Crest Strategic Developments held a community consultation pre-planning application display on 24 September at Isambard School so that company representatives could present the results of the public consultations held in March, writes Juliet Platt.
Fifty five per cent of the public’s response concerned the impact on roads and traffic of the proposed 1700 houses, with nearly a third of respondents expressing concerns about the need for further development, and its effects on drainage and flooding. A substantial number of comments also reflected local concerns about education, community and medical provision in the area.
Crest Strategic Projects’ summary of comments states, “Crest will provide all the necessary facilities at Tadpole Farm to support the scale of development that will be proposed in the planning application.”
Planning Consultant Des Dunlop for Crest, said, “I’d like to think that people will find this display helpful, and take it in the spirit of transparency and communication in which it is intended.”
It is expected that Crest will submit their planning application in late October, though many local representatives are disappointed that little has changed in the proposals since the consultations happened.
However Steph Excel, secretary of Oakhurst Residents Association, express scepticism as to whether any changes had taken place. “Apart from a few crossings on Oakhurst Drive nothing has changed in the proposal.
“There could have been more proactivity and involvement of the community, as is the case with the Eastern Development Villages. The problem is that this development is happening at a time when the government’s planning framework is very weak, and unfortunately the new planning legislation will mean there will be even less attention paid to the community voice.”
Stuart Boyd chairman of Blunsdon Parish Council said, “this whole consultation process has been an exercise in changing the colour of the paint on the posts. It’s all been about communication and transparency but no action.”
But councillor Peter Stoddart said Swindon Council’s position supported the Crest application. “Crest have had a rough time over this and feel quite vulnerable. The fact is the Core Strategy was voted in four years ago so we can’t now vote against it. No matter what objections are put in the way of the proposal you can’t make the developer take notice.”
Crest Strategic Developments will be submitting a master plan for 1,700 homes at Tadpole Farm in accordance with the project outlined at public consultations in North Swindon at the end of March this year.
However the proposal to move ahead to a planning application following a formal pre-application consultation on Saturday 24 September, has been heavily criticised by councillors and community groups.
According to community consultants for Crest just over 500 people attended five presentation of plans, with over half from Blunsdon Village, with 302 written responses.
Fifty five per cent were concerned with traffic congestion on Oakhurst Way, Thamesdown Drive, Tadpole Lane and the A419, 28 per cent said the houses were not needed or demanded completion of promised infrastructure in already built areas before there is more development; 17 per cent expressed worries about the lack of facilities and amenities in North Swindon.
Residents of Blunsdon particularly object to the opening up of the old A419 to access Tadpole Farm only a few years after Blunsdon by-pass was opened to reduce the amount of traffic through the village.
Sarah Foster, community planning consultant for Crest, said the company would be submitting a planning application based on what was displayed in March which is in accordance with the Swindon Council structure plan. She said, “there are no options as far as Crest is concerned.”
However community leaders have criticised the proposal. Abbey Meads ward councillor Peter Heaton-Jones said, “if the trade descriptions act applied to house builders, Crest was guilty of breaking it. Putting together an application of this complexity means that 90 per cent of it has been completed before the consultation exercise, so what is the point? I’m not sure what people have to say will have any impact.”
Fellow ward councillor Vera Tomlinson demanded Crest complete Redhouse village centre before any more housing is agreed to. “Unless we get commitment to providing facilities like a pub, community hall and medical facilities at Redhouse, we can take any future application with a pinch of salt.”
Chair of Haydon Wick Parish Council Richard Hailstone said, “there has been a huge amount of mis-selling going on. House buyers were convinced by the promises set out in glossy brochures, but the reality is quite different when the developer moves the goalposts and finds reasons for not providing community amenities.”
Ellie Hunt of Redhouse Residents’ Association believes Crest is completely underestimating the amount of traffic that would be generated from Tadpole Farm because of the uneven distribution of school places. “The schools across North Swindon are full which means children are given places further afield; parents will be making a large number of journeys in and out of Tadpole Farm, thus adding to traffic congestion.”
Stephanie Exell, secretary of Oakhurst Residents’ Association, said her committee continued its long held objection to Tadpole Farm. “Traffic on Oakhurst Way and Blunsdon Hill is going to significantly add to the congestion across North Swindon. Crest are making few commitments to provision of community facilities. It represents a deterioration in the quality of life for people already living in the North. Tadpole Farm is not a sustainable development; it should be turned down by Swindon Council’s planning committee.”