MP Michelle Donelan is threatening to withdraw her support for a controversial distributor road around the town and has expressed grave reservations over the Future Chippenham scheme.

In the letter to Wiltshire Council leader, Philip Whitehead she said she had repeatedly asked for improvements in Chippenham town centre and was told the £75m grant (from the Housing Infrastructure Fund) would offer this.

And she’s demanded confirmation by the end of play on Wednesday that all of the money will be spent in Chippenham.

Route plans for the Chippenham distributor road

Route plans for the Chippenham distributor road

Additionally, Ms Donelan took aim at the consultation on the road route options – which she said should have been open and inclusive. Instead, she wrote, residents were “only being presented with thousands of houses and a road” with no communication on the future vision of Chippenham.

"I supported the bid back in 2018 but was very clear that my support was only given under the premise that this plan would deliver for Chippenham and local people," she wrote.

"I made my support explicitly contingent on the plan delivering for the town in a number of ways but I am deeply concerned that this has not been the vision which the council have shared with residents over the last few months

“I was assured by Wiltshire Council at the time that this was also the council’s vision and that Chippenham’s interests were the key motivation rather than just a desire for more houses.

“I now have grave reservations and I cannot stand by and let Chippenham suffer.”

Ms Donelan added that the letter would act as her formal statement withdrawing support for the project unless the council presented written confirmation that it intended to uphold its pledge to fund a town centre multi-story car park and a new family-friendly leisure centre.

The MP said she would also expect confirmation that the speed limit on the new road would not stop it in reducing congestion, that the plan will increase “the sense of community and preserve the town centre”, that council will work with the CCG to make sure medical services are bolstered and that there were plans to facilitate more active and greener lifestyles – with cycling and walking at the heart of the plans.

“I said in my letter of support back in 2018 “these are the things that residents are crying out for and any large scale development that fails to meet these will not have my support”,” the letter continues

“I should also like to seek confirmation that all of the CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) money will be invested in Chippenham not elsewhere in the county.

“I should like these assurances by EOP Wednesday, March 3 given that the consultation closes on March 12.”

Responding to Ms Donelan’s letter, Cllr Whitehead said: “We are grateful to have received the letter from Michelle Donelan MP concerning the consultations that are taking place on the Local Plan Review and Future Chippenham road route options. 

“The Future Chippenham Project team will be responding to Michelle on the same basis as its response to Chippenham Town Council.

“This provides the opportunity for us to clarify; the purpose of the two consultations, the master planning consultation that will take place after this summer following announcement of the preferred road route option and then the planning applications for the distributor road and masterplan, subject to progress on the Local Plan Review, at the end of the year.

“The list of requests made by Michelle is of course only able to be met if the Local Plan Review leads to development which in turn will generate planning obligations on the developments and community infrastructure levy payments. 

“The council has secured the £75m Housing Infrastructure Funding to part-finance the distributor road infrastructure if required for development, thus enabling master planning and infrastructure led development. 

“It is worth stating the requests are unchanged from when the HIF bid was made and the current consultation is about the detail of possible road routes which were not available at time of the bid.”