A ruling in the High Court on 10 November that the coalition government’s decision to scrap the Labour’s Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) planning system is illegal will give hope to developers who want to build on huge swathes of land on Swindon’s borders.
Read the Daily Telegraph report on the ruling
Until the general election Wiltshire Council had identified land to the north of West Swindon for 2,800 houses, at Ridgeway Farm and Pry Farm, and developers Primegate (South) had put forward a counter proposal for 2,000 houses between Grange Park and Hook, adjacent to the M4.
The ruling means that developers could submit planning applications to local councils in advance of local councils agreeing new planning Core Strategies to guide decisions on the number and location of houses to be built in the long term.
Swindon councillor Steve Wakefield believes builders could now be pushing at an open door. "It is claimed since Eric Pickles used his discretionary powers to scrap the RSS, some 100,000 homes nationwide were faced being refused planning permission.
"I think we will now find that Swindon will be in a worse position than under the RSS and developers will use this period of uncertainty and flux to put in planning applications in the hope they can argue that the case for new housing was made by the Wiltshire Structure Plan which preceded the RSS.
"Mr Pickles needs to get his Devolution and Localism Bill sorted out PDQ. Any dragging of feet will have unhappy consequences for people living in the shadow of Tadpole Farm to the north, off Hook Street to the west, the land between Lydiard Park and Lydiard Millicent, as well as Ridgeway Farm and Pry Farm to the north of West Swindon. This period of flux could see a ‘dash for grass’ by developers."
Swindon South MP Robert Buckland said the government’s new Localism Bill would clarify how council planners will deal with speculative applications. “The interpretation of the Government"s use of its powers means that they have to get their skates on to introduce new legislation to repeal and replace the RSS. The Localism Bill will be published by the end of November, which is very encouraging indeed. The gap in how planning law is interpreted will be filled.
"Swindon has major development issues where clarity is required and I have expressed my concerns to Bob Neill, the Planning Minister, about this court ruling."
Pictured top, Redhouse in North Swindon. Bottom, MPs James Grey from North Wilts and Robert Buckland, representing Swindon South, with Wiltshire councillor Mollie Groom next to the Hook South development opposite Lydiard Park proposed by Primegate Properties
Read the Daily Telegraph report
Read the Southern Echo report of the court decision