As Swindon Borough Council gets ready to go to public consultation on its Core Strategy during April and May, petitioners campaigning to save Coate Water and the surrounding habitats from development on the boundary of the country park have set up a brand new petition and are hoping that planners take more notice of them second time round.
The updated Core Strategy describes proposals for a new Commonhead development of 900 houses, provision for employment land, a local shopping centre, primary school and community facilities, in between Great Western Hospital and protected land around Coate Water.
Jean Saunders of the Save Coate campaign said "the concerns expressed by over 52,000 signatories of the original Save Coate petition have been ignored. In 2004 the council was criticised by planning inspectors for not taking account of public concern and not carrying out consultations on an equal footing."
There is now concern over what the council means by designating Commonhead as "a new landmark gateway to Swindon from the M4."
"We want all the land between the M4, A419, Marlborough Road and Coate Water designated for its high landscape value in the hope that if development is allowed, the design, layout and materials used will be more in sympathy with a rural rather than urban environment," said Jean. "The new petition is attracting signatories from all over the world, from people who love the writing of Coate-born Richard Jeffries and ex-pat Swindonians who loved the rural setting of Coate Water."
According to the draft Core Stragey, the Commonhead plan is a smaller scale development than would have been proposed had the plans for the university campus been successful. Councillor Peter Greenhalgh, Swindon Council lead member for strategic planning, believes that the current proposal will limit development. "Given that a planning inspector has already indicated that housing can be built at Commhead, following an planning review of the site, the borough council will be able to control development if we work with the landowners."
To add your voice to the campaign, sign the petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/coate/petition.html
Pictured above, Hands off Coate Water. Youngsters who protested a huge gathering in 2006 to protest against development next to 'Swindon's Favourite Place.' Below, the site under consideration