Swindon Council went into battle with developers to defend the rural setting of Lydiard Park against unnecessary and unwanted housing at a four day planning enquiry in mid-April.
In the Autumn residents of Grange Park effectively lobbied the council against a proposal by Primegate Properties on behalf of Bovis Homes to build 175 houses off Hook Street, overlooking the southern end of Lydiard Park.
The council’s planning committee rejected the application as the site was outside Swindon’s defined urban boundary and the housing would be an intrusion upon the park setting, but the developers appealed on the grounds that Swindon does not have a five year supply of land as required by legislation.
Now planning inspector Geoffrey Hill, on behalf of the Secretary of State, is considering the arguments put to him including points put by the Lydiard Field Action Group and indicated that he would deliver his judgement by the end of April.
Grange Park resident Andy Drinkwater told the enquiry that the site off Hook Street is particularly sensitive because of the geography. “It has been argued that there is building up to the park boundary when in fact Greendown School is set well back on a plateau and the existing housing of Hampton Drive is largely hidden from the park by a wall. Our concern is that over half of the Hook Street site slopes down to the park and overlooks the memorial garden in the arboretum at the western end of the park; it would be a considerable visual intrusion.”
Fellow resident Geraldine Barnard added that a proposed landscape buffer won’t hide the housing higher up the ridge and would damage the rural character of the park whilst residents are also very concerned by the increased flood risk in Grange Park if more development takes place.
South Swindon MP Robert Buckland spoke in support of residents and also to express his concern for the whole town. “Lydiard Park is an important venue for residents in the borough and beyond, this has wider ramifications for the local community. If these plans are to be permitted, the character of Hook Street would change dramatically, it would no longer be a rural lane and the entrance to Lydiard Park would dramatically change, and not for the better.”
David Barnard, chair of the Lydiard Field Action Group said Swindon Council’s case centred around two key issues, the rural setting of Lydiard Park and the council’s case right to determine planning policy on the basis of its new planning core strategy. “The council’s barrister Anthony Creen was outstanding and gave us confidence that our ‘united’ opposition to development off Hook Street had merit.”