We were all saddened to learn of the sudden and unexpected death of Cllr. Andy Johnson, the newly elected Town Mayor of Devizes, on the evening of 25th May, only ten days into his term of office.
Many people across the Town have already paid tribute to his kindness and generosity as both a neighbour and a worker for local charities.
One of the traditions of the Mayors of Devizes is to use their term of office to raise funds for charities which support the people of the Town. Andy had chosen three deserving charities to support, the Devizes Foodbank, Devizes Opportunity Centre, and the new St James Centre, but his untimely death occurred before he was able to turn that intention into reality.
Please join us in making a donation to this appeal, set up in Andy’s name, to raise much needed funds for his chosen charities in his memory. The Covid-19 crisis has affected all charities, but has been a particular blow for smaller, local, groups whose income has dropped substantially now that “lockdown” has prevented their normal fund raising activities from taking place. The need for their services remains as great, so many are in real crisis. Your contribution will not only allow you to honour the memory of a dedicated supporter of our local community, but will make a real difference to the lives of people within Devizes
Word of the week in the Vizes; Splashpad (apparently Word sees it as one word) So, who wants to splash and who wants to whinge? I ask Town Clerk, Simon Fisher the questions which need to be asked……..
Once upon a time there was a slash-pad on the Green in Devizes, dubbed a drug-hatch, it was a public loo popular with vandals, in a pretty shabby state and kept closed much of the time. Now it’s a haven for the youngest of our community, who on summery days can play and splash until their hearts content. What a wonderful prospect if this could be a reality, yet despite a huge response to a Gazette & Herald article last week, which only stated “Devizes COULD get a splash-pad on the green,” both speculation and hope have seen an unprecedented online reaction.
Are we just “keeping up with the Jones’,” namely, Melksham, shouldn’t we be conserving water, is it an open invitation to vandals? There’s a sure quantity of negativity surrounding the idea, and personally I’d like to ensure a budget for children’s activities is equal for all ages and not just the toddlers, in an era where we’ve seen the closure of youth centres et all. Though my hand is swayed by my own fond memories of how the two mini-mes enjoyed splashpads, obviously me too, a little!
Hats off to Melksham, their largely Lib-Dem council have made a success story from the project. Water used in a splashpad is a tiny percentage of a town’s supply, no more than a swimming pool and no one is rallying outside the Leisure Centre, are they? There are two approaches to splashpad mechanics; a flow-through system and recirculating system. A recirculating system operates like a pool with chemicals, filters and pumps. Water is sent to the pad from a tank roughly four to five times the system’s flow rate; in short, it’s recycled, people.
As to vandalism, I have to cough. While it’s possible, and certain lengths will have to be introduced to ensure it isn’t, what we have now, a toilet block is a far cry from pristine. Litter, yes, litter happens there anyway, splashpad or slash-pad; surely, it’s a matter of trust and education, added on top the concept if you give the young something to do, rather than lounging on vacant grass bored, perhaps they’d repay it with gratitude and consideration. A long shot you may cry, but it’s a presumptuous cry, isn’t it?
Are we getting ahead of ourselves here though? I thought I’d play Devil’s advocate and fire some questions, Town Clerk Simon Fisher dared to answer them! “The project is still at a relatively infant stage,” he begins. “At the end of last summer, the Town Council was approached by a number of parents who asked if Devizes could have its own Splash Pad and therefore the Council needed to determine if there was a general demand for such a facility and also if a suitable site could be found. That initial phase of the project was completed just before Christmas, with a report to Council identifying a potential site, cost implications and evidence that a Splash Pad facility would be well used.”
“As you would expect, whenever we evaluate the need for a facility there will always be those who have no need for it and therefore resist its delivery,” Simon continued, obviously unable to name them fuddy-duddies who wouldn’t know fun if it came up and slapped them around the chops with an inflatable banana, but hey, I will! “But that is very much in the realm of public service provision, therefore whilst we must not ignore non-users, what is important is that we ensure that if money is spent on facilities they will be well used.”
I agree, we must not ignore them, we must splash them!!
“One of the comments you have raised, about the time of year it will be used and the assumption that it will only be used during the summer is a fair one,” said Mr Fisher. Oh, yeah, I did ask that; hardly Hawaii, is it? “However, this facility is not unique in this, with most of the outdoor facilities we provide seeing a massive drop off in use during the winter.”
See me screwing up my face, which is never a good thing, my Nan used to say I’d get stuck like it, but our other outdoor facilities aren’t a massive new cost; they’re football goals and swings. Sorry, that’s unfair; Hillworth park’s renovation is wonderful. Let’s look at that shall we? Summer days I go there, I see kids of all ages, really active, enjoying every minute, and I never see them dropping litter; coincidence? But money, innit, that’s what it comes down to.
“There is clearly a cost implication attached to providing any capital project and we still have to determine how a Splash Pad will be funded,” Simon explained. “There are two elements to this, one is the capital cost, for which we will seek developer contributions and grants but this will need some Town Council seed funding. The other is revenue funding, ensuring any facility is well maintained and this will come from the Council; however, this funding may also support the upgrading of services more generally in the area and the Splash Pad will do this for the Green. Many of the services we provide are free at the point of delivery and a Splash Pad is likely to be such a service.”
My note on spreading the budget equally on all ages of youngster, Simon seems positive such a project would impact on the area as a whole. “The Splash Pad project may well see the provision of a café facility on the Green, which will enhance the area as a place to “hang out”. Many teenagers already do this; therefore, this will enable us to manage the space and keep it clean, which is a current criticism.” Yep, jobs too; a parkie, like Ranger John Smith; he chased bears smarter than the average, away from pic-a-nic baskets, though; we’d need Dwayne Johnson on the nightwatch!
He also expressed the projects already in place for older kids. “Whilst youth services remain principally the responsibility of the Unitary Authority, Wiltshire Council, whose budget for this purpose has been progressively cut in the last few years, Devizes Town Council does seek to provide facilities for all ages.” A major downer, as in another story, I’ve been waiting two years for a response from Wiltshire Council about when they’re due to repair a bouncy chicken and swing in a Rowde playpark; so I wouldn’t blow up your arm bands just yet.
“A few years ago,” Simon explained, “we built a large skate park for older children at our Green Lane site at a cost of over £150k and we are in the middle of a £1.7m investment for new football facilities, again aimed at older children and adults.” I have to take off my hat here, with or without Wi-Fi, satisfying most teenagers is near impossible, for the record I was a right stroppy one, though I’d imagine you’d find that hard to believe.
One thing is easy though, satisfying younger kids. Babies will play with a box, a set of car keys, toddlers happily play in a muddy puddle, why get a splashpad, just section off our road’s potholes?! Honestly, I’m certain that’s the pompous attitude of many of us. Toddlers though, soon learn how to whinge and whine to get what they want, or don’t want. Where do they pick this stuff up from? I’ll remind you, shall I? They get it from us, so quit your selfish whinging, just because you’ve outgrown your water-wings and spare a thought for the kids. Splashpad, I’m all over it, pal!
Since a Wiltshire Council highway engineer advised Devizes Town Council that a sign at the High Street junction with Long Street is not big enough or in the right position last week, the highway engineer has been around our area suggesting other improvements which must be enforced for safety purposes.
Devizes Town Councillors were warned people might not spot the present ‘No Entry’ sign, and that it needs to be 600 CMs wide, wider than the road itself. “Maybe even larger, the bigger the better,” said a Wiltshire Council spokesperson, the one who really has the mentality to grasp simple English. “If it means we have to knock down a few historic buildings to make room, then we will.”
“We’d really favour,” the spokesman continued, “that the sign is lit with flashing neon letter-lights and overhead floodlights, twenty-four hours a day. Perhaps, it could also repetitively play a Bonnie Tyler song, or even the soundtrack to Rocky 4, to raise awareness of it too.”
“Devizes Town Council is clearly not accounting for the prerogative of speeding businessmen in BMWs belting through Devizes without a finger of fudge to road safety. They may have important calls to make on their phones, be preoccupied trying to locate a Starbucks, or generally too busy eyeing up totty to notice the clearly one-way street has standard no entry signs.”
The Wiltshire Council spokesperson, who cannot be named because their nametag fell out of their work jumper, because their mum didn’t iron it on well enough, stated, “those who think there’s no accounting for stupidity are wrong. One blast of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ or ‘Holding out for a Hero’ will alert the most insensitive arsehole; it’s certainly one of my favourite songs.”
With this apparent compete lack of competence of town councils to identify these issues, the Wiltshire Council highway engineer has proposed a new selection of signs be erected in obvious danger areas, using visual aids rather than a report, as he can only write in emoji.
Devizine has received these exclusive graphic representations for residents to swoon over in delight. I asked the Wiltshire Council spokesperson if he thought they were slightly aesthetically intrusive. “No,” he replied, “I think athletes will love them too.”
For the many years I spent living in flats and shared houses with no garden, I longed for one, especially on a summer’s evening such as this. Now I do, I frustratedly scratch my chin and scrutinise the darn thing; it’s like Day of Triffids strikes back, again.
As we’ve children I need not create something all Gardeners World, for far from being Charlie Dimmock, aligned beds of chrysanthemums, pruned rose bushes, a summer house or Chinese water garden is a level or twenty too far for me, and would be crushed and smashed with incoming footballs and frisbees anyhow.
So simplicity is the key; a lawn, some bushes, a tree and a patio of slabs; job done. But while I start gardening with good intentions, and the first ten minutes enthusiastically plough through the task with the vigour of Conan the Barbarian on a promise, I end up more like Colin the Librarian, and before the task is half complete I’m a chiropractor’s dream come true, with fingers like Marvel Comic’s The Thing.
I don’t how some do it, really, I feel a hundred and five after a tiny stint at gardening, yet my patch insignificant compared to what those CUDs volunteers are scrubbing, pruning and tidying, all across Devizes. You’ve got to hand it to them.
So, okay CUDS, thanks and all that, but if you’re reading this, I ask you to stop right here and read no more; I’m talking about you, not to you, okay?! Everyone else please bear with, bear with….. Schhh, keep it under your hat.
On the Devizes Issue another person posts, how those CUDS have saved the day again, how brilliant and tidy the town now looks, what a bunch of gardening superheroes, example: isn’t Zena a known princess warrior, or is that Xena? All I know is Zena Robson is the uncertified chief CUD, who after an exhausting day cleaning up this town, finds it satisfying to blog their progress online and press for contributors to the Devizes in Bloom contest.
Does she know no bounds, does she ever slump on the sofa and go, “bugger this for the price of fish, I’m sitting here with a giant bag of cheesy puffs and can of lager balanced on my belly, watching the footie till I drop?” I’m not sure it’s even occurred to her.
Last post I’ve seen was about the roundabout on Brickley Lane/Jump Farm, “full of deep purple tulips, and then the last couple of weeks an amazing show of Aliums.” Prior to this it was weeding the wall along the barracks on London Road, most of us contemplate getting the bus rather than walk that length, and there are these awesome, super-duper people, out there weeding the lot of it. It makes me tired just typing about it for crying out loud.
Now, though I’ve written about them before, back in the early days of No Surprises on Index: Wiltshire, this is where this article differs from my usual waffle, it’s interactive! I reckon we simply MUST show these guys and girls our appreciation, people of Devizes, surely? Can we club together and get them a gift, something to say thank you from the entire town? Who’s with me?
I don’t mean a commemorative plaque, although some may think it’s a plan and I’m open to suggestions, I was thinking they’d rather something more personal, some flowers if they haven’t had enough of flowers at the end of a day, box of chocolates each maybe, vouchers for a meal at Times Square, something simple like that, just a token to show our appreciation.
Now I’ve not notified Zena or any other of the CUDs about this post, although we have the blessing of Simon Fisher at the Devizes Town Council, that this suggestion is “a wonderful idea,” and while I’d like to make it a surprise to as many of the CUDS as possible, I have to share this article and get it out there. So although some are bound to see it, not taken heed of the warning, but c’est la vie – let’s pretend they haven’t!
So, I’ve opened one of these Just Giving thingy-me-jigs, just to ask for some donations, and feel free to suggest a gift idea, I’m all ears. Click here to give it some dosh, not a lot, just a coin or two, whatever you can spare. Yeah? Please help, it’s no good me just giving them all a big cuddle, despite my cuddles internationally recognised as the best cuddles in the world; they don’t want that, really, so put your hand in your pocket! Thank you!
Oh, oh, oh, yeah, nearly forgot – Don’t forget to share this article, thank you!