Downton Neighbourhood Plan

Copy of a letter sent to members - May 2021

Dear members

The Neighbourhood Plan and Housing for Downton

This update follows a meeting of the Neighbourhood Plan Working Group (NPWG) in early May. The group, a mix of councillors and residents, comes under the umbrella of the Parish Council (PC). The residents are there as individuals, but three are on the Downton Society committee, and another is a member. So, we are fully engaged.

The Downton Society supports the Neighbourhood Plan, and since the Government is pressing ahead with new planning laws to encourage more house-building (re-affirmed only this week), we also recognise that our Plan may need to be strengthened. Proposals by two developers to build another 200 houses in Downton (on top of the maximum already agreed and built under the Plan), make the issue more immediate. Formula Land say they are using responses to their recent village consultation to “inform their design process” prior to submitting a planning application; and Persimmon have asked the Parish Council to discuss “community benefits” in respect of the site next to Bishops Mead.

With this backdrop, the NPWG discussed the way forward and agreed that in order to confirm the needs of Downton as a community, the PC should ask Wiltshire Council (WC) to conduct a formal Housing Needs Assessment. All residents will have a say and this will help determine housing preferences as well as actual need. Surveys and further research on infrastructure issues such as traffic and local services may also be commissioned, as up-to-date information is vital to assess the impact new developments could have on the wider community.

The Neighbourhood Plan, although valid until 2026, must reflect current realities to remain a fully authoritative document. The Working Group has identified sections to be updated and asked WC for clarification on whether another public consultation and referendum will be needed. Changes which “do not alter the essential nature of the plan” should not require this, so we are hopeful it won’t be necessary.

The Downton Society is committed to ensuring that residents have a voice in matters affecting our village. We are not opposed to small scale development to meet identified local need, but know that promises made by developers frequently get watered down during the planning/building process. We are strongly opposed to speculative building on a scale which adversely impacts the village and its amenities.

If you also care about Downton, please stay informed, speak to your neighbours so they are aware of how it might affect them, and get ready to email the Parish Council as soon as developers plans become clearer. We will keep you updated.

Nikki Wilson

The Downton Society

Tel: 01725 512 963 Mob: 07875 036879 E:

Could our Neighbourhood Plan be undermined?

Copy of letter sent to Parish Councillors prior to their meeting on 13 July 2020

Reference: Planning and the Downton Neighbourhood Plan.

Dear councillor,

I am writing on behalf of the Downton Society about Persimmon's wish to meet with the Parish council to discuss development of a site adjacent to the Charles Church houses on the A338; and also on the question of updating the Downton Neighbourhood Plan.

Mindful of government imperatives to encourage house building, and the fact that there have been recent cases where independent Inspectors appear to have undermined existing neighbourhood plans, the Downton Society Committee wish to express most strongly their support for the Downton Plan which, following overwhelming community endorsement in a referendum in November 2016, was a dopted by Wiltshire Council in early 2017 and now forms part of the Local Development Plan for the period 2016-2026.

We appreciate that the Parish Council may decide to meet with the developers to learn more about their proposals, but feel equally that this could be a fishing exercise by Persimmon who are well known for their predatory approaches. In which case, we urge the council to robustly oppose any idea of further development at this stage.

We assume new councillors are familiar with the Downton Neighbourhood Plan policies, and in particular the relevant section 9.2 on Housing Development and Homes for Local People, but for ease of reference the following are salient points:

In the context of the above it is important to note that:

We have been assured that no further housing is currently allocated for Downton, but the existing plans only go up to 2026 and we note, in the HSAP, a paragraph which states that "local service centres which serve a surrounding rural hinterland........provide the best opportunities outside Market towns for greater self containment. Levels of housing development envisaged at Mere and Downton fit in with that strategy". This is ambiguous, and we know that housing policy can change - particularly if it is found that Wiltshire have not been able to provide a five year supply of building land as required.

Our Neighbourhood Plan is not anti- development as such, but it favours sustainable change which minimises negative impacts. We are already dealing with pressures on the village infrastructure and incomplete building projects on the A338, and we urge a strong response against development in any discussion with Persimmon.

The Neighbourhood Plan was endorsed by the community less than four years ago, but we note that the PC Housing Development Committee is proposing a review to ensure the Downton Neighbourhood Plan is fit for purpose - i.e updated as necessary in order to meet changing housing policy and likely development challenges . The Downton Society, members of which were involved in the creation of the existing Plan, strongly supports this proposal, and, given the recent news that the validity of plans can be questioned after only two years, we urge that a review - involving the community - starts as soon as possible.

Nikki R Wilson
(Chair, and on behalf of, The Downton Society)

Below is the Wiltshire Council copy of the Downton Neighbourhood Plan