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In February 2020 a planning inspector issued his decision on several sites in the Salisbury area, proposed by Wiltshire Council in order to meet current needs for housing land. With various provisos, he found all the sites satisfactory, thus leaving no room for any alternative ones to be put forward by their owners. Of the sites accepted, the Civic Society had expressed significant concern about one of them (see Housing Land Supply 31.03.2019)

North of the Netherhampton Road – Consultants engaged by Wiltshire Council concluded that the damaging effect on views of the cathedral could not be satisfactorily countered, but other perceived advantages seem to have been judged by the council as outweighing this. The inspector basically accepted the council’s arguments on this.

However the assumption was that the acceptance of the council’s preferred sites, after the planning enquiry, would have led to the demonstration of a ‘five year housing supply’, in other words the establishment of a situation in which enough housing land has been identified in order to meet the needs of the next five years. This is essential if refusal of applications for other sites is not to be overturned on appeal.

As of September 2020, Wiltshire Council now seems to have accepted that it cannot in fact demonstrate a five year housing supply, with a risk that sites not preferred by it will have a chance of getting approval for houses on them. A new Wiltshire Local Plan ought to create the assurance of such a supply, but the council’s timetable shows a review process which will lead to adoption of the new plan by early 2023.

The council has said that in the long term it is considering the concept of a completely new settlement, as a better way of meeting housing needs than endlessly seeking increasingly unsuitable ones, particularly on the edge of Salisbury. The Society is very much in favour of the new settlement concept, but there is no chance of it being developed quickly enough to avoid further difficult decisions about where new houses are going to go.

Housing site allocations plan (01.06.2019) – This has now been to a public enquiry, with no date yet known for publication of the inspector’s report. This will be crucial in determining when any additional sites need to be found by Wiltshire Council.

HOUSING LAND SUPPLY  (31.03.2019) – A planning enquiry in early April 2019 is intended to set out which housing sites are acceptable to the local authority. Wiltshire Council has produced its own list of preferred sites, which will now be scrutinised by a planning inspector, whose decision on whether the list is sound will be final.

From the Society’s point of view, two sites are particularly important:

North of the Netherhampton Road – a large site south of the road, just on the western edge of the city, is contentious, not least because of its impact on traffic, but is seen by the Society as better than alternative ones. However a site north of the road, added by Wiltshire Council quite late in the day to its list of preferred ones, will have a significant effect both on views of the cathedral, and on the character of the city as one enters it from the west. Consultants engaged by Wiltshire Council have concluded that the damaging effect on views of the cathedral cannot be satisfactorily countered, but other perceived advantages seem to have been judged by the council as outweighing this. The Society has objected to this northern site, and it now remains to be seen how the inspector will view it.

 Britford Lane fields – this area of greenery, very close to the core of the city, is seen by many as an essential part of Salisbury’s character, which should never be built on. However its owners have been trying for some time to get it accepted as land for houses. It was not selected by Wiltshire Council as one of its preferred sites, but the owners are now hoping that one at least of those sites will be deemed unsuitable by the enquiry inspector, opening up the possibility of the Britford Lane fields coming into the reckoning as a replacement site. The  Society has always been strongly opposed to building on the fields, and will campaign against the idea if the enquiry does not finally scotch it.