As I tried to put together my final thoughts on Wiltshire's Strategic Plan Consultation, I helped myself by putting an overview of my thoughts together so that my inputs really will be strategic and not just about what we want / don't want in our back yard!
A Vision for Wilsthire ...
Where should Wiltshire be going in the next 20 years? What will your home town and your lifestyle be in (say) 2026, or the years leading up to it and thereafter? Is this a place that you'll be proud to live in, or have your children living in? Is it going to be somewhere that's a safe, happy, practical, and environmentally and economically sustainable for everyone?
Wiltshire Council is currently soliciting views under their ""Core Strategy"" consultation so that they can take those views into consideration as the formulate stategic plans leading up to 2026 and beyond. There are bold decisions to be made - and the question "where do we want to be in 2026?" needs to be asked and answered prior to the question "how do we get there?"
Wiltshire has been descibed as a "largely rural county" but at the current time, that applies only to the fact that most of the land is not built up, but rather is agricultural or open. The majority of the population lives in towns or the city of Salisbury rather than in villages, hamlets or isolated dwellings, and the majority of the working population and economic wealth is within those towns and cities rather than in the villages and countryside.
However, a disproportionate expense attaches to the village / isolated dwellings; it costs more to provided a bus service five miles to a village of 500 people than it does to server 500 people who live in the next streets in a town to where a bus serves another community, and furthermore the children in the village will need to be provided with transport to school, whereas as an extension of the town they'll simply be able to walk to school. So this urbanisation is not only efficient when it comes to cost, but also when it come to the time, efficiency, sustainability for the people involved.
Under the Regional Spatial Strategy that's already in place, considerable population growth is called for in Wiltshire, and we should be looking at growth of between 15% and 40% in the number of individuals in the County. On current trends (which look set to continue), average household size is reducing and where a typical home may have 2.6 people at present, it will have 2.3 in 20 years. The population is also aging, which means there is a need for a disproportionate growth in services for the elderly - health care, mobility, leisure activities, home support, etc.
Will we have the resources to see us through to 2026 and beyond (and should we be looking beyond)?
1. Even with the additional housing stock implied by the plans being built at low density on what is currently agricultural land, well under 2% of such land would be taken up. In practise, with grouped housing / higher density living in affordable homes, sheltered and cared accommodation, the figure will be considerably lower. However, not all agricultural land is suitable for development, with issues such as flooding, waterlogging, and access to be considered.
2. Fossil fuels and other materials are limited resources; at current rates of use, some resources are set to run out (it is said) within 20 years, whereas other resources will continue to be available into the distant future. Whilst further resources may be found / available / forthcoming, it is prudent to make efficient uses of what resources we have, and to use alternatives which are less limited or are replemished / sustained into the future.
3. The effect of human life on the wide environment is also under consideration - be it in the form of 'global warming', carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, effects on the strathosphere such as the ozone layer. These items may be much argued over - is it indeed the effect of human life and our way of living that's effecting the environment around us, or is it just natural cycles? But once again, it is prudent for us to reduce the effect we have on the wider environment around us - if we damage our environment, it may be permanent - but if we preserve it, the worst we'll be doing is taking some unneeded precuations.
4. Local waste is also an issue - the immediate fouling of the area that we live in, quite apart from the wider area. We're looking at rubbish, clogged roads, overrun services, and once again it does no harm to go forward with a less heavy footprint even though (in the benefit of hindsight) it might not turn out to have been necessary.
To make more use than is really needed of resources that may run out in the future, and in doing so to perhaps produce a negative global and local environmental is hypocritical. To cherish resources, using less resource rather than more, and using something that's more replemishable rather than less, is the only logical and caring way for us to go.
So what does putting this together mean for Wiltshire?
The growth necessary for to support the future population can come in several ways.
a) The extra growth could be allowed to happen ad-hoc, with commercial interests taking he lead and with infrastructure provision following.
b) A new town could be built, with the extra growth being placed there and existing towns continuing on with little change
c) Extra growth could be channelled into the existing towns
Ad-hoc development would lead to a sprawl of communities - a growth of villages and hamlets, of bottlenecks and no-go zones. There's no natural geography in Wiltshire (as perhaps there would be in a land of valleys such as the Norwegian Fjords) which would provide an external influence to channel ad-hoc growth in modern society whereas there was in the past - with towns developing in valley bottoms or at defendable positions.
A new town could be provided in Wiltshire - indeed "West of Swindon" is such a suggestion - but it will cost a great deal to provide complete and new infrastructure not only for a town, but for a substantial town with the facilites to be considered complete. And such a new town, with the corollary of ceasing most moves forward at other towns in the vicinity, could lead to those other towns moving into a slow decline.
Extra growth into existing towns will mean some growing pains, but also some huge opportunities; towns need to be looked at individually to see what suits them best. There are some towns which are currently of a natural size and with a natural character where substantial growth would detract from that balance and character which should be retained ... where current infrastructure is not easily extensible, and local opinion is in favour of the status quo. There are other towns for which growth would be a positive benefit, bringing them to a size where that can have a much more complete range of facilities, and where such growth is welcomed and encouraged from within the town.
There is a natural desire on the part of many people to ask for their own area to be left alone, and for development to carry on elsewhere, and if everyone succeeeded with this argument ("NIMBYism") then nothing would get done. But a town that's being left alone will typically going into a quiet decline, and it won't be that the status quo is maintained - it's likely that you'll see a slow degredation of services, and an increase in poverty.
Wiltshire Council's draft strategy
The council's draft strategy calls for substantial growth in Chippenham, Trowbridge, and in an are known as "West of Swindon". (Salisbury and South Wiltshire have their own plan and are outside the scope of the current consultation).
For the next level of town - ranging from Melksham (largest in the group) down to towns with populations of around 4000 to 5000, it calls for a lower level of growth - essentially looking at what the current setup will support, with an expectation that an increasing number of services will need to be accessed from "the big three". These towns are know as the "market towns" in the Wiltshire Council documents
For smaller towns / and villages, the plans are broadly for infill, with many places not mentioned in the plans because nothing will be added, and others mentioned because a pocket of land has been identified within the town / village where extra houses could be built.
New communities / development in halmets with minimal services / isolated homesteads and small clumps of houses are discouraged by the strategy.
The strategy has much to commend it, and congratulations are due to Wiltshire Council on many areas of the strategy. However, a more detailed looked and further comment needs to be made, and plans amended to take account, in a number of areas.
Areas of Concern
a) Has the correct division been made between the larger towns and the Market Towns? Have the aspirations of the local population been truely considered, and is it right to treat a town of 23,000 in the same [headline] way that you treat one of 4,000, rather than treating it similarly to a town of 28,000? Statements made by staff (and planning recommendations already made by them) from the spatial planning unit conflict with the view of local businesses and population.
b) The individual area plans each need considerable local review. Some appear to have been drawn up in haste (and to be fair, this IS a consultation excercise), with information shown on plans being directly contradicted by Wiltshire Council employees who were on hand at the exhibitions held around the area in November and early December.
c) There is concern that not enough opportunity is being taken to implement the sustainability issues as defined earlier in this document within the plans; although they are being spoken of, that's not followed through as much as it could be to the detail of planning for people to enjoy a high standard of living and services with a practical reduction on the use of resources (including their own time) and production of waste to have such a standard.
"County" -> Unitary Areas
"Towns" -> Towns and City of Salisbury
"Larger Towns" -> Towns that are proposed as major centres - currently Salisbury, Chippenham, Trowbridge and West-of-Swindon
"Market Towns" -> Towns with population of 4,000 to 25,000, proposed for more limited satellite growth
Having cleared my mind with some of those broad brush strokes and asking "where are we going and why?", I have come up with the following which are worthy of detailed review / possible input
1. Should Melksham be considered / treated as a larger town, or a market town?
2. Where should the planned growth in the Melksham area be placed / where should be ungrown?
3. What infrastructure changes should be made for Melksham
4. How does travel and transport work within, through, between and beyond Wiltshire's settlements?
5. Tourism, culture and leisure
(written 2009-12-20, updated 2009-12-21)
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articlesZ402 - Melksham Chamber of Commerce and Industry 
Questions from children about Melksham Campus - (2013-05-26) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce - Report for AGM, 21st May 2013 - (2013-05-21) 
Over a hundred welcoming businesses - Melksham Town Centre - (2013-03-17) 
Report on the last year - Melksham Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Melksham Without Parish Council - (2013-03-11) 
Costa Coffee in Melksham - is it a good idea? - (2013-02-22) 
Images of Melksham you havent seen before - (2013-02-13) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce - join us in our future - (2013-01-21) 
Quiet little town? Advanced Technology Centre? - (2012-12-08) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce - whence in 2013 and beyond? - (2012-10-12) 
Chamber of Commerce - looking forward in Melksham and in Wessex - (2012-10-04) 
The difficult interface between the business, council and voluntary sectors - (2012-09-19) 
Bus times - Chippenham Station to Melksham, with London connections - (2012-08-25) 
Making things happen - litter and ASB and lost dogs in Melksham - (2012-07-25) 
The Melksham News - July 2012 - Part 1, Campus and Chamber of Commerce - (2012-07-22) 
Melksham Pride - the Chamber of Commerce, and the future - (2012-06-29) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce - looking to our future shape. Pivotal meeting next Tuesday - (2012-06-19) 
How well do you know Melksham? - (2012-06-17) 
Melksham Visitors Map - Bus routes and train lines to and from the town - (2012-06-04) 
Public transport for international arrivals into Melksham - (2012-06-04) 
Not everyone has a computer - 9 more ways to learn about the Melksham Campus - (2012-06-03) 
Go green - business seminar in Melksham - (2012-05-21) 
Ten more visitors to your premises every day? - (2012-05-14) 
Just 12 winners? Or 371 or more? Town Centres. - (2012-04-30) 
Encouraging business in Melksham and its neighbourhood - keep business local?? - (2012-04-27) 
An exciting Chamber of Commerce AGM - sound like an Oxymoron? - (2012-04-25) 
Why do people use chains rather than independent traders? - (2012-04-18) 
Events in Melksham - read all about them, and tell us about yours - (2012-04-15) 
Melksham government and business organisations - (2012-04-14) 
Wiltshire Business Support Service - (2012-04-11) 
Melksham Business Newsreel - (2012-04-03) 
Some advise for guest speakers at meetings - (2012-03-31) 
Melksham Train Service - please support the TransWilts case for regular trains - (2012-03-25) 
Changing shops and organisations - Melksham, the last and next five years - (2012-03-21) 
Meeting Report - Tuesday 21st Feb - to Melksham Chamber of Commerce from Shadow Community Operations Board - (2012-02-27) 
Melksham Civic Awards - report and pictures - (2012-01-29) 
Melksham, Month by month through 2011 - (2011-12-23) 
Melksham - changing times, an opportunity for the future - (2011-11-23) 
Melksham - Business to Business Speed Networking - build ahead for 2012 - (2011-10-26) 
Looking forward - Chamber of Commerce has 2012 and beyond on the agenda - (2011-10-26) 
Upcoming events in and about Melksham - more dates for your diary - (2011-10-22) 
Some thoughts in answer to some Melksham Campus questions - (2011-10-14) 
Havant - Shop Frontages. - (2011-10-12) 
Currently pictured in Melksham - (2011-10-09) 
Melksham to become a part of Trowbridge? - (2011-09-13) 
What is on the Melksham Agenda? - (2011-09-09) 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 12? - (2011-09-07) 
Making best use of the new enthusiasm for Melksham - (2011-09-05) 
Are people who walk into Melksham being asked to subsidise parking? - (2011-08-09) 
Melksham Jelly - An Occasional Office for Home Workers - (2011-08-06) 
Summer Sunday Train Service Starts - Swindon Chippenham and Melksham to Weymouth - (2011-07-03) 
Summer Sunday Timetable - TransWilts Trains - (2011-06-30) 
A lesson from the sporran market? - (2011-06-25) 
The Olympic Torch, and Melksham House - (2011-06-14) 
Melksham Community Radio launches - (2011-05-28) 
Presidents Report to Melksham Chamber of Commerce, 24.5.2011 - (2011-05-24) 
Letter to The Editor - (2011-05-06) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce - grows to appoint new Press Officer. Welcome. Sam - (2011-05-02) 
Melksham Car Parking - current charges and limits - (2011-05-01) 
Events - Spring and Early Summer 2011 in Melksham - (2011-04-17) 
Melksham - the way forward. 26th April, Well House Manor - (2011-04-13) 
Vandalism and riot from the minority - the effect - (2011-03-28) 
Melksham Campus - any last minute inputs from Melksham businesses? - (2011-03-26) 
Melksham Campus - what, why, questions, concerns and how you can input - (2011-03-04) 
What proportion of the British Workforce still works a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, week? - (2011-03-01) 
What is the Melksham Chamber of Commerce? - (2011-02-18) 
On consultations, car parking, and Melksham town centre - (2011-02-17) 
Keep your business customer-friendly! - (2011-02-09) 
Wiltshire Rail services - a golden opportunity - (2011-01-21) 
Opportunities for Melksham - new businesses in the town - (2011-01-01) 
Trowbridge and Melksham to Chippenham - more roadworks, even slower journey over the winter - (2010-12-30) 
Melksham - two many councils? - (2010-12-16) 
A river in Melksham is not just for boaters. - (2010-10-11) 
Travel, Transport and Tourism - A vision for Melksham, 2026 - (2010-10-03) 
A Melksham news roundup - (2010-09-18) 
Welcome to Countrywides new Melksham store - (2010-09-15) 
Getting into and out of Wiltshire towns .. a.k.a. Car Parking? - (2010-08-23) 
Wiltshire Council ask how they can help businesses - (2010-07-27) 
Melksham Oak - photos of the new community school - (2010-07-22) 
Moved - Melksham Lorry Park - (2010-07-15) 
Cycling in Melksham, and looking forward - (2010-07-11) 
Transport in Wessex - today and into the future - (2010-07-04) 
Lorry Parking in Melksham - (2010-06-29) 
Melksham - a gem in Wiltshire - (2010-06-26) 
Tell the Melksham Chamber or you only have yourself to blame - (2010-05-26) 
The history and future of Melksham Chamber of Commerce - (2010-05-25) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce - Presidents report to AGM - (2010-05-19) 
How do our tactics help us meet the strategy, for the greater good? - (2010-04-16) 
Car Parking in Melksham - (2010-03-18) 
Random thoughts on Melksham Town Planning and development - (2010-03-08) 
How is your tax pound spent? - (2010-02-18) 
Melksham Area - your community view is sought - (2010-01-23) 
Forums for your Melksham and open source discussions - (2010-01-09) 
How well do you know Melksham - a quiz for Christmas - (2009-12-21) 
Rock and hard place .. and the relaxing right one won - (2009-12-18) 
Melksham - new Tuesday Market - (2009-12-09) 
Melksham Market - Tuesdays, 09:00 to 14:00 - (2009-12-01) 
The road show has been - where now? - (2009-11-27) 
Community Area Partnership - inaugural AGM - (2009-11-20) 
Planning the future of Wiltshire - (2009-11-07) 
Melksham Forum - (2009-11-01) 
Melksham Town - asleep or awake? - (2009-10-21) 
New Web Site for Melksham Chamber of Commerce - (2009-10-18) 
Wiltshire Unitary News - Chamber of Commerce Intelligence - (2009-10-04) 
Melksham - no trains, no southbound buses through the town - (2009-08-08) 
pre-Inaugural briefing - Melksham Community Area Partnership - (2009-07-15) 
Wiltshire Community Area Partnerships - (2009-07-15) 
Important - the future of Melksham / Chamber of Commerce - (2009-06-28) 
Melksham Traders - where do we go? - (2009-06-05) 
Melksham Business Map - Chamber of Commerce, Tourist Information and Town Council - (2009-05-21) 
You cannot please all of the people all of the time - (2009-05-14) 
Make your business a DESTINATION business - (2009-04-05) 
Business Networking for Melksham - 23rd April - (2009-04-01) 
Blue Ridge and Melksham Chambers of Commerce - (2009-03-21) 
Confidence, Customer Service and Tourism in Melksham - (2009-02-15) 
One Cheer for Local Democracy - Asda in Melksham - (2009-01-11) 
Looking forward, in Melksham, in 2009 - (2009-01-05) 
Lidl opens in Melksham - (2008-12-11) 
Ruby, Perl, Linux, MySQL - some training notes - (2008-11-23) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce and Industry - (2008-11-17) 
Wiltshire Council says - part 1 - (2008-11-13) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce, or the FSB - (2008-11-12) 
All the pieces fall into place - hotel and courses - (2008-09-10) 
Hotel room prices - Melksham, Wiltshire - (2008-08-11) 
Summer! - (2008-05-15) 
Changing a screen saver from a web page (PHP, Perl, OSX) - (2008-05-06) 
Comments on proposed Asda Superstore for Melksham - (2008-01-14) 
Flooding by Asda-s proposed new supermarket - (2008-01-12) 
Shopping for Christmas and looking forward - (2007-12-17) 
Wiltshire County Council - Budget Consultation - (2007-11-15) 
Remembrance day - inside a church and inside the day - (2007-11-11) 
Business speed networking - a place tonight! - (2007-06-28) 
Asda opening large new store in Melksham - (2007-06-08) 
A customer service company - (2006-05-11)
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