A COUNCILLOR says Malmesbury has been “shafted” over an approved planning appeal for more housing despite the area not being marked in its Neighbourhood Plan.

The successful appeal by Bloor Homes to build 70 houses on land at Filands angered councillors who say the decision does not take into account 650 homes already approved and that Wiltshire Council must go further to combat these cases.

Deputy mayor of the town, Kim Power, said primary schools in the town are full and children are now being sent to Lea & Garsdon – a school children cannot walk to.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Cllr Kim PowerCllr Kim Power

Cllr Power feels they are being penalised for pioneering Neighbourhood Plans in Wiltshire.

“We feel very let down by the powers that be for leaving us in this position after years of work, and bringing forward significant numbers of houses in Malmesbury,” she said.

READ MORE: PCC says there is 'no alternative' but to raise police tax by maximum amount - have your say

Malmesbury councillor Gavin Grant told the LDRS the town was being “shafted.”

“The government has ripped up neighbourhood planning.”

Inspector O S Woodwards allowed the appeal, at least in part, due to the council’s lack of a demonstrable five-year land supply.

In April 2020 it was revealed that the county had between 4.42 and 4.62 years’ supply – they added that since then “the trajectory of the shortfall has been largely flat”.

“Wiltshire is 900-odd houses short of where it needs to be to meet its five-year land supply even though he [inspector] did acknowledge that Wiltshire Council have been over-delivering on its housing development – at 140 per cent across recent years,” Cllr Grant added.

READ MORE: Bid to turn agricultural building into a house rejected

“It’s almost a mathematical game here. Where without active engagement from developers it makes it virtually impossible for Wiltshire to catch up.

“Wiltshire is also losing appeal after appeal at the moment.”

A situation the town councillors fear will continue until the land supply situation is righted.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Cllr Campbell Ritchie Photo Trevor PorterCllr Campbell Ritchie Photo Trevor Porter

The shortfall issue is due to a change to put the obligation on local authorities to demonstrate land supply.

READ MORE: Highways maintenance contracts will go out to bidders

This is compounded by the fact that Neighbourhood Plans are not given the same weight in decisions if they are more than two years old – despite that the document covers the town until 2026.

“Developers are lining up because inspector after inspector is kicking Wiltshire’s planning system and neighbourhood planning,” Cllr Grant said.

The town council is preparing to face two more planning appeals at Park Road which Strategic Planning threw out.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Malmesbury councillors meet to speak with Lib Dem leader Ed Davey over issues with the planning system Photo Trevor Porter Malmesbury councillors meet to speak with Lib Dem leader Ed Davey over issues with the planning system Photo Trevor Porter

Cllr Campbell Ritchie, who is also the spokesman for the Wiltshire Area Localism and Planning Group told the LDRS: “Since the five-year land supply shortfall became known, 650 houses – not including this appeal – have been approved.

“What this inspector is saying – and therefore the current interpretation of planning law is saying is – those can’t get taken into account until they appear in the five-year land supply.”

READ MORE: Cabinet member for finance to stand down to focus on business

Cllr Ritchie said the earliest some of these properties will count towards the target is 2023 or 2024 as they need full permission.

“We’ve got a situation where planning decisions are being made looking in a rear view mirror at information that is several years out of date,” he said.

Cllr Grant asked that if the way for Wiltshire to dig itself out of the shortfall is to approve these bids; then what the point was in elected councillors, planning officers or neighbourhood plans or listening to residents?

Deputy mayor, Kim Power said that the current land supply is calculated as of April 2020.

The only way to challenge an inspector’s ruling is to go to the high court and Cllr Grant says it is time for the council to put its money where its mouth is.

READ MORE: A former village pub could get a new lease on life

He said: “The reason we feel so strongly about that is the way the inspector viewed our Neighbourhood Plan. He gave it no weight whatsoever and also took the extraordinary view that because we had not ruled out development at Filands or Park Road – therefore it wasn’t explicit in our Neighbourhood Plan that that should not happen.

"You can’t have a position where we as a community go around every field and say no to this and that and the other.”

Cllr Power said that the one victory for the town was securing a portion of the land to be used as nursery to serve the town’s parents and children – an outcome they had to fight for.

Wiltshire Council cabinet member for spatial planning, Nick Botterill said: “The application at Filands in Malmesbury was approved by the inspector.

"I am aware that there is a view that his decision should be challenged and if we thought that there was an opportunity to do this, and we had the legal justification to do so, we would appeal against a decision.

"Challenges to appeals are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, including the chances of them being successful.

"While it is appreciated that the outcome is disappointing for the community concerned, this latest decision saw two other housing proposals defeated and provision made for a nursery on the site.  

“We are committed to doing all we can to ensure all planning decisions are made in accordance with both national and local policy and looking to publish a fresh five-year land supply statement as soon as possible.”