Widham Farm ~ plenty to object to

This application has been coming back a few times over the years, in October 2008 for 148 dwellings in a “sustainable” location. It was refused by North Wiltshire District Council, 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 seek 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.

These reasons still exist.

The application came back with a reduced number of houses to 136, refused, and went to appeal (November 2009) which was dismissed because:

  • Concern that most of the occupants would find work outside of the village and would be likely 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 contributing 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 for locals 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.

These reasons are still valid.

The application came back in 2011 with 50 houses (apparently even more “sustainable”). The Wiltshire Council argued refusal 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 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.

These reasons are still valid. It went to appeal (October 2012) and was dismissed again because of the presumption was against development outside of the settlement framework boundary and remained a relevant policy consideration, and no other matters when considered together outweighed this conflict.

It came back in December 2012 and 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 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 Framework with the local plan.

So no change, same old application and same old reasons why it should not be allowed.

Here we are in 2021 now back up to 61 houses – and, of course, they are “sustainable”.

At a recent planning application, the Wiltshire Council stated that the proposed development represents a scale of development which is far greater than necessary to help meet the housing needs of the Large Village of Purton. The development is located outside of the framework boundary and has not been brought forward through the local plan process. …..and that was for 25 houses.

There is nothing in this amended application that warrants a different outcome. The Transport Plan is theoretical and seems convinced that everyone cycles to work or is prepared to. The bus service is known to change as economics dictate so no reliance can be placed on the No 53 bus service. The fact is, this is a rural location not an urban one. The Plan is just cut and paste from a standard urban template.

There is no meaningful analysis of future employment needs and so one can foresee that the so-called employment land will prove to be non-viable and there will be a future application erect more dwellings ~ in essence housing development by stealth.

The known flooding issues in the area are not taken into account and the Flood Risk Assessment Report is conceptualised within an urban context (indeed, the authors of the report exhort the reader to “think urban” and shows no understanding of the local issues regarding the extensive flooding that regularly occurs there. The engineering systems that are proposed will ultimately be taken over by the Wiltshire Council to be maintained in perpetuity, and funded by taxpayers.

The development is supposed to rely on something called “natural ventilation” which makes no sense, all developments are “naturally ventilated”. Presumably this is to counter heatwaves, but makes no scientific sense. Climate change is barely mentioned. This is a development concept from the last century and does not address 21st century issues.

So, the reasons for refusal are:

  1. This location remains outside the framework boundary;
  2. It has not been brought forward through the local plan process;
  3. It disregards the Neighbourhood Plan;
  4. The proposed development represents a scale of development which is greater than necessary to help meet the housing needs of the Large Village of Purton; and
  5. Approving this application, which promotes car journeys and out-commuting would be against the Climate Emergency which Wiltshire Council has declared.

The application does not take into account climate change at all in any meaningfully way, and is simply inappropriate.

Click here to go to the application to comment. Closing time and date is 5pm on Thursday 7 September.

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