Residents claim council bias over controversial Waitrose store application for Malmesbury
RESIDENTS of one of Malmesbury’s historic landmarks have accused Wiltshire Council’s planning officers of maladministration in their handling of the controversial planning application by Waitrose for a store behind their homes.
The official complaint lodged last week alleged senior planning officers were biased in favour of Waitrose, ignored the strong advise of their specialist advisers, failed to protect the amenity of the 33 households in the Mills and were “unduly secretive about their conduct and relationship with the application.”
Resident Caroline Moore told the Standard: “In a nutshell, we are complaining that Wiltshire Council were biased in favour of Waitrose and unreasonably overrode the advice of both English Heritage and no fewer than three in-house specialist advisers.”
She pointed to a freedom of information request she made as a member of the Malmesbury Greenfield Campaign asking for copies of communications between officers and the developers, notes of notes of meetings between 2010 and 2013 and correspondence with the owners of the site before 2012.
It took around 80 days to be fully answered and as a result came too late for them to share all their concerns with the Government, which intervened the day after the decision had been taken but then said the application should be determined at local level.
The application was given the go-ahead by councillors at the northern area planning committee in May. At the same meeting a plan by Sainsbury’s for a store and offices at Malmesbury Garden Centre was thrown out.
Archaeological work on the site started this week ahead of the build and is expected to continue until Christmas.
But in a joint letter to Wiltshire Council, residents of seven mills homes claimed they would suffer substantial loss due to the actions of the council officers and warn that they planned to approach the Local Government Ombudsman to impose sanctions and award damages that reflect the “adverse effect on our residential amenity arising from noise, disturbance, loss of privacy, loss of views and detriment to the setting of the Avon Mills Grade II listed buildings.”
She said the flats would need double glazing to block out the extra noise.
There were also concerns that unless protected by covenants the green buffer zone between the store and the mills could eventually become extra car parking and the planned steps next to the mills accessing the site would lead to a loss of .
In response Wiltshire Council said the allegations were being investigated through its complaints procedure.