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THE delay to submit a planning application for a car park in Melksham’s mini country park, Shurnhold Fields, has been criticised.
Plans for the new car park have been “stalled” and faced numerous “hurdles” for over two years, according to Melksham Without Parish councillor, Paul Carter, who is also a member of the Friends of Shurnhold Fields – the volunteer group that supports the park.
And at a Melksham Without Parish Council meeting last month, in his role as a member of the Friends of Shurnhold Fields, cllr Carter asked the parish council, who are working in partnership with Melksham Town Council to oversee the project, to explain why the car park plans had not moved forward.
“I was asked to find out if planning permission is needed for a car park and associated works,” said cllr Carter, “and over the last two and half years, not withstanding any Covid arrangements that have disrupted proceedings – every time we (try to move forward), we seem to be stalled.”
In response, parish clerk Teresa Strange explained that the submission of the planning application to Wiltshire Council was held up due to advice given in the pre-application stage.
The clerk explained that the car park plans need land drainage consent, the support of the Environment Agency, and added that the highways team at Wiltshire Council has asked for more detailed plans about access to the car park from Dunch Lane. Once these various permissions have been given, a planning application will be submitted to Wiltshire Council.
Chair of the parish council, Richard Wood, added that whilst he “understood” cllr Carter’s “frustrations”, he felt that the Shurnhold Fields project has made a “terrific amount of progress”. Cllr Wood highlighted that since possession of the fields in early November 2018, a mowing regime has been created, a WW1 wood has been planted as well as an orchard and a “triumphant’ wildlflower meadow, the volunteers’ environmental work has resulted in the rejuvenation of the stream, and picnic benches, noticeboards, bins have been installed. “We must not overlook the work so far,” said cllr Wood.
Parish councillors also said that cllr Carter’s frustrations should also be directed at the town council, who have joint responsibility for the project – with some saying that support for the project has been “one-sided”.
“We (the parish council) have carried out 95% of the workload,” said cllr Wood, “and it’s a joint enterprise.”