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1 .First of all, let me thank you all for coming to this public meeting, to discuss the future of our town.
2 .Our first speaker is Shona Ferguson, from Barford town council. Shona.
1 .Thank you.
2 .First I'll briefly give you some background information, then I'll be asking you for your comments on developments in the town.
1 .Well, as you don't need me to tell you, Barford has changed a great deal in the last 50 years.
2 .These are some of the main changes.
1 .Fifty years ago, buses linked virtually every part of the town and the neighbouring towns and villages.
2 .Most people used them frequently, but not now, because the bus companies concentrate on just the routes that attract most passengers.
3 .So parts of the town are no longer served by buses.
4 .Even replacing old uncomfortable buses with smart new ones
5 .has had little impact on passenger numbers.
6 .It's sometimes said that bus fares are too high,
7 .but in relation to average incomes, fares are not much higher than they were 50 years ago.
1 .Changes in the road network are affecting the town.
2 .The centre was recently closed to traffic on a trial basis, making it much safer for pedestrians.
3 .The impact of this is being measured.
4 .The new cycle paths, separating bikes from cars in most main roads,
5 .are being used far more than was expected, reducing traffic and improving air quality.
6 .And although the council's attempts to have a bypass constructed have failed,
7 .we haven't given up hope of persuading the government to change its mind.
1 .Shopping in the town centre has changed over the years.
2 .Many of us can remember when the town was crowded with people going shopping.
3 .Numbers have been falling for several years,
4 .despite efforts to attract shoppers, for instance by opening new car parks.
5 .Some people combine shopping with visits to the town's restaurants and cafés.
6 .Most shops are small independent stores, which is good,
7 .but many people prefer to use supermarkets and department stores in nearby large towns, as there are so few well-known chain stores here.
1 .Turning now to medical facilities,
2 .the town is served by family doctors in several medical practices - fewer than 50 years ago,
3 .but each catering for far more patients.
1 .Our hospital closed 15 years ago, which means journeys to other towns are unavoidable.
2 .On the other hand, there are more dentists than there used to be.
1 .Employment patterns have changed, along with almost everything else.
2 .The number of schools and colleges has increased, making that the main employment sector.
3 .Services, such as website design and accountancy, have grown in importance,
4 .and surprisingly, perhaps, manufacturing hasn't seen the decline that has affected it in other parts of the country.
1 .Now I'll very quickly outline current plans for some of the town's facilities, before asking for your comments.
1 .As you'll know if you regularly use the car park at the railway station, it's usually full.
2 .The railway company applied for permission to replace it with a multi-storey car park, but that was refused.
3 .Instead, the company has bought some adjoining land, and this will be used to increase the number of parking spaces.
1 .The Grand, the old cinema in the high street, will close at the end of the year, and reopen on a different site.
2 .You've probably seen the building under construction.
3 .The plan is to have three screens with fewer seats, rather than just the one large auditorium in the old cinema.
1 .I expect many of you shop in the indoor market.
2 .It's become more and more shabby - looking, and because of fears about safety, it was threatened with demolition.
3 .The good news is that it will close for six weeks to be made safe and redecorated, and the improved building will open in July.
1 .Lots of people use the library, including school and college students who go there to study.
2 .The council has managed to secure funding to keep the library open later into the evening,
3 .twice a week. We would like to enlarge the building in the not-too-distant future, but this is by no means definite.
1 .There's no limit on access to the nature reserve on the edge of town, and this will continue to be the case.
2 .What will change, though, is that the council will no longer be in charge of the area.
3 .Instead it will become the responsibility of a national body that administers most nature reserves in the country.
1 .OK, now let me ask you...