IN an extraordinary move yesterday Wiltshire Council planners approved a plan for 230 homes next to Lay Wood in Bishops Cannings but decided to continue fighting against the proposed 350 homes by Coate Bridge.
The Lay Wood plan had been recommended for approval. And officers had said the council could no longer support the reasons it gave for refusing planning permission for the homes at Coate Bridge, off Windsor Drive, last September and therefore it should not fight the appeal being brought by Scottish developers Mactaggart and Mickel.
The officers said they were powerless to fight the applications because the inspector overseeing Wiltshire’s Core Strategy said there should be 5,000 extra homes in the county and Devizes does not have a five-year land supply for housing.
Until the Core Strategy and the Devizes Neighbourhood Plan are adopted, planning officers say the National Planning Policy Framework applies, which is in favour of sustainable development.
Coun Toby Sturgis, cabinet member for spatial planning has lobbied MPs and Planning Minister Nick Boles about the situation.
He said: “I feel very upset about this but I feel it’s totally against local democracy.”
Wiltshire Council planning manager Mike Wilmott said if the council continues to fight against the Coate Bridge plan and loses at the appeal, costs could be awarded against it.
Devizes town, Roundway and Bishops Cannings parish councils objected to both planning applications and argues the Devizes Neighbourhood Plan identifies small-scale housing sites that would meet a five-year land supply.
The committee discussed the housing plan for Lay Wood first and agreed, by eight votes to three, to delegate approval to planning officers to grant permission.
More than 30 campaigners against both planning applications were in the public gallery and were left disheartened by the decision, but were buoyed at the subsequent decision to carry on fighting the Coate Bridge plan.
The committee voted unanimously to continue to oppose the application.
Coun Graham Wright said: “We need to support out community surely? Irrespective of if it costs us money. We need to be standing up for our communities and saying enough is enough.”
A public inquiry into the Coate Bridge plan is set for April 8, although Mactaggart and Mickel has re-submitted the planning application so Wiltshire Council is likely to have to determine this first.
As the Gazette was going to press yesterday Devizes MP Claire Perry said she was taking advice on whether she could get one or both planning applications called in for Mr Boles to review them.