Downton Neighbourhood Plan
Copy of a letter sent to members - May 2021
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.
The Downton Society
Tel: 01725 512 963 Mob: 07875 036879 E: email@example.com
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.
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:
- As a designated a Local Service Centre for the area, Downton is expected to provide a level of development that safeguards this role. Wiltshire Core Policy 24 set the level of housing growth at 190 new homes for the period up to 2006 - 2026.
- Any further development within the plan period ( up to the maximum number) was to be given only to designated (SHLAA) sites - scored according to criteria which took into account locational, environmental issues.
- On the grounds of sustainability, it was agreed that any future residential development should be small scale - with preference for no more than 25 units at any one time, including affordable, single occupancy or starter homes
- Impact assessment also took into account conservation and infrastructure (from landscape issues, sewage and drainage to the local economy and schooling)
In the context of the above it is important to note that:
- the number of new houses built in Downton has already exceeded the figure of 190; and that Wiltshire Council did not allocate any more houses for Downton in their Housing Site Allocation Plan (HSAP) which was adopted in February 2020
- the site - S200b - in which Persimmon has expressed interest, was one of two lowest scoring preferences for sites identified for potential development in the Downton Neighbourhood Plan
- Although a housing need has been identified by WC for South Wiltshire, this is targeted mainly at Salisbury, which has the infrastructure to provide employment.
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)