Prime Minister David Cameron said today that Chippenham needs more houses and the planning process could not be suspended until after Wiltshire Council allocated new sites.
But he said he wanted local people to have a say, and that in the absence of a core strategy for Wiltshire, residents should be assured that national planning policy would offer protection against losing the green belt.
Some residents fear being swallowed up by an urban expansion as several developers have announced plans for a total of 2,545 new houses in the north and south of the town. The revised core strategy says 2,625 will be needed by 2026.
Mr Cameron gave his view on the planned housing expansion while visiting the town’s rugby club to launch the Conservative's Euro election poster campaign.
He said: “I think everyone in Wiltshire knows that we need extra houses because we need people to be able to afford a home of their own.
“The key thing to understand here is that we want all councils to put in place the updated local plan and that will then deliver a much more locally driven set of solutions because local people, local councils, will be able to decide what sort of houses they want and where they are built.
“In the meantime though, people should be confident that the National Planning Policy Framework does give protection to the green belt, to green spaces, and the planning system should be able to work in its proper way, but obviously the sooner local planning can be put in place the better.
“We must make sure that the system is driven by local councils and local people.”
Some Chippenham and Wiltshire councillors believe decisions on planning applications for new housing schemes should be postponed until after the development plan document outlining new site allocations in Chippenham is finished.
Mr Cameron said: “We would be wrong to have a complete hiatus in the planning system. If we waited for every local plan to be in place we wouldn’t have anything built anywhere for potentially many years.
“We have made it very clear that pre-existing local plans can be taken into account by local authorities when they make decisions.”
Michelle Donelan, prospective parliamentary candidate for Chippenham, said she agreed with the prime minister that new builds were necessary. She said: “New homes are essential, especially affordable homes, but a key priority must also be to build commercial property to attract more businesses into our area. We need more local jobs for local people."
She said she also believed local people should have a say and would fight for local referendums on controversial planning applications.
“We currently do not use local referendums in the planning process but, if elected it is something that I would push for on controversial matters,” she said.
She did not say how many objections she thought would merit a referendum.
People can comment on the revised core strategy until 5pm on May 27. A link to the public consultation website is at http://tinyurl.com/o6ac545