Campaigners threaten legal action over approval of plans for distributor road

A campaign group that claims Wiltshire Council is “ignoring the concerns of citizens” over plans to build a distributor road through local countryside has applied for permission for judicial review.

In a post on Crowd Justice, the Campaign against Urban Sprawl to the South (of Chippenham) (CUSS) said the local authority's recently approved "Future Chippenham" scheme was given the go-ahead by Cabinet without proper consideration for the public’s views expressed at consultation.

The group, which supports the Save Chippenham campaign, has raised more than £9,000 in funds on the crowd funding platform. It set an initial goal of £6,000 but now has a stretch target of £15,000.

"Once the road is built, Wiltshire Council will build up to 4,200 houses on beautiful Wiltshire countryside. We argue that it does not have the mandate to do this and that it could be unlawful", the CrowdJustice post reads.

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Nearly 80% of respondents at the consultation stage objected to the proposals, according to CUSS, and "virtually all respondents expressed grave concerns about the impact such excessive development would have on the natural environment".

The group claims the Cabinet then agreed without notice to the public, a new plan for a re-routed distributor road to be built.

In a post on Wiltshire’s website detailing the plans, the council said responses received from members of the public and key stakeholders following the public consultation in January - March 2021 on the scheme’s road route options “have been reviewed, along with a review of updated information relating to land viability, updated environmental surveys and ongoing discussions with statutory stakeholders”.

As a result of this review, Wiltshire’s Cabinet commenced discussions with Homes England on a revised scheme to deliver the Southern section from the A4 to the A350.

“This revised approach seeks to address the concerns raised regarding the scale of the site, while continuing to deliver to a multitude of benefits for Chippenham,” the council said.

However, CUSS claims that the revised approached constitutes a “completely new plan” that has been approved without notice to the public.

“Wiltshire Council is now re-negotiating with Homes England a grant to fund the Council’s completely new proposal, conjured out of thin air in July 2021,” the crowd funding post reads.

It adds: “Whilst claiming to be committed to a review of its Local Plan on which it must consult by January 2022, the constraints of Homes England’s funding conditions and the Local Plan timetable may result in the council applying as landowner, developer, and planning authority for planning permission with limited if any further public scrutiny. The Council’s tenant farmers are already being served notice.”

The group set out the following three issues it wishes to challenge the council on:

  • The decision to proceed with plans to build an abridged distributor road without consultation.
  • That discussions regarding the road are proceeding with Homes England's Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) “behind closed doors”.
  • The council’s alleged “staggering disregard for the climate crisis that we all face”.

The initial funds raised via Crowd Justice will go towards procuring the advice of a barrister.

Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council, said: “An application for a judicial review has been filed with the courts and served on Wiltshire Council. We are liaising with our legal advisors and can confirm we will be robustly defending our position. The Future Chippenham programme does not determine the development that takes place, this decision is subject to the Local Plan review. Development proposed by the Future Chippenham programme will be subject to the Local Plan review and the statutory planning process.”

Adam Carey    

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