By David Parker, Editor.

Residents in Amesbury, Durrington, Mere, Salisbury, Shaftesbury, Gillingham and Warminster should be thankful their respective town councils get involved with their respective communities. The councils all co-operate with local business owners and managers, and local groups, to help provide events in their towns that might not otherwise be as good as they are, or even staged at all.

From fireworks to Father Christmas, from Summer extravaganzas to musical memories, the councils help make sure they are a success and good value for money, whether through sponsoring, ticket prices or cash grant aid. Some councils now recognise the value of their parks, play areas and outdoor spaces. Some councils have had the land thrust upon them by unwilling unitary authorities turning them back to local councils for them to maintain.

This is happening all over Wiltshire, where some councils have reluctantly resisted the offer but were told to ‘take it’ or it would be disposed of otherwise. Some councils were not given the option of taking on the more lucrative buildings and land that had more than just a community asset value.

In Wilton, a town centre derelict building was sold privately by Wiltshire Council to a developer neighbour, despite local interest in using it for community purposes (although turned down by the town council). An ancient sheep sales field is being kept back and two different reasons given for not releasing it as a community open space asset. The local unitary councillor said it “may be strategic to the rail station development.” The council spokesperson said: “We know how important this field is locally, and want to make sure it can still be used by local people and for events.”

By contrast, Warminster Town Council is asking for Wiltshire Council to give it the remaining parks and open spaces around the town not already thrust upon it. The council is drawing up plans to make more use, and take more notice of what the community wants from these outdoor assets.

Recent researches have shown that communities are happier and healthier when they live, work and play together as all-inclusive, all- age, all persons society. At Valley News, sadly, we hear too often about suicides and drug deaths, loneliness and isolation, even among families. Older generations will remember the camaraderie among the back-to-back tenements in the towns and cities, and in the villages: whole generations of most families mixed together where farming was the backbone of the community. In those days, ‘popping next door’ was commonplace, and borrowing a cup of sugar an everyday occurrence.

Nowadays, here, we have too much of everything – so much so that even some charity shops are taking in more than they can sell or give away. But still we have the poor and disadvantaged and food banks, and children dying abroad because we can’t get necessities to them.

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