THE new mayor of Malmesbury has expressed concerns over plans for 71 new houses in the town which if approved, he says would ‘fundamentally undermine’ neighbourhood plans in Wiltshire.
Gleeson Developments Limited have submitted an application to build the homes on a greenfield site on the side of the contentious Filands development in Malmesbury, having had a previous application rejected back in 2016.
However, Malmesbury Town Council and Wiltshire councillor for Malmesbury Gavin Grant were only informed of the application last Tuesday (May 19), leaving just two days for the council and residents to express their views on the application.
The land is believed to sit outside of the areas agreed for housing development as set out in the Malmesbury Neighbourhood Plan and has been strongly opposed by Malmesbury Town Council.
And concerns have been raised by Gavin Grant on the impact additional housing will have on the viability of the town.
Cllr Grant said: “Building 71 houses on this green field site does nothing for Malmesbury.
“Our nurseries and schools are full, health and dental services under pressure and our roads and car parks cannot cope with current traffic levels let alone even more.
“This specific site was looked at in the Neighbourhood Plan and rejected for housing as have attempts by Gleeson to build there before.
“I will do my very best to persuade the Councillors on Strategic Planning to back local democracy, proper planing and the best interests of our community.
“They should throw out this speculative application that puts private profit before the public interest.”
Mayor of Malmesbury, Campbell Ritchie, who was elected earlier this month, says the potential consequences are huge.
He said: “Tomorrow a decision will be taken at the Wiltshire’s Strategic Planning Committee which will decide the future of Malmesbury’s Neighbourhood Plan and the future of bottom up place shaping and Neighbourhood Planning in Wiltshire.
“This application for up to 71 houses at Filands has been rejected before.
“The land sits outside of the areas agreed for housing development as set out in the Malmesbury Neighbourhood Plan and is strongly opposed by Malmesbury Town Council.
“It fails numerous Wiltshire Council Core Policies and the policies of the Malmesbury Neighbourhood Plan. We were absolutely expecting this application to be recommended for rejection by officers.
“However, it was only communicated to us last Tuesday that because Wiltshire Council has failed to maintain a five year supply of land for housing development across the county as a whole, officers believe and are reporting that they have no choice but to recommend this application is approved.
“The potential consequences are huge. If the Planning Committee approves the application it will fundamentally undermine not only our Malmesbury Neighbourhood Plan, but every other community’s Neighbourhood Plan in Wiltshire, unless that plan is less than two years old.
“Such an approval would destroy the whole point of Neighbourhood Planning.
“There are very strong reasons to reject this application and we have laid them out in our latest letter of objection, which will be read to the committee.
“At the very least, because the decision on this application is of such local, county wide and national importance, it should be deferred.
“We have written to other councils in Wiltshire who would be affected if this application is given permission and we are receiving tremendous support.
“We know we are supported in our position by Wiltshire North MP James Gray.
“I am also encouraged that so many residents have written in such strong terms to the committee even though there was an incredibly short deadline. These letters will be sent to each committee member.
“Malmesbury Town Council and our Wiltshire Councillor Gavin Grant are doing everything we can to have this application rejected.”
Wiltshire Council’s Strategic Planning Committee will be streamed live tomorrow morning at 10.30am.
To view, go to bit.ly/2X0W9HQ.
Wiltshire Council and Gleeson have been contacted for a comment.