A ROW has broken out after planning permission was granted for several holiday homes to be converted into houses.
It has led to the chairman of Oaksey Parish Council accusing Wiltshire Council of misleading the public over the impact of its Neighbourhood Plan.
Richard Moody made the remark after the North Wiltshire Planning Committee approved plans for a number of holiday homes to be converted into houses.
The application relates to 12 properties, all part of Oaksey Park Cottages next to the golf course on Wick Road. The application site is not allocated for residential development and sits outside the Oaksey settlement boundary.
Cllr Moody, the chairman of Oaksey Neighbourhood Planning group, said five years had gone into producing the plan, which was approved in March.
He said: “Oaksey were led to believe that the policies and plans would become part of Wiltshire’s own strategy- as the law demands. Oaksey were misled.
“The planner’s claimed Wiltshire had no direct policy on the matter- despite the existence of Oaksey policy opposing the changes which was in fact a part of their own strategic plan.
“They used a catch-all ‘other material considerations’ to ignore the plan and decide that because the applicant’s business claimed to be not viable it would be okay to contemptuously change the original conditions.
“The Neighbourhood Plan made no difference at all.”
An independent marketing report concluded that many of the holiday homes would be left vacant if restrictions were not lifted, but Oaksey Parish Council disputed the findings and the need for more housing in the locality.
Although the parish council objected to the application, it did receive 93 representations of support compared with just three objections.
A document prepared by planning officers stated: “The vast majority of public representations received identify support for the proposals identifying a shortage of housing in the locality and significant benefits to local families and persons wishing to stay or become resident in the village.
“In addition a lack of demand for holiday lets, no site specific harmful impacts including to the character and appearance of the area.”
However, Cllr Moody believes the existence of the neighbourhood plan, which states: “The removal of occupancy restrictions on holiday accommodation to allow their use as a permanent residential dwelling will not be supported unless the property is located within the settlement boundary,” should have been enough to prevent the application succeeding.
“This is a real warning that irrespective of their legal plan Wiltshire Council appear to regard it as an inferior or invisible local policy document which they can undemocratically choose to ignore.
“Localism has seriously failed in Wiltshire,” he said.
Cllr Toby Sturgis, cabinet member for spatial planning, development management and property at Wiltshire Council said: “As with any applications we follow the statutory process. This means the Neighbourhood Plan is the starting point to help decide applications but each application has to be considered on its own merits taking all factors into account.
“Planning legislation makes clear that other considerations may justify a decision which is different to the development plan.
“In reaching their decision the committee had also to consider clear evidence on the financial viability as a material matter and on balance considered this outweighed the plan.”