The controversy over the sale for a housing development of the well-used and safe open space and amenity land off Rabley Wood View, is about to move to County Hall, Trowbridge. The deadline is approaching for the final decision by Wiltshire Council’s cabinet on their plan to sell the land.
The cabinet, meeting on January 30, will have before them a lengthy and cogent letter from Town Clerk, Mrs Shelley Parker, explaining the Full Council’s decision on 11 December 2017 to “raise objections in the strongest terms to the disposal of the land” to make way for new housing.
Over the past few years, the sale has been fiercely opposed by local residents and strenuously opposed by councillors on Marlborough Town Council. At the Town Council’s Planning Committee meeting on Monday (January 15), it was agreed that Council Guy Loosmore will attend the cabinet meeting and speak on behalf of the Town Council.
In her letter – addressed to the appropriate Wiltshire Council officer – Mr Mark Hunnybun, the Strategic Projects and Development Manager – Mrs Parker makes four main points:
- The unsuitability of the compensatory land that would replace the existing open space and play area: she points out that the new open space will be on a water meadow that floods (as water meadows are designed to do) and may flood more now that Thames Water are taking much less water from the River Og.
- She shows that the deal on the land is in ‘contravention’ of Wiltshire Council’s own Core Strategy. And she reminds Wiltshire Councillors that Sport England considered that the compensatory open space did not fit with requirements in the government’s National Planning Policy Framework.
- Mrs Parker emphasises the necessity to protect ‘historic water meadows’ – as noted during the planning application process by Historic England. This is especially important as regards water meadows’ provision of habitats for wildlife.
- Her final main point is headed ‘Reneging on legal agreements’: residents in houses surrounding the open space were under the impression that, in the words of the original agreement concerning ownership of the land, it would remain as open space ‘in perpetuity’. Mrs Parker writes that the cabinet will have to overturn, modify or vary this agreement before they can decide to sell the land.
The letter concludes: “Marlborough recently watched a S106 agreement for an off-site affordable housing contribution by a large developer of more than £300,000 completely nullified.”
“It would be enormously disappointing if our Unitary Authority were to allow a second legal agreement to be scrapped when it is clearly the wish of the local community and their elected representatives that it should remain in place.”
“Finally, the Town Council has made clear that Marlborough needs more housing especially affordable housing, but in the right place. Rabley Wood View is not that right place.”
The cabinet meeting can be watched on Wiltshire Council’s webcast via this webpage. It starts at 9.30am on Tuesday, January 30.
The Chair of the Planning Committee, Councillor Alexander Kirk Wilson, told the meeting: “We have taken a very unfavourable view of flogging off the play area. We definitely, very definitely, need to make our views known to that cabinet meeting.”
On a lighter note, he has offered bottles of ‘real champagne’ to Councillor Loosmore and the town’s two unitary councillors (Councillors Fogg and Dobson), if they can change the cabinet’s mind over the sale.