Fury as fight against Calne homes bid is dropped

This Is Wiltshire: Members of the South Calne Residents Association at an earlier protest against the factory plan Members of the South Calne Residents Association at an earlier protest against the factory plan

South Calne residents are angry that Wiltshire Council will not fight an application for 125 houses and a care home in Marden Farm, near Rookery Park.

The application by developers Gleeson was rejected by Wiltshire Council in August last year. An appeal will take place at the council offices in Monkton Park, Chippenham, on February 24.

But today Wiltshire planning officers said they could not fight the appeal because of a letter from planning inspector Andrew Seaman criticising parts of the council’s core strategy.

The letter, received late last year, said the council should allocate provision for 42,000 houses across the county within five years, 5,000 more than originally planned. The Marden Farm development was rejected on the basis that Calne has already fulfilled its housing allocation until 2026 and that the development was outside the framework boundary.

Carolyn Gibson, of the council’s planning department, said the scenario had changed and the council’s argument for rejecting the application would not stand up.

She said: “He does believe that we do have a five year land supply, however he does ask for this additional work to be carried out to ensure that it’s there.

“The inspector has also questioned whether the settlement boundaries are up to date across the county.

“The questions is not specific to Calne, but across the whole of Wiltshire. As Calne is a market town it’s likely that the figures for Calne will increase.

“We have asked about how we can prepare to defend this application given the current circumstances and the response we have been given is that there are no grounds to defend the appeal.”

Developer Gleeson plans to demolish a bungalow at Stockley Lane to create a main access road to the site, but objectors say this will create a danger point in the road. They also say the lack of community facilities in the area would force people to drive to Calne, adding to existing pollution problems.

But these were not added as reasons for rejecting the plan at the time, and it is too late to add them now.

Coun Fred Westmoreland said: “I wish that we had put in there all the reasons we had said when we were debating at the meeting. We have put ourselves in an indefensible position and I apologise to Calne about it, but I don’t believe we can do anything about it.”

Four councillors voted for a motion to offer no defence at the appeal and four voted against this, leaving the decision down to Coun Andrew Davis, chair of the strategic planning committee, who carried the motion.

Alastair Cone, of The Rise, Calne, said: “The council apologised for not putting all the reasons down in the original refusal and because of that their reasons for refusal supposedly cannot be defended.

“I would question the competence of the planning officers.”

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