After years of stories and publicity in Swindon Link magazine and onlin, and several public meetings earlier this year, there is hope that proposals to build 3,000 houses on the edge of Swindon, in Wiltshire, can be stopped.
And with a new petition raised by Purton environmental group Purton Ps&Qs, if enough signatures can be attracted, Wiltshire Council has to hold a debate and pay attention to what people are saying. Sign the petition via the link below.
Under the Labour government’s Regional Spatial Strategy for long term development (RSS) planners at Wiltshire Council pursued a policy to create urban extensions to the town – 800 houses at Ridgeway Farm, north of Peatmoor, and another 2,000 at Pry Farm, further north on either side of the B4553 close to Purton.
Now the government has announced the RSS will be killed off. Communities secretary Eric Pickles described it as a failed Soviet style top-down planning system. “It was a terrible, expensive, time-consuming way to impose house building and worst of all threatened the destruction of green belt.”
In Parliament Justin Tomlinson said new methods are needed to balance the need for housing and prevent rampant development. In the Commons he referred to the lack of green space in North Swindon, the problems people experience with unfinished roads and the lack of parking. He is calling for a bond system where developers pay in advance for site maintenance and completion.
Robert Buckland said he supports government proposals to create incentives for communities. “Councils should be offered significant financial incentives by developers to accept new housing so that they will have the funds to create the necessary infrastructure, providing existing residents participate fully in consultation on any proposals.”
About, West Swindon councillor Keith Williams with Wiltshire resident Amanda Heard at the Taylor Wimpey display for Ridgeway Farm in late May
Taylor Wimpey Homes has already produced outline plans for Ridgeway Farm – above – and a full planning application is expected. They will no doubt argue that a degree of planning precedent was set when the area was originally proposed by Swindon as part of the town’s ‘western expansion’ in the early 1980s. But he present boundary with Wiltshire was determined at a planning enquiry in 1986. In the last 24 years there has been a vast expansion in the number of houses built within Swindon, particularly to the north, and there are a further 2,000 to come.
Wiltshire councillors representing the Purton area are arguing that previously agreed green belt policies should be reinstated.
At a full meeting of Swindon Council on 15 July, a resolution by Coun Nick Martin was agreed requiring the council to rewrite its core planning strategy with emphasis on lower levels of housing growth whilst allowing large scale development only if there is significant financial contribution towards infrastructure by developers and government. He said, "there was cross party support for the resolution. The core strategy must focus on what is a sustainable level of growth rather than speculative house building. With Swindon’s two MP forcing the issue in Parliament, the Government rejecting the RSS process and this resolution, Swindon is saying constant growth without discussion about what is acceptable to the town cannot go on.
"Now we are calling for Wiltshire Council to listen to Swindon and not impose unnecessary houses on our western border."
Wiltshire Council has to debate Ridgeway Farm petition – sign now
In June 2010, a new duty on local authorities came into force requiring councils to pay more attention to petitions.
In the past they have often been dismissed as a product of a few maverick individuals, but no longer.
With councils being given more responsibility for local planning decisions, they have also been told by government that the electorate’s viewpoint has to be taken more into account. And Wiltshire Council has to listen to what Swindon folk say because they’ll be affected by planning decisions.
Wiltshire has set its figure to trigger a full council debate at 2.5% of the population (about 11,500 signatures).
To get the Ridgeway Farm debate into the council chamber as soon as possible, environmental group Purton P&Qs has set up a petition for you to sign at:
See also www.purtoninfo.org.uk
Purton Ps & Qs argues that there is no sufficient, verifiable need for more mass housing in the Parish of Purton which is within the Unitary Authority of Wiltshire Council. In particular we do not agree with proposals for houses to be built at Ridgeway Farm and adjacent land within the Parish of Purton for several reasons:
1. The Regional Spatial Strategy under which these houses were allocated is being abolished due to its flawed nature
2. There is no substantiated local need
3. There are limited employment opportunities within the Parish which creates a reliance on private car for access to Wiltshire’s main centres of employment. It also places a reliance on employment in the neighbouring Swindon Borough Council
4. The criteria used for housing need have changed since the initial numbers were allocated and therefore do not take into account climate change, lower levels of economic growth, migration patterns and other sustainability criteria
5. Inadequate infrastructure related to provision of energy, water, solid waste, sewerage and roads
6. Known vulnerabilities such as the flooding of 2007/2008
7. Promotion of coalescence when large-scale development is placed in a rural parish
8. Inability of the parish to provide essential services needed for such a large addition creating a separate community bolted onto the boundary of Purton with SBC
9. The site, being divorced from the village settlement, adds nothing to the community of the Parish
In addition, we believe that the concept of a rural buffer which was removed by the former Regional Spatial Strategy should be reinstated, and that the Community Plan which was widely consulted within north Wiltshire should be respected.