Marlborough area's growing infrastructure deficit: is St John's losing out?

Written by Tony Millett on .

Now Wiltshire Council has sold the amenity land it owned by Rabley Wood View to a developer, the impact of the 39 new homes to be built there becomes even more important.

Outline planning permission has been granted and before the next full meeting of Marlborough Town Council, the new owners - Green Square Housing Association - will be presenting their plans for the development (Monday, February 18).  One point of concern is the impact on secondary education.

The planning process for this amenity land has been long and tortuous.  In March 2015, Sarah Ashton of Wiltshire Council's education team estimated these 39 new homes would need eight more places at St John's Academy.   And she pointed out that in 2015 St John's would be over capacity by at least 100 students - or eight per cent.

The capital sum the developer would need to pay for these eight extra places was to be based on a set sum of £19,084 per place - making a charge of £152,672.  Normally this sum would come under a legally binding Section 106 agreement between the Council and the developer.

Ms Ashton also noted that, in line with Wiltshire Council's cabinet policy, this development would also bring a call on the developer for funds towards early years education.   Apparently this did not register with the planning department.

Five months later, under the heading 'Wiltshire Council Education', the Council's report to the Eastern Area Planning Committee (dated 17 September 2015), stated bluntly: "Following the introduction of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) on 18 May 2015, required contributions can be covered by CIL rather than by a S106 agreement."

Wiltshire Council's latest list of the eight secondary schools for which necessary expansion 'may be funded' by CIL money, does not include St John's Academy. is trying to establish how this necessary money will reach St John's.

That list does include two schools in Dorset which take students from Mere and Tisbury - and also Pewsey Vale School.  Could it be that these putative eight  students will be denied access to St John's and be required to go to Pewsey Vale?

It is also noted that by the time the Section 106 agreement was signed with the Crown Estate in July 2016 for the land west of Salisbury Road (now Redrow's Marleberg Grange), the capital funding for each new secondary school place had reached £23,940.  That compares with the £19,084 per place allowed for the Rabley Wood View homes.  Could that just be one year's inflation?

It will seem to some people to be grossly unfair that a lengthy planning process disadvantages schools to the benefit of developers. 

In the wider context, the list of places and projects where CIL money - some of it generated by housing developments in the Marlborough area - can be used, mentions Marlborough just once.  The Marlborough Leisure centre is one of ten leisure centres across the county that can be 'upgraded' using CIL funds. 

The list includes sixteen 'Chippenham Transport Strategy' projects and four 'Trowbridge Transport Strategy' projects.  There are nine 'Other transport projects' -all but one of them connected to improved railway transport including new stations and station upgrades.

Among other projects on the CIL list are five concerning cemeteries - in Bradford on Avon, Holt, Melksham, Trowbridge and Warminster. understands that an application to include Marlborough's need for a new or expanded cemetery on the list was rejected by Wiltshire Council.