A plan for up to 53 new and affordable homes has been labelled a 'slum of the future' by a Wiltshire councillor.

Wiltshire Council has approved an outline planning application for the dwellings on agricultural land west of Semington Road in Melksham.

The proposal was discussed at the strategic planning committee meeting on Wednesday, November 30. (Changes made to the article, see below)

In response to the plans, Councillor Mike Sankey said: “On the face of it, the 100 per cent affordable housing should be a cause for celebration for all the reasons we’ve heard.
“I have spoken previously in this chamber about the 4,500 families on the Wiltshire Council social housing waiting list, but this application will isolate and stigmatise future residents.

“It's cut off from the local infrastructure by the A350 and being 100% affordable will mean that it is not tenant blind, everybody will know it is basically a council estate.

“This application, basically, is to build a slum of the future, an area of deprivation where the concept of food waste will probably be perceived as a bit of a luxury.”

Fellow county councillors objected to the negative nature of this comparison.

Councillor Stewart Palmen responded: “There seems almost to be some prejudice against building something that is like a council estate.

“I think council estates played a fantastic role and enabled a lot of people into high-quality housing.”

Councillor Pip Ridout added: “I was brought up in a council house and I had a council house until many years ago.

“The reference to areas or people who live there as a slum or a ghetto, I totally object to.”

Councillor Adrian Foster agreed and said he did not believe such comments were acceptable.

Wiltshire Times: Access is proposed through the approved Phase 1 scheme, which secured direct access off Semington Road.Access is proposed through the approved Phase 1 scheme, which secured direct access off Semington Road. (Image: BHB Architects)
The application itself states: “The scheme proposes a high-quality development of up to 53 dwellings with associated public open space, landscaping, parking and access, which will help meet an identified need in the local area.

“The proposal is of a scale that is proportionate to the size of the settlement, and will not have any adverse affects in terms of highway safety, amenity of neighbours, flood risk, heritage, ecology or any other environmental requirements.”

The site is adjacent to development under the same ownership which was approved in phase 1 of the application.

Phase 1 was also all affordable housing, 60 per cent of which is affordable rent and 40% of which is shared ownership.

Councillor Richard Wood and Councillor Nick Holder said that the development will go against the plan to disperse affordable housing into “mixed, balanced and inclusive communities”, as stated in Wiltshire Council’s core strategy.

They also expressed concern about the walking distance between the site and local schools.

Some councillors spoke of their disappointment with seeing developments that are not part of strategic plans, such as the local plan or the Melksham neighbourhood plan.

Councillor John Glover, the chair of Melksham Without Parish Council, said: “The only thing that supports this recommendation is the lack of a five-year land supply, something that Wiltshire Council and officials have failed to provide for years.”

Despite this, the majority of councillors agreed that faced with the housing shortfall, they had no choice but to approve the plans.

Details of the application can be found on the Planning and Building Control Public Register.  

The full strategic planning committee meeting is available to watch on the Wiltshire Council’s YouTube account.

In the original article, we said Councillor Mike Sankey was speaking on behalf of Councillor Jonathon Seed, as that was how he was introduced at the meeting. However, Cllr Seed wants to make it clear that Cllr Sankey's comments on the development were his own and not of Cllr Seed's.