Wiltshire Cabinet answers my Future Chippenham Questions

Today I received written responses to my questions to Wiltshire Council on the Future Chippenham HIF bid. These were sent before last weeks new ‘Half a HIF’ proposal.

When presented with the Half a HIF proposals on Friday 16th July, I put it to Wiltshire Cabinet’s leader Richard Clewer that the proposals still failed to meet Chippenham’s Carbon budget, removed our ability to adapt to climate change by building on farm land, and was building houses with run-off to the river north of Chippenham and simultaneously adding them to flood plains in the south, referencing the tragedy in Germany. Essentially he agreed with me but said what am I to do? Well the answer to that is quite obvious!

It’s also interesting that despite reports in the Gazette & Herald, Michelle Donelan has not withdrawn her support from the scheme. Are we getting more ‘double speak’ from our MP as her government pushes through planning reforms to remove any possibility of changing this scheme putting us at the mercy of developers?

Matthew McLaughlin, local democracy reporter for the Gazette & Herald indicated (on twitter) that our MP’s support hinged on reassurances over the allocation of CIL monies to infrastructure which is promised in the latest cabinet report. Matthew has asked what Michelle’s stance on the new bid is?

Statement and Questions from Cllr Matthew Short – Chippenham Town Council

To Councillor Richard Clewer, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for MCI, Economic Development, Heritage, Arts, Tourism and Health & Wellbeing


As a newly elected Chippenham Town Councillor for Hardens and Central ward I would like to highlight to Wiltshire Council Chippenham Town Council’s continued unanimous rejection of the HIF road scheme and 7500 houses. 

The newly elected town council confirmed its opposition at its Annual Council meeting on 19th May.  Further, at Full council on the 17th June it resolved to send a letter to Wiltshire Council, Homes England and Minister of Housing, Communities and Local Government, wholly opposing the construction of such a road and the use of HIF funding with the proposal for 7500 houses in the Avon and Marden Valley area defined by the proposed road routes.

Firstly, thank you for taking some notice of Chippenham’s residents concerns and reducing the quantity of proposed housing and removing the Northern housing distributor road. It was also good to hear your comments on Climate change and environmental concerns.

However for very valid reasons I would like to highlight that as a Town Councillor I rejected the whole of the HIF bid, not half of it. Those reasons still apply because as Scotty would say ‘You cannae change the laws of physics’

The quantity of housing in the pipeline and already with planning permission is extremely high. It appears there is no current information on number of houses that have been built? So where is the baseline. One of my residents Melanie Boyle has made detailed calculations of housing numbers  with the various developments, and it is impossible to understand why we are deemed to need 3800-4200 houses, and how that can be achieved and stay within our Climate strategy. The Draft Chippenham Neighbourhood Plan includes an evidence based figure of 2500.

I personally oppose the HIF bid for many reasons including…

  1. Carbon Budget

The UK government has pledged to meet net zero carbon by 2050. Wiltshire County council and Chippenham Town council have both declared a Climate Emergency and aim for Chippenham  to reach net zero by 2030.

I have calculated the fair carbon budget for Chippenham to be 1.69 megatonnes of CO2 to achieve our portion of staying withing the safe 1.5 degrees C global temperature rise.

Chippenham’s current carbon baseline is 440,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. At that rate we have less than five years to get to net zero!

Current housing construction standards emit typical 50-80** tonnes of CO2 per house build so the build of 7500 attached to the HIF bid alone will generate 375,000 tonnes of CO2 using approximately 22% of the total remaining budget. This is before disturbed carbon in the soil and road building is accounted for plus additional car usage.

So It remains impossible for Chippenham to meet its 1.5 degree climate goal. We are planning to fail at the start of the most important decade to tackle climate change.

It is the first responsibility of a Council to safeguard the welfare of their citizens, including by taking reasonable measures to mitigate substantial threats. 

Climate change is a grave threat to people around the world, jeopardising health, security and prosperity. By continuing down this route you are knowingly putting Chippenham residents at risk in a year and decade where leadership is required.

  1. Climate Adaption 

Much of the land being built upon is farm land, some county farms.

Under specific Climate pathways we could regularly reach summer temperatures of over 40 degrees C in Wiltshire. In this scenario global food supplies are likely to be disrupted and it will become too hot to grow food in some countries.

Thus having local farmland available for future generations of Chippenham residents to grow food on is vital.

It is the first responsibility of the local government in a democratic society to protect and safeguard the lives of its citizens. Where there is a foreseeable risk of substantial harm, a local government will be under a duty of care to take reasonable steps to safeguard its citizens against that harm, and failing to take such steps will constitute a breach of that duty. 

I argue that the risk of Climate change is known by Wiltshire Council given their own declared Climate emergency. The building on local historic farmland fails to take an adequate risk assessment of the future need for this land to grow food for future generations.

3 Ecological Emergency

Chippenham has declared an ecological emergency.

The environmental considerations in this report seem to take no account of the damage done by pouring irreversible mega-tonnes of concrete onto farmland. This is an emergency requiring immediate action, Climate change is a time bound problem!

We must act now.

I therefore call on Wiltshire cabinet to reject this plan for the sake of future generations.

Question 1 – (21-139)

Why has Wiltshire council continued during the consultation process to seek a Joint Venture (JV) partner offering county owned farm land to development partners? It is even prepared to offer land outside of Chippenham to seal the deal!


Wiltshire Council has engaged consultants to undertake soft market testing to understand the market interest in forming a joint venture partnership. A paper is being taken to Cabinet in July where this matter will be discussed and a further report is planned later in the year. 

Question 2 – (21-140)

What steps are being taken to avoid corrupt practice in engaging a joint developer given potential for insider dealing and trading with land that we the people own?


The appointment of a joint venture partner will be governed by an open and transparent  procurement process compliant within public procurement requirements. If a JV partner is sought the Council will employ legal and property consultants to provide advice to ensure that the Council’s interest are protected and maximised.

Question 3 – (21-141)

Why does the Joint Development agreement look for only financial gain and take no account of sustainable development?


The criteria for the appointment of a Joint Venture development partner have not yet been set and will be informed by the on-going work being undertaken. These criteria will include a need for the JV partner to meet the Council’s current and future planning policy objectives for development that include the requirement for new development to be sustainable. A joint venture development would be required to comply with the Council’s planning policies.

Question 4 – (21-142)

Why have the Future Chippenham team broken its promise to report the results of the HIF bid (Road) consultation within 12 weeks of consultation closure?


The Future Chippenham Stakeholder and Community Engagement Strategy states:

4.4.4 The Future Chippenham team’s response to the consultation will be published within 12 weeks of the consultation closing or an explanation provided as to why this timescale is not possible. The following explanation has been placed onto the Future Chippenham web site. 

The Future Chippenham team apologise for the slight delay in the publication of its response to the consultation. The number of responses received has been very significant and it has been necessary to ensure that all responses are appropriately fed back in a timely way into the Options Assessment Report update (OAR) process.

This has meant that unfortunately we have not been able to meet the 12-week period for publishing the consultation feedback report. We are currently finalising the report and anticipate it will be published in time for it to be considered by Cabinet in July.

Question 5 – (21-143)

Prior to the election Cllr Clewer and other Conservative councillors said that the additional 5,000 houses Wiltshire had voluntarily taken on, would be removed from Wiltshire housing target and the Local Plan would be adapted in line with the significant consultation response. If  the 5,000 houses are removed the target for Chippenham is significantly reduced and there is no need for the HIF bid. Will Cllr Clewer now confirm 5000 houses have been removed from the housing target?


Cabinet considered a report about the Wiltshire Local Plan Review at its meeting on 29 June 2021. No decisions were made at that meeting on policies for the draft Plan including the housing requirement. At the meeting it was resolved to undertake further work in response to the recent consultation on key parts of the evidence base including testing the upper and lower levels of housing need and spatial distribution of growth for the plan period.

As also set out in that report (paragraph 5), once the draft Plan has been prepared it will be brought back to Cabinet and onto Council for approval before a further stage of consultation is undertaken.

Question 6 – (21-144)

Is the Cabinet aware of Chippenham’s MP withdraw of her support for the HIF road bid?


Recent correspondence with Michelle Donelan MP is available on our website Wiltshire Council responds to a letter from Michelle Donelan MP regarding Future Chippenham – Wiltshire Council The MP’s support of the Future Chippenham programme has not been withdrawn and is dependent on the council delivering specific outcomes for Chippenham and its residents. We are continuing our dialogue with the MP on these outcomes.

Question 7 – (21-145)

Will Cllr Clewer now publish the agreement with Homes England, as promised by Cllr Whitehead. If not, why won’t the document be published? How can the public of Chippenham engage if these agreements are hidden and apparently created behind closed doors?


Following questions about the publication of the GDA HIF Agreement advice was sought from Homes England. Their advice is that the GDA should not be published.  

Question 8 – (21-146)

Why can’t the council based in Trowbridge use a system that will allow the people of Chippenham to genuinely engage in the consultation process and ask questions?


In July 2020, the council adopted a Temporary Arrangements supplement to the Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) which presents an interim approach to carrying out public consultation considering the restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and following Government advice at the time. 

The programme for public engagement on the Future Chippenham road route options consultation adhered to the provisions set out in the Temporary Arrangements supplement to the SCI. For example, the Future Chippenham team undertook a series of live online webinar events to engage with interested parties rather than organising face-to-face events or exhibitions