Statement in response to Conditional Approval of Reserved Matters Application (17/03844)

“We note with considerable disappointment the decision by Wiltshire Council Planning team to grant conditional approval to the Reserved Matters application by Bellway Homes (17/03844) for the land to the north of Holt Road.

The Town Council has repeatedly requested a meaningful dialogue on the concerns raised both by the community and our Planning and Environment Committee. Instead we have been, in effect,  fobbed off.  In our meetings with the developer’s representatives we felt that they were unprepared, and had no real intention in engaging with us or changing their plans.

This feeling is reinforced by Bellway’s recent written response to the Town Council, in which they fail to address satisfactorily many of our primary concerns in relation to design quality, site layout, or the future needs of the town.

For example, consultation with local agents to assess the local housing market will produce only a requirement for larger-scale properties that will provide a greater return on investment for the developer and agents – not address the known housing needs of local people who are or have already been priced out of the local housing market.  While we recognise that the developer is meeting the statutory 40% affordable housing requirement, we note that this is a matter of statute, not of choice, and it remains to be seen whether these properties will be truly affordable.

Bellway’s response to our letter fails to engage properly with a local community that will suffer the inconvenience of a large-scale development, perhaps best described as generic ‘boxes made of ticky-tacky’.  We have no confidence of the quality of the buildings that will be erected, and are very concerned at the impact on the easterly entry-point to the town and on the local ecology.

To argue that this is the only economically viable development option is disingenuous, for it suggests that Bellway can only make money by putting up poorly designed, pick and drop housing. If this is indeed the case perhaps they should consider returning the site to the community.

We are not arguing that Bradford on Avon deserves special treatment – indeed, we would very much love to see an overall increase in the design and quality of developments across the county, and especially in our neighbouring towns of Melksham and Trowbridge. We will, however, continue to question the ethical right of developers to opt for profit-maximisation and lowest development denominators over sustainable, ecologically sound developments that serve and enhance the community.

This decision is the result of the abrogation of responsibility in providing outline planning permission on appeal several years ago, which has hamstrung both this Town Council and Wiltshire Council Planning Officers in protecting the built environment in the town, as required under the Neighbourhood Plan.  We absolutely fully support the need for sustainable, affordable housing in the town – that is not what this development represents.

We are currently assessing our options on a formal response, and will provide more information shortly.  In the meantime, we call on Bellway to stop all current work on the site, and for community groups and residents to stand together against this decision. ”

Cllr Dom Newton

Leader of the Council

Councillor Dom Newton

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