Wiltshire Publications

The future of town’s rotunda in the spotlight

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A GROUP of Westbury councillors, who are working on plans to change the rotunda structure in Westbury High Street, say they are disappointed that a leaflet, distributed by local Liberal Democrats, is asking whether changes should be made at all. In the leaflet, the Lib Dems ask whether the money could be better spent on changes to the High Street.

The Vision for Westbury sub-committee of Westbury Town Council said they are “disappointed to see the half-truths and disinformation about the rotunda and traffic flow contained in a recent leaflet circulated by Wiltshire councillor for Westbury, Carole King, on behalf of the local Liberal Democrats.   

“The town council will undertake a full consultation with the town about its ideas for the rotunda in the high street and this pre-judging, based on inaccurate information is confusing to the public and disheartening to the Vision for Westbury sub-committee, which is working so hard to make Westbury the best small town it can be.  

“The town council is not generally a forum for Party politics, everyone works hard for the good of the town and to see this kind of negativity coming from a specific party is unfortunate. 

“When challenged, cllr Carole King said that she thought it important to get people talking about the issue, but the town council feel conversation needs to be over the draft plans. The designs for the rotunda will be prepared by an architect and the town council is aiming to be ready to share these preliminary designs in early autumn.  The town will be asked for its opinion through a full publicity campaign.” 

In response, cllr Carole King said, “I’ve lived in Westbury so long now that I can remember when the rotunda was being built and what the high street traffic flow was like then. The rotunda was controversial when it was built for many years, but like most residents, I’ve gotten used to it. I have memories of using it with Westbury Churches Together and the French Twinning groups, as well as seeing it overflowing during the Remembrance services. I’ve also experienced the noise of young people when we had evening committee meetings in the old Visitor Centre, not that they really bothered us. Other times, I see it used, as well as empty. 

“Lib Dems focus on keeping in touch with the communities we represent and for that I offer no apology. Many older people tell me they appreciate reading our regular leaflets as they get no other written news. We often have surveys that stand alone or are part of our leaflets, as we want to know what people think about issues in Westbury. 

“Our summer focus asked residents’ views of the proposed changes to the rotunda and the proposed reversal of vehicle traffic in Maristow Street by the town council. So far, I’m nearing four dozen replies and several emails on the subject. No-one is supporting the reversal of traffic in Maristow Street and so far, only one person supported the rotunda plan (but not the cost). 

“Jane Russ was kind enough to contact me and we met at the rotunda to discuss the plans as she wanted to make sure I knew all the town council’s proposals. Whilst I didn’t hear anything new, I appreciated the picture she painted and if it goes ahead, then I would hope it’s the success they want it to be. 

“But it just seems like a lot of money spent on something that I don’t think needs fixing. Many people ticked the box ‘prefer the money to be spent on the high street’ so they clearly see the separation of the high street from the brick rotundas on either end of it and want some money or changes in our actual shopping area. 

“It’s simply a ‘snapshot’ so people are aware of the proposed changes, and I hope they respond when the town council comes out with their consultation. As a Lib Dem, I will never stop asking residents for their opinions or letting them know about changes proposed in their community.” 

Fellow Liberal Democrat and Wiltshire and Westbury Town councillor, Gordon King added, “I have long opposed this initiative and made my views quite clear in council and in committee, they should come as no surprise to anyone. Our first duty is to save Westbury’s central business district and fight for new business, not to stress about how people should sit in a rotunda. 

“Although we have yet to receive every possible response, it is simply too early, the messages coming back are similar and clear, ‘Don’t waste our money, get on with saving our high street’. 

“Of course, not everyone agrees, which is only right, but they are in the minority. Most want to have a rotunda that can be redesigned around a rejuvenated high street, rather than the other way around. We know that the town council plans a consultation when ready, our initiative brings everything out into the open and lets people know what we think. 

“We never told residents what we thought, we simply asked for their opinion and finding out what people think. My advice to them is that they should try to be less stressed about what we do. It’s called democracy, but also because if we cannot have a change of direction, they will have a better prepared public when they have ready to consult.” 

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