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Steve's thoughts on the settlement boundary meeting

(October 15, 2014)

THE building of nearly two thousand homes around Warminster in the years between 2006 and 2026 will have a big impact on the town - but these impacts will be coupled with much greater challenges we will face as a result of the ongoing demographic transition now taking place nationally and locally.

I am satisfied that the approach taken by the town council on Tuesday represents the least worst option for Warminster and largely reflects the guidance of Wiltshire Council's professional planners.
The policy recommended by the full town council hopefully means that the county council will  accept that the new settlement boundary will need to be drawn as tightly around the town as possible - bearing in mind the requirement to include 1,920 new dwellings here between 2006 and 2026 as part of the 42,000 required overall in Wiltshire.
To have adopted a different proposal, the so  - called 'balanced' approach promoted by Cllr 'Pip' Ridout, would only have given additional fuel to developers who wish to build out from almost every quarter of the town and could well have resulted in 3,000 additional homes being built here in the period up to 2026.
In such circumstances it is best to follow professional advice rather than be led by those with axes to grind - such as most of the public speakers on Tuesday listening to 'Pip' Ridout.

On Tuesday the county's director of economy and enterprise, Alastair Cunningham confirmed to me in public session that as part of the emerging core strategy Warminster needs to have allocations of 1,920 homes between  2006 and 2026

So far 504 have been completed while there have been 1,099 developable commitments given for 2014 - 2026  leaving us to find 317 homes more spaces.

Finding this smaller number is perfectly possible from what planners call 'windfall' sites, revealed Mr Cunningham, so it meant on Tuesday that we didn't need to earmark any more green-field sites on the edge of town over and above those already allocated.

As soon as the Government appointed planning inspector finishes his work and the core strategy is adopted it means we have much better defendable protection against speculative development. This is to be welcomed. Even though the strategy is not yet adopted every step it advances, even the contribution provided by Warminster Town Council, gives it additional weight.

I mentioned earlier the impact of the demographic transition currently under way - the rapid ageing of our population over the next 25 years. It is a change in our population structure that will potentially overwhelm our health services, which are already under severe stress.

Locally the crying need for Warminster is to have a new large GP surgery on the western outskirts of the town, a reinstated Minor Injuries Unit and more locally based hospital service - combined with some community facilities. Their provision must form part of the Western Urban Expansion. If the WUE was halted and the 'balanced' penny packet development approach adopted we would certainly lose any chance of getting a new GP surgery in the west.

What made me feel a little sad last night was the way some councillors talked of 'my people' in 'my ward'.

Surely we are here to represent and serve the whole town.

I can recall a time when there were no electoral wards in the town and when I was elected in the 1980s I don't ever recall arguing about west and east with councillor Joan Main. We both represented the whole town.

I currently live in the town centre and have been living in the Warminster area since the 1950s - representing West ward and now the East ward. Not once have I ever looked to advantage one side of the town against the other and shame on any councillors who think in that way.

The result of the vote on Tuesday saw us making the best use of the hand we were dealt .

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