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Controversy around recent Wiltshire Times articles

January 10, 2020 5:44 PM
By Ellen Nicholson

There has been some controversy around recently published Wiltshire Times articles this week, misrepresenting stories, getting facts wrong and misquoting stories. Lib Dem Councillors Hoare, Palmen, Bates and Bryant have all been affected by the recent slew of stories, so much so Cllr Bryant contacted the Wiltshire Times editor to complain and request a rewrite of the story relating the Elm Grove Park planning …

Cllr Andrew Bryant responding to the Town Council discussions on development committee on Tuesday and the misleading story reported in the Wiltshire Times said, "I along with Cllr Denise Bates (Drynham Town Cllr) have spent numerous hours not only talking with residents of Drynham, but also the developer and agent. The resounding message we received on the doorstep and via calls and emails echo our own in that the application is deeply flawed in respect of access points.

The outline plan came before the Town Dev committee on Tuesday. Trowbridge Town Council is purely a consolatory body in respect of planning. We can only raise an objection or no objection, we do not have the authority to reject an application. I sat as vice chair of the committee and spoke at some length about concerns raised by residents, specifically around the ingress/egress of traffic Inc. construction traffic. This is a particular concern of mine esp. as Cllr Bates and I are currently working to implement traffic calming on Wiltshire Drive (along with Holbrook Lane). I have also 'called in' the application at Wilts Council so the application will be debated and voted on by Cllrs (probably as part of the Strategic Planning Committee) rather than being delegated to a council officer (a paid employee).

At Tuesday's meeting two members of the public were present and they provided a very coherent and powerful statement against the application. Lance Allan, the Town Clerk, also raised very pertinent objections. As County Cllr for Drynham I moved objection, which was carried unanimously. My main concern (amongst many) is in respect of 5 years' worth of construction traffic using Wiltshire Drive as the sole access point to the site. I further requested the developer and council explore the viability of two access points from the A363, (none from the Dry ham Ward), effectively negating any impact on Wiltshire Drive and Dry ham/Dorsey. The Dry ham Lane access point could then be bollarded off allowing access purely to pedestrians and emergency vehicles.

Unfortunately the Wiltshire Times, for a reasons unknown to me, has chosen to ignore statements made by myself at the meeting along with the fact I had called in the application and successfully moved the objection. They then chose to add four photos to the online addition (and a giant one in the print edition) of the prospective Tory candidate on the campaign trail. A candidate who hadn't played any part in the application, hadn't attended any meeting on the application (let alone Tuesday's meeting) and wasn't even elected at the time of the meeting! I consider this as adding to confusion in the ward and is especially worrying coming straight on the tail of a Drynham by-election in which the Tory leadership at the council chose not to issue polling cards. The result of Tuesday's election - a 5% turnout for non-postal voters! No wonder the public lose faith in the political system."


Another story included wrongly stating that Trowbridge town council would declare a climate emergency in January 2020 when discussing the carbon reduction strategy proposed by Cllr Hoare, a climate emergency was previously declared by Trowbridge Town Council in September 2019 and written about in Wiltshire Times by former reporter Amy Pantell.

Finally Cllr Palmen was discussing graffiti in the Trowbridge and was quoted as saying the town does not need reminding about the climate emergency in the paper, whilst Cllr Palmen said frustratingly all the constructive points he made about tackling graffiti in the town were missed out of the subsequent article.

South West Wiltshire Liberal Democrats Parliamentary spokesperson Ellen Nicholson said "Freedom of press is integral to freedom of speech and carries with it a responsibility, challenging media misrepresentation or bias is an essential part of holding these outlets to account. I trust that following these stories and the subsequent complaints that Wiltshire Times will have received this week, they will seek to accurately and impartially report the local news in future. Facts Matter ()