Rabley Wood View land sell-off: new amenity area is off-shore and wet
On Tuesday (January 30), Wiltshire Council Cabinet is meeting to approve the 'appropriation' of the amenity and play land off Rabley Wood View so it can immediately be sold off for a housing development in the midst of the existing homes.
Cabinet members have been sent an email by nearby residents Jayne and David Baker making two main points: first that the National Planning Policy Framework demands that "recreational land can only be sold if:- 'the loss resulting from the proposed development would be replaced by equivalent or better provision in terms of quantity and quality in a suitable location'.” The NPPF is not referenced in the documents before the Cabinet on Tuesday.
Secondly, that the area of water meadow to be used for the new play and amenity area floods (as water meadows are meant to do) - and is bound to flood more often now that Thames Water are not taking water from the River Og which flows through the water meadows.
The above photo was taken last Wednesday (January 24) when three inches of water were recorded on the area of water meadow where the new open play space would be.
They have also submitted five written questions. One of these asks: "Can Cabinet confirm that, in the event of a sale of the land, Wiltshire Council would set up binding contracts with any future owners of the whole area to ensure the entire compensatory open space would be well-drained, safe and in good order."
The main argument of Wiltshire Council's planners and councillors is that in law council held land can be sold if it is no longer required for the purpose it is being held for. They say that the provision of new recreational land means that the land they want to sell is 'no longer required'.
The Report that will be in front of Cabinet members states that following 'appropriation' disposal of the site 'will generate a substantial capital receipt for the Council'. It also reveals that the agreement between Manton Estate (the Sangster family) and Wiltshire Council has been 'assigned to RBC Trustees (Guernsey) Limited.' That company provides 'a complete range of wealth management services'.
The Report does not state that this offshore company can guarantee that the eventual developer will still have access to or purchase of the water meadow land to provide substitute play and amenity areas. Nor does it state under what legal jurisdiction any disputes over the development would be heard - Guernsey or English law?
The Report nowhere mentions the residents of the existing houses - the people who currently use the amenity area. They were told this land would remain amenity land for their use 'in perpetuity'.
The Report contains several statements whose truth is asserted but not examined, let alone proved.
In the paragraph headed 'Environmental Impact of the Proposals', the Report states boldly: "...there are no known environmental impacts of the proposal to appropriate" - note that it does not say 'of the housing development'. It does not explain how you can drain part of a water meadow without impact on the environment of that water meadow.
When it comes to the impact on public health, the paragraph's title omits the words 'of the proposal'. It says "The appropriation itself has no public health implications".
That seems to imply that the housing development and the replacement amenity land will have public health impacts. But then the Report continues: "It is considered that the provision of alternative facilities will at minimum retain an equivalent public health standard." How they know whether children will be allowed to play on an area more distant from their homes is not clear.
The same 'at a minimum' judgment applies to the impact of the proposal on Equalities: "The appropriation itself has equalities implications. It is considered that the provision of alternative facilities will at minimum retain an equalities standard."
An accompanying document gives some complaints about the appropriation with some rebuttals. However, while the strong letter from Marlborough Town Council (which we reported here) is included, no attempt is made to rebut its many succinct points.
Of course, at Tuesday's meeting, the Cabinet may have to abort the whole issue as the Report's Paragraph 16 ends "See also paragraph 20." But there is no Paragraph 20.
You can watch Tuesday's Wiltshire Council Cabinet meeting on line here. It starts at 9.30am.