A one-day referendum could be held in Malmesbury later this year to determine the town’s future development for decades to come.

The public will be able to vote on whether a Malmesbury Neighbourhood Plan – the first of its kind in Wiltshire – should be adopted.

The plan will contain key issues such as the provision of homes along with industrial, commercial, leisure, education and retail facilities.

It will also tackle the thorny issue of whether – and to what extent – new development should spread into the surrounding countryside.

A draft Malmesbury Neighbourhood Plan has been drawn-up following extensive consultations.

A public hearing will now take place at Malmesbury Town Hall at 10am on Thursday, September 18 when independent examiner John Mattocks will consider the draft.

Mr Mattocks will afterwards decide whether more changes are required to the town’s blueprint for future development – or whether the plan is ready to go to a local referendum.

If he felt it was ready then a one-day referendum could be held before the end of the year.

A report summarising his findings will be issued soon after the hearing for the public to inspect.

Wiltshire councillor Toby Sturgis, cabinet member for planning, said: “This is an important step for a planning document to become policy for Malmesbury.

“It is the first neighbourhood plan to go to examination in Wiltshire and we will all be waiting with keen interest to see the outcome.”

Interested parties have been notified by email, but Wiltshire Council stress that the hearing is a public meeting for all to attend.

An initial plan for Malmesbury was submitted to Wiltshire Council early in December. This was followed by a six-week consultation on the draft from January to March this year, during which a total of 117 comments were submitted for consideration.

More details of the material relating to the examination can be found at http://tinyurl.com/al7s2tz