The Wiltshire Local Plan
The Wiltshire Local Plan sets out the Council's vision and framework for housing, infrastructure and land for the next 15 years. A public consultation ended on 22 November and, having considered all the comments, Wiltshire Council will prepare the plan for submission to the Secretary of State during the second quarter of 2024.
The Neighbourhood Plan
The Downton Neighbourhood Plan is a key document reflecting the needs and priorities of the Downton Parish area. It was strongly endorsed by the community in a referendum in Nov 2016 and has been an important influence on housing strategy, development and planning decisions made by both Parish and Wiltshire Councils. Although intended to last until 2026, national pressure to build more houses and the need to ensure that plans remain relevant means that our Plan is being updated.
The original steering group was co-ordinated by the D Soc Chair with several Society members involved over a three-year period. For the update, a Working Group of residents was created - also headed by a Society member - and the final draft, prepared in record time, is currently with Wiltshire Council to ensure that it is consistent with government planning policy. A Housing needs survey, traffic survey, infrastructure review and public engagement were essential parts of the update, and the planning priorities identified in the revised Plan (including low levels of planned sustainable development and genuine low cost housing) are strongly supported by the Downton Society.
The D Soc committee monitors local 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 we also 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.
What is the “right decision”? why do we support one application and not another? Every application is different (in scale, style and location) and whilst each is scrutinised and judged on merits, its impact on neighbours, the village, and the Conservation area in particular, is always a consideration. Modern buildings or materials can be fine in an historic setting as long as they don't detract from our sense of place, and although there is always an element of subjectivity in making planning judgements, we take 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 local councils.
National Planning policy, Wiltshire Core Strategy & Local Plans are also critical for assessing broader housing strategy. They may make dull reading (and do!) but these policies affect all development proposals at local level. They highlight priorities and constraints, provide continuity and standards, and protect against arbitrary decision making and uncontrolled development. As a committee, we test our worm’s eye view against these higher-level policies and use them to ensure that the community perspective doesn’t get lost in the mish-mash of pressures that local and national government face.
The important thing to stress is that as a Society, we are not against change, or growth, as long as it is sustainable, reflects the views and
best interests of the community, and enhances the environment in which we live.
Inevitably there will be buildings imposed on us which detract, and those which divide opinion. We may win some battles (e.g. successfully opposing Formula Land’s application for building 100 houses on the flood plain and preventing new housing development numbers exceeding the 190 agreed for Downton in the Core Strategy) but know we can’t win them all.
But we will keep trying!
Contact a member of the committee if you have planning concerns or would like more information.