New Year hearing on Crown Estate planning permission for Salisbury Road farmland
It has been announced that the Crown Estate's bid for outline planning permission for up to 175 houses and a hotel on their farmland west of the Salisbury Road will come before Wiltshire Council's Strategic Planning Committee on either 20 January or 10 February 2016.
Since the Crown Estate altered their plans for the development earlier this year, many new documents have been lodged with Wilshire Council - including some new objections. There are now 100 'letters of representation' from individuals and neighbouring householders - some of which are responding to the original and to the revised plans.
The North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty finds that the revised plans do nothing to reduce "the likely impact on landscape character over a wide area, and on nature conservation."
The most mentioned cause for objection to the planning application concerns the traffic generated by the homes and hotel as it joins the already very congested Salisbury Road. It was the main reason Marlborough Town Council's planning committee voted to object to the plans - by eight votes to three with three abstentions.
In its brief and to the point submission, the local branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England homes in on the traffic issue - quoting the town council and Savernake worries about increased traffic: "...to sacrifice this valuable landscape without making every endeavour to minimise the impact on both the landscape and the existing infrastructure would be negligent on the part of all the parties involved in proposing and potentially approving this scheme."
Wiltshire Council's Sustainable Transport Department is unmoved: "I remain of the view that the additional vehicular traffic generated by this development will not be such that a refusal on highway grounds could be justified."
Marlborough town councillors, Savernake Parish Council and others have mentioned that a link road running above the town from the A346 to the A345 would reduce Salisbury Road congestion. Wiltshire Council dismisses the idea: "...this would not be feasible for this level of development, and there is no policy provision for this."
Is there enough parking provision on the estate? Savernake Parish Council cites the lack of parking on the Maurice Way and Chopping Knife Lane developments as warnings against too little parking. Wiltshire Council is already talking about 'waiting restrictions' on the estate's roads.
No one is yet pointing out that the hotel must have sufficient parking or visitors will simply park all over the estate and the business park and in Tesco's car park too.
Assuming that the Crown Estate get outline planning permission, they will then sell the site onto a developer. Prospective buyers will have several major hurdles and costs to take into account before they sign on the line.
They cannot change the layout too much as the homes have to be clear of the fuel pipeline that crosses through the site. They will have long negotiations with Thames Water over water supply, rainwater drainage, sewage and protecting the collection area that feeds Marlborough's drinking water supplies.
Before full planning permission is granted they will have to undertake further archaeological studies following finds of early prehistoric human activity in the north of the site and Iron Age activity at its southern end.
The developer will have to pay infrastructure costs at several levels - whether under the old 106 agreements or the new Community Infrastructure Levy. These will be general and service specific such as education.
Wiltshire's education department says the new primary school has been designed to accommodate Marlborough's growing population and its primary age children. But St John's Academy is full. In May the school had enrolled 1,302 year 7-11 students, but only has accommodation for 1,200.
Providing the extra 34 expected secondary school places needed for this development will cost the developer £739,398. Quite how it would be spent is another matter.
No figure has yet been lodged for extra early years provision - which is required under the Council's latest 106 rules. Perhaps the closure of Marlborough's Sure Start children's centre makes it too tricky to find a way to use any money from the developer for pre-schoolers.
The Council's Arts Development Officer suggests that a public art provision for the new estate should be about £78,000.
The Sustainable Transport Department wants £90,000 for upgrading nearby pedestrian and cycle routes plus £150,000 for "the extension/support of public transport to serve the development". Whether this will still be needed after the coming cuts to bus subsidies is not mentioned.
There is, as far as Marlborough News Online can tell, no mention among Wiltshire Council's opinion papers of the strains the 175 extra homes will put on the area's health provision - specifically its primary care or GP service. It is mentioned by Savernake Parish Council.
But it seems the NHS just has to cope with more people. Perhaps the Wiltshire Health and Wellbeing Board should take a look at this part of the county's infrastructure.
A key point about the revised plans came from the Council's own World Heritage Site Coordination Unit in November. They say the Crown Estate has taken viewpoint photos from the Avebury Henge rather than areas of the World Heritage Site landscape more likely to be affected.
"The current evidence provided by the developer is inadequate to demonstrate that full account has been taken of the impact of the proposed development on the World Heritage Site and its setting."
The Crown Estate's revised plans bring the development below the 160 metre contour - the suggestion is that it should be limited still further "...to below the 150 metre contour to diminish possible impacts to the north west and the World Heritage Site."
Risking World Heritage status is surely not something Wiltshire Council could contemplate.