Malmesbury mayor Campbell Ritchie is leading the fight against developers to protect land in Wiltshire.
Town and parish councils have come together to petition Wiltshire’s MPs to take action over threats to Neighbourhood Plans.
Recently approved housing developments such as the plans for 71 new houses on a greenfield site on the side of the contentious Filands development in Malmesbury have spurred over 30 councils from around the county to secure the status of Neighbourhood Plans.
The newly formed group of 32 councils including Malmesbury, Great Somerford Oaksey, Sherston and Crudwell, has been named Wiltshire Area Localism and Planning Group (WALPA).
WALPA is calling on the five Wiltshire MPs to ensure the government immediately reviews the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as they say ‘as has already happened in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, that developments will be approved that completely go against democratically agreed Neighbourhood Plans’.
Under the current NPPF rules if a Neighbourhood Plan is more than two years old, then it does not hold much sway when considering a lack of land supply.
The WALPA also want Wiltshire Council to take the ‘necessary steps’ to address the land supply shortfall ‘but not at the expense of prospective and current Neighbourhood Plans’.
Speaking for the group Malmesbury Mayor, Campbell Ritchie, said: “Communities across Wiltshire have invested huge amounts of time and effort into creating and maintaining Neighbourhood Plans.
“The current situation is that much of this work is for nothing and any semblance of local involvement in planning decisions is being lost.”
The impetus for the group began in May after Gleeson Homes were given the green light to build 71 houses on land south of Filands in Malmesbury.
The application was previously rejected because the area sits outside the agreed areas for development in the Malmesbury Neighbourhood Plan.
However, due to the lack of land supply, the application was approved by Wiltshire Council’s Strategic Planning Committee.
Normally Strategic Planning would only discuss plans fordevelopments over 200 houses, but this altered due to the changes made to the NPPF and the land supply issue.
WALPA said: “At this stage Wiltshire Council is simply not acting strongly enough in defence of Neighbourhood Planning and there is too much uncertainty about how the land supply issue will resolve itself without housing being imposed without consideration for the Wiltshire Area Plan or any existing Neighbourhood Plan.
“At the same time there is every sign that the government has lost interest in Neighbourhood Planning.
“This situation is being actively exploited by developers and builders, many of whom are directly or indirectly involved in the building delays which have caused the current problems. This must change or Neighbourhood Planning will wither away in months.
“We are looking to our MP’s to work together in the interests of all Wiltshire communities and to encourage Wiltshire Council to get its own house in order.
“As a growing alliance representing a significant proportion of the residents in Wiltshire, we are determined that the voice and interests of our communities in this vitally important matter is heard and both Wiltshire Council and government act promptly and take the action required.
“We cannot wait for the government’s longer term changes to the planning process. The crisis now.”