Widham Farm ~ “no” should mean “no”

This application has been coming back a few times over the years:

October 2008 for 148 dwellings in a “sustainable” location. The Council (at the time it was North Wiltshire District Council) said this land at Widham Farm/Widham Grove was not needed since the Council had the capacity to meet local needs. It went to appeal and was refused in January 2009 by the Inspector because:

  • The proposed development was in the countryside, outside the framework boundary, where residential development was not acceptable under various policies;
  • It was located remote from employment opportunities and services and not well-served by public transport, and contrary to various policies which sought to reduce growth in the length and number of car journeys; and
  • Insufficient evidence to determine the existing level of flooding on the application site together with any associated mitigation measures in order to ensure that the proposed development would not cause demonstrable harm by virtue of being at risk from flooding or resulting in increased surface-water run-off to the detriment of the water environment and the amenity of existing and proposed residents.

So, the applicant had a bit of a think and agreed to reduce the number of houses to 136 and went to appeal.

At appeal it was refused (in November 2009) because:

  • Concern that most of the occupants would find work outside of the village and would be likely to commute to Swindon. This would exacerbate its commuter function and suggests the development was not limited to just meeting ‘local needs’;
  • Other benefits were not clear; the open space was split into pockets distributed around the site, and while would contribute to an attractive environment for the new residents did not seem to offer much benefit to other villagers;
  • Walkers using the footpaths would generally prefer to cross the fields as they stand, rather than walk through a housing estate;
  • Although the applicant would fund improvements to the local bus service this was not seen as a significant benefit to the village as a whole;
  • The education contribution was designed to deal with the extra demands placed on the schools by the development, so there would be little improvement locally as a result; and
  • The extra traffic generated by the proposed 136 houses would not be a benefit to the village, and could not  be entirely designed away.

So, the applicant had another little think and came back in 2011 with 50 houses. These were even more “sustainable”. We know this because we were told that repeatedly, about four times the number of times than in previous applications.

This time the Wiltshire Council argued the application was premature as the Local Plan would be emerging soon. The Council stated it would have refused anyway based on several reasons including:

  • The site lies in the open countryside;
  • The application is premature, given the progression of Wiltshire’s Local Development Plan and prejudicial to the Council’s plan-led approach to sustainable development and the phasing of future growth;
  • The site was unallocated and not required in the context of the emerging Core Strategy; and
  • Scale of development was contrary to policy and not appropriate for the “large village” of Purton in that it is not “limited” and fails to help meet the housing needs and to improve employment opportunities, services and facilities.

Anyway it went to appeal in October 2012 and it was dismissed again because the Local Plan presumption was against development outside of the settlement framework boundary and remained a relevant policy consideration, and no other matters even when considered together outweighed this conflict.

Then, using a different agent, the applicant went to the High Court and overturned that decision and came back in December 2012 with pretty similar proposals for 50 dwellings. This was dismissed by a different inspector on 7 November 2013:

  ….concluding that the proposed development would be unacceptable in principle because it would be located outside of the settlement boundary established in the local plan and it would cause harm by creating a pattern of development that fails to protect the countryside. The core planning principles are clear: that planning should actively manage patterns of growth as well as protect the countryside; this is part and parcel of delivering sustainable development. The proposed housing would result in a pattern of development that fails to protect the intrinsic character of the countryside or support the vitality of the rural community. It would not accord with the local plan.

Fast forward to 2021 now back up to 61 houses – and, of course, they are “sustainable”.

At another, recent and successful planning appeal, Wiltshire Council stated that the proposed development,  even if it was within the framework boundary, exceeded the scale of development appropriate for the Large Village of Purton. Yet the development was located outside of the framework boundary and had not been brought forward through the local plan process. …..and that was for 25 houses.

The agent has form in trying to overwhelm local people though dozens of documents and hundreds of pages, with lots of technical detail.

Although tiring, objections must be made again:

  1. This location remains outside the framework boundary;
  2. It has not been brought forward through the local plan process;
  3. The proposed development represents a scale of development which is inappropriate ; and
  4. Approving this application, which promotes car journeys and out-commuting, would be against the Climate Emergency that Wiltshire Council has declared.

The application, although mentioning climate change dozens of times, fails to recognise that Government advice has yet to be updated. This location has inherently suffered from pluvial flooding (rainfall) for decades, and as we have all seen from China to Germany (and London quite recently) pluvial flooding is not to be underestimated. It cannot just be engineered away.

This same old application stills suffers from basic flaws 1 – 4 and does not take into account climate change adequately, AND of course it is contrary to the Neighbourhood Plan which calculates that this location is one of the most unsustainable in the whole of Purton Parish.

On the above basis,  the application should be refused.

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