I refer to the recent Marlborough.News column by David Chandler about development proposals generally.
David criticises anyone who wishes to comment on development proposals. He seems to be saying that any owner of land can do whatever they like wherever they like and whenever they like and anyone who opposes it is a NIMBY – ‘not in my back yard’.
David seems to ignore the fact that we have a planning system whose purpose is to regulate the use of land in the public interest, promote sustainable development and protect important heritage and landscape assets.
The central plank of the planning system is that development must be ‘plan led’. The plan governing development is the Core Strategy, prepared by the planning authority after consultation with all relevant statutory bodies and the community.
Wiltshire Council spent a considerable amount of time, effort and resources preparing the Core Strategy for Wiltshire which sets out where development will go up to 2026.
The CS requires 42,000 new homes in Wiltshire up to 2026, of which 5,950 will be in East Area and of which 680 are to be built in Marlborough. The plan identified a large site at Salisbury Road.
The CS runs to hundreds of pages with dozens of substantive technical documents justifying its proposals. The whole plan was subject to independent scrutiny and was finally adopted in January 2015.
Of the 680 new homes earmarked for Marlborough, 340 have been built, and 305 have permission or are allocated as of March 2015. Since then 28 homes have been approved on London Road and two on appeal.
The 680 homes will increase the population by almost 25 per cent – the largest increase ever. It will take a while for the remaining 340 homes to be built and the impact on health service, schools and other facilities to be absorbed. The CS does not envisage another large estate.
David also ignores the fact that the entire area is a nationally important Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which has the same level of protection as a National Park. National Policy states that no development can take place in the AONB unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Another national policy is that each Planning area must have five years land supply. In Wiltshire East there is almost nine years and so there are no exceptional circumstances to justify a development which is not planned.
As far as the land at College Fields is concerned the entire area from the A4 up to the skyline area was the subject of a planning application in the Kennet days. It was refused because of landscape impact on the skyline in a nationally important landscape, an appeal Inspector refused the Appeal and the Secretary of State also refused it.
A later application for what is now College Fields and Barton Park was granted, and development was restricted to the 150m OS contour. Development above this contour was excluded from the Core Strategy by Wiltshire and by an Inspector.
The reason it is so unacceptable is not just some knee jerk reaction it is simply because it would be visible from numerous places, Manton, Granham Hill , White Horse trail, Ridgeway and is in a world heritage area and would degrade the setting of the entire town.
The existing houses at College Fields are positioned below the 150m OS contour to keep them off the skyline and this approach was followed at Salisbury Road.
Development above the skyline would create a precedent where anyone could argue for any development on the skyline anywhere around town and this would change the setting of the town forever. Marlborough is special partly because it is a valley town enclosed by its historic landscape.
This is why we have a planning system, and it seems wrong to criticise those including residents, Wiltshire Council and the Government, who simply want to protect these special assets of national importance. Landowners and developers know this and take heed of the planning policies democratically arrived at.
The free for all advocated by David Chandler will only result in uncontrolled sprawl and degradation of all we hold dear.