This is an update on the Planning Inquiry where an Inspector is deciding whether or not permission should be granted for new housing or new housing and a small nursery on a site on Filands. This is the site which is set aside for a future primary school and other educational uses. The Inquiry has now been adjourned and we are awaiting the Inspector’s decision on the three appeals in the next month or so.
Residents will recall this involves Bloor Homes South West and is being opposed by Wiltshire Council, as well as ourselves. Malmesbury Town Council and Malmesbury Civic Trust put forward the ‘local view’ as Rule 6 Parties, represented by myself, Deputy Mayor Cllr Mrs. Kim Power and by Civic Trust trustee, Campbell Ritchie, who is of course also a Town Councillor and former Mayor.
Our stance is that the whole site should remain available for educational uses, potentially a new school and including a nursery but of a large enough size to be viable and help meet the shortfall of places in Malmesbury.
Simply put, these residential houses would be in excess of those already being delivered by the Malmesbury Neighbourhood Plan and required locally. This is not NIMBYism. To those who say we should have more housing in Malmesbury, then please be reassured that there are more over 300 new homes in the pipeline to built in Malmesbury over the next four years. We have also well exceeded the minimum housing requirement being asked of us by Wiltshire Council until 2036. What we do need is infrastructure such as schools, nurseries and other services to be provided alongside the new houses. We already have a situation where some Malmesbury children are bussed outside the town to another school and there is a huge strain on other infrastructure. In addition there are ecological and traffic/ highways issues at this particular site.
The Inquiry itself was quite formal, similar to a court case in that the two opposing sides were represented by barristers, one a Queen’s Counsel and their legal teams. Parties are asked to present their cases, witnesses and experts are called to give evidence and to be cross examined.
Both Campbell Ritchie and I put forward a strong local view and were very fortunate to be able to call on two local residents as witnesses, to speak about ecological aspects and highways issues of the site, and also our Wiltshire and Town Councillor Gavin Grant, as Chair of Heals put forward compelling evidence in respect of social and affordable housing in that connection. I gave evidence on the Neighbourhood Plan. We were also very much supported by our other colleagues of Malmesbury Town Council, in particular by our Mayor, Cllr. Paul Smith and Cllr. Philip Exton, Chair of Planning and Environment Committee. A huge thank you to everyone involved, we have all worked many hours on this on a voluntary basis, both in preparation and attending the Inquiry, some witnesses even having to take days off work to be there.
Unfortunately, the situation is such that we are unsure of the outcome, because Wiltshire Council cannot establish it has a supply of new housing for the next five years in Wiltshire. We do not yet know how much the lack of ‘Five Year Housing Land Supply’ will affect the Inquiry result. Government planning rules, are triggered by this lack of supply, which means our Neighbourhood Plan carries less weight in decision making. Frustratingly, this is outside of our control, but we are part way through a review of the Neighbourhood Plan, which hopefully will be of help.
So we await the Inspector’s decision, which will be formally announced through the Government’s appeals process. We will of course update residents once this has been published.
In the meantime, if you wish to read any of the submissions to the Inquiry for the three linked appeals, these are available on Wiltshire Council’s Planning website under Application Ref: 20/05470/106 and this 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