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Malmesbury screwed by WC planners

May 27, 2020 12:01 PM

The government has changed the rules to make housing development easier on greenfield sites outside of designated town and village policy limits. Where councils don't have a five year supply of building land then the assumption is that development can take place on such sites unless there's a strong reason against, such as Green Belt designation. Whereas previously the existence of a neighbourhood plan also counted as a strong reason against, that has now been restricted to only include NPs less than two years old.

So, many communities who think themselves protected from inappropriate development by their neighbourhood plan will find that not to be the case.

The reason Wiltshire Council has lost control of its housing land supply is partly due to complacency on the part of the Conservative administration, and partly due to the complexity of calculating land supply. Developers collectively are themselves the main determiners of housing supply so can play the system to suit themselves.

A test of the new rules came at the meeting of WC's Strategic Planning Committee on Wednesday May 27. An outline application to build up to 71 homes on land just outside Malmesbury was up for consideration. Malmesbury was one of the first places to do a Neighbourhood Plan, some five years ago. So now the NP is very old and doesn't count. The site was not allocated for housing either in the Neighbourhood Plan or the Wiltshire Council Core Strategy. But planning officers recommended it for approval, and the committee went along with that.

Voting split exactly on party lines - all 7 Conservatives voted for the development, 3 Lib Dems and one Independent voted against.

(The Conservative - dominated Strategic Planning Committee never goes against the officer recommendation on major housing applications.)

Malmesbury has also been very good in finding its required allocation of housing over the last few years, but as the five-year calculation is on a county-wide basis, that also counted for nothing.