CURRENT ISSUES – UPDATED – MAY 2017
The Downton Society tries to monitor and investigate all planning applications within the Parish and our formal responses to planning applications can be found in the letters section of this website. However, we may sometimes miss applications or not be aware of detailed issues. If you have concerns please let us know.
CURRENT HOT ISSUES
- An independent Inspector has dismissed the Developer’s appeal against Council rejection of the proposal to build 36 houses opposite Trafalgar School.
We are very pleased that an appeal by the developer against Wiltshire Council’s refusal to grant planning on land opposite the secondary school has been dismissed. The development will not go ahead at the present time although the site will remain registered under SHLAA as potentially suitable for development in the future.
In the Wiltshire Core Strategy, Downton, a designated “service hub”, was allocated a total of 190 new houses to be built between 2006-2026. There is already pressure on that number (and a recent tally by Wiltshire Council suggests it may have been exceeded) : in addition to the Charles Church site of 101 houses/flats, 50 houses have been built in Wick Lane and 14 at Charlotte Close; 4 others are under construction in the village, and at the end of February 2016 outline planning approval was given for 17 houses on the site of Scott’s House (Total 186 + 11 other, individual, builds identified by WC). An outline application for 36 houses on land opposite the secondary school was also submitted in 2016, but rejected by Parish and County Councils – one of the reasons being that it would result in excess housing numbers for Downton. The Downton Society fully supported this decision.
However, the developer, Foreman Homes, registered an appeal in December 2016. An independent Inspector was appointed and a formal hearing was held in Salisbury on 22nd February 2017. The Parish Council and Downton Society were represented throughout the daylong hearing and spoke against the proposed development. The Downton Society raised infrastructure concerns including road safety, drainage, housing density and pressure on local facilities which would result from excess housing numbers.
In a report issued on the 3rd May, the Inspector dismissed the developer’s appeal. Although options remain for the developer to appeal to the High Court, or to ask for judicial review, this must be done within a short period and would be very costly.
The Inspector cited a number of reasons for dismissal of the appeal but important weight was given to the views of Downton residents as expressed in the Neighbourhood Plan. The Inspector’s decision has, therefore, reinforced the Plan’s emphasis on planned and balanced development based on needs identified in the current Wiltshire Core Strategy. Had the appeal been upheld it would have undermined the whole plan with the potential for haphazard or speculative development.
The Society acknowledges the work of the Parish Council team who were involved in preparing and delivering the case for dismissal on the day of the appeal; we feel their well- argued case significantly influenced the Inspector’s decision.
The Downton Society view is that all new development has to be timely, proportionate and sustainable - i.e. planned to take into account local housing needs and environmental factors and to ensure that infrastructure can support change so that negative impacts on the existing community and its residents are minimised.
Traffic flow and parking in Downton is problematic and extra housing is likely to exacerbate it. We address this issue whenever a planning application is made for new development.
A Parish Council working group, in which society members were involved, found that there were few ways of improving the availability of parking in the village. Restricting parking areas or making parking available to certain groups only (e.g. residents, visitors) simply pushed the ‘problem’ elsewhere and there were no realistic ways of increasing parking paces
There is continual flouting of the HGV weight limit of 7.5 tons. The problem is largely down to poor signage and all attempts to address this at various levels (including Area Board and County council) have failed. We feel strongly that, unless there is clear signage at major access points (especially from the M27) lorry drivers will be tempted to use the B3080 as a short cut through the village.
Having failed at local level, and even through the Area Board, the Society has escalated the issue and had a very positive meeting with our MP John Glen in March 2017. He has agreed to write to appropriate bodies to instigate action. No letter has, so far, been forthcoming and is unlikely to surface this side of the general elections – we will pursue it after the election.
The final design for the extension to the school has been approved by Wiltshire Council and work has started. Sadly, it will feature (previously rejected) Redeco Panelling. The Society is very disappointed by what we feel will be an inappropriate and unimaginative finish for a large building in the middle of a Conservation area. The design was pushed through by Wiltshire Council planners against local opinion and guidelines of the Downton Conservation Management Plan, (which had, ironically, been endorsed by the council). It appears that local authorities can ignore conservation when it suits them.
We have expressed concern about the failure to establish an effective hedge line on the playground boundary (though we understand that the PC have suggested a more robust one to be planted in the autumn). We are also very disappointed about the fate of trees in the Memorial Gardens, and angry that an ancient yew tree is to be cut down - another decision apparently pushed through against the wishes of the Wiltshire Council Tree Officer. Despite the Society campaigning throughout the planning process to replace other trees that have been felled (and the Tree Officer placing TPOs on all the existing trees threatened with removal) planning officers decided that they were ‘in the way’. They were all felled and there are no plans to replace them. We will still press for replacement of suitably sized trees to be planted along the new boundary with the school extension and the Tree Officer has pledged his full support for this and will advise accordingly.
THE MEMORIAL HALL
It is proposed to increase the size of the Memorial Hall to accommodate meeting rooms and accommodation for the pre-school. As Developer contributions will not cover the full cost, the Parish council plan to take out a public works loan for the difference , with the community asked to fund this by a charge levied on local tax. A public consultation was held on 4th March in the Memorial Hall; those residents who voted overwhelmingly supported the extension and the increase in the council tax.
At a Parish Council Amenities meeting in September, it was agreed unanimously to delegate the promotion of, use , and any footpath maintenance issues, to the Downton Society Footpath Group. This group will report back any issues, raise working parties and work in partnership with the Parish Council Amenities committee. The Footpath Group has walked the Parish paths and beyond for over 10 years; members have worked together with the Parish Council to obtain grants for kissing gates, and to help Wiltshire Council install them over the Southern Wiltshire area. The plans for a marked and improved circular path (via Charlton mill) are well advanced. If you would like to raise any issues about the state of stiles or any parish path issues, please contact Susan Barnhurst-Davies 01725 512963 firstname.lastname@example.org
You may be aware of the proposals to link the southern area of the village (Moot Lane) with The Borough by a footpath and bridge. We understand that the owner, Longford Estates, has given approval in principle but subject to more detailed proposals. There is also the not insignificant issue of funding. The Downton Society supports the idea of the footpath and bridge but, again, subject to more detail and consultation.
There is a perception that Wiltshire Council’s planning department ignores planning policy and protocols when under pressure from developers, statutory consultees or other departments (example: the school) yet rigidly enforces them in , sometimes, quite draconian ways in other cases (we have various individual planning examples). The WC justification for such decisions can range from heritage considerations to “overall community benefit” . The Downton Society supports both of these in principle but we feel that a little more consideration, transparency, communication and, even the application of architectural skill, could resolve matters to the greater advantage of all. It is unfortunate that the Conservation Officers are now part of the ‘Development Planning’ department and may thus have lost much of their independent voice.
Useful sites for Reporting issues.
“My Wiltshire” (www.wiltshire.gov.uk/report) allows reporting on a range of issues including dog mess, street litter, graffiti and litter bins, potholes, verges, traffic lights and trees (a full list is provided on the site).
“Fix My Street” (www.fixmystreet.com) is particularly useful for reporting potholes and flytipping which can be identified using map co-ordinates.
The Community Policing Team can be contacted on email@example.com