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MELKSHAM Without Parish Council has slammed Wiltshire Council in a recent letter, saying the authority is ‘too scared’ to defend local people against housing developers.
In a scathing letter to council chiefs and the local MP, the parish declared Wiltshire an ‘open house for developers’ because the council is ‘too scared’ to pay to fight its own corner.
The outrage came after Wiltshire’s planning committee approved plans for 235 homes between Melksham and Bowerhill recently, despite opposing a similar application in 2014.
The original plan was withdrawn after a council planning officer recommended it be turned down because it would have a ‘significant adverse impact on the landscape’.
Despite the application featuring only 20 fewer houses than the one criticised two years ago, the same planning officer this year recommended approval and the new estate is expected to go ahead on land off the Bowerhill roundabout at the end of Spa Road.
The new plans included permission to build a primary school – one of the selling points of the scheme – but developers will not actually build the school, just leave space and contribute some of the money.
Melksham Without said the plan was deliberately misleading, and scorned Wiltshire Council in a letter sent to planning director Alistair Cunningham, council leader Jane Scott, Michelle Donelan MP and the local press.
The letter read, “The grounds for refusal [in 2014] included building on a rural buffer land and too close to the industrial estate, grounds that still exist today.
“The only difference now is the claim that this development included a primary school and a nursery. This is incorrect as this planning development does NOT include a school or nursery. It provides 1.4 hectares of land and money towards a school.
“The planning officer’s report says ‘it will be necessary to pool this sum with other developments in order to provide the school and nursery’. So the discussions at the planning meeting whether the advantages of getting a school outweighed the objections to the plan were flawed as there is no guarantee that there will ever be a school.
“What happens if there is no other planning application in this area? Does this mean that the land will revert to the developer’s ownership and be developed for housing?
“A member of the committee made the statement that ‘we should approve the plan because if we reject it the developers could appeal and win the appeal which would cost the Council money’. This was a statement made at a public meeting with developers present.
“So developers can apply to build where they like, all valid objections will be dismissed, they don’t have to contribute towards medical facilities and the plan will be approved because Wiltshire Council are too scared to oppose anything. Wiltshire is an open house for all developers.”
The letter also criticised the council for turning down an offer of nearly £120,000 towards the local NHS after councillors said they didn’t know how to spend the money.
The plan, which will see houses fill the farmland between the town and village, was objected to by the parish council and local residents. Melksham Town Council did not comment.