Wiltshire Publications

Councillors critical of Wiltshire’s lack of planning enforcement

Story posted on

WESTBURY town councillors have expressed their anger over a lack of enforcement action by Wiltshire Council following a spate of incidents in Westbury where applicants are not facing repercussions for flouting planning permission. 

Cllr Sheila Kimmins

Town councillors say that as Wiltshire Council has a ‘very poor enforcement history,’ applicants often take advantage by either not completing agreed works and letting a site become derelict, or by submitting plans late into construction, or even after the project is built. 

Councillors pointed to several projects in the town that have followed this pattern, such as plans to transform Long River Farm into a tourism area, and the failed development of the now closed Grade II listed Westbury Leigh Baptist Church. 

The town council will write a letter to Wiltshire Council to make their complaints heard. The idea of the letter was sparked by another incident this year where the applicant submitted plans for a single-story rear extension after construction was completed. Wiltshire Council’s planning enforcement officer has said in a notice to the town council that they, “will not be taking any formal action on this as there is no planning harm.” 

Councillors discussed this at a recent meeting of the highways, planning and development committee of Westbury Town Council, and the mayor, cllr Sheila Kimmins said, “This makes me so angry; I think it is a disgusting decision by Wiltshire Council. What is the point of people submitting planning applications when other people ignore the system and build a single-story extension to their home with no repercussions?  

“Wiltshire Council has a very poor enforcement history, therefore there are those who take advantage by not putting in an application until the work has been completed or reported.  When permission is granted with conditions, it would appear that no one from Wiltshire Council goes to ensure the conditions are applied to. 

“I would like to see that the sites are visited, that all conditions are applied to, that orders are made to demolish unplanned works and works that do not comply with the conditions.” 

Cllr Gordon King added, “We should write to Wiltshire Council and note the failure of their enforcement strategy and their application of that strategy, which is lamentable. There are lots of examples around the town where they have absolutely failed, such as the Equestrian Centre at Long River Farm. So, let’s say our issue is not with people themselves, but with the strategy itself.” 

Westbury town councillors have previously spoken out about repeated planning applications for a camping and touring caravan site at Long River Farm, saying the applicant was playing the system.  

Long River Farm’s previous attempts to turn the area into a camping site were met with concerns by Westbury Town Council over the area becoming a ‘mini-enterprise’, which led to the applicant withdrawing their plans.  

Baptist Church development

Speaking to the White Horse News, cllr Kimmins said, “If you know that that there will be no follow up on your work(s) then of course developers/people will take advantage. 

“A typical example is the Baptist Church in Leigh Road where a developer was granted planning permission, started work, applied for a change which was not granted, so now the building stands empty, falling into disrepair and the neighbours have earth up to their windows and overlook a derelict site. 

“Another example would be where a resident has ripped a Wiltshire Council hedge out with plans to build their own fence or wall, which is not in keeping with the rest of the street scene, and yet it was allowed because Wiltshire Council seemingly can’t be bothered to have any teeth. 

“It’s happening all over the town and it’s been going on for years now.”