Devizes Guardians

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Two separate items caught my eye in last week’s Gazette and Herald, as they neatly illustrate the failure of our planning process to protect Devizes against unbalanced development. On your letters page, L Edwards highlighted the contrast between the additional houses allocated to the Town over the coming plan period and the inadequacy of our traffic capacity, and on page 7 a report on Gaigers’ obligation to contribute £17,826 towards unconnected play areas, as a condition of their permission to refurbish the old military Keep on London Road as modern apartments.

These illustrate what is going wrong with our development control system. We desperately need investment in our infrastructure, particularly in road capacity, to accommodate the additional housing.  We already possess a developer contributions process, to enable house builders to help with these investments, but these contributions need to be committed to a long term infrastructure programme.

The trouble is, there is an absence of joined up thinking between the two. The result?  Development control is scratching around negotiating token levies for marginal play areas, when there are much more necessary and expensive infrastructure pressures shouting for attention. Somehow, there needs to be systematic cooperation between the three key Wiltshire Council teams:

  • Forward Planning in charge of housing allocations;
  • Development Control dealing with current housing applications;
  • and Highways Department for road capacity planning for future growth.

At the moment, this does not happen effectively. We need a Devizes road improvement fund where developer contributions can be accumulated for serious investments. The Devizes Guardians are pressing for this, but until it comes, we shall be placated by small cosmetic schemes and unable to afford major transport investments.