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Planning is now a total Cock-up

(June 14, 2014)

Thoughts by Paul Macdonald

The first twelve months of being a councillor sitting on the town council planning advisory committee combined with my forty years of taking an interest in the subject have somehow made me aware of what a total cock-up it has now become.

The problem now is where do I begin.

Begin with the overall cock-up that is the strategic planning process for Wiltshire as planning chaos now ensues after the actions of the government, planning councillors, and officers.

Over six years ago my chum Steve and I agreed that we would be positive about the future of the town and we were one of the first to contribute a positive set of ideas to the launch of the Core Strategy that would replace the district plan.

The district plan is now being described by developers who want to get planning permission to build on every green field they can find as out of date but the Wiltshire Core Strategy that should have replaced it has still not been agreed.

The Core Strategy has in its current form agreed to put Warminster at the forefront of providing employment opportunities first for this part of Wiltshire which proposed right at the start of the process.

Yet the Planning Inspector in his request for further consideration of the total number of houses for the county to be increased seeems to have fallen dispropotiattely on Warminster.

It was in the last decade that the Core Strategy consultation began. The timing should be now taken into consideration. Is the current core core strategy not 'fit for purpose' in Wiltshire as the baseline that it started from is so many years ago?

Pickles has us in a PIckle

So we have now have a government that is a coalition between two political parties. Obviously there are going to be issues between them.

The key problem for Warminster is planning its future. In the five years that Warminster has been trying to have its say about its future we have seen the 'sound bite' Localism Act launched in 2011.

So what! It has actually not delivered anything but grief to Warminster. We have not been able to take any positive steps forward because the town council at the time had voted itself a six year existence until 2013 and did nothing to take an interest in it.

Then there is the emergence of all those National Planning Policy Framewok guidances which were released in 2012 and intended to shake-up planning over the next 12-18 months.

'In a nutshell it has shrunk 1500 pages  of national planning policy to just 50.' was the applause from developers.

'Broadly pro-development' and 'any existing local plan older than 2004 being vulnerable to planning appeal.'

The NPPF was also going to be a 'brownfield first' policy. Yet it unleashed a money-grabbing plunder opportunity in Warminster.

How can developers submitting so many pre-applications, outline planning applications and planning applications for permission for building on anything but brownfield sites be acceptable.

At this point I begin to wonder if our MP should take a serious interest.

As once again an MP with the surname Pickles lands us in so many pickles in our community should we not now ask Dr. Andrew Murrison  MP to intervene on our behalf.

Does he really expect Warminster to see what should have been 900 homes on the West of Warminster urban extension go up by hundreds every time a pro-housing councillor talks about it?

Does he really want to see in his constituency the building of houses all the way up to the banks of the River Wylye through his constituency because that is now what could happen?

How did the Spurt Mead planning application get through the Wiltshire planning process will be the subject of a hot topic and what will happen to further 'over the top' planning applications to the west of Warminster will follow.

I ask 'Is it now once again time to take a stand?!'

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