Blunsdon Parish Council and the proposal to build 1,650 on the edge of their village.
Responding to questions as to whether the parish council had prior knowledge of Swindon Borough Council’s development proposals for Area 5 – Kingsdown (south of Blunsdon village) as outlined in the new version of the draft local plan, council chairman Stuart Boyd said: “Some 5 years ago there was a suggestion that half of what is now identified as Area 5, that part south of Kingsdown Lane only, could be considered for development.
"We identified a number of potential problems with such a development and when the draft Core Strategy was produced there was no reference to that area and it was not included in any of the proposals to meet housing needs in the Borough.
"The Parish Council were therefore surprised and disappointed when we received our copy of the Local Plan on December 19th, 2012 and we found that the whole area from the A419 up to the B4019 had been included as a potential development area.
“We are not surprised at the strength of feeling amongst the residents who have formed the Blunsdon Action Group and we will support them where they identify valid and rational objections to the proposal."
The parish council has arranged a public meeting for Wednesday 13 February, 7pm in Blunsdon Village Hall, to be attended by Swindon Borough Council councillor Dale Heenan Cabinet Member for Forward Planning, Phil Smith Service Manager Planning Policy, and Swindon Borough Councillors for the Blunsdon and HIghworth Ward.
Background posted on 18 January 2013
Blunsdon residents are reeling over Swindon Borough Council’s surprise inclusion in the new version of the draft Local Plan 2026 of a major development area for a proposed 1650 new houses on agricultural land to the south and east of the village, between B4019 ‘Broadbush’ in Blunsdon and Kingsdown Lane.
Members of the public have until 21 February to make their views known on the new proposals, after the current consultation period of 9 weeks.
The proposed development also comprises up to 1000 sq metres of retail space, a two form entry primary school and children’s centre, and sport, leisure and community facilities, and will have three points of vehicular access, including a brand new road bridge crossing the A419 towards Swindon.
The new draft plan was published in October 2012 and details the Council’s plans for the development of 22 000 new homes and 77.5 hectares of employment land over the next 13 years.
Residents are particularly alarmed by the lack of prior information they were given about the document, its contents and its consultation period, which began on 17 December 2012.
Broadbush resident Matt Horan first heard about the proposals by chance from a Kingsdown resident in between Christmas and New Year. He then took action to alert as many village residents as possible that there is limited time for members of the public to submit their comments.
Commenting on the position of Blunsdon Parish Council who met on Monday 7 January, Matt said: “The councillors declared that they hadn’t known anything about the proposals before the document was published in December.
“Giving local people nine weeks to review a document that has very scant detail and potentially conflicting information is inadequate for a properly considered response. These proposals will have a major impact on Blunsdon, bearing in mind that the development is twice the size of the existing village.”
The wording on the form inviting comments states that the document is in its final draft, and has been through a number of consultations, resulting in less scope to make changes. Expressing his bewilderment about who had therefore taken part in the consultations so far, given that those people most affected had not yet been consulted, resident Michael Edwards said: “We are now being asked to comment in a timely fashion on something we didn’t know we had the opportunity to comment on because the Borough Council haven’t told us about it before.”
Explaining her recent experience of purchasing property on Broadbush, resident Karen Montague said: “We bought our house from a parish councillor who verbally assured us that nothing would be built behind our property for a minimum of 15 years, and none of the searches we had done suggested anything about development there.
“Nevertheless I’m very concerned about the future impact on what is already a dangerous stretch of road. The week before Christmas my daughter was almost knocked down on the road and the Borough Council have explained that no more can be spent on road safety here until 2014.”
Echoing Karen’s views, and also those that have been voiced in other parts of the Northern Development over road infrastructure and safety, resident Chris Rogers said: “The existing infrastructure is already creaking. Any more development will result in gridlock, not to mention pollution and road safety issues. But it’s the vale of secrecy surrounding this that is most frustrating.”
Commenting on the long term timescales of the plan and the mitigating factors surrounding the Kingsdown proposals, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Sustainability Cllr Dale Heenan said, in a letter to Blunsdon resident Emma Horan on 3 January 2013: “Firstly, there are no plans to build any houses around Broad Blunsdon, and no plans to build on areas of outstanding natural beauty.
“The important point is that the new Local Plan is jobs led, rather than housing led, so land will only be released if the businesses and jobs are available. The expectation is that Kingsdown will come forward in 10 years time at the earliest, if not closer to 2026, so there will be no change in the short term. If the economy does not improve and jobs aren’t created according to predictions of an average of 1% a year then the 2026 target simply moves out to 2030/2035 so we could be talking over 20 years ahead.
“I am determined that the Council tries to deal with development in a different way from the past and I’m trying everything I can to ensure Swindon Council has the right balance for existing residents, business and the future of the town and village.”
Residents are campaigning to raise awareness of the proposals. Find out more and contribute comments on Facebook – Blunsdon Action Group.
See Swindon Council’s Local Plan at a library and online at www.swindon.gov.uk/localplan