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‘It looks like the work experience kid did them!’ Town council objects to campus plans

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THE Melksham Campus saga took a new twist this week when Melksham Town Council objected to the plans.

The project to convert the former Melksham House site into a community campus, already more than seven years overdue – now faces more hurdles.

A number of objections have been received to Wiltshire Council’s plans for the campus, with local residents, Melksham Town Council and Historic England all raising concerns.

At this week’s town council planning meeting, councillors voted to object to the plans, in support of the concerns raised by Cedar Close residents who will back onto the campus development.

They say, although they are in support of the campus in principle, there are several concerns which need to be addressed. These include the impact of the height of the building on the visual amenity and loss of light; the proximity of the campus building to residents’ gardens; potential noise disturbance; light pollution; and potential root invasion from trees used to screen the building from Cedar Close residents.

Councillors also raised concerns about the future of Melksham House, which is not included in the planning application – a concern echoed in the objection made by Historic England.

At the meeting, cllr Vanessa Fiorelli said, “These designs, they just look like they got the work experience kid to whack them together. I’m sure all of us could sit down now and come up with a better plan. One that is sustainable, and would protect Melksham House.

“So much has been overlooked. Even though we all want the campus, and we are all very cautious of not upsetting Wiltshire Council, it has to be said that if they are going to do this, it needs to be done properly.”

Cllr Sue Brown added, “Why is there no masterplan? Is this financial? Timing? I can’t understand why they are doing it piecemeal and I am worried about Melksham House and its future.”

Melksham Campus was due to open in 2012 but has been delayed several times. A planning application was finally submitted in March this year but even that has been hit by controversy when Wiltshire Council’s own planning department fell out with the campus project team because plans for the future of the Melksham House building was left out of the scheme.

Historic England had insisted the future use of Melksham House, which is a Grade II listed building, be included in the plans for the campus. And they have re-emphasised that in a submission they have made on the planning application.

Inspector of historic buildings & areas at Historic England, Jacqueline Smith, says, “Historic England has previously provided Wiltshire Council with pre-application advice for these proposals. Given the lack of amendments between the plans previously commented on and those now submitted, I reiterate that advice below:

“We are aware that plans for this site have been developing for some time, and that a master-plan exists and previous permissions have been granted. Based on this, we do not raise concerns regarding the general principle of this new use for the site as a whole. We do, however, object to the plan to move forward with the construction of the community campus building as an independent planning application, prior to any clarification or agreed use for Melksham House.”

The consultation on the campus plans closes on Friday 17th May. According to the deputy leader of Wiltshire Council, cllr John Thomson, a decision is expected to be made by 31st August.

The application is available to view on Wiltshire Council’s planning website. Visit www.wiltshire.gov.uk/planning and use the planning application reference numbers: 19/03329/DP3 to view the plans.

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