Haboakus, the joint venture between TV presenter Kevin McCloud’s HAB Housing company and Green Square Housing Association, says it will keep talking and listening to local people for new homes and park improvement at Gorse Hill – following the first community consultation held on 10 March, pictured.
Haboakus is working on plans to deliver around 240 new homes and many enhancements to the wider park in Gorse Hill.
Most of the parkland – including both football pitches – would remain untouched or will have its landscape and facilities improved as part of plans to invest £1 million in the park.
Around 100 local people attended the successful event at Gorse Hill Junior School to find out more about the proposals.
Haboakus project director Simon McWhirter said: "Haboakus is first and foremost a community focused developer – and this event was just the first stage of our lengthy consultation with residents. We’ll keep talking and listening to people like this for months before we even apply for planning permission. And we recognise how important it is that we keep listening.
"Unfortunately a lot of false and malicious rumours have been spread in the local area about our plans – so it was really good to have the chance to correct that disinformation and set out our actual ideas.
"The whole aim of this event was to paint the real picture about our plans and get feedback on a range of ideas and issues – and we came away with a much better understanding of people’s thoughts and concerns.
"It is a shame that some people on the day decided not to enter into this democratic dialogue, and indeed have sought to prevent others from doing so.
"However we did get a wealth of comments and ideas from local residents, including many about what improvements they would like to see in the park – which the majority of people at the event wanted to see improved.
"As we go on, clearly we want to engage with as many people, businesses and local interest groups as possible to ensure that we get the best for the future of this community and place."
A mix of homes is planned – most for sale, but with a lot for affordable rent and shared ownership. They are a mix of two, three and four-bed family houses, and some one- and two-bed flats. All of these homes would be built to similar standards and those for sale and rent would be mixed throughout the development to support an inclusive community.
Haboakus says it will rejuvenate underused elements of the park and provide children’s recreation facilities such as BMX tracks and play equipment, to plant public orchards, and integrate new dog walking tracks. It will also explore the potential to set up a community land trust or other community-based model to maintain and protect the open space.
Details of further events and updates on the project will be available at www.haboakus.co.uk/gorsehill
Gorse Hill resident Josie Lewis said the site should be maintained as greenspace and allotments which have existed in Swindon history since 1700s.
"Just to show how much allotment land per population we have lost in our area over the years, in 1946 the largest sites were Southbrook (64 acres), Marsh Farm (61 acres) and Gorsehill (35 acres).
"According to the 2011 Swindon Borough Council Open Space Audit, Gorsehill now has zero acres and an actual shortfall. The acreage we had was at Pickards Small Field which the council closed in 2006 claiming there was no requirement for these allotments.
"In September 2008 according to Swindon Council there is a waiting list for allotments of 841 people.
"There are records stating that the Pickards Field should have no other use than for agriculture, i.e. in the terms and conditions of a contract where land was sold or transferred and it could be that the land should remain allotments for in perpetuity (forever).
"Section 10 of the Open Spaces Act states that the council should hold and administer the land in good order for the use of the public and for "no other purpose under meaning of the Act."
"Also hidden in the woodland at Pickards Field are some stone slab packhorses bridges of the land which originally belonged to Southbrook Farm and the Goddard Manor."
Photos of the consultation and the protest outside Gorse Hill Primary School below.
Bottom two images by Richard Wintle, ©Calyx Multimedia, 41, Churchward Avenue, Rodbourne Cheney, Swindon, SN2 1NJ 01793 520131 MOB: 07836 205196