Feather Footed Flower bee on Lungwort

Chippenham Neighbourhood Plan Referendum 23rd May 2024

On Thursday 23rd May 2024 there is a referendum in Chippenham for the Chippenham Neighbourhood Plan with the question

Do you want Wiltshire Council to use the Neighbourhood Plans for Chippenham to help it decide planning applications in the Neighbourhood area?

Chippenham residents will have the choice of voting Yes or No.

For transparency, as an elected town councillor I was part of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering group. I provide the information below to explain what the neighbourhood plan is, what happens if it is adopted, and how it might be used for planning decisions. I am not representing any view of the town council, these are my own words.

What is a Neighbourhood Plan?

Here’s the UK Government explanation:

“Neighbourhood planning is a new way for communities to have a say in the future of the places where they live and work. It gives you the power to produce a plan with real legal weight that directs development in your local area.”

Neighbourhood Plans were introduced in the Localism Act 2011.

So the Neighbourhood Plan is a legal planning document.

Once ‘made’ ie adopted it becomes part of the development plan for Chippenham against which Planning Applications are determined.

Where can I read the Chippenham Neighbourhood Plan to make my decision?

The Chippenham Neighbourhood Plan is a 132 page document which can be viewed here


The Neighbourhood Plan sets out Planning policies for

  • Green and Blue Infrastructure
  • Housing
  • Transport
  • Town Centre
  • Community Infrastructure
  • The Economy

The Neighbourhood Plan has a number of supporting documents on the Chippenham Neighbourhood plan website

The Chippenham Design Guide is a detailed document that is worth reading as an accompanying document to the neighbourhood Plan. It contains detailed design principles for development in Chippenham from nature friendly measures such as Hedgehog Highways, Bee Bricks, Bird boxes and bat boxes; Parks and Open spaces, Sustainable transport, and architecture and building materials, to name but a few.

How was the Plan prepared?

The plan has taken five years to get to referendum stage. It covers the parish of Chippenham. It has been developed by the community, for the community.

Starting with an initial steering group of six town councillors and six members of the public, seven topic groups were created. Each topic group was led by two steering group members and consisted of volunteer members of the public. It has undergone a public consultation, had a Strategic Environmental Assessment, and an Independent Viability Assessment.

What happens if the plan is adopted?

Here are some of the Key Points:

  • The amount of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) money from development in the Chippenham parish, retained locally by the town council, for spend on Community infrastructure within Chippenham, will increase from 15% to 25%. Currently 85% of CIL from development in Chippenham is retained by Wiltshire Council, this will reduce to 75%. 
  • 28 Areas within Chippenham will become designated as Local Green Space giving them a similar level of protection to that of Green Belt.  (See P54 for the map of these areas)
  • 20 Areas within the Chippenham parish are designated as Green Amenity Spaces integral to the functioning of the residential areas in which they are located and should be retained. (See P55 for a list of these)
  • Planning applications within the Chippenham Parish Boundary will be assessed against policies in the Neighbourhood Plan.

Can you give an example of how the policies will be used to assess planning applications in Chippenham?

We are continuing to see large housing developments in Chippenham on greenfield sites. The Chippenham Neighbourhood Plan hasn’t chosen to allocate any sites, and it can’t set any less growth for Chippenham than that of the Wiltshire local plan. It can however provide policies used to determine how the developments are built.

Some comments I often hear are:

why aren’t new houses and warehouses built with solar panels on the roof?‘,

why aren’t simple nature measures included in developments?’, ‘

Why don’t new developments have adequate cycle infrastructure?’

The simple answer is there are currently no policies requiring this.

An example of the how the Neighbour Plan Policies can be used are illustrated in a recent Planning application for 41 Residential units on Land East of Patterdown by Redcliffe Homes.


You can see how the draft Neighbourhood Plan Policies have been applied below.

Comment Number



The Planning Statement accompanying this submission (sic from Redcliffe Homes) states ‘The Chippenham Neighbourhood Plan, is currently progressing through the statutory process. At the time of writing, this is still subject to a referendum and formal confirmation of being Made. Until that time, it is not considered to carry weight.’ This is factually incorrect, the policies in the Draft Neighbourhood Plan should be given weight, given the advanced stage of the Plan with notice of a referendum having been published by the LPA, and in line with Paragraph 007 of Neighbourhood Planning PPG and Paragraph 48 of the NPPF.
There is no objection in principle to residential development on the site, given it has been allocated for such in the Chippenham Site Allocations Plan.
The retention and enhancement through new planting of green corridors around the site boundaries is welcomed and is in accordance with Policy GI4 of the Draft Chippenham Neighbourhood Plan.
Neighbourhood Plan Policy SCC1 (net zero carbon development) requires submission of an Energy Statement and Core Policy 41 of the Wiltshire Core Strategy requires submission of a Sustainable Energy Strategy.
The Town Council is keen to understand to what extent the development would be net zero carbon and how the design and layout of the scheme has been directly influenced by sustainable energy, including a plan showing how low carbon features such as air source heat pumps, water butts etc. can be adequately accommodated on each plot. There appear to be no solar panels incorporated on roofs, the rationale for not including these has not been explained. The Design and Access Statement fails to address some of the other sustainable design and construction aspects expected by Neighbourhood Plan Policy SCC2 (Sustainable Design and Construction).
The proposal fails to demonstrate that wildlife friendly features have been incorporated into dwellings and gardens in accordance with part v) of Neighbourhood Plan Policy GI1 (Biodiversity). There are no green or brown roofs, hedgehog holes in fences, bee bricks or integrated bird and bat boxes. The comments by North Wiltshire Swifts are endorsed, that 10 bird provisions for a development of 41 dwellings would not follow best practice guidance. A plan indicating the location of a range of wildlife friendly features incorporated into the design of dwellings, and the site in general, should be submitted.
The proposal would not comply with Neighbourhood Plan Policy GI5 (Trees, Woodlands & Hedgerows) which expects future tree canopy cover increase of 6% to be demonstrated on sites over 0.5ha in size.
The proposal would be contrary to Neighbourhood Plan Policy T1 (Provision & Enhancement of Cycle Paths), with no cycling scheme prepared. As this is a greenfield site there is no reason why the scheme could not be designed to include segregated cycle lines in compliance with LTN 1/20. The site would have poor permeability for pedestrians and cyclists, with only one route into/out the site to serve all houses – a rather circuitous route to access the local centre to the north. The Town Council’s refers to the detailed comments on cycle infrastructure submitted by Chippenham Cycle Network Development Group.
Whilst the housing mix is broadly in line with Neighbourhood Plan Policy H1 (Housing Mix and Types), fewer 4-bed houses and a greater number of 2-bed houses would be preferable. No bungalows or self-build/custom housing are included and justification for deviation from the housing mix guideline should be given. Whilst it is encouraging to see the headings in Building for a Healthy Life design tool used to explain the design of the scheme, it would be helpful to further understand, through self-assessment, how many ‘green lights’ the scheme would achieve, as per Policy H2 (Housing Design) of the Neighbourhood Plan.
Policy H2 also expects new development to be designed in accordance with guidance in the Chippenham Design Guide, which is not referred to at all. The design of the scheme appears to be based on low density, outdated housing types which ineffectively use land (e.g. two storey dwellings, large no. of detached houses, detached garages etc.). There is a missed opportunity to employ innovative architecture and even increase density on this site to avoid loss of greenfield land elsewhere. The development would be car reliant and would not place sustainable, climate or ecological aspects at the heart of the design. The Town Council considers that the proposals fail to deliver low carbon and wildlife friendly housing development of sufficiently high quality design, and attractive/well designed pedestrian and cycle routes. The proposals would therefore be contrary to CP41, 50, 52, 57, 61 and 62 of the Wiltshire Core Strategy, Policies SCC1, SCC2, GI1, GI5, H1, H2 and T1 of the Draft Chippenham Neighbourhood Plan, the Wiltshire Design Guide SPD, the National Design Guide, and the NPPF.

Can developers afford to implement the measures required by the Neighbourhood Plan?

As part of the plan preparation an independent Viability assessment was prepared by McBains and Three Dragons.

You can read the Viability assessment here: https://chippenhamneighbourhoodplan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Viability-Assessment.pdf

The findings were:

Findings – Using reasonable cost and value assumptions, considered accurate at the time of this report, the results of the testing demonstrate that the policies in the plan that have an impact on viability do not impose a significant enough burden on development to render it unviable. This has led to the conclusion that the plan policies in the emerging Chippenham Neighbourhood Plan are considered deliverable.


The Neighbourhood Plan preparation represents five years of work by the Chippenham community for the Chippenham community. I cannot cover all of the policies and measures in a short blog post.

I encourage all Chippenham residents to please read the Neighbourhood Plan and supporting documents and vote in the referendum on Thursday 23rd May 2024.