Marlborough’s Neighbourhood Plan, which is close to being finalised, is a document designed to cover local resource and planning. Housing (what, how many, where) is a priority concern. In response to Wiltshire and Town Councillor Nick Fogg’s critique of the plan, Cllr Mervyn Hall’s explanation of what the Plan is, how it came about and what it is there for is set out below in his own words:
“It is very disappointing to see Cllr Fogg making comments about the Marlborough Area Neighbourhood Plan in the press without attempting to discuss his concerns with the Steering Group and with little apparent understanding of what a Neighbourhood Plan is for. The Neighbourhood Plan is a legal document, used in the planning application process, to ensure that only developments that meet the proven needs of the community are allowed. This provides protection from unwanted speculative developments and protection for our environment and heritage. What it does not do is cover town centre planning issues, like the layout of the High Street or traffic issues like congestion and pollution. These would need a Town Centre Plan and a Traffic Plan, which are needed in Marlborough but are not within the scope of a Neighbourhood plan.
The main issue that arose from our public consultations was a need for more affordable housing. As defined by Government, affordable housing is a mixture of shared equity homes and affordable rental homes, usually delivered in partnership with a housing association through Wiltshire Council’s Homes for Wiltshire as social housing. This need is there because a lot of people in Marlborough cannot afford to buy or rent on the commercial market but whose families have always lived and worked in the town. The existing affordable housing stock is gradually decreasing, through sell offs, and needs to be replaced. The plan does not attempt to stop providing single occupancy homes, just to stop retirement complexes being built because those developments do not have to provide a portion of affordable homes.
The housing sites in the Neighbourhood Plan have been assessed and chosen with care to minimise impact on our environment and existing households up to 2036. Bodies like AONB have been consulted through the process. It is inevitable that developers will build houses in Marlborough over the coming years, they always have done. The Plan confines this to a number that meets our requirements on the least intrusive sites and gives 50% affordable homes on the larger sites rather than the normal 40%.
The Neighbourhood Plan also provides an opportunity for the NHS and Wiltshire Council to build medical facilities next to the leisure centre, creating a wellbeing hub. Employment land was looked at and it was found that there is no demand to build offices or factories in this area, the existing business park has mostly attracted businesses like trade counters, which do not employ large numbers of people. The main employment in Marlborough is in our schools, shops, and care homes, with a high proportion of low paid jobs resulting in people commuting to the town because they cannot afford to live here. Marlborough is not in a location where it will become a “dormitory town”. Parking is an issue in Marlborough and is proposed to be addressed using the only land available, on the common, something that many residents have asked for. This is allowable if the surface is non-permanent and permeable, and it has been fully investigated.“
Public comments are very welcome and will all be considered when revising the Plan before the next stage.
Councillor Mervyn Hall, 09March 2021