Swindon Council planning committee agreed overwhemingly on 12 June that Crest Nicholson can build 1,695 houses to the north of Oakhurst and Redhouse, subject to further negotiations about education provision and traffic relief, and building could commence next year.
Crest’s plans include a primary school, a shopping centre and pub on a village street, and an employment area. They will also give 100 acres next to the River Ray as well as £200,000 to the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to create a nature park.
The developer is to pay £2,229,500 in Section 106 contributions towards transport and road safety improvements, as well as money to benefit the new community. This includes over £5 million for the primary school, £2,725,352 towards secondary education, £25,000 for special education needs, and £275,384 for a community hall.
As the three hour discussion got underway the council’s planning solicitor told the committee that the principles of development at Tadpole Farm had been established and rejection or deferment of the application would require sound planning reasons.
With that in mind, Cllr Vera Tomlinson said Crest Nicholson must take much of the blame for the poor development of Priory Vale over the last ten years. However she could not see a reason for turning down Tadpole Farm as Crest would win the appeal at a cost to the council and loss of the 106 money.
Nevertheless Cllr Peter Heaton-Jones said residents were very unhappy about the extra 300 vehicles that will use Oakhurst Way at peak times. He added that Crest had not delivered on Redhouse Village Centre and he questioned if they would on the centre for Tadpole Farm.
Oakhurst Residents’ Association (ORA) chair Paul Exell told the committee that the application should be rejected as there were too many issues still to be decided, such as when a primary school would be built, how the extra traffic from 1,695 houses will be accommodated, and whether the rapid-bus route would go past Redhouse Village Centre or along Oakhurst Way.
Terry Hunt, chair of the Rodbourne Residents’ Association, told the meeting that the impact of extra traffic from the site would add to the gridlock on all routes to and from the town. He described Crest’s claim that a rapid-transit bus could carry passengers to the town centre in 25 minutes as ‘complete nonsense.’
Committee member Cllr Keith Williams said the inadequacies of the North Swindon development at Priory Vale were partly due to outline planning being turned down in the early 1990s; he didn’t want to see the mistakes of the past repeated.
The permission to proceed is subject to further negotiations and agreement between Crest, planning officers and local councillors on Section 106 contributions. However, with Crest holding the appeal gun to Swindon Council’s head, the probability of any reversal of the decision is unlikely.
Crest managing director John Terry said he was pleased with the decision. “This is the result of 9 years’ careful work to get Tadpole Farm right. I respect the views of residents concerned about further house building and these have been taken account of. We are no longer fettered by housing policies of the former Labour government which determined so much of Priory Vale. It means we will have a much higher quality of development at Tadpole Farm.
“There is still a lot of detailed work to be done on the design standards to be met and we will continue to consult with the community on these issues. With a fair wind I’d hope we can get on site in 2013.”
He added that Tadpole Farm means that Swindon Council can demonstrate it is satisfying the five year housing supply requirement; the decision will provide defence against opportunistic planning applications for other green field sites.
ORA secretary Steph Exell said she was dismayed by the decision. “ORA has been seeking improvements for over two years but we saw council officers and the councillors talking the application into defeat. The planning committee should have demanded better traffic alleviation for Oakhurst Way. It’s sad that a beautiful part of the town is to be concreted over.”
• Campaigners against the building of 700 houses at Ridgeway Farm will now be hoping that the planning inspector considering the recent appeal will recognise that Swindon is providing housing and expansion into Wiltshire is not needed.
Right, protestors outside the planning committee disappointed by the decision