An environmentalist says the decision to allow Wain Homes to build 50 houses on nature conservation area, next to the River Ray between Swindon and North Wiltshire, is based on bizarre logic.
The developer is already building 200 houses at Moredon Bridge – the site called Moulden View on Purton Road between Mead Way and Thamesdown Drive – within north Wiltshire – after gaining permission on appeal in 2009.
At the time the planning inspector laid down a specific veto against development of the adjacent field called Bradley’s Meadow.
However five years later Wain Homes has succeeded in persuading another planning inspector that the Site of Nature Conservation Interest, an SNCI does not have to be protected, and that the loss to the environment can be compensated, or offset, by ecological work in Bradford-upon-Avon in south Wiltshire.
Purton based environmentalist Richard Pagett describes the decision as ‘bizarre.’ On his CarbonBrake blog, he writes: ‘The inspector considered that the need for housing outweighs the need to safeguard this protected site.
‘This is a bizarre logic: the inspector acknowledged that these houses would be for Swindon (yet Swindon Borough Council says in its Local Plan that it does not need housing in this location).
‘Possibly one of the most bizarre elements to this debacle is that another Council officer gave conflicting evidence to which the Inspector gave “substantial weight” even though it was acknowledged that this person had NO KNOWLEDGE of the proposed offset site “… in a professional capacity”.
‘In my view that is completely unprofessional of the Inspector and the Wiltshire Council officer and brings the whole process into disrepute.
‘In fact, this whole business smells of expediency, and is completely unsustainable.’
Richard added: “With 700 houses being built at Ridgeway Farm just up the road, and 1,690 at Tadpole Farm not far away, these fifty houses are not required. Neither the emerging Wiltshire Core Strategy nor the Swindon Core Strategy call for more houses in this location."
Pictured above Bradley Meadow off Purton Road, next to Wain Homes current building site for 200 houses. Right, the Wain Homes plan showing Bradley Meadow retained grassland fringed in red next to the development area
Kevin Fisher, chair of Shaw Residents’ Association deplored the decision. "Despite the original Inquiry categorically stating that the plot of land must not be built on for environmental reasons, the developer applied to build on it anyway.
"The request went to appeal and, of course, the unelected planning Inspector approved the application highlighting that the environmentally sensitive land only represents 0.0047% of similar land within Wiltshire.
"If ever there was a decision that highlights the destruction of our natural environment by stealth, this is it. Oh, but the developer must make an environmental offset – in a school in Bradford on Avon – the logic is baffling to say the least.
"Of course the real day to day impact for West and North Swindon residents will be in yet more traffic negotiating the tricky junction in and out of this new, unplanned development."