryside with significant amenity value which has been enhanced by the cycle track, which is very well used. It will be a huge loss to the town if this becomes a track through a housing estate. One of the attractive and valuable things about Chippenham is that it's possible to get out into the countryside fairly easily. A huge development will compromise this and make it increasingly difficult because of the development of busy road systems etc.