PLANS for 270 new homes in Trowbridge are under threat after locals raised serious concerns about the increase in traffic volumes, congestion and queuing it would cause on the A363 Bradley Road.

Town councillors said on Tuesday (January 7) they support the allocation of the 41-acre Elm Grove site for housing but objected to the housing scheme on transport grounds.

They also said they consider it premature to determine the application by developer Coulston Estates Ltd until a planning inspector publishes his full report into the Wiltshire Housing Site Allocation Plan.

Cllr Graham Hill said he was "very concerned" about the possibility of 147 vehicle movements in peak hours and that Coulston's figures were based on old data from 2017.

"I would be very concerned about traffic volumes. There has been a huge change in usage since 2017."

Cllr Hill said the policies had changed "dramatically" to the plan that was presented to the WHSAP inspector, who said that developers should wait for his report.

Cllr Chris Beaver, who was speaking as part of the Coulston Estates team and not in his role as a councillor,  said: "Wiltshire Council won't make a decision until the inspector has published his report on the WHSAP."

Committee chairman Cllr Geoff Whiffen said he was concerned about the possibility of an increase in traffic on Silver Street Lane, adding "it is already being used as a rat run."

Chris Miles, a traffic expert acting for Coulston Estates, said their model allowed for increases in traffic volume up to 2026, and for the re-distribution of traffic around the town. 

Wiltshire Cllr Andrew Bryant has now called in the planning application for discussion by the full planning committee,  rather than by officers making an executive decision to approve or refuse.

He told the meeting he has consulted residents who are concerned about the access from Wiltshire Drive and the possibility of heavy construction traffic coming past their homes for the five years it will take to build the new homes, saying: "I am concerned that ingress and egress will be from one location, particularly when Wiltshire Drive is one of the most congested rat-runs in Trowbridge."

Cllr Bryant said he didn't see how setting a 'trigger point' of 150 houses would mitigate the volume of construction traffic over the five-year period of development. 

"It is wholly unacceptable," he added. "Traffic down Wiltshire Drive has been fairly horrific over the past year."

Cllr Bryant was also concerned over the lack of a green buffer between North Bradley and Trowbridge, with more than 2,500 new homes scheduled to be built at Ashton Park.

He urged the committee to object to the application, saying part of the proposed site is also on a flood plain.

Councillor Edward Kirk said he would not sit in on the discussion because he objected on a point of principle to Cllr Chris Beaver being part of Coulston Estates' presentation team.

He said: "I'm not happy. I don't feel comfortable with Chris Beaver, who normally sits on this committee, being a member of the Coulston Estates presentation.

"I would like it to be minuted. I will sit out and I won't vote on the recommendation."

Cllr Beaver, of Planning Sphere in Bath, is acting as a planning consultant to the developer. Other councillors said Cllr Kirk was "over-reacting."

It was disclosed that despite assurances given to the WHSAP examination last year - Coulston Estates is not able to secure a through route from the land to the A363 near the White Horse Business Park.

In its report, Trowbridge Council said the alternative arrangement to use the Wiltshire Drive/Bradley Road/Silver Street Lane junction is “clearly unacceptable”.

Town councillors said that if Wiltshire Council wants to approve the scheme, it should impose conditions on access routes.

Direct access to the A363 from Elm Grove hinges on the owner of land known as Plot 4, near Drynham Lane, either selling it to the developers or becoming part of the scheme by making his own planning application.

Stuart Jones, director of Coulston Estates, said: “Plot 4 is privately owned. We are not going to buy it. Our main access to the proposed housing development at Elm Grove will be from Wiltshire Drive.

"The comments relating to access and highways raised by councillors and the three local residents in attendance at the meeting with Trowbridge Town Council are noted.

"This feedback will help to inform further discussions with the Local Highways Authority.

"Our priority is to continue to engage with all stakeholder groups and consultees as the design develops, ahead of a formal determination of the planning application by Wiltshire Council in due course."

The developers have proposed a package of works to improve the Wiltshire Drive junction including alterations to widen lanes. Southview Farmhouse and Elm Grove Farmhouse will be retained as part of the proposed development.

Mr Beaver said they are expecting to take another two to three months before submitting their plans to Wiltshire Council, and are waiting for a report into bat migration routes to be sunbmitted.

He said the spine road from Wiltshire Drive to Drynham Lane would go through the whole of the proposed estate. Plot 4 is part of the site allocation but does not form part of the planning application.

One of the residents present at the meeting said the development would generate 2,000 traffic movements a day and that the spine road would lead to a huge cul-de-sac.

Mr Jones said that 80 per cent of residents who gave feedback at Coulston’s public consultation meetings did not want a through route for the new estate, but that the company "definitely has an intention" to deliver a through route if it can.

Some residents and the council say that traffic calming measures should be used on Wiltshire Drive, including a blanket 20mph speed limit.

Mr Jones added: "We are still awaiting a highways response from Wiltshire Council.

"If Plot 4 comes on board, we can deliver a through route when we get to the trigger point of 150 units."

He said Coulston Estates is trying to hold "further discussions" with the Plot 4 landowner to cover all eventualities.

Town clerk Lance Allan said: "We don't want traffic lights on Wiltshire Drive until we get the through route."

Coulston Estates is forecasting that space for 682 vehicles would be needed on the proposed estate.

Their own transport consultants, Condon Drew Associates of Bristol, estimate the Elm Grove development would generate 147 two-way vehicle trips during the morning rush hour, 177 two-way trips during the evening rush hour and 1,411 two-way vehicle trips during a 12-hour period.

People living close to Elm Grove say that because of their traffic concerns the scheme should be re-examined by the Planning Inspectorate. The consultation period for the proposals expires on Friday January 10 and a decision is expected by February 28.

They fear the scheme would lead to a huge increase in traffic volume and congestion on nearby roads, as well as a rise in air pollution and queuing on the main roads.

A spokesman for Trowbridge Civic Society said: “The most important considerations must be the queuing. This produces noise and air pollution, and so residents’ health and wellbeing may be adversely affected.

“With Bradley Road already over-capacity, it indicates that more development should not be given planning permission until measures are in place to reduce traffic on Bradley Road.”

Objectors also say the proposed spine road from the A363 to Drynham Lane would mean the development would become a huge cul-de-sac and that traffic could block emergency services vehicles from getting through.

Stan Zych, of Chirton Place, Trowbridge, said the outline planning application now admits the possibility that access to the A363 may not be possible. This means the new estate spine road will principally or only connect to Wiltshire Drive.

He says Mr Beaver assured the inspector at the WHSAP examination in Trowbridge last year that the main access to the A363 would be from land known as Plot 4 which would be part of the scheme.

He said: “Because Plot 4 is in third party ownership, it may not come forward for development.

“During the recent WHSAP inspection, the agent for Coulston Ltd assured HM Inspector of Planning that Plot 4 would be included in the Elm Grove development.

“This outline application has clearly had considerable time spent on mitigating the impact of the lack of connection to the A363.

“This is an issue for HM Inspector since the basis of access to Elm Grove has completely changed. I hope and expect that the Inspector is made fully aware of this failure.”

Mr Zych says Coulston Estates is now trying to ‘mitigate’ its site access problem with a plan to improve the junction of Wiltshire Drive and Bradley Road with Silver Street Lane.

The developers have proposed package of off-site works to improve the Wiltshire Drive/Bradley Road/Silver Street Lane junction including alterations to widen lanes.

If the plans are approved, Coulston Estates says it will discourage private car use by offering to provide each new household on Elm Grove with an umbrella to encourage residents to walk during rainy weather, a £100 voucher towards buying a new bike from a local dealer to get them cycling rather than driving, and a £100 voucher towards the cost of buying public transport tickets.

It is also understood that South West Wiltshire MP Dr Andrew Murrison is taking an interest in the scheme.