A COUNCILLOR says Malmesbury has been “shafted” over an approved planning appeal for more housing despite the area not being marked in its Neighbourhood Plan.

The successful appeal by Bloor Homes to build 70 houses on land at Filands angered councillors who say the decision does not take into account 650 homes already approved and that Wiltshire Council must go further to combat these cases.

Deputy mayor of the town, Kim Power, said primary schools in the town are full and children are now being sent to Lea & Garsdon – a school children cannot walk to.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: Cllr Kim PowerCllr Kim Power

Cllr Power feels they are being penalised for pioneering Neighbourhood Plans in Wiltshire.

“We feel very let down by the powers that be for leaving us in this position after years of work, and bringing forward significant numbers of houses in Malmesbury,” she said.

And Malmesbury councillor Gavin Grant said the town was being “shafted.”

“The government has ripped up neighbourhood planning.”

Inspector O S Woodwards allowed the appeal, at least in part, due to the council’s lack of a demonstrable five-year land supply.

In April 2020 it was revealed that the county had between 4.42 and 4.62 years’ supply – they added that since then “the trajectory of the shortfall has been largely flat”.

“Wiltshire is 900-odd houses short of where it needs to be to meet its five-year land supply even though he [inspector] did acknowledge that Wiltshire Council have been over-delivering on its housing development – at 140 per cent across recent years,” Cllr Grant added.

“It’s almost a mathematical game here. Where without active engagement from developers it makes it virtually impossible for Wiltshire to catch up.

“Wiltshire is also losing appeal after appeal at the moment.”

A situation the councillors fear will continue until the land supply situation is righted.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: Cllr Campbell Ritchie Photo Trevor PorterCllr Campbell Ritchie Photo Trevor Porter

The shortfall issue is due to a change to put the obligation on local authorities to demonstrate land supply.

This is compounded by the fact that Neighbourhood Plans are not given the same weight in decisions if they are more than two years old – despite that the document covers the town until 2026.

“Developers are lining up because inspector after inspector is kicking Wiltshire’s planning system and neighbourhood planning,” Cllr Grant said.

The town council is preparing to face two more planning appeals at Park Road which Strategic Planning threw out.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: Malmesbury councillors meet to speak with Lib Dem leader Ed Davey over issues with the planning system Photo Trevor Porter Malmesbury councillors meet to speak with Lib Dem leader Ed Davey over issues with the planning system Photo Trevor Porter

Cllr Campbell Ritchie, who is also the spokesman for the Wiltshire Area Localism and Planning Group said: “Since the five-year land supply shortfall became known, 650 houses – not including this appeal – have been approved.

“What this inspector is saying – and therefore the current interpretation of planning law is saying is – those can’t get taken into account until they appear in the five-year land supply.”

Cllr Ritchie said the earliest some of these properties will count towards the target is 2023 or 2024 as they need full permission.

“We’ve got a situation where planning decisions are being made looking in a rear view mirror at information that is several years out of date,” he said.

Cllr Grant asked that if the way for Wiltshire to dig itself out of the shortfall is to approve these bids; then what the point was in elected councillors, planning officers or neighbourhood plans or listening to residents?

Deputy mayor, Kim Power said that the current land supply is calculated as of April 2020.

The only way to challenge an inspector’s ruling is to go to the high court and Cllr Grant says it is time for the council to put its money where its mouth is.

He said: “The reason we feel so strongly about that is the way the inspector viewed our Neighbourhood Plan. He gave it no weight whatsoever and also took the extraordinary view that because we had not ruled out development at Filands or Park Road – therefore it wasn’t explicit in our Neighbourhood Plan that that should not happen.

"You can’t have a position where we as a community go around every field and say no to this and that and the other.”

Cllr Power said that the one victory for the town was securing a portion of the land to be used as nursery to serve the town’s parents and children – an outcome they had to fight for.