Full report: Town Council's planning committee rejects revised Crown Estate development plan
In a shock decision, the Marlborough Town Council planning committee (November 2) voted down the revised plans for the housing development on Crown Estate land west of the Salisbury Road opposite the business park.
There was support for the plans from several councillors and praise for the 'very fastidious' way Crown Estate developments had been built elsewhere - with 'very high standards' of design and materials.
Other councillors were worried that this was only an application for outline planning permission and anything could happen when the site was sold on by the Crown Estate to a developer.
The revised plans cut the number of houses by a fifth, retain the hotel and, recognising the site is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, move development down the hill in order to maintain the surrounding landscape. The town council's decision is advisory and is not binding as Wiltshire Council is the planning authority.
The main issue for councillors remained the impact of the development on the town's traffic - and especially on the already dire traffic situation on the Salisbury Road.
During questions, several people from nearby houses raised the traffic issue. Peter Ridal, whose career was in transport management, called Wiltshire Council's traffic assessment for this development "quite awful...and its conclusions extremely misleading."
And councillors queued up to support this view. Councillor Mervyn Hall said the Crown Estate's view was that traffic was not their problem: "They are building what is really a very large cul de sac with one exit onto a major road." Councillor Richard Allen called on fellow councillors to reject the planning application on the grounds of traffic: "We need to continually bang the drum about traffic in this town."
Councillor Bryan Castle raised the long-debated idea of having a link or relief road between the Salisbury Road (A346) and the 'Pewsey Road' (A345) just south of St John's Academy.
Councillor Fogg said that Wiltshire Council's highways department were 'a law unto themselves', but wanted to support the plans especially the inclusion of the hotel. Councillor Loosmore: "We have to say we object to this because there are traffic issues that haven't been gone into properly."
A motion to approve the application supported by Councillors Dow, Barrett-Morton, Fogg and Kirk Wilson was voted down. And the committee adopted this resolution: "This Council rejects the [Crown Estate's] outline planning application on the basis of the insufficient resolution of present and future traffic - i.e. a relief road."
The first version of plans put forward by the Crown Estate were severely criticised by the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The revised plans reduce the number of homes from 220 to 'up to 175', retain the hotel and - importantly - move the development down the escarpment and below the horizon.
Before the vote, Ian Mellor - a professional town planner who lives in Marlborough and who has been campaigning against the proposed development north of College Fields and Barton Park - was given the floor.
He praised Wiltshire Council for rejecting development on the upper slopes: "The Crown Estate now accept that the main issue is the impact on landscape and now say 'our revised proposals safeguard the AONB'."
And he asked the committee to confirm that this principle would be maintained so that "...the landscape setting of the town will be protected from those who simply want to make a fast buck in the short term at the expense of compromising the setting of Marlborough as a Kennet valley town for ever. I sincerely trust that the important precedent of protecting the upper valley slopes will be fully taken into account and reflected in the Neighbourhood Plan."