Planning letters that have been sent by the Society
Wiltshire Council Planning Website
Village Design Statement
Downton Neighbourhood Plan

Planning and Conservation

One of the key roles of the Downton Society is to help protect the Conservation Area, and for this reason, planning is very important. Supporting conservation does not mean preventing change, but does help to ensure that our historical assets are protected and we continue to live in a pleasant environment.

The Downton Neighbourhood Plan was strongly endorsed by the community in a referendum in Nov 2016 and has since been an important influence on housing strategy, development and planning decisions made by Wiltshire Council. The Plan steering group was co-ordinated by our Chair, and other Society committee members were involved over a three year period. Given the national pressure to build more houses it is necessary to update the plan. This is being undertaken by a working group of residents of which Society members are active. Participation is essential if we are to have planned sustainable development which respects community needs including for genuine low cost housing.

At a local level, the DS committee monitors all planning applications. Where they impact upon the Conservation area, we make our views known to the Parish Council (who are statutory consultees on all planning decisions affecting the Parish) and submit responses to Wiltshire council. We attend all relevant Parish Council and other Southern Area planning meetings as required.

Planning is important because if the wrong decision is made, the residents of Downton will have to live with the results for decades; conversely, with the right decision, we have something that enhances our environment and adds to our overall pleasure. But what is the “right decision”? Some people ask why we support this application and not that. The reason is that every application is different (in scale, in style and in location) and whilst each is scrutinised and judged on individual merits, its impact on the village, and the Conservation area in particular, is always a consideration. There is an element of subjectivity in all planning, but we take our guidance from the Downton Conservation Appraisal and Management Plan, the Village Design Statement and the Neighbourhood Plan all of which were developed with the support of the community and the Parish Council.

National Planning policy as well as Wiltshire Core Strategy is also critical. It may make for dull reading (and it does!) but these policies affect all development at local level. They highlight priorities and constraints, provide continuity and standards, protect against arbitrary decision making and prevent uncontrolled development. As a committee, we test our worm’s eye view against these higher-level policies and use them to argue in the best interests of Downton. It is too easy for community views to get lost in the mish-mash of pressures that local and national government face so we do try and articulate what we feel is the best for our village, and support the Parish Council whenever possible. We are not against change - or growth as long as it is sustainable; but we feel it should be managed, and not imposed against community interests, since it is we who live with the impacts on our environment and infrastructure. Likewise, there is nothing wrong with modern buildings or materials in a historic setting as long as they do not detract from our sense of place.

We can all think of buildings imposed on us which detract can’t we? So, although we win some battles (e.g. successfully opposing an application for a new house next to the historic St Laurence’s church, or preventing new housing development numbers exceeding the agreed 190 in the Core Strategy) we know we can’t win them all.

But we will keep trying.