Jon Hubbard

Liberal Democrat Wiltshire Councillor for Melksham South and Town Councillor for Melksham Spa Learn more

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Cllr Jon Hubbard calls on District to support retail and employment opportunity for Melksham

by Jon Hubbard on 29 December, 2008

Melksham Councillor Jon Hubbard has condemned Officers on West Wiltshire District Council for recommending refusal of ASDAs application to build a new store and bring 300 desperately needed new jobs to Melksham.

The proposed development is to be discussed at the Planning Committee of WWDC on Thursday 8th January and officers have recommended refusal. Says Jon Hubbard, “Refusal of this proposed development is refusal of 300 jobs for the people of Melksham. It’s refusal of the economic benefits of a major construction project and refusal of an estimated £4.1 million extra trade for Melksham town centre.”

Cllr Jon Hubbard has written to every member of the planning committee at West Wilts urging them to support the development and refuting the grounds for refusal. Cllr Hubbard claims that rejection of this development would be another example of “protectionist planning by the Trowbridge based Tory run council”.

Content of letter sent to members of Planning Committee on WWDC

Re: Planning Application by Asda and Countrywide Farmers for new store

Dear Cllr Fuller,

I am writing to ask you to support the planning application from Asda and Countrywide Farmers which will appear before the District Council on 8th January. This development will bring much needed jobs to the Melksham economy, as well as offering additional choice and shopping opportunities for the local population.

As you will be aware the Town Council have supported the application, subject to some concerns regarding traffic issues. On Monday 22nd December the Town Council met and received a presentation from the applicants in which they demonstrated how they had responded to these concerns with appear to be viable propositions.

I was, frankly, surprised and disappointed that the officers at District have decided to recommend refusal of the revised plans and I am hoping that the planning committee at West Wiltshire District Council will give further consideration to the economic consequences to Melksham of such a refusal.

Melksham is a town that is growing in population. Indeed the figures recently issued by the Boundary’s Commission predict an increase of some 6% over the next four years. Currently 58% of all food shopping by Melksham residents migrates to surrounding towns. Increasing the capacity of Melksham to better supply the needs of these residents can only be advantageous to the economy of the town as a whole. The applicant claims that the development of this store would lead to a £4.1 million boost to the High Street economy. Evidence from similar developments, such as the one in Banff, suggest that these claims are not without foundation.

One of the objections that have been raised is that the proposed store is “out of centre”. The proposed site for the development is only a 0.4 mile (8 minutes) walk from the existing town centre Sainsburys store, the same distance as from one end of the town centre to the other. As a reference point, it is worth noting that the new Secondary School currently under construction is over 3 times this distance from the town centre. It is, of course, worth remembering that the Countywide Farmers Store currently occupying the proposed site is a long established popular retail location for Melksham residents. The revised application includes improved provision for cycle-routes and pedestrian routes to be built between the site and the town centre thus making non-vehicular access to the store easier and safer.

With regard to the officers concerns relating to single car journeys to the store it is worth noting that the applicants have committed to investing £500,000 in providing a free shuttle bus for local residents. At the Town Council meeting on Monday 22nd December the applicants agreed that this could include a circular route around the town ensuring that all people, including those without their own transport, had regular access to the store and town centre. This £500,000 again would be an investment in our local community. Additionally, the applicant were clear that they would raise no objection to customers using their parking facilities as a base for additional shopping in the town centre for which the free shuttle bus could be used, as well as the enhanced pedestrian routes.

As to the concerns about the potential damage to the trade in the Town Centre, I remember similar comments being made when Sainsburys moved their store from Borough Parade to their current site in Chippenham. The Town Centre there has flourished. Concerns were raised when Sainsburys, and then Asda developed their new sites in Frome. The Town Centre is still there and is seen by many as growing and developing. Westbury has a supermarket on the edge of town which does not seem to have destroyed the rest of the Town Centre.

The biggest problem facing Melksham Town Centre is the lack of footfall. More people need to be shopping here, not more people being forced to other towns just to undertake their basic shopping. Reduce the need for people to travel to Trowbridge or Chippenham for their basics and they are more likely to remain in the town for their other shopping.

The principal objection to the proposed development made by West Wiltshire District Council is the one of sustainable transport access, “the site is unlikely to result in sustainable usage, necessitating single trip private car usage to the site which is contrary to PSP6 (sic) and PPG13, Development Plan policy, and sustainability aims.”

In reality, the applicant has indicated that sustainable transport is a key item in their planning. In addition to the enhanced pedestrian and cycle access to the site included in their plans, they are proposing “round Melksham” free bus service that would not only enable shoppers reliant on public transport free and convenient access to the store, but also enable and encourage those shoppers who have used the new ASDA and accessed it by car, to use the store car park and the free bus service to access the existing retail and other facilities of Melksham town centre as part of a single car journey.

I urge you to support this proposed development and help bring new jobs and trade to Melksham in these troubled economic times.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Jon Hubbard

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