Salisbury Road development: Crown Estate's revised plan cuts number of homes by a fifth
The Crown Estate has submitted revised outline plans for the housing development on their land west of the Salisbury Road opposite the business park. After responses from Wiltshire Council to their original application, they have reduced the number of houses to be built from 220 to "up to 175" - and are still retaining the hotel.
The cut in the number of new homes by one fifth follows the reduction in the size of the housing development from 7.6 hectares to 5.5 hectares. This is due primarily to the inclusion of a larger 'ecological mitigation' area and a revised landscape design to ensure building heights do not show above the horizon - maintaining the area's 'outstanding natural beauty'.
There have been 69 letters of representation from local people about the original plans. Consultation on these revised plans is open until November 19. The documents can be found here.
The enlarged 'ecological mitigation' area is perhaps the most significant addition to the scheme. It will be in the form of a wildflower meadow bordered on its two longest sides by newly planted trees. It will also include a pond.
The aim is to provide "an extensive buffer between the southern edge of the development area and the Marlborough Tunnel." The grass, wildflowers and trees will provide appropriate habitats for bats, dormice and reptiles.
There will be 'stock proof fencing' along the eastern and western boundaries of this area to discourage access to the Marlborough Tunnel (and its bats), and to the disused railway line, and also to discourage people using the public right of way from entering the wildflower meadow.
The Crown Estate is now 'seeking to expedite delivery of the Salisbury Road Strategic Site'. They are calling in aid the Wiltshire Core Strategy (which requires 'tangible progress' to be made on this site within 18 months of the adoption of the Core Strategy) and the government's National Planning Policy Framework (which says plans that 'accord with the development plan should be approved without delay.')
The Crown Estate's covering letter points out that their new plans could come before the Council's planning committees being held in November and the first ten days of December. Wiltshire Council has set the target date for a decision on the revised plans as 8 February 2016.
There are two outstanding areas of contention which the Crown Estate does not consider to be a bar to granting outline planning permission.
The first is the problems Thames Water say they are facing. They say they could not provide water at the necessary pressures and they say the town's systems could not cope with the waste and foul water from the houses. There is also the matter of the 'source protection zone' around a borehole used for the town's water supply: "This development is in a very sensitive location from a groundwater abstraction/public water supply perspective".
Thames Water has listed ten areas of concern which will need sorting out before work can begin. These include re-routing a mains water supply pipe - work the developer will have to pay for.
The other area of contention concerns the increased traffic on the Salisbury Road caused by the development. It is certainly a live issue for many of the local people who have sent in letters of representation about the plans. And it was listed as a concern when Marlborough Town Council approved the original scheme (six voting for, two against and three abstaining.)
Wiltshire Council's report when the site was to have 220 homes, saw no problem in terms of traffic congestion - while admitting that the Salisbury Road was sometimes blocked with half a mile of standstill traffic. Wiltshire Council's Sustainable Transport Department also wrote: "I consider this site to be sustainable in transport terms."
But they did call for £150,000 to be paid by the developer 'for the extension/support of public transport to serve the development'. However, as bus subsidies are being decreased so much, this may not now be considered a viable way forward.
Since the original plans were submitted in February, it is clear that the traffic problem on the Salisbury Road has got worse. Perhaps it is time for the 'further impact assessment' of the development on the town's traffic that town councillors wanted.
There is one outstanding niggle concerning highways. Wiltshire Council told the Crown Estate that the access road into the new estate 'must be 7.3 metres' wide as far as the hotel entrance. The Crown Estate has come back and said they will make this part of the access road six metres wide. Where have the 1.3. metres gone? And why?