New housing requirements for Chippenham – with no maximum figure for new builds – have prompted fears that the town is at the mercy of developers.
At least 2,625 new houses are to be built in Chippenham over the next 12 years.
This is to comply with Wiltshire Council’s assertion that 4,510 new dwellings must be built in the 20-year period ending 2026.
The new figures published two weeks ago mean a 13 per cent increase for Chippenham town’s allocation, after the core strategy inspector prompted a rethink last year by saying the housing allocation fell short of what would be required.
All the Chippenham sites classed as strategically important to build on were also scrapped, as he ruled the council’s assessment of them to be unfair.
Now Chippenham is the only town marked with the proviso of ‘at least’ for the number of new homes, which Wiltshire Councillor Chris Caswill feels is dangerous, creating an “open season for developers”.
He said: “Along with the fact that there’s been no decision on where they’re to be allocated, any developer can take a punt. There’s a real risk of all the sites ended up being built on at this rate.
“It took years of public discussions to arrive at the original figure of 4,000 and now this new figure has been decided by a council officer under delegated powers, with no opportunity for scrutiny by the public or even elected members.”
He also believed it was unfair in comparison with a zero increase in Salisbury’s figure.
Chippenham’s ‘at least 4,510’ requirement up to 2026 compares with 1,440 for Calne, 1,220 for Corsham, 885 for Malmesbury, 2,010 for Devizes, 680 for Marlborough and 6,810 for Trowbridge.
Chippenham town councillor Sandie Webb said it was absurd that there was no upper limit.
She said: “We’re already a hugely expanding town, Hunters Moon will stretch our infrastructure.
“I can’t see the roads and parking happening, I can only see us becoming a bigger dormitory town.”
The Schedule of Proposed Modifications published on February 28 says: “The limited opportunities for the redevelopment of brownfield sites in Chippenham means that it is necessary to identify greenfield site on the edge of town.”
Anne Henshaw, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “What’s important is that this is a minimum figure, meaning if other applications come in there’s nothing to stop them.
“The crucial thing is that it should be for the local community people who decide the best sites for them to go, and there will be consultation.”
New sites will be identified in a Chippenham Site Allocations Development Plan Document, yet to be written, and public consultation is planned for the autumn.
Planning inspector Andrew Seaman said 2015 was a realistic date to review this document.
A Wiltshire Council spokesman said: “The process of preparing the Chippenham Site Allocations Development Plan Document will be led by Wiltshire Council.
“There will be a thorough process of consultation and engagement. We are committed to ensuring local communities and interested bodies will get to have their say to help shape the decision making process.
“Details in relation to consultation events will be widely publicised.”