Vastly greater traffic volume, flooding and pressure on school places will result if nearly 1,700 homes are built at Tadpole Farm, north of Oakhurst, Abbey Meads ward councillors and Swindon planning officers were told at a public meeting called by Oakhurst Residents’ Association on 11 January.
Well over a hundred people heard from strategic planning officer Phil Smith that the new planning core strategy for Swindon includes Tadpole Farm as a development site.
In December 2009 SwindonLink revealed Crest wanted to build 2,500 houses, a thousand more than the previous core strategy proposed. Negotiations have brought this total down to 1,690 and Mr Smith said Crest would use a new link road to the north east under the A419 via Blunsdon Hill for construction traffic and also for the first residents. The connection to Oakhurst Way would take place at some point in the future.
Residents’ association secretary Steph Exell, chairing the meeting, said there is little time for the community. “Swindon Council have decided that Tadpole Farm is a place to build more houses and Crest will be applying for permission anyway. People will need to make their views very clear when the core strategy consultations take place and also at the community consultation meetings held by Crest.”
Many residents expressed opposition because of the extra traffic generated to add to the large numbers using Oakhurst Way from North Wiltshire. Parents crossing the road at peak times said they felt in danger.
Clive Sears said parents are very concerned about school places. “I live about half a mile from Isambard but I’m not sure my daughter will be able to attend our local secondary school. Building more houses and another primary school will force even more children to attend a school outside their community. The quality of life in North Swindon is deteriorating and there seems to be no concern for maintaining this in the future.”
Geoff Austin from Mayfly Road said he was very concerned about flooding in the area. “In 2008 water backing up from the River Ray nearly flooded houses. If Tadpole Farm goes ahead, all the rainwater will drain towards the Ray; the water courses in the area are not maintained now, so flooding will take place here and upstream.
Brychan Travers was sceptical that the council would listen to people’s opposition. “I just wonder if public consultation comments count for anything. There was no support for Tadpole Farm in the old core strategy plan; how much negative feedback does the council need before it changes its view?”
Coun Vera Tomlinson said she and colleagues Peter Heaton-Jones and Peter Stoddart are very concerned about the Tadpole Farm proposals and are listening closely to what people are saying. “We are on your side as you have elected us to take up your concerns. We are taking down all of your comments and we will go through them carefully. At the end of the day local councillors will oppose the planning application if it’s not the right thing.”
In the January SwindonLink magazine coun Tomlinson, who is vice chairman of Swindon’s planning committee, said the discussion between the council and Crest had been productive and she hoped that they will be able to deliver on the outline agreements.
Stephanie said, “Oakhurst turned out to show support for its community. Tadpole Farm is not a foregone conclusion, but people will have to speak out if they want to stop their area being overwhelmed by more traffic and reduction in the quality of their environment.”
What Tadpole Farm might look like
Pictured right, a concept plan for Tadpole Farm by New Master Planning in 2009. On their web site they say:
NEW Master Planning were appointed by Crest Nicholson in 2008 to prepare a concept plan and strategy leading to a detailed masterplan for a sustainable urban extension on the northern edge of Swindon.
The site is currently on the edge of the urban area and is clearly defined by hills, ridges and floodplain to the north, east and west. It has good access to the town centre, to local employment, schools and facilities, and also has good access to the Cotswolds. Our concept made virtue of this to create a sustainable ‘village’, which meets the social, economic and environmental objectives of the Council and client. The concept masterplan currently under preperation focuses on the delivery of a range of house types and the green infrastructure needed to create an ‘informal’ character with natural connections to the wider countryside, with a common area providing a focus for new and existing communities.
We are working with the wider Crest team, including specialists in landscape, transport, energy, planning and commercial delivery. The focus is on how to incorporate issues such as renewable energy, a rapid bus route to the town centre, allotments, and commercial space for new businesses and a sustainable ‘High Street’, whilst maintaining the integrity of the original ‘village’ concept supported by Crest. We are working closely with Crest to develop bespoke house types to respond positively to the site and its landscape setting. This has involved a comprehensive character review of recent housing schemes and established settlements elsewhere in the country to identify best practice and successful development principles. The site is being promoted through the planning policy system and is identified as a preferred growth option in the emerging Core Strategy.
The masterplan shown was submitted to the Council in 2009 as part of the representations to the Core Strategy. Since that time we have been exploring alternative development layouts and connections to the town. The issues and options for the development will be subject to wide spread public consultation prior to the submission of any planning application.