The flaw that was highlighted in both Planning and the Core Strategy was summed up neatly last night by Mike Wilmott, Area Development Manager, when he stated that each planning application must be viewed in isolation and decided on merit.
With 9 Retirement Complexes in Marlborough now (7 established, 1 under construction, 1 approved at planning) and a further 27 retirement apartments in the pipeline, at what point do you say the percentage of such purpose built, age exclusive complexes is high enough for one small market town? Apparently never. Because you can never look at anything in context.
The newly adopted 380 page Core Strategy – does nothing to address our dilemma of how many retirement properties are enough. Most elderly people do not live in a retirement properties. Purpose built retirement homes are for sale on the open market and quite possibly not being purchased by people living in Marlborough – or even Wiltshire, who wish to downsize. No survey figures seem to be available on who buys these properties, but random comments at planning meetings carry weight – which is frustrating. I believe Retirement Properties could actually be creating a market for elderly people to move into Marlborough, from outside of the area, but need evidence to back that up.
Wiltshire Council are having to allow Marlborough to become a big “Retirement Village” as there is nothing in the Core Strategy or in Planning that is watertight, should developers take a planning refusal to a costly appeal. Enough is enough is not a planning reason. Nor is the fact that our building sites are being lost to all ages forever, which feels like age discrimination turned on its head.
The town council are, with the guidance of the Malmsbury group who have completed the exercise, starting to write a Neighbourhood Plan. Residents can volunteer now to be included. It is a long, complicated and quite expensive process, for which funding has been allocated. The document once completed, adhering to meticulous process, carries weight and gives Marlborough a voice. We need to sit up and take notice before this thriving little market town loses it vibrancy and vitality forever.