Calne News 1


This is the beginning of a new feature in Calne News. Local councillors are invited to submit their own columns to be published under this section, giving them a wider platform to connect with the residents of Calne. This week's column has been written by Cllr Michael Hudston - Central Ward.

hudstonA Man Alone

Last night was a meeting of Calne Town Council's Planning Licencing and Highways Consultative Committee.

This committee, held every three weeks, gives the town council the chance to give its collective view (by majority vote) on, amongst other things, any planning applications within the Calne Town Council Area, and a chance to comment on any major planning applications in Calne Without Area, that boarder on to the CTC area.

One application that was debated at some length last night, was the application by Hawkfield Homes to redevelop the former Coop site.

Now, I am conflicted about any development of this site. As it stands, it is a 1960s monstrosity that does need knocking down and re-developing. It is an eyesore and is attracting antisocial behaviour. It needs to go and soon.

Any subsequent re-development needs to be in harmony with its surroundings and this one should take into consideration the River Marden, Doctors Pond, the conservation area (which it sits in) and the fact it sits adjacent to two churches and a number of listed buildings. Any application should also consider the sites previous life, in this case as a retail outlet.

Whilst the application submitted did have a few positive things going for it. Knocking down the Coop for one, some public green space around the river and moving the main part of the development away from Calne Free Church, but that was about all. The rest of it I believe is a hideous carbuncle, which has no right to exist in Calne.

20 odd town houses (many 4 bedroom) and a few flats, crammed on to the remainder of the site, without any consideration that their height would have on the neighbouring properties with balconies that overlook gardens and other properties, but no outside space of their own, is not my idea of suitable town centre development!

But last night I was apparently alone in this thinking. Two members of the public spoke on this issue. One a resident from Mill Street who generally spoke in favour, and another a representative of the developer. No members of the public chose to attend to speak against this development, not even one!

Several town councillors, spoke generally in favour of the application, as being better than what exists, and the previous application, both low bars in themselves, a caravan site could be considered better. To give them some credit they did raise some concerns about the height and materials used.

I did propose that Calne Town Council reject this application, as being in breach of several Core Planning Policies, relating to its Size and Scale, and the fact that the developers had ignored some advice from Wiltshire Council in their pre-planning consultation. However no other Calne town councillor who attended the meeting supported my proposal.

One town councillor did go on a bit of a bizarre diatribe about the history of the site, how the concrete gets harder over time and how good it was and should remain a large retail site, but this councillor neither supported my proposal to reject the application, nor voted against the proposal which was eventually tabled.

So, in the end the vote tabled was to generally support the application with some caveats around the height of the development and lack of retail provision, with I believe, four supporting, one against (myself) and the rest present abstaining. Well, this is democracy. You don't always get the result you were expecting or wanted.

So, what now? I am not one who believes we should have no housing in town centres. I was always going to accept that much of the site would be housing of some sort, but I would also have expected a significant proportion would provide for small boutique retail and other light commercial use such as a café, particularly to take advantage of the vistas around the river.

I still believe that this development is wrong for this location and will say so on the Wiltshire Council Planning Portal. I can only hope that Wiltshire Council take my comments into consideration, or that Hawkfield Homes have a change of heart and take on board everything that was said and amend their application. If not, I hope what is built doesn’t look as bad as I fear it will.

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I had the opportunity today, to pay a brief visit to an old haunt of mine, the White Hart on London Road and I met with the site manager.

As you all are aware, this is being converted into apartments, with the pub, restaurant and kitchen remaining.

Work is progressing nicely, although it will probably be a good year before it's finished and the apartments are being occupied.

There has been a need for a significant amount of structural remedial work required, including extensive repointing of the stonework throughout. They are trying and succeeding in the most part, to retain many of the old features of the buildings such as wooden lintels and most importantly the Internal staircase, which is what made the building Grade 2* listed, not just Grade 2.

Some painting of the stonework, where repointing has been completed has commenced, and like me you are all probably looking forward to the road facing facades, being completed. I think you will be pleased with the colour as it will be similar to the cream that it used to be.

One little tit bit of news, is apparently someone has already expressed an interest in taking over the pub and running it as a going concern, but only time will tell if that pans out.

 

 

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