Wiltshire reduces Growth at Chippenham by 3,000, Homes England and Government Pull pout of Growth deal as Infrastructure Unaffordable


A £75m government deal to expand Chippenham is being scrapped due to rising costs.

The money was to help build the roads needed for thousands of homes and faced huge local opposition.

Due to spiralling building costs, Wiltshire Council said carrying on with the scheme would bring “extremely difficult financial risk”.

But questions remain about how Chippenham will now cope with future growth.

The original deal announced in 2019 was designed to bring travel upgrades including a new road looping around the southern and eastern sections of the town, unlocking the construction of up to 7,000 new homes over the coming decades.

Sorting that – so the argument went at the time – meant Chippenham would get the improved infrastructure to cope with growth before the homes arrived.

Following a backlash against the development, Wiltshire Council scaled back its ambitions to just the southern section, with around 4,000 homes.

Now, the council and the government body Homes England are withdrawing from the agreement altogether.

“The cost escalation has simply been too much,” Wiltshire’s leader Richard Clewer told the meeting in County Hall.

“It’s not unreasonable to say we would be looking at placing a massive financial strain on the council” if the plans had continued, he added.

The council would have needed to borrow tens of millions more than planned to pull the scheme off – and even then there was no guarantee Homes England would have agreed to a scaled back proposal.

The opposition Liberal Democrats said Wiltshire Council needed to learn serious lessons from the process.

“Chippenham was absolutely done-to, that’s what’s led to the bitterness and anger we’re living with now”, Liberal Democrat councillor Clare Cape told the meeting, who urged the council to rethink how it engaged with communities when developing plans like these, a point the council leader described as “fair”.

Meanwhile the lead campaigner who’d recently brought a legal challenge against the scheme, Helen Stride, accused the council of wasting money on “plans for a road that the people of Chippenham did not want, that the Chippenham Town Council unanimously opposed and that was subject to Judicial Review”.

Ms Stride’s campaign group fear “urbanising” large sections of land around the A350 South of Chippenham.

Wiltshire Council is going through the motions of working out how different corners of the county should grow in the decades ahead.

But if Chippenham continues to grow at the rate previously predicted, it has now become much harder to find the money to build the infrastructure to go with it.

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