Melksham Railway Development Group - Response to Wiltshire Council's Core Strategy Consultation, December 2009
Base map - current and approved http://www.melkshamchamber.org.uk/MelkshamCoreNow.pdf
Base map - First Draft - where we may be going http://www.melkshamchamber.org.uk/MelkshamCoreDraft.pdf
[others to be added shortly]
This response prepared by Graham Ellis, in his role of vice chair of the Melksham Railway Development Group, to represent the views of current and potential public transport users to, from and within Melksham.
Although the author personally endorses the views and suggestions within this document, it should be noted that they have been formed with and reflect the inputs of many people, including but not limited to:
* x - Chairman of Melksham Railway Development Group
* x - Secretary of Melksham Railway Development Group
* Other members of MRDG (special thanks to John Hamley), including past mayor of Melksham
* x - Secretary of West Wilts Rail Users Group
* Supporters of the campaign for an appropriate TransWilts train service - see list of the 750 names at http://www.transwilts.org.uk/sf.html
* Fellow administrators x and x on the First Great Western Coffee Shop (http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/coffeeshop/
) and an especial "thank you" to transport industry professionals there who have helped ensure that proposals are cost effective and practical.
* Other Railway Industry Professionals with whom we have been in contact
* Melksham Climate Friendly Group
There is an overwhelming concensus within and between the above group of people with regard to the direction and content of this submission, though you may find a difference of emphasis in any responses submitted by other groups outside the Melksham Railway Development Group
Overview of response to core strategy - from a Melksham viewpoint.
The Core Strategy proposes (in its headline) that major growth in Wiltshire be concentrated on Salisbury, Trowbridge and Chippenham, with much more limited growth in "Market Towns" of which Melksham is the largest by quite a way, and very little additional housing, employment and facilities in smaller settlements and the countryside. However, there is already more additional housing authorised / being built in Melksham ... ((see response from Melksham Chamber of Commerce which fills much of this in))
Which model is proposed for Melksham by the Wiltshire Council's actions and documents?
The headline proposals suggests "Market Town", depriving Melksham of the strategic backing necessary to develop as a complete community.
Current house builds, with more to come, indicate a satellite or dormitary town, with (at present) not a great deal of employment / industrial growth going on.
Detailed plans, under the current consultation's headline proposals, show significant areas of land for business / commercial / industrial development, and also for residential. It is noted that those are maked as POTENTIAL sites, though, with different maps showing subtle differences, and some of the areas probably being impractical to be developed. There are also opportunities / areas where further housing or commercial building would (subject to further investigation) be practical and help us work towards a sustainable, intelligently urbanised environment which do not appear to have been fully considered.
What does the current population of Melksham want to happen?
Both the Town Council and the Parish Council of Melksham Without come down very strongly indeed in favour of economic and commercial growth - (e.g. recent public planning meetings concerning the core strategy and Countrywide Farmers, also town regeneration meetings). Melksham Chamber of Commerce, and also liaising with other larger businesses based in the town who are members of the Wessex Association of Chambers are also strongly in favour of such economic and commercial growth, and with appropriate housing growth for employees who wish to be able to live in Melksham too, reducing commutes and having reduced footprint / more sustainable transport. There was little / no appetite to try to stay static, supporting services on a lessening proportion of the Wiltshire population as time goes by and other grow.
That means that the current population of Melksham, via its representatives, is saying "yes, we want to grow similarly to Chippenham and Trowbridge too - that's the direction for Melksham. We do NOT want to have jobs / commerce leached from (or drifting from the town), with businesses as they expand being told that they'll have to move to grow".
A conversation between myself (Graham Ellis) and Jim Sherry (Wiltshire Council), standing in a cold caravan that was parked in the Market Place in Melksham on 26th November, clarified the view:
Jim: "But to be a [model A] town, you would need to have the housing and business growth in the same way as Trowbridge and Chippenham - do you really want that?"
Graham: "We already have more housing growth, and yes, the town does want the business too".
My evidence? At that point, we had 2 votes on the Chamber of Commerce's web site poll to back up Jim's recommendation to get Countrywide to move to another town, and over 60 votes against Jim's recommendation - calling instead for Countrywide to be allowed to stay as the employment on their site develops.
A little more detail
Melksham has a number of great resources and opportunities.
1. Land suitable for further expansion of industrial / employment opportunities as an expansion from the current Bowerhill Industrial Area across to the A350 "Semington Bypass" and further to the old Semington Road and perhaps to the south of Berryfield.
2. Areas to the East and North East of the town suitable for residential development
3. An excellent link (the A350) to the main dual carriageway network; the earthworks / bridges are already in place around Chippenham for a strengthening of this link to the M4 motorway.
4. An area to the North West of the river / South East of the railway line which already includes a wide variety of more affordable homes, industry, and retail, but with land and (re)development potential
5. A railway station and rail infrastructure with land in the local authority's ownership that is on area (4) and is suitable for development into a transport hub, being close to the A350 through which most traffic and public transport passes
6. Additional land above flood level to the North of current development but to the South of Beanacre, taking in the railway and A350 roads and with good connections to them.
7. Land to the West of the A350 Semington bypass and to the south of the A365 Devizes Road - between the town and the industrial area of Bowerhill.
a) A growing Bowerhill Industrial area - allowing some of the innovative companies we already have there to expand and encouraging more into the area. This area has / will have good infrastructure links onto the A350.
b) Growing residential areas as already authorise to the East, with potential further expansion to the North East (already marked as possible), for those who are looking for a suburban lifestyle
c) Mixed development in the area from the river to the station and beyond - closer housing for those who wish for a more urban / less car intensive style of living, with good links to public transport and well within walking and cycling distance of a wide range of shops and other facilities.
d) A wide variety of independent shops and eateries to be encouraged for Melksham town centre, capitalising on the existing businesses that do well and setting Melksham apart from other towns around. With the town centre merging with the mixed development area (c), there is scope for waterside development such as cafes and housing if / as / when land were to become available.
e) A new leisure complex to the south of the A365 / East of A350 - to include multiscreen cinema, sports facilities, drive through, restaurant; facilities to be such as to attract customers from neighbouring towns that lack such facilities, or where such facilities are being outgrown / in need of replacement.
f) An updated public transport integrated network that offers a "carrot" to people to use such a network. Existing bus services that pass through the town would have minor amendments to their routes to take in key developments rather than just having "Melksham" as a calling point on their routes as they pass through. Rail service raised to the level proposed by Wiltshire Council as appropriate (hourly each way) and validated by the Greater Western Route Utilisation Strategy. Rail station / Wiltshire Council land there used as a transport hub; the station is uniquely placed in North/ West Wiltshire as being close to a trunk road as well as the expanding / to expand North Melksham area.
g) Retaining some "green belt" and leisure areas - the potential to build on the land to the south of the A365 and to the west of Mallory Close has been heavily criticised by people I have spoken with, as has the proposal to build houses on a narrow strip of land behind from Snowberry lane leading behind the Spa towards Melksham Oak. The Conigre Mead Nature Reserve should be preserved (though the river alongside may be made navigable), also various other areas such as the King George V area, and the green 'strip' out along the course of the Clacker's brook. These green areas can provide suitable through routes for cyclists
h) Re-arrange parking in Melksham's town centre to encourage daytime "pop in" use and to limit congestion. That means re-arranging current parking fees so that car parks which have an access congestion issue encourage long term parking, and those which are easily accessed yet close to the town centre have a higher turnover
How would that fit into county plans / the wider Wiltshire?
Remarkably well, it would appear. And indeed many of the proposals in the vision above are in the core strategy in detail, even if they are not in the headlines. With the adjustments suggested above, which have the broad support of the members of the Melksham Community who have given this consideration, we'll be moving forward to a vibrant largely self-sustaining community with reduced commuting needs (though both public and private transport improvements will make outward - and inward - commuting much easier). However, with Melksham going forward just maintaining a "status quo", we would be moving towards a town that would stagnate - more empty shop fronts, higher unemployment and less affluence, with all the associated problems that would bring.
A very high (and growing) proportion of Wiltshire's population is on what has become known as the "A350 Corridor" - Chippenham, Melksham, Trowbridge and Westbury, and these towns are all within a few miles of each other. People require to be able to travel easily between these centres - not just to and from Melksham - and the provision of an appropriate TransWilts train service (Wiltshire Council has already define that as hourly each way) will be significant for Chippenham and Trowbridge too. I noted at the public consultation in Chippenham that that there were public responses calling for improved train services to Trowbridge and Salisbury. From Trowbridge, rail offers the possibility of 18 minutes to the centre of Chippenham, and 32 minutes to Swindon.
Provisional local changes / transport development
Potentially too much detail at this stage, but connecting both within Melksham and to neighboring areas, the following bus routes (changes shown based on existing route numbers) would provide intelligent integration of transport within the community, and linking on to other communities.
14: Melksham Oak - Hornchurch - Pilot - Village Hall - Christie Miller - Knorre Bremse - Great Bear - Leisure Complex - Kenilworth Road - Town Centre - Avonside - Asda - Station - Leekes - North Melksham - Station - Asda - Avonside - Town Centre (Library) - Methuen Avenue - Pig and Whistle - Savernake - Ingram - Queensway - Snowberry / new housing - Spa - Melksham Oak
234/x34: (From Trowbridge)- Semington - Police Station - Berryfield - Leisure Complex - West End - Town Centre - Avonside - Asda - Station - Leekes - Beanacre - (to Lacock, Notton and Chippenham)
237: (From Seend?) Melksham Oak - Spa - Snowberry - new Housing - Sandridge Road - Queensway - Pembroke Road - Town Centre - Asda - Station - Broughton Gifford - Holt - (to Staverton and Trowbridge)
272/273/x72: (From Bath) - Atworth - Whitley - Shaw - North Melksham - Station - Asda - Avonside - Town Centre - Hospital - Leisure Complex - Bowerhill (Current route) - Melksham Oak - Sells Green - (to Devizes)
Route 237 to operate hourly; all other routes to operate every half hour. Note - these are initial draft frequencies. There is an argument for the 237 to start half hourly, and for extra (fill in) services to increase the other routes / all routes to every 15 minutes. Up to a certain point in public transport provision, if you increas the service you'll get more extra customers PER SERViCE - i.e. double the service, more than double the customers. Study needed, but rule of thumb says a journey of x minutes reaches its optimum usage per service if it runs every x minutes - so a 15 minute journey should run every 15 minutes, but a bus every 30 minutes to Bath, 30 miutes away, is enough provided that the bus has the capacity.
Route 14 may be a circular route or may run in alternate directions. Extra resources needed - one vehicle (route 237 / extension / extra frequency) not budgetted and one vehicle route 14 / can be the Asda / section 106 agreement service. Need to ensure that the 234 and 272 routes run half hourly with interchangable tickets, and NOT 2 buses an hour, 3 minutes apart, non-interchangable as at present. Timing need to connect with trains at station.
Road changes required by buses
These routes would also require the link road from Bowerhill to the A350 to be completed, the link from the station to North Melksham (McDonalds) and a bus gate (but why just limit it to buses?) from Heather Avenue to Dorset Crescent (50m / already tarmaced)
The National Route 4 passes along the Kennet and Avon Canal, and also through Melksham from South to North, but much of the latter is on road. A new route from the town centre South is suggested.
1. Market Square - existing path to King's Street Car Park - back of current car park to old Wilts and Berks Canal line (between Spa Court and West End) - Wilts and Berks Canal line over Waverley Gardens to Longford Road - along to Conway Crestent and via new cut-through connect to existin cycle path / footpath at A365. Existing crossing, then existing public footpath through what will become leisure area to Shail's lane, onward past edge of current playing fields and through fields to Kennet and Avon Canal.
2. Branch from 1. across the Bowerhill Industrial Area to Halifax Road (Bowerhill)
3. From "The Pilot" on Bowerhill via green section along Bowerhill's spine and out to A365 to link up with existing cycle route there, utilising crossing at Wellington Drive.
4. From the A350 / B3107 roundabout (Asda / Countrywide farmers) over the Avon bridge (current path over bridge) the past Melksham Cemetry and using exiting wide footpath to Laburnum Drive. Via Hornbeam Crescent to Semington Road, Cross into Longford Road to join up with (1).
5. From Conway Crescent (Routes 1 and 4). Nwe bridge over brook to existing fotpath behind Burnet Close, link in to Speedwell Close. Follow Speedwell close and then footpatgh out to Spa Road to join existing Sustrans route opposite entrance to "The Spa".
6. From A350/ B3017 junction (route no. 4) beside the A350 to the underpass to the station. Beyond the station through alongside new road to Spencer's Gate and North Melksham to join existing cycle way
7. From King George's Playing fields (Link to riverside walk / town centre/ existing route to Melksham North across the river) along Clacker's brook (existing foot route) out to new Melksham East Developments
Additional Walking Routes
The proposed cycle routes also cater for people using walking as a means of getting from one point to another.
Additional footpaths of note include the Riverside walk (from the Town Bridge to Melksham Cemetry, with a branch into the Churchayard and Church Street. It is not proposed to turn this section of the Riverside Walk into a cycle path. (written 2009-12-31, updated 2010-01-13)
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By train ... - (2009-10-25) 
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Wiltshire Rail Service Update - (2009-02-15) 
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