Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Town Council Chairman Speech from Annual Town Meeting - 14th April 2015

Good evening! 
Welcome to the Annual Town meeting! It doesn’t seem like a year ago does it? – Mind you it will soon be Christmas!

Well, it’s been a funny old year.  Here we were one year ago thinking that we, with Wiltshire and their consultants, had come up with a traffic scheme which would improve the lot of the pedestrians in town, and then democracy gets in the way. In this room half of us think the result of the Poll is bad and half of us think it’s good so now we are back where we started.
In a letter to the paper recently I asked for ideas about traffic and its management in town.  I received many quite detailed and thoughtful letters – some quite daring. I hope to exhibit them all during the Fringe in July – and everything there will be shown anonymously, so don’t worry, don’t hold back.

This time last year the Town was still getting over the flooding disaster – as a result of much effort here we now have a very robust temporary flood Protection Plan involving the Environment Agency, Wiltshire Council, the Emergency Services and our own newly formed Group of committed Emergency Volunteers.  We are getting details of a more permanent solution from the Environment Agency as a result of detailed modelling that they are carrying out.

This time last year St Margaret’s Hall was still not open after suffering weeks of delay due to flooding.  It has been open for one year and I have to say it has been something of a triumph for Bradford on Avon.  Under the Management Team of Tim and Keith we have had everything from stand-up comedy, to opera.  The ‘Bradfordians’ have returned to their rightful home, the Leg Clinic which was one year old this March has won the prize for innovation in Health improvements at the Annual Wiltshire Public Health Awards.  Tim brought back the Pantomime last year – it was so successful it will be here for two nights, and the first children’s’ show "Duck in a Truck" was completely sold out.  Here’s a top tip – as yet unadvertised – Henning Wehn is here December 3rd & 4th. Tickets will be on sale soon through the Bath Comedy Company.  Jeremy Hardy sold out in days.
This time last year we had a Youth Centre, a custom built building strangely titled the Youth Development Centre next door to the Fitzmaurice School. Owing to the ongoing programme of cuts the centre was closed but after some rather steely negotiations with Wiltshire by the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Alison Craddock, they caved in and we re-opened it.  The building is just being restored to its early glory and will soon be available to all, as it will now be the Bradford on Avon Youth & Community Centre.  It will be officially opened soon. 
Just one year ago I had a conversation with Father Conrad from St Thomas Moore Church.  He had just got back the lease on the old HSBC Bank.  He wanted it to be used by the Community.  Jim Lynch from BOACAN and I had talked about the needs of the more disadvantaged people in the Town.  We went to have a look.  After a conversation with Joanna Abecassis and with Graham Dove a committee was formed by BOACAN, Churches Together and the Town Council, with Peter Dunford representing Wiltshire Council. Once the Charity, The HUB at BA15, was formed, six trustees from the same grouping were in place, chaired by Cllr Laurie Brown who, with our brilliant co-ordinator, Avril Clark, moved heaven and earth to get the Hub opened on time.  As it was, the window cleaner had disappeared minutes before the ribbon was cut. 

Laurie Brown said “"It is already proving to be an important asset to the Town, where anyone who has a problem, temporary or longer, can receive a warm welcome and a listening ear. We are a caring Town and the Hub wants to help, whatever the issue, whether it be debt, benefit, food shortage or counselling".

TIC

At a Market Towns Forum late last year we were learning of Bradford's success with Coach Tours.  After only one year's promotion we already had more coaches visiting us than Devizes and we were being inspected that day to see if we could be an Official Coach Friendly Town. 

We found out later that day that the Tourist Association had been wound up with the likelihood that the TIC would close.  Luckily for the Town Sybil Mumford and her band of volunteers just carried on and with Andrew Allen in the Pavilion Café they are still there.  The Town Council is now involved with Tourism. We have formed a Working Group with councillors, tourism volunteers, B & B’s, hotels, retailers and a travel agent/tour operator. We are now looking to put a very smart building where the Christmas Card shed is, so that the rapidly growing number of visitors can be looked after properly.   The Group will be looking into the development of the Town as a centre of Tourism in Wiltshire. After all, this is the best town in the UK to live in, so it should be good for a visit too.

After discussion with the Chamber of Commerce and businesses we realised that the Town Council didn’t know much about the economy of the Town – who are the businesses? What do they do? And how many employees? We gave the problem to Emma, the new Deputy to the Town Clerk, to make a proper list, which we now have.  We invited everybody to a meeting in St Margaret’s Hall last autumn and called it a Business Forum.  Some ten prominent people including Sarah Christie from St Laurence School were given 2 minutes, strictly timed by Andrew Eberlin to tell us about them and their relationship to the Town.  Since then Andrew has steered the Chamber of Commerce away from a Subscription Membership to a new organisation called BOA Business which all businesses are invited to join in.  I expect his Business Breakfasts will now become something of a marathon where dozens and dozens of people will meet and exchange ideas and I am sure we at the Council will play a proper part and join in fully with this dynamic force for Bradford.

Neighbourhood Plan

The Neighbourhood Plan is moving on.  We have just finished a consultation of which all feedback received will be included in the Draft Plan, which is near completion.  Once it is finalised there will be another consultation before submission to Wiltshire Council and then comes the referendum.

It is very important that as many people as possible go to the exhibition to view and give us your comments.

Earlier I mentioned the newly formed Community Emergency Volunteers. Paul Robertson was within millimetres of being inundated with flood water at his home on the Bath Road, just over a year ago.  He came to the Council and asked the obvious questions.  Tony Green had been looking after the Town’s Emergency Plans also asked similar questions.  We quickly put the two together and formed a working group chaired by Cllr Magnus Macdonald and now we have an 18 strong group and are about to get equipment and clothing, which will be housed at the Fire Station.  We’ve already had two training sessions with more to come and we’ve been guided by Surriya the Emergency Planning Officer for Wiltshire Council and also by the Flooding Officer, Renate.  We will be stewarding events in the Town including the renewed Fireworks Night, which will be on November 7th on the bonfire field, and the five choirs event in the Fringe.

Another problem we’re trying to solve is Graffiti.  Andrew Rolph who is something of an expert, having worked for London transport, brought the problem to us, looking for ideas. We are setting up a small group to deal with the problem.  We’ve had a go at a couple of sites, one for publicity and one with the neighbourhood team from Wiltshire.  We are a small group, poised for action. One plan is that we will try to have a blitz on as much of the old stuff as possible, since it is a lot harder to move.  Once we’ve done that we will cope with new stuff more quickly. People in the group will have designated areas to deal with.  We will also try to keep the bus stops in better condition so as to brighten them up and make using the bus a bit more attractive.  The Group needs volunteers so please get in contact with the office and put your name down. 

This time last year Local Friends had just begun visiting the old and lonely, "Old Ted" for example:
“How are you Ted?”  “Terrible - come in”.
He has been taken to hospital for checks. He has been to Argos to replace his gas cooker, which was condemned, and now he has a new carpet after a visit to Carpet Right.  Ted is now 88 and his care problems have now been sorted out, he still smokes 40 fags a week but at that age who cares?  Well done Ted!
Pat has been on the scene for almost a year, she’s 92 this year, lives on her own and has no living relatives.  She has bad legs and a back problem. She lived on chocolate biscuits and tomato soup and occasionally would heat up a ready meal which would be sometimes left in the oven overnight because she had forgotten about it.  We tried to involve Social Services. She had steep stairs and a gas cooker but they were sure she had capacity.
Pat once said to me “D’you know I think I had two husbands”.
“Oh yes I said, thinking I might get some insight into her almost completely lost past.
“Or was it two dogs?” she asked herself.
She was admitted to hospital after a few falls in her house but, suffering with dementia to the point that she could not be safe on her own, Pat is now in a Care Home and slowly getting used to it all. She describes it as a very queer hotel. 
There are many people like this in Bradford on Avon and after a year of listening and learning it’s time to get going, to join in. Please get in touch with Avril at The Hub, where local friends will be co-ordinated.

Lorry Watch has been a great success for the Town, but a big drain on the resources at Wiltshire who have funded Trading Standards to deal with all the threatening letters and prosecutions.  So much so that we were only planning to do two months this year, March and September.  After a lot of work and helped very much by a letter from our MP, Bradford on Avon would have been the first Town in Britain to be able to access the DVLA database, meaning that we could have carried out all the initial work.  It was all ready to go and when it was announced that the Police are now taking over the role from May.  The very wonderful Steph Ridout and her team are meeting with the Police at the end of this month to be told how it will all work.  This is very important work but it can be quite good fun, you get to meet lots of people and catch up on all the latest gossip.  Let the office know if you want to get involved. 

We have eventually had a bit of success at keeping cars off Poulton Field. They are a very big potential danger in a play area and make a horrible mess when it’s wet.  The field is regularly mowed by Wiltshire Council contractors who need access so it’s always a bit difficult locking the gate. We persevered and it was locked.  It’s been broken again but now we know how it will be fixed once and for all for the benefit of everybody. 

The long term project to put the Canopy back on the railway footbridge is slowly creeping forward.  When it’s done it will make complete one of the prettiest stations in Britain.  It already is one of the best well kept.  We’ve had meetings with Network Rail and First Great Western in Swindon and we’ve got agreements from all parties and it’s a jolly good idea and it definitely can be done.  The Engineering Company are pricing up the work and are holding a site meeting with Network Rail at the end of April.  It all looks simple and the actual building work isn’t that difficult but the rules and regulations about safe working in a live railway environment are many and a huge amount of planning is involved.  We will soon know the funding gap and to help the project the Preservation Trust have offered to act as Bankers, which will be a very great help.  Thank you Bradford on Avon Preservation Trust!
We have discovered the name and whereabouts of the man whose profile graces the side of the Bridge and hope to involve him when we launch the appeal.

The Town Council is getting involved in more events.  We are welcoming visitors from Sully sur Loire in April and on the 30th April the Mayor is meeting them at a proper English Tea Party to be held in St Margaret’s Hall at 3.30p.m.

The Annual Mayor's Tea Party with Tea and Cakes provided yet again by the wonderful Save the Children Team is on June 21st in the afternoon at St Margaret’s Hall. Everyone is invited. It's free; the Town Council pays and if you have any money please put some in the Save the Children’s buckets. 

The Fringe Festival will be on at the beginning of July as always there will be lots to do, most of it will be completely free and I know that we will be supporting the Festival which I know so far has a symphony orchestra, a concert with five choirs in one of the most spectacular settings in Town and an orchestra that arrives on bicycles at the maddest pub in Town.  Look out for the publicity.

Bradford’s famous Secret Gardens is being arranged by Annette Seekings again.  She started it off in 1982 when £93 was raised for the Preservation Trust’s Pippetts Building Project.  This year she hopes to raise £4,000 for the Museum to help fund re-housing the Iron Duke back in Bradford.

Bradford’s Walkers are Welcome is going from strength to strength.  The Annual Walking Festival is on the weekend of the 4th, 5th and 6th September.  They expect more than 200 people to take part in the expanded range of different walks catering for people like me to proper Ramblers.  The group now have a walk on the second Sunday of each month and on the last Tuesday. Anyone can join in. They meet at Westbury Gardens at 9.00 a.m

On that weekend there will be the first Bradford on Avon Festival of Cycling. It follows on from when the Tour of Britain came to Town, and thousands of us turned out to cheer them on.  It will have something for everyone, a cycle jumble sale in St Margaret's Hall, children’s mountain biking in Westbury Gardens, sponsored by the Fat Fowl, cycling films put on by Chris Baker of the Bath Film Festival and there will be another bicycle trail like the one last year when lots and lots of people tried to identify 30 bicycles, each one dedicated to a famous cyclist, placed outside shops and businesses – All arranged by Mark at TT Cycles who will have displays of the latest in cycling including electric cycles at the back of their premises in Frome Road.  There will be a cyclo cross event on Sunday morning and lots of different rides to suit all abilities and in the afternoon Market Street and Masons Lane will be closed for a Hill Climb between 2.00 – 4.00 pm.  There will be hundreds of people trying to get from the Swan to the Castle without getting off.  I think I might have a go on an electric bike!

The trail of bikes will be in place well before the Festival weekend with an extra competition to go with it.  This year shops and businesses that take a bike will be encouraged to decorate it in a way that fits in with the Arts Festival theme – Flower Power. Another events that I can reveal in the Arts Festival will be the Film Society’s showing of the ultimate Flower Power film, Woodstock. Get your flares out!!

Which rather neatly brings me to the Flower Show – it’s on Sunday 13th September at 2.00 – 4.00. It’s another event for absolutely anybody, you don’t have to have a garden.  The Plug Plant competition is hotting up – sponsored by Brown’s Hardware and you can collect your tiny plant just after the May Bank Holiday.  The plants are free. It's free to enter the show. What can possibly go wrong!! Well this year a new category is the hottest chilli.  If we can’t find the science to test them, Piers Alder is going to taste them. 

I mentioned Christmas at the beginning. A dedicated five-person team has been working away since January and we are planning a more spectacular switch on than last year when it went all so well.  We hope to have more lights and more people. It’s on Friday November 7th at 7.00 p.m so there is plenty of time to wander around the shops and cafes before, and of course we still have our very own Father Christmas.   I don’t suppose I can get away without mentioning Christmas trees.  We certainly need more of them. Following the huge publicity in Westbury Gardens.

As Andrew Allan said “They’ll will either love it or hate it” He was certainly right there. I thought it was great.  Wiltshire Times defended it. True to form half the people in the Town loved it and half hated it.  We were tweeted from around the globe.  Andrew still gets visitors in the café who recognise him as the designer.
The Lions however were not so pleased and 3 Councillors are on Litter picking duty at the Family Fun Day as penance.  But I hope to persuade them that a brilliant work of art is possible in something as simple as a tree.

Much of what we are involved in relies on volunteers.  Everyone needs them.  The Fabulous Lions family fun day and car boot could just not happen without everyone mucking in.  So the Town Council is holding a Volunteers day on Sunday 7th June in St Margaret’s Hall.  It is free to get a space. Get in touch with the office soon; it is already half full.  In the meantime if anyone wants to help the Lions, let us know. We’ll put you in touch.

The Colonel Llewellyn Palmer Trust has been looked after by Wiltshire Council for some years. It is a trust that provides funds for particularly young people in Bradford on Avon so we are taking the opportunity to take it over and manage it back in Bradford.  I think we have a much better insight into the needs of local people.

We have signed all the documents to take over Westbury Gardens from Wiltshire, which means that we can house our proposed TIC building and also expand the use of the wonderful riverside space.  We are looking at a performance space along the lines of Bill Laslett’s pavilion around the beech tree.  What more perfect space for a brass band on a Sunday afternoon?

We have been trying to get the toilet in Culver Close open and fixed for years.  It is about to happen soon courtesy of the Preservation Trust.  Having seen the desperate need, they are proposing to refurbish, maintain and crucially, lock and unlock daily.  I hope we will be sharing the cost with them.  At the same time we are in discussions with Wiltshire to take over the whole of Culver Close including the building but apart from the Bowling Club which we will be able to manage more efficiently than Wiltshire and hopefully make the facilities fit for purpose.

At the last Town Council meeting it was agreed we would look at the Town Council’s communications and begin to improve everything.  It would be very helpful for as many people as possible to let us know their email address so we can inform you of upcoming and news in the Town.
We won’t bombard you with rubbish and nonsense but aim to keep you informed.

Cllr John Potter



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