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MORE houses could be built in Melksham despite the town having surpassed its current housing target set by Wiltshire Council.
In response to questions from Melksham News, Wiltshire Council has confirmed that the 2,240 target for additional new homes in Melksham over the 2006-2026 period in their current core strategy is only a minimum and more developments could be a possibility.
Most recent figures from 2017 provided by Wiltshire Council show that Melksham has already met and gone above the 2,240 requirement, with 2,300 homes.
a Wiltshire Council spokesperson said, “1,400 homes have been built and a further 900 are yet to be built that have planning permission. The figure of 2,240 is not a ceiling. The overall housing requirement for the housing market area is set as a minimum.
“Proposed housing sites that comply with policies in the Wiltshire Core Strategy can still come forward. This helps ensure housing needs are met, including those for affordable homes, and there can be a good choice of sites.”
However, a new housing requirement for Melksham is expected in 2020 as part of Wiltshire Council’s review of its core strategy, which will take the plan up to 2036.
In the review it has been proposed by Wiltshire Council that Melksham move to a new ‘housing market area’ – a geographical area drawn up by Wiltshire Council that considers how many homes and what types of homes are needed by all groups within the population.
The council has proposed that Melksham move from the North & West Wiltshire Housing Market Area to the Chippenham Housing Market Area, sparking concern amongst local campaigners who fear the town could end up shouldering much of the area’s housing target, particularly if a bypass around Beanacre were to come to fruition.
In a letter to Melksham News last year, local campaigner Nick Westbrook said, “Wiltshire Council has bid for government funding to implement a bypass around the town. And it has decided to move Melksham into the Chippenham Housing Area, which now has a target of over 21,000 new homes to be built in the upcoming planning period. Guess where many of these new houses are likely to be located?”
About the proposal to move Melksham into a new housing market area, the council’s spokesperson said, “We must keep our development plan up to date so we are carrying out a review that will move the plan period on to 2036. However work is at early stages on this. We have consulted on fresh evidence that suggests the county has four market areas rather than the three in the existing plan.
“This evidence suggests that Melksham would be within a Chippenham Housing Market Area. As well as consulting on new information, the council is also involving local community leaders in discussions about the town’s future. There will be opportunities for the public to comment on any proposals before any decisions are made.”
With Melksham still open to more housing developments, fears have also been expressed about the lack of infrastructure in the town. Nick Westbrook said, “With local schools at capacity, a GP surgery closing, and the council not allocating any additional space for creating new jobs in Melksham, the town is at risk of being developed into a dormitory town with no facilities, no community and no infrastructure. They (Wiltshire Council) are assuming that we are a dormitory town and that everyone will commute to other towns.”
In response to these fears, the Wiltshire Council spokesperson said, “We have an infrastructure delivery plan that includes some of the main elements of the public infrastructure necessary to support the town’s growth.
“The new eastern urban extension to the town provided a new primary school, Forest & Sandridge C of E, and also a new distributor road linking the south of the town to the north. There is ongoing dialogue between service providers like health, education and utility companies about future requirements.
“Infrastructure can be provided directly as a part of new development, for example in the form of roads, cycleways and open space. Funding for other forms is accrued from development by a combination of negotiated funding contributions from developers or by community infrastructure levy. The private sector also responds to local growth and spending power with new jobs and local services.”