Changing Chippenham - Plans for the Town's Centre

Royal Mail's sorting office - from Chippenham Railway Station - late February 2008

Brrrr - how chilly it's been today! Just as I'd decided to embrace Autumn at last, it's gone all wintry here. It's even tried to snow - with a very fine layer settling on the fields over at Lackham agricultural college. I can't remember when it last did that in October.

As well as the changes in our season, Chippenham's undergoing major changes in its character. It's hard to continue to describe it as a market town; more like a commuter town for the surrounding places like Bath, Bristol and Swindon - even London. Another 3,600 houses may controversially be built (thus increasing the town's population by about a third) - perhaps on the outskirts, on greenbelt, flood-plain land no less. Surely this is madness? ASDA (aka Wal-Mart) are taking the recent refusal for their plans to build a major new store to appeal in the High Court (does a town with a population of 30,000 really need a third large supermarket?) and all sorts of schemes seem to be afoot for the centre of the town.

One of these concerns the area around the railway station, itself sympathetically refurbished a while ago. Almost in the heart of the town, yet up a steep hill, this area is home to heritage buildings, plus a motley collection of business premises and the local college. The latter may be rebuilt; one of the businesses has folded and a planning permission notice has gone up for its redevelopment into shops and housing. Rumours abound that the whole area and other parts of central Chippenham are going to be redeveloped - I'm uncertain whether this is to be on a piecemeal or wholistic basis.

One of the central features of the area is the Royal Mail's sorting office for Chippenham. It's snuggled next to the station, but no longer really needing to be located here since transportation of the mail via train ceased a few years ago. This is the office where we pick up large packages and parcels where direct delivery was attempted, but we or our neighbours weren't in to receive them. There's been rumours for a while the office will move and this prime spot redeveloped. Well, those rumours are no more - the red vans have gone and a for sale sign has gone up on the buildings.

Luckily for us we read the card a couple of days ago dropped off by the postman when he failed to deliver a package to us. If we hadn't, NAH would have gone merrily into town as usual, only to find he'd have to come out again to the local industrial estate close to our home. Now you may be thinking the pick-up point's relocation has worked in our favour. That may be, but it's now much more inconvenient for a large portion of Chippenham's residents. We're also concerned the local infrastructure isn't really geared up for the increase in traffic. Besides, having a centrally located pick-up point meant people were more likely to go and peruse the local shops nearby. That won't be happening know, so I wonder what the impact will be on our town centre's businesses in the future?

What changes are you noticing in your neighbourhood, seasonal or otherwise?

As the nights draw in and the pace of gardening slows, I expect to return to some of my other regular themes like Changing Chippenham, How Advertising Works and Celebrating Regionality on an ad hoc basis. My last Changing Chippenham piece was in July, right here.


  1. Hi VP, first off let's see if blogger will allow me to be who I am, a wordpress user instead of forcing me to use the blogger sign reluctance to have the big walmart store is understandable. Certain historic small towns in the US have successfully challenged the huge corp and actually WON. There has to be some historic building threatened, or that is what seems to be necessary to win. Other towns have enacted zoning laws about signage and parking that has discouraged them also. Not the town where I live, however. We are the proud shoppers of the largest size store that walmart builds. It is a behemoth. But they do have the cheapest gas in town, but quite a bit.


  2. Tricky this development question - the balance between out of town shopping and keeping the shops in a town alive. Building enough houses without destroying character or (madness)constructing them on a flood plain.
    Frankly I don't know what the answer is but I do wish that the officials who came up with the decisions could be forced to live amongst the boring, characterless mess that usually results.

  3. Frances - it looks like you were able to be in Wordpress mode :)
    The minnows won at the last planning appeal - the local council got the county council's recommendation turned down. This is considered to be most unusual. That's probably why ASDA are taking it to the high court. It would be a real disaster if they built it though - traffic is horrendous in that area right now and it would take a lot of trade away from the town centre nearby.

    EG - We've had a lot of new houses built around here lately. And I'm guilty - our house is 9 years old. But our estate is nicely designed and the public landscaping on the whole is plentiful and good. But the more recent houses are just awful - like lego and 3 storeys. It just looks too urban for a small country town.

  4. Hi, regarding the sorting office you also need to take into account that Corsham has now lost it's sorting office (also up for sale). So now any one from Corsham or the surrounding villages will have to travel to Chippenham to collect parcels.

  5. Dave - that's a very good point. And it's not just Corsham that's affected (I remember the office there well as we used to live just yards from it when we lived in Corsham).

    When I was looking for links to use in this piece I tried to find the announcement of Chippenham's move to Bumpers Farm, but only found announcements for Corsham's and Malmesbury's closures/sites put up for sale. Chippenham's closure was only there as a possibility, not fact.

  6. Don't know if you have seen but here is an update on the sorting office.

  7. Hi Dave - thanks. I hadn't looked at the article, but will now :)

  8. Here's a link to
    the article
    as for some reason Blogger never likes to publish the entire link :(


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