Wiltshire Council launched a public consultation on their proposals for a Core Strategy in the autumn of 2009.
As a locally based Housing Association providing sustainable and affordable housing for local people in Wiltshire's villages the Association welcomed the opportunity to respond to the consultation exercise. The Association is keen that the Core Strategy is a forward looking robust document that will ensure that Wiltshire remains a vibrant and prosperous County.
In our response we said that we believe that the Strategy needs to enable the planning system to at least retain and preferably improve the balance of households with different characteristics in rural communities. This should be done on a village specific basis having taken into account local views of what makes that village sustainable and what is needed to ensure that it remains sustainable into the future. We also said that such an approach should also bear in mind that relatively small improvements such as improved broadband access and speeds would do much to improve sustainability by enabling home working and encouraging self employment opportunities.
We were concerned that there appeared to be little expectation of change for rural areas in the Strategy. We said that we believe that the Strategy must reflect the rural nature of the County and should actively consider:-
- Diversification of employment uses to encourage villages to be living and working places.
- Consideration of the range of infrastructure required to make communities sustainable, including transport, communications, broadband and other technologies availability.
- The vital importance of a balanced mix of market and affordable homes.
- Taking a much longer term in relation to village sustainability.
- Assessing the contribution villages make to the prosperity and vibrancy of the County as a whole.
- Assessing the trends towards self employment and home working and the contribution this makes towards reducing CO2 emissions.
- Acceptance of the fact that some local service provision may not be preserved as national and local economics change and assessing the impact of such changes together with continuing technological advances which could significantly change views on sustainability criteria.
- Consideration of how local services may be provided for natural groups of villages or hamlets rather than just looking at individual settlements.
The Council is now considering all the responses and we look forward to continuing the dialogue on this important issue.