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Campaigners’ joy as Forest field is saved from housing

Residents rejoice after the housing plan was turned down

PLANS to build nearly 80 homes on fields in Melksham Forest have been thrown out by Wiltshire Council, to the delight of people living on Woodrow Road.

After a vocal campaign from local residents and objections from the town and parish councils, the plan to build 77 homes – reduced from 152 after possible Roman artefacts were found– was rejected by Wiltshire Council’s planning committee on Friday 31st March.

People living nearby in the Woodrow Road area had been furious at developer Waddeton Park’s proposals, and raised concerns about issues including traffic, flooding and the loss of countryside.

Sue Carter, who started the campaign against the plan, is thrilled with the result.

She told Melksham News, “It’s brilliant news and I’m amazed that so many people got involved with the fight against the houses. I certainly didn’t expect this much support at the beginning.

“I was so angry when I first heard about the application. I saw they were advertising houses with a nice view and it was because they were stealing ours.”

Only certain issues will be considered by planners and the group were tasked with finding and proving genuine problems – ‘material considerations’ – with the application.

“It was difficult reading all the plans and finding out technical information so we could make a strong case against the plan,” Sue added.

“I’m so grateful for the support of the Melksham Town, Melksham Without and Wiltshire councils, and to Trevor McMaster, Phil Alford and all our campaigners.

“The field is so popular with local people, we want to see it used for the public in future. Our work isn’t over – for all we know, the developer might appeal the decision.”

Wiltshire Council turned down the application, which was first announced in May 2016, because the fields are outside of Melksham’s town boundary. This is now a solid reason for the council’s refusal because it can prove it has suitable land elsewhere for housing, something it could not prove a year ago.

Local resident Phil Alford was a leading figure in the campaign group.

He said, “We managed to create such an opposition and delay the plan so much, that we have a stronger position now with the five year land supply.

“Our plan was to throw as many spanners in the works as we could and go through every detail to try and slow the process down. I think if people round here hadn’t put up so much of a fight, the council could have let it go ahead.

“Everyone has worked together to put up a consistent, comprehensive and well-organised objection and I’m delighted with the outcome.

“This could happen again so now we want to find a way to secure the future of the fields for the good of the community.”

No appeal has been lodged yet, but if the developer wants to ask the Government to overturn the decision it can do so until the end of September.

To see the plans and comments on the application enter reference 16/05644/OUT in the planning search at www.wiltshire.gov.uk.