Decision on Filands, Malmesbury – Update on Three Planning Appeals heard at Planning Inquiry
We have now been officially notified of the Planning Inspectors decisions following the Planning Inquiry on three appeals by house-builder Bloor Homes at the site in Filands. While rejecting two of the appeals, the third appeal, to allow for 70 houses and a site for an 80 place nursery on a site previously set aside for education use has been agreed.
Residents will know that Malmesbury Town Council and The Civic Trust took part at the Planning Inquiry at the end of last year, defending the position that the site must be retained for educational purposes and that housebuilding there would be in breach of our democratically agreed Neighbourhood Plan.
Needless to say, we are very disappointed by this outcome because as the Town Council representative, I expressed our very real worries to the Inspector about the shortage of primary school places in the town and the effect of more housing on our already stretched infrastructure.
Our Neighbourhood Plan, where communities have a right to plan the place where they live, has also been undermined by the appeal decision. The main issue leading to the Inspectors decision has been that since April 2020 Wiltshire Council have not been able to show they have maintained a sufficient supply of land for new housing for the next five years for the whole of the County. Complex planning rules are then triggered, meaning our Neighbourhood Plan carries less weight in decision making, even though we have already exceeded our likely housing target for 2036, with 300 plus homes already under construction or in the pipeline.
We consider the implications of this Planning Inquiry decision to be significant and very concerning for the operation of not just the Malmesbury Neighbourhood Plans but all Neighbourhood Plans in Wiltshire. We are urgently raising our concerns with Wiltshire Council and higher authorities to seek clarification on a number of key issues and their assurance of future support. That said, we will continue on with the current review of our Neighbourhood Plan, which we believe will strengthen its influence in planning matters and you will hear more about this very soon.
In our view, the only benefit of this decision by the Planning Inspector is the allocation of a 0.3ha site for a new 80 place nursery, which is very much needed in Malmesbury. Yet this requirement for a nursery would not have been considered by Wiltshire Council or the Inspector without the direct work of Malmesbury Town Council, and firm support from our Wiltshire Councillor Gavin Grant. Back in autumn 2020, when Bloor Homes proposals were first raised, we were given just six weeks to make the case for a viable nursery in Malmesbury and gain the commitment of an example provider. We have obviously succeeded, and we were also instrumental in increasing the size of the site proposed for the nursery by Bloor Homes by 50% and that it would be put in the ownership of Wiltshire Council. We understand that the nursery providers will now be chosen through a tender process in the near future.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank those involved for their contributions to the Town Council’s efforts. There were many, many hours of preparation required to take part in the Inquiry and then the hearing itself, which lasted nearly two weeks. This was undertaken on a voluntary basis, with some witnesses who helped us even taking time off work to attend.
Special thanks go to Cllr. Campbell Ritchie who represented the Civic Trust at the Inquiry alongside the Town Council, and also to local witnesses and associates. Many thanks go to Wiltshire and Town Cllr. Gavin Grant who gave evidence and support throughout, and also to colleagues of Malmesbury Town Council, in particular our Mayor, Cllr. Paul Smith, Cllr. Philip Exton, Chair of Planning and Environment Committee, our Town Clerk, Claire Mann, the Town Council Office and lastly to Cllr. Catherine Doody for her help with arrangements at the Inquiry itself. All your hard work is very much appreciated!
If you wish to read the decisions for the three linked appeals, our submissions and the Inspectors decision, these are available on Wiltshire Council’s Planning website under Application Ref: 20/05470/106 and here is the link to the main page. https://wiltcouncil.force.com/pr/s/planning-application/a0i3z000014ev53AAA/2005470106?tabset-8903c=2
Cllr Mrs. Kim Power – Deputy Mayor of Malmesbury 07/01/2022