TOWN councillors narrowly backed the proposed development at the former Bowyers factory site.

The Innox Mills development caused some contention among Trowbridge town councillors at the town development meeting on October 12.

When voting on whether to give its approval of the development or not – the town council cannot approve any bids itself – four voted in favour of the plans and three against.

Wiltshire Times: Illustrative depiction of Innox Mills

Brian Mitchell asked if the full council should not debate the item as the development would “change the face of the town”.

Chair of the committee, Cllr Andrew Bryant said it was a planning application and the town council is not a formal planning authority.

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Cllr Bryant said that councillors have on and off debated the plans for years.

Leader of the town council, and councillor for the area, Stewart Palmen said he did not believe that it needed to go before full council because it was not a controversial development.

If it was, Cllr Palmen said his inbox would be full of emails asking him to call in the bid.

Cllr Edward Kirk said residents on doorsteps wanted the site developed, but thought the only way for them to have their full say would be for the plans to be called in.

Cllr Palmen said that public consultation had happened around the Innox Mills plans.

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Cllr Mel Jacobs said, in her experience, residents were fed-up and simply wanted the former factory developed but they were equally disappointed by the lack of amenities.

Cllr Stephen Cooper said: “The overwhelming sentiment with residents is they want that site developed.

“They are sick and tired of seeing it as an eyesore as soon as you get off the train.

“It's not a case of any development is better than none but what’s proposed here with a few conditions and a few constraints probably is on the right side of what is acceptable.”

Wiltshire Times: Illustrative depiction of Innox Mills

“I’m pleased this development has come along. I agree that I would prefer a leisure centre, I would prefer a lot more public ability to use the space but I’m a pragmatist,” said Cllr Palmen.

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He added that 300 houses are an excellent use of a brownfield site.

Cllr Graham Hill also asked that a chilled water dispenser be added as a recommendation for the development.

“It’s been mentioned about being an ideal brownfield site, and it is,” said Cllr Andrew Bryant.

“But what we need to remember is that we have a rapidly decreasing clock on the sports facilities in Trowbridge.

“The assumption is, and the assumption made by Wiltshire Council is that we’d get a purpose-built sports centre which originally was going to be on the Eastwing site.”

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However, since then, it has been said by the local authority that the site would not be suitable for such a development.

“I’m thinking what my legacy would be in this council and this town,” he continued. “This application is going to have a lasting impact for generations to come and in that respect, that site is the only site in the town centre that can provide a suitable site for a sports centre.”

Cllr Bryant said that the town council could suggest to Wiltshire Council that it puts in a compulsory purchase order on the land because it is the only town centre site for leisure facilities.

Wiltshire Times: Artist's impressions of the proposed Innox Mills development in Trowbridge

Cllr Palmen came back saying that rejecting these plans on the basis they could persuade the unitary council to put in a compulsory purchase order was fantasy.

“I don’t think we’ll get the leisure centre for a very long time, even at other potential locations,” he said.

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“They’ll keep on promising that and it will keep slipping as it always has done. So when we this opportunity for it being redeveloped for housing on a brownfield site for limited amounts of retail and commercial and for the mill buildings to be preserved and reused – to sacrifice that on the pipe dream of a leisure centre is madness.

“I don’t think us rejecting this is us getting Wiltshire over a barrel.”

Cllr Daniel Cave said that he agreed the site should be used for leisure rather than housing and that the town council should stand up for its residents.

At the vote, councillors Palmen, Hill, Jacobs, Cooper and Piazza voted in favour of the plans with councillors Bryant, Daniel Cave and Emily Kirk against.