Wiltshire Publications

Full steam ahead for Westbury campus consultation, despite concerns

AS consultation continues over the preferred choice of new campus facilities for Westbury, unease has been raised over the way the survey is being conducted and the validity of the results it will show. Despite this, local people are urged to still make their views known. 

The campus programme could drastically re-shape the town and the way facilities and services are provided. But local residents, councillors, and clubs have raised fears that the second round of consultation – billed as an opportunity for residents to have their say – has serious flaws.

Key concerns are that the consultation does not give people enough information about a single site option, as well as being open to abuse by respondents as it is possible to submit multiple responses.

The campus consultation is currently asking people to choose between three options: council facilities across three sites (the existing pool, library and Leighton Recreation Centre); facilities across two sites (the library and Leighton Recreation Centre); or a new build single site.

Last month, the chair of the Westbury Area Board, Wiltshire councillor Russell Hawker, even went so far as to suggest the consultation be scrapped immediately and completely re-thought. He has since withdrawn his comments, but remains of the view that the survey is biased against the controversial single-site option.

Cllr Hawker said, “The area board members have met with the Community Operations Board (COB) members to discuss the current issues and way forward for the campus options survey.

“I remain of the view that the survey does have an unfortunate inherent bias against the single site campus option whilst the survey continues to not explain where it will be located. This is because of the reality that many people would have doubts about whether it is a realistic option until they know where it could be.

“This is not to say that the single site option is necessarily the best option, but it needs to be given its best chance of being fairly considered in the context of all the real benefits it would give to the local community by virtue of providing new modern facilities in or close to the town centre.”

Another concern is that there is nothing to stop people submitting multiple responses. Mike Sutton, a Westbury town councillor says, “Anyone can respond, as the consultation does not ask for identification from respondents and therefore they could be from anyone, multiple entries or indeed non-residents. It has not been thought through.”

However, cllr Hawker remains optimistic that the consultation can work.

“The area board will try to meet with senior council officers shortly to try to obtain more information about a possible single site campus location which the COB can use in later editions of the survey, especially when they get into the face to face discussions that they intend to have as part of the overall survey.

“As a result of the meeting with members of the area board and the COB together, it is clear that we are all working towards trying to make the survey work. I endorse the overriding view of everyone involved that we all hope and would encourage as many people as possible to take part in the survey as we want everyone’s views.”

How to have your say

The consultation into the three options for a community campus is under way. More than 300 people have responded so far.

People are being asked to vote on whether they would like a three site or two site campus using existing council buildings such as the library, or a brand new one-site campus.

People can have their say online, or by picking up a form at a variety of venues from the local library to shops and the heritage centre.

Members of the Community Operations Board (COB) who are leading the survey, will also be on hand at local events like the Westbury Christmas Fayre, as well as visiting clubs and community groups.

An update on the progress of the consultation will be made at the October 17th meeting of the Westbury Area Board at Heywood Village Hall. The meeting starts at 7.00pm with refreshments from 6.30pm, and people will get the chance to find out more about the campus consultation and to ask questions.