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Where is the Neighbourhood Plan?

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A LOCAL resident has called for action on Melksham’s Neighbourhood Plan, which is yet to be completed nearly five years on from when the project first launched.

According to resident Nick Westbrook, who is a former member of the Neighbourhood Plan steering group, the delay has meant that Melksham has missed out on having control over the future of the area. 

A neighbourhood plan gives communities the option to choose where they want new homes, shops and offices to be built, have their say on what those new buildings should look like and what infrastructure should be provided, and have more community control over  planning for the new buildings and developments. 

At last week’s annual town meeting, Nick Westbrook said, “The steering group that was set up to draw up the plan to cover the areas of the town and parish councils, actually first met in October 2014. We are rapidly heading for the Guinness Book of Records.

“Since September 2017 they have had expert consultants supposedly helping them to produce this document. Well where is it?

“In the meantime, we have been overtaken by a lot of events, one is Wiltshire Council has agreed significant housing developments, Wiltshire Council is also reviewing its core strategy and moved its target from 2026 to 2036, it has also moved Melksham out of the Trowbridge area into the Chippenham housing market area, which will add a huge number of additional houses according to their target. 

“And it’s also consulting on the possible future of a bypass and on top of that, Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group is about to produce their proposal to fit in with the new primary care network for the area.

“Government guidance requires preparation of a neighbourhood plan document that is community led – so I’d like to ask if this council would host a meeting with their colleagues on the parish council to review progress and perhaps establish a new joint vision for the area, to take account of what’s happened recently.

“And to ensure that when a plan does come forward, it’s not just about housing but actually about the infrastructure, community, health, transport and services we need.

“Where is the plan? What’s it cost? And are we getting value for money?”

In response, the Melksham Neighbourhood Plan steering group said, “The final plan is coming soon. There is lots of work to do but there is a determination by the steering group to get it finished. It’s been a long journey but we are on the home straight. We understand the public’s frustration, but like any collaborative project these things take time, but we want to get it right.”

Talking to Melksham News, chair of the steering group, Richard Wood, who is also chair of Melksham Without Parish Council said, “We have resolved to make a big stride forward in the near future. The alternative was to slow down and almost pause the plan and then consider the Wiltshire Council core strategy for the area up until 2036, but no-one was keen on that, especially because of the time it’s taken and the delays we’ve experienced. 

“Essentially the feeling is that we are all in place, but need to get a move on to meet the deadline of section 14 – to get the plan adopted by February next year.”

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