A WORKING community group has been set up to decide the fate of a treasured marble poppy in Royal Wootton Bassett one and for all.

The Forever white poppy, designed and gifted to the town by artist Mark Humphrey as a monument to the 355 service personnel repatriated through the town, collapsed in October 2017.

Ever since there has been a long-running debate between the town and council about how to reinstate it safely and without cost to the taxpayers.

After a public meeting in September saw scores of residents vote in favour or returning the poppy in a metal frame the council sent out a survey to 5,000 homes to get a wider response.

At a full council meeting, which followed a dismal turnout of just 67 respondents, members agreed to take the planning and fundraising out the council’s hands to finally bring the drawn-out process to an end.

Councillor Robert Anstee said during the discussions: “It’s about time the council stopped sitting on its hands about it and progress.”

Councillor Steve Bucknell added: “The best thing to do is to get a community group that takes it out of the council because it just slows things down.

“Then we can get the costing, and we can do due diligence. When we are sure the public have got behind it we can start some fundraising.

“We need to take it out of this turgid council process. Give it to the community to get that design, make a decision and then raise the money.”

Part of the discussions focused on avoiding any financial cost, such as insurance, falling on taxpayers who hadn’t contributed to discussions on the poppy to date.

The low turnout saw just over one per cent of people responding, with most either in favour of returning the poppy in its original state or in some kind of metal supportive frame.

Town clerk Johnathan Bourne concluded in a report on the poll: “Whilst the replacement of the stone poppy is an emotive subject for some…it is not a priority for the overwhelming majority of residents.”

A four-person group includes resident Tom Patterson, who has made initial enquiries with engineers about designs, and councillors Marion Sweet, Rob Anstee, mayor Mike Farrow, and deputy mayor Steve Watts.

The group is in need of three or four more members from the public who wish to have an input.

Mr Watts told the Adver: “I think everybody has been waiting long enough.

"The first step for me is to get everyone together who wants to be involved, then once that is done we can discuss what’s next and to reconstruct the poppy back in some form - which is what the town wants.”

"If we can get more people with some knowledge like Tom, then from my point of view the more the merrier."