The Neighbourhood Plan (MANP) ‘informal drop-in’ show rolled into Manton yesterday (17 July) – and generally disappointed. How can it be that so much time (3-4 years) of secretive deliberations, costly consultants surveys and so on can produce so little?
The conduct of the MANP to date has been controversial, because it has operated in an opaque bubble. Representatives from Manton and Preshute have been barred from attending their day-long meetings (the last minutes published were in January) and the self appointed members won’t even discuss the proceedings.
The 2011 Localism Act guidelines specify that “Where a parish or town council chooses to produce a neighbourhood plan, it should work with other members of the community who are interested in, or affected by, the proposals to allow them to play an active role in preparing a neighbourhood plan”. After pressure to disclose what they were doing, we were given just 3 working days notice of an ‘informal drop-in’ session in the Village Hall (other locations follow). And it was packed.
The MANP future housing needs proposal uses output from a community opinion survey to justify an alleged need for hundreds more houses in the Marlborough area by 2036, when the 2015 Wiltshire Core Plan suggests only 18 more are needed before 2026. A single survey is a very dubious foundation on which to build a future plan. We are told it is all aimed at building more ‘affordable’ homes. But as developers do not like affordable homes over larger family homes, all we would likely get are a lot more half million pound and up properties.
Manton’s biggest issue with the MANP affordable housing proposals is the suggestion that in order to get the Planning approval, Preshute Primary School would be linked with the new development – either in Manton or in Barton Dene. Now for all its ups and downs throughout its 186 year history, Preshute School does not need to be moved and neither does Manton’s village environment need a significant extra housing development. The Barton Dene site is part of the area that was rejected a few years back for development. This land is owned by Marlborough College, who have also bought adjacent land to maximise their holding and hence their potential return should it be sold to developers. Oh, and a representative from the College also sits on the MANP Steering Group!
But aside from its autocratic stance and exclusion of community representatives, the real shortfall of MANP is the lack of hard plans to improve facilities and services for the current community – the stakeholders paying MANP’s bills. After a very rapid population growth in the past 10 years, we can’t look after our current community, let alone support even more. We deserve better.