Working together - a town council for everyone
The council we elect in May will serve our town until 2025 as we rebuild from the Covid-19 crisis. Times have been tough, especially for those most severely affected – and more challenges lie ahead. The pandemic has also reminded us of some important truths. We have seen that individuals thrive best in a strong community; that our outdoor spaces are precious; and that secure local jobs and thriving businesses are vital. We know that together we must also address the longer-term crisis in our climate and natural environment.
To move forward as one community, we need a town council that doesn’t simply take decisions on our behalf but gives us all the chance to be involved. This principle of listening and engaging is how we believe the best decisions can be made.
To prepare this manifesto we consulted widely through a survey distributed in the late summer of 2020* and have drawn on conversations and meetings held with residents over the past four years.
A flourishing community
Once the immediate crisis of the pandemic is over, we need to build resilience, combat social isolation and support mental and physical health. If elected, we will:
Develop and support community projects that address these needs. The Men’s Shed project, initiated by Liberal Democrat Cllr Jennie Parker, is an existing example which we can learn from. Ideas such as a young people’s café should be explored and support should be continued for the dementia friendly initiative, the carers’ cafe and the youth club.
Invest in our outdoor spaces to maximise the opportunity for exercise and recreation for all ages. The lockdown has shown how important access to the outdoors is for our health and wellbeing. We will pursue ideas such as an adult outdoor gym, outdoor table tennis, more allotment space, communal fruit trees, and support community ideas for outdoor entertainment such as music, theatre and cinema.
Develop sporting facilities including the planned new sports pavilion and the skatepark project. We commit to the agreed £100,000 council contribution to the skatepark and will seek further external funding.
Work with local campaign groups and Wiltshire Council in an effort to secure the old golf course site, the allotments close to Coronation Avenue and the land north of Cemetery Lane and Holt Road as green spaces - listed in Wiltshire Council’s draft local plan as sites for potential housing development. We recognise the need for genuinely affordable housing for local young people, but these are not the right sites.
Attend to the little things that make a big difference in daily lives – drop kerbs to assist wheelchair and mobility scooter users, improved connectivity for cyclists and pedestrians, litter/dog waste bins where more are needed, pavement repairs, benches and notice boards.
A thriving town
Our town is special, with its independent shops, historic buildings, bridges and hillside. But we need to be decisive to sustain it. We know from our survey that residents want to support our town centre shops but would be encouraged to do so more with good parking, pedestrian safety improvements and a wider range of shopping opportunities. So, if elected, we will:
Work with residents and Wiltshire Council on options for improving pedestrian safety and tackling air pollution while maintaining good vehicle access to the town once the current temporary social distancing traffic scheme comes to an end. There is no easy solution, but we will consult widely and communicate fully on whatever is proposed.
Work towards building a new pedestrian bridge from the library car park to Lamb Yard, continuing the consultation we began when we led the town council in 2016. Responses to our recent survey indicate that a new pedestrian bridge is a popular idea that will improve safe access to our town centre businesses.
Work with businesses, pub, restaurant and shop owners, and our markets to ensure the council provides ongoing support to initiatives such as ‘shop local’ and other strategies to attract a wider range of customers, not just tourists and locals, but residents from the wider area. We will establish good lines of communication with the business community so that concerns can be aired in a productive way. Bradford has many self-employed people requiring premises, and we recognise that the town should encourage more commercial planning to help our local economy.
Work with Wiltshire Council and residents to investigate the potential for a re-development of the health centre and station car park site, looking to improve community and health facilities. If well planned, this should make the site more attractive and improve access for residents and visitors, arriving by train, to the town centre, country park and places of interest. There are many options for this space, while retaining parking, possibly underground, and potentially including a small amount of housing. We commit to ensuring that residents can contribute to the discussion about how to use this site.
Immediately set up a working group to update our Neighbourhood Plan.
A greener place to live
We know from floods and very hot summers that we are not immune from climate change. We must play our part locally in tackling the global crisis in climate and biodiversity by working towards carbon neutrality. As we do so, we can also enhance our experience of our outdoor environment and improve opportunities to adjust to future changes. If elected, all policy decisions will be framed by a recognition of the crisis, and we will:
Communicate the climate and ecological emergencies widely to ensure appropriate and concerted action is taken with active community engagement.
Engage with local community energy companies to increase solar generation capacity at suitable locations and explore the possibility of battery storage for council buildings.
Work with suppliers and Wiltshire Council to provide electric charging points in local car-parks.
Work with a provider to bring shared use E-Car and E-Bike clubs to Bradford on Avon to encourage car sharing and reduce pollution. As we approach the era of all-electric cars, the club will also provide the opportunity for people to experience the benefits of an electric car.
Investigate improving community bus provision to make the option of taking the bus rather than driving more attractive.
Actively progress the ‘re-wilding’ initiative but respect widely held views that paths and places used for children’s play should be mown.
Work with local companies and experts to offer advice to homeowners seeking to reduce their carbon footprint.
Back projects that use edible food destined for landfill whether by reviving the community fridge project, creating a ‘pay as you wish’ food waste café and encouraging other ideas that come forward. We will press Wiltshire Council to collect food waste for composting.
An engaged town council
Real local democracy isn’t just about voting on election day; it comes from a culture where people are enabled to have their say and take part in making the decisions that affect their lives. This depends on an engaged town council that works well as a team. We will:
Establish a Residents Panel to be a sounding board for the town council. This will not replace other forms of consultation on specific projects but will be an additional means of ensuring the council hears directly from a representative group of residents. Panel members will complete regular surveys seeking their views on local services and new proposals. Results will be published.
Restore the tradition of a town council that is one team of 12 councillors with positions allocated between all members and not based on which party group a councillor belongs to. Over the last four years, the positions of Mayor, deputy Mayor, leader of the council and committee chairs have been held solely by the main party group, despite for the last three years that group having only 7 of the 12 councillors. Previously, many such roles were shared with others beyond the largest group. This is better for cooperative working and better for engaging with the people who voted us in.
Strengthen partnerships beyond BoA with other small towns through the local Area Boards building a collaborative network of small towns in West Wiltshire, sharing resources and, giving towns more power to win the investment we need from Wiltshire Council.
Improve the town council print and online communications to be more interactive and consultative.
Offer councillor visits (physical or online) and informal meetings to community groups and organisations, residents’ associations, older people’s residential accommodation and pubs that serve specific localities to ensure we are engaging as widely as possible, offering such meetings in the format that best suits the people concerned.
Make town council meetings more accessible, by livestreaming meetings via YouTube so that residents can listen from home and we will enable participation from home as well as from those attending physically once physical meetings are held again.
You can read more about our team here
*Residents survey: this was conducted in Aug/Sept 2020. The findings can be read here.
For our councillors’ achievements over the past four years see here.