First of all, let me thank you all for coming to thispublic meeting, to discuss the future of our town.
Our first speaker is Shona Ferguson, from Barfordtown council. Shona.
Thank you. First I’ll briefly give you some backgroundinformation,
then I’ll be asking you for your comments on developments in the town.
Well, as you don’t need me to tell you, Barford has changed a great deal in the last 50 years.
These are some of the main changes.
Fifty years ago, buses linked virtually every part of the town and the neighbouring towns andvillages.
Most people used them frequently but not now because the bus companies concentrate onjust the routes that attract most passengers.
So parts of the town are no longer served by buses.
Even replacing old uncomfortable buses with smart new ones has had little impact onpassenger numbers.
It’s sometimes said that bus fares are too high, but in relation to average incomes, fares arenot much higher than they were 50 years ago.
Changes in the road network are affecting the town.
The centre was recently closed to traffic on a trial basis, making it much safer for pedestrians.
The impact of this is being measured.
The new cycle paths, separating bikes from cars in most main roads,
are being used far more than was expected, reducing traffic and improve air quality.
And although the council’s attempts to have a bypass constructed have failed,
we haven’t given up hope of persuading the government to change its mind.
Shopping in the town centre has changed over the years.
Many of us can remember when the town was crowded with people going shopping.
Numbers have been falling for several years, despite efforts to attract shoppers, for instance byopening new car parks.
Some people combine shopping with visits to the town’s restaurants and cafes.
Most shops are small independent stores, which is good,
but many people prefer to use supermarkets and department stores in nearby large towns asthere are so few well-known chain stores here.
Turning now to medical facilities, the town is served by family doctors in several medicalpractices
fewer than 50 years ago, but each catering for far more patients.
Our hospital closed 15 years ago, which means journeys to other towns are unavoidable.
On the other hand, there are more dentists than there used to be.
Employment patterns have changed, along with almost everything else.
The number of schools and colleges has increased making that the main employment sector.
Services, such as website design and accountancy, have grown in importance,
and surprisingly, perhaps, manufacturing hasn’t seen the decline that has affected it in otherparts of the country.