Controversial Malmesbury supermarket plans put back on the shelf until May
12:49pm Monday 3rd September 2012 in News
RIVAL supermarket chains have been told they will have to wait for Malmesbury to vote on its neighbourhood plan next spring before their controversial bids to build stores in the town are decided.
Local people are set to go to the polls in a referendum in May on a blueprint drawn up for the town and Brokenborough by a steering group made up of representatives from the three parishes.
Contrary to rumour that the applications by Sainsbury’s and Waitrose were due to be decided in the next few weeks, Wiltshire Council planning officer Tracey Smith has written to both chains to tell them the community’s views come first.
A delighted Cllr Simon Killane, who chairs the steering group, said: “This decision clearly demonstrates the importance that council planning experts associate with our planning initiative. “The old developer led way of doing things is dead in Malmesbury and a new community led era of development can now shape what is best for our neighbourhood.”
Town councillor Kim Power, a member of the group was equally pleased.
“Local people are being given an opportunity to influence what happens their town.”
Her view was echoed by colleague John Gundry: “We’re all feeling elated because Wiltshire Council have decided to back the neighbourhood plan,” he said. “It’s paid off the great effort we’ve put in so far and will need to continue to put in.”
In her letter to the chains Ms Smith explained that a planning inspector’s decision in March to refuse permission for a housing estate next to White Lion Park had confirmed the “important role the community play in determining the scale and location of development in the town.”
She pointed out the inspector’s ruling that a decision ahead of any neighbourhood plan would “conflict with the evolving spatial strategy and housing objectives for the area.”
The same principles applied to the supermarket applications, said the officer.
Because of the importance of neighbourhood planning and the potential costs involved in defending an appeal at a public inquiry if an application was refused, it was considered that the most appropriate way forward was to delay determination of both bids until Malmesbury’s neighbourhood plan was completed.
They would then be decided at the same time by the northern area planning committee.
Both applications have attracted substantial numbers of objections as well as support. The main planning objection to the Waitrose proposal is the harm to the setting of the town and the listed Avon Silk Mills buildings nextdoor.
Objections to Sainsbury’s scheme at Malmesbury Garden Centre are on the grounds that is poorly located and is likely to harm the viability of the town centre.