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Wiltshire Council backs bid for Bath Road gypsy pitches by 5 votes to 4

(February 10, 2016)

WILTSHIRE Council's strategic planning committee has approved plans for four gypsy pitches and associated buildings along Warminster's Bath Road - despite hearing many objections.

Councillors voted by 5 to 4 to accept the officers' recommendation that the application be accepted subject to conditions.

Town councillors had previously sent in their objections to the idea and three members of the local council spoke to voice concerns, along with three members of the public.

The objections were centred on highways and flooding concerns and the meeting heard that a plan for two dwellings on the site had been rejected at appeal in 1992.

During their presentation officers mistakenly told the committee that the road was still a trunk road in 1992 when in fact the Warminster bypass had been open for 4 years by this time. In reality the Bath Road was far less busy 24 years ago than it is today.

Councillor Rob Fryer asked why this application had only been asked to allow for an access visibility splay of 43 metres when a previous application by Warminster School for an access onto the road was required to have a 59 meter splay.

"How can we treat the school so unfairly? - this doesn't reflect well on this council," he said.

County and town member Pip Ridout pointed out the lack of a pavement on this side of the road by the site, the danger of the access and the fact that both local schools are full.

She said: "The access is not safe as that road is dangerous with vehicles coming off the bypass turning right onto the busy industrial estate and the rest just thundering down that road.

"How we can slap four of these pitches here on a site that is under water, with no safe access and liable to flooding is very very wrong."

She added that land is so boggy that when the area was let for use by horses the animals had be removed as they contracted the 'equine equivalent of trench foot'.

Councillor Andrew Davis spoke of his concern that the principle of development on this site should not be conceded until matters such as the cost of connecting the development to services had been addressed'

He also thought development could exacerbate existing flooding problems in the area - especially when the western urban expansion of the town gets under way.

He said: "We may be granting permission for something that is cost prohibitive."

Maybe the applicants will come back to vary the conditions?

Officers responded by saying that the Warminster School application would have likely generated significantly more traffic so a wider visibility splay would likely be needed, that other gypsy sites were safely operating in Wiltshire near busy roads without contiguouis pavements and that engineering solutions could be found for the flooding.

In answer to Councillor Davis' point that all service and waste disposal loose ends needed to be tied up before permission is granted they said that to get the applicant to do this expensive work and then permission be refused was considered unfair by the government.

Melksham Without councillor Terry Chivers questioned whether this application would have been looked on favourably by officers had it not been for gypsy pitches was told that different rules apply to gypsy and travellers and also that there are few sustainable sites like this close to amenities.

* Vision for Warminster's Steve Dancey attended the meeting. He said: "I found the presentation was poor and almost inaudible and the images of the site displayed in the chamber were less than useless.

"At the very least there should have been a site meeting. After spending millions on County Hall Wiltshire Council is failing to deliver yet again. Perhaps officers at Wiltshire Council should attend a few planning meetings at Test Valley Borough Council to see how a professional planning department operates.

"I'm also unhappy that ordinary people leading settled lives seem to have fewer rights when it comes to planning than gypsies and travellers. Surely everyone should be treated equally and fairly?"


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