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Wiltshire Plan Review reviewed

June 23, 2021 2:06 PM

An interim report on the recent consultation on the proposal by Wiltshire Conservatives to build thousands of new houses in the towns and villages of the county goes to the WC 'cabinet' on Tuesday June 29.

Judging from the tone of the report, the pro-development stance of the pre-election administration continues. Officers will continue to investigate how best to achieve this, or in the words of the report, "The consultation has led to a clear need for the Council to undertake further technical evidence on a range of issues."

They go on to say: "Now the consultation has been completed all representations are being considered in preparing the draft Plan and further work undertaken in response to these to develop evidence to inform its policies. Once the draft Plan is prepared this will be considered by both Cabinet and Council before the Plan is published and a final stage of consultation is undertaken - known as the Regulation 19 Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 stage."

The consultation got 3,500 responses from people and organisations.

The report writer generates an equivalence between town and parish councils and the public on one hand, with developers on the other. So if a thousand people objected to the plans to plaster Anytown with housing and just the developers were in favour, we have, "Some respondents objected to the housing plans whilst others supported them."

Or to quote the report directly: "At the main settlements, generally there were mixed views expressed about the proposed scales of growth for each place, with reasons given for these. With at one end some local community representatives not wishing to see any growth at all to the other end where the development industry wishes to see higher levels of growth. All the views expressed will need to be looked at to ensure a fair and proper consideration of the issues they raise."

A criticism of the original review document was its focus on housing with no provision for the infrastructure to go with it. This report seems to suggest that not building roads would be a good way of reducing reliance on the private car. Further work will look at "How self-containment of settlements could be improved to influence trip generation and reduce the need to travel, how a shift towards active travel and sustainable modes could be achieved; and to what extent this could reduce the reliance on the car and new road infrastructure."

The equivalence fallacy comes out again when environmental matters are considered. "On the one hand we have local councils and organisations and people who want to protect the environment and on the other hand we have developers who want to bugger it up. We have to treat these two opinions as equal in our analysis of the consultation."

"Comments generally fell into two groups. The first, those with environmental interests including general public and some parish/town councils, who felt the Local Plan should be more aspirational in terms of achieving zero carbon targets, particularly in terms of new development. In addition, this group of comments also considered that more emphasis should be placed on biodiversity enhancement, including placing open spaces at the heart of all new development.
The second group of comments included a significant lobby from the development industry who stressed a rapid transition to net zero carbon development would be unduly costly."

The second iteration of the review will come forward at some time for the formal consultation referred to above, though it looks from this report as though the council's views are unchanged as a result of the previous consultation, and will remain so during and after the next one.

The full report is on the cabinet agenda here, see item 6. Text in italics above is taken directly from the report.