Most town councillors vote for a full housing needs assessment for the Marlborough Area Neighbourhood Plan
It seemed quite a mundane part of the night's business at the full meeting of Marlborough Town Council (November 7): to be robust the Marlborough Area Neighbourhood Plan (MANP) needed a proper housing needs assessment carried out.
Perhaps it was the time of the year or the moment in the electoral cycle, but the cost of 'up to' £14,795 for this assessment struck Councillor Dobson as 'an astronomical figure': "We all agree we have a desperate shortage of affordable housing. It is going to confirm what we already know."
It was noted that during earlier discussion about the sell-off of the social housing at Moffat House, one councillor had to be reminded where Moffat House was.
And that showed there was another elephant roaming around this discussion - the difference between 'affordable housing' (affordable by whom?) and social housing (which was once affordable by anyone in need of it.) Councillor Fogg: "I have no idea what social housing is required for the town. Only a fool would proceed [with the Neighbourhood Plan] without knowing what is required. If we did not do this survey we have just wasted our time."
Councillor Cook, who is leading on the plan with Councillor Hall, reminded councillors that money was already set aside in the reserves for this, but as it was a cost of more than £10,000 councillors had to vote on it.
Councillor Dobson: "Of course I'm not against consulting people, but that's an awful lot of money for something that anyone can do."
Councillor Loosmore argued that the plan must be able to survive scrutiny: "Without using a creditable organisation the Neighbourhood Plan could be said to be flawed."
There was then some heated to and fro over what the MANP working party could do or had done. At which point the Town Clerk reminded the meeting how the MANP was being drawn up: "We are doing it properly - the Council is the qualifying body."
Councillors voted in favour of spending the money on the housing needs assessment. It was not unanimous.
Back briefly to the social housing problems of residents of Moffat House, which its owners, the Guinness Partnership, are going to close and sell-off. Councillor Hall raised the matter and as the relevant member of Wiltshire Council, Councillor Dobson responded.
Following the recent death of one of the occupants, there are now four people trying to find alternative places to live. Councillor Dobson said: "'Homes4Wiltshire' [a department of Wiltshire Council] are very aware of the situation." And he said he hoped the four would be re-homed "...before Guinness issue their formal notice".
The situation is somewhat obscure: despite the Council being 'aware', up to last weekend at least one occupant had had no contact at all from Wiltshire Council. It is also clear that the Guinness Partnership have stated in writing that they will issue formal eviction notices if the occupants do not find alternative housing.