THE Heytesbury, Imber & Knook Parish Council chairman has defended their public consultation on local rural housing following objections from some villagers who oppose new homes being built.

Questionnaires were sent out a month ago to around 400 villagers in Heytesbury, Knook and Tytherington on proposals to meet local housing needs.

Following Wiltshire Council’s 2021 Local Plan Review, it was indicated Heytesbury needed to provide 25 new homes up to 2036 to help meet the authority’s annual 2,006 housing needs target.  

It is estimated that up to 40 per cent of the new homes are likely to be affordable/social housing to meet local needs.

Parish Council chairman Vanessa Sturmey told a meeting on Tuesday (July 26): “A member of the public indicated that recommendations on housing were being rushed with a plan to work with the Sassoon Estate with no infrastructure.

“I would like to make it clear the consultation process is just that, a consultation in order to gain the communities views on rural housing and the different ways of delivery.

“There are no plans from any landowners on the table at this stage, but we must be realistic.

“With Wiltshire Council indicating we need 25 homes by 2036 and a limited land supply, one or more landowners may come forward in the future with a plan and, as councillors, we must be open and honest with our residents and objective in our deliberations and decision-making.”

The council’s Future Planning Working Group (FPWG) has been asked to identify the parish’s potential future housing needs between now and 2036 in line with the 2021 Local Plan.

The group is made up of six parish councillors and two non-members with experience of housing matters, planning and community engagement.

Cllr Sturmey said the FPWG had included two non-elected members to advise councillors, adding: “The FPWG have several advisors they do not have voting rights, they advise, and councillors decide.”

She also addressed concerns from a villager who queried why Heytesbury Football Club had been sent a questionnaire, saying both sports clubs, the village school, local businesses and residents who would be affected by any new housing had all been consulted.

The six-week consultation ends on August 12, after which the Future Planning Working Group will analyse the results and bring back the findings to the parish council for further discussion.

To see the parish document and questionnaire, click here.