Is Marlborough about to be joined with Swindon in a new development area?
Now with additional information: Another Wiltshire Council consultation is underway to gather views on changes it wants to make to the Wiltshire Core Strategy that was adopted in 2015.
The current Core Policy runs to 2026 and sets out planning policies for the development and use of land in the county. Wiltshire's review will extend the Core Policy to 2036.
From the information available it seems Marlborough may well be subject to two kinds of change in the Core Policy. One involves part of the county being seen jointly with Swindon for overall planning purposes, and the other the deletion of some policies that were taken from the old Kennet Local Plan into Wiltshire's Core Strategy.
The first change that catches the eye is the proposal that Wiltshire Council will be considered jointly with Swindon Borough Council to "...guide the overall of pattern of development across the wider area of the two councils, setting out the distribution of new jobs, homes and infrastructure".
This gets very complex and is littered with initials. Wiltshire will be divided into four "Housing Market Areas" (FMAs) - Salisbury, Trowbridge, Chippenham and Swindon. The Swindon FMA will include the Marlborough Area.
But there will also be Functional Economic Market Areas (FEMAs) - the 'A350 and West/Central Wiltshire towns' and the 'Salisbury/Amesbury/A303'.
Wiltshire Council will work on the three Wiltshire FMAs and the two Wiltshire FEMAs - talking to Swindon Council only when "cross-boundary implications" arise. Wiltshire and Swindon Council will work jointly on the Swindon FMA and the Swindon/M4 FEMA.
The resulting 'Joint Spatial Framework' (surely a 'JPF') will not be a statutory planning document: "It will not become part of either Councils’ formal Development Plan and therefore will not be used in the determination of planning applications. However, the Joint Spatial Framework will be based on a joint evidence base that supports each Local plan Review that will be independently examined. It will be formally agreed by both Councils as a basis for coordinating their respective Local Plan reviews.'
This sounds like a major change in the region's local government map or jigsaw. But quite how far Marlborough area residents should be worried by this time-consuming and no doubt costly process, remains to be seen.
It should be pointed out that Marlborough is not alone in being put into the Swindon HMA - also included are Malmesbury, Cricklade and Royal Wootton Bassett: SEE MAP AT FOOT OF THIS ARTICLE.
There is also a document giving a profile of these towns - it is document Number 5. Included in the statement about Marlborough is recognition of the town's clear need for more affordable housing and also (for the first time?) of its severe traffic problems.
More worrying may be Wiltshire Council's intention to delete three policies that were taken over by Wiltshire's Core Strategy from the Kennet Local Plan.
This was raised at Marlborough Town Council planning committee meeting on Monday (November 20) by Wiltshire Councillor Stewart Dobson. Addressing the Chairman, he asked: "I believe it is important that if deleted the revised Local Plan should still address the key points of the original policies. I would therefore ask your committee to include this comment in their response."
The three policies are:
H34 and H35 - prescribe the size and sorts of 'Recreation Provision' required for new housing sites - both large and small developments. In the case of large developments it lays down the area per thousand people for equipped play space, casual play space and formal sports or pitches.
In the light of the disputed planning application for the recreational area that may be built on off Rabley Wood View, this could be a very important policy to maintain. It may also have an impact on the future decision to build north of College Fields & Barton Park.
ED19 - concerns planning easement in Marlborough and Devizes 'outside the prime shopping area' to allow for change of use or redevelopment. This would only be granted if the proposed building 'does not create major breaks in the existing commercial frontage', introduces activities to enhance the life of the town centre, and 'integrates with the existing historic fabric of the town'.
This is one of two policies (the other can be found at E18) that Kennet Council introduced as it was 'eager to maintain a diversity of uses within the town centres, provided they are consistent with the conservation aims of the Plan' - and so encourage 'investment and maintain and enhance the built fabric'.
It is unclear why Wiltshire Council would want to delete these policies - or how they would replace them.
Marlborough Town Council planning committee has deferred discussion of this Core Strategy revamp to its next meeting on December 4. The 'Issues Paper' concerning the Wiltshire/Swindon co-operation can be read here.
Further details on how to comment can be found on the Council's website.