The increasingly controversial proposed development at Tadpole Farm to the north of Oakhurst and Redhouse has been under public scrutiny in a series of consultations around North Swindon and Blunsdon at the end of March.
Developers Crest Nicholson have been presenting their outline concepts for building 1,700 homes around a high street, complete with a village green, commercial outlets and a primary school. (See the layout below). There will be substantial open space to the west next to the River Ray and to the north next to the Chappell Farm landfill. Land around Tadpole Lane will also include playing fields. Allotments are also included.
In addition to a primary school, Crest have been working with Isambard Community School and Swindon Council education officers to establish how the need for another two forms of secondary school places can be provided to North Swindon children.
Above, Sarah Foster of SF Planning Link, right, who are coordinating the consultation exercise and Stephanie Exell of Oakhurst Residents’ Association which is very concerned about the amount of traffic that Tadpole Farm will generate and will flow through their area.
Crest is proposing to reduce traffic flow to and from Tadpole Farm by building a rapid transit bus route through Redhouse to the town centre past Isambard Community School.
Vehicle access will be via the north east using the tunnel to Blunsdon Hill under the A419, and through two single lane, traffic light controlled roads onto Tadpole Lane to the south – one controlling vehicle flow south towards Oakhurst Way and Thamesdown Drive, towards West Swindon, the other regulating traffic heading east up Tadpole Lane towards Lady Lane, Salzgitter Drive and the A420 – illustrated right.
Several people attending the presentation at Isambard Community School, but were unwilling to be named, commented that seeing the planned layout and access routes had put their mind at rest about the development, with one or two admitting that the low density housing complete with parking spaces looks very attractive, others are more vehement in their challenge as to the real need for a further 1,700 houses attached to North Swindon.
David Morrison of Buttleigh Road, Redhouse, said, “the proposals for Tadpole Farm are not being driven by need, they are being driven by the developers. This development will negatively affect the quality of life of communities in North Swindon.”
North Swindon resident and councillor for Parks North and South Mark Dempsey, who lives at St Andrew’s Ridge, said, “surely more houses will only be needed if there are jobs for people to come to.”
Swindon Council’s draft planning core strategy identifies Tadpole Farm as a site for future development, although it was identified in the North Swindon Haydon III master plan in 2001 when put out to public consultation.
Since Year 2000 Crest Homes have largely responsible for the strategic development of Priory Vale where the 6,000 houses of Redhouse and Oakhurst have been built. However, Crest’s strategic director John Ilet confessed to feeling “ashamed” about the slow progress to complete development within Redhouse, yet remains adamant that Swindon Borough Council have identified a need for further housing in the area to comply with the demands of central government targets.
Right, Hans Van Bommel of New Master Planning discussing the ideas for Tadpole Farm to Abbey Meads dentist Ebrahim Iravani
Stuart Boyd chair of Blunsdon Parish Council said, “the former A419 has itself been recently downgraded to single carriageway. To reinstate this as a major access route will be a dangerous, backwards step. I am disappointed that the developers have not lent greater consideration to using the roundabout at Salzgitter Drive to feed traffic east along Lady Lane.”
Ian Birch of Oakhurst said, “there are no promises being made and it is all a bit misleading. The developers tell us there will be no more than 200 to 300 extra cars entering the traffic network from Tadpole Farm. This doesn’t seem realistic. Does it include traffic coming along from Purton down Oakhurst Way?”
At the West Swindon Forum on 14 March Mr Ilet said that according to Swindon Council’s traffic modelling programme, by the time vehicles reach the northern end of Mead Way, the volume of extra traffic will be insignificant, claiming only another 60 vehicles per hour at peak time would be added to the already congested road.
However Kevin Fisher from Shaw was critical of the proposal which could impose greater pressure on West Swindon. “I can’t see the difference between the Crest proposal and the Taylor Wimpey plan for 800 houses at Ridgeway Farm, in Wiltshire, except it’s twice as big and in Swindon. Everybody knows the gridlock on Mead Way; it’s unbelievable to think Crest’s plan will not add to the traffic congestion problems we face in West Swindon.
“Our local councillors have stated that the only housing development Swindon needs is Tadpole Farm and the area to the east of the A419/A420. They tell us we do not need the Ridgeway Farm development. But, because that area is in Wiltshire, the people of West Swindon have no choice on the Ridgeway Farm development.
“The only choice we have is Ridgeway Farm AND Tadpole Farm or just Ridgeway Farm. I call on our elected officials to place the Tadpole Farm proposals on ice until we have a clear decision on Ridgeway Farm.”
Steph Exell of Oakhurst Residents’ Association said “the politicians need to be getting very worried. There are 6,000 existing households in the immediate area to Tadpole Lane who are all going to be affected by this proposed development. I like to think that the public can still stop it going ahead.”Housing developers Crest Nicholson are holding a series of meetings and displays on their proposals to build around 1,700 houses and provide five hectares of employment land, community facilities and major open space areas for public use at Tadpole Farm.
What Tadpole Farm might look like
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. On its web site, New Master Planning says:
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.
North Swindon cluster says ‘no’ to housing until promises are kept
At a North Swindon council wards ‘cluster’ meeting on 8 March a resolution was passed that there should be no further development in North Swindon until promised and future infrastructure is in place such as roads (Thamesdown Drive extension to Great Western Way), community facilities and schools.
North Swindon cluster councillors were also asked to present the resolution to a full meeting of Swindon Council to show their support for communities in North Swindon.
Richard Hailstone, chair of Haydon Wick Parish Council, who proposed the motion said, “the February cluster meeting in West Swindon passed a resolution objecting to housing development at Ridgeway Farm in Wiltshire and this was discussed at a full meeting of Swindon Council which resulted in a letter of objection being written to Wiltshire Council planning committee.
“Our meeting discussed concern about more housing added to North Swindon before promised infrastructure has been provided. A rapid transit bus system to reduce traffic coming out of Tadpole Farm is really just window dressing when we’re still waiting for the extension to Thamesdown Drive which was promised over ten years ago.
“Swindon Council has to consider the impact of all the pockets of housing development being proposed but they have to be looked at together, alongside the huge growth that has already taken place – the impact on the people already living here will be considerable.”
Mr Hailstone said the demand for the council to reconsider its approach to planning applications as a result of meetings at a community level was important. “The idea of the ward clusters is to bring together people to discuss what’s important to them. If these meetings are to mean anything, the council has to pay attention to the very real concerns being expressed.”
Reaction from Oakhurst resident Edward Buckley
My family and I have been living in Oakhurst for the past 4 years, and I have been following with great interest the Swindon Link articles. I write this after having been to the recent community consultation by Crest Nicholson.
Completion of previous and existing developments
While life in the North Swindon housing estates – Redhouse, Oakhurst, etc. – is comfortable and peaceful, it is obvious that apart from the actual housing, the original promised plans have never been completed. Examples of this:
• New highways (within estates) not being adopted locally in good time. (see story in Swindon Link Dec ’10, ‘House builders must complete the job’.) This was also the case in 2007.
• The long-awaited Redhouse community centre, which also had problems securing funding from money, originally from local developments. (see two stories in Swindon Link March ’11 ‘North Swindon to get ?700k’, and ‘Where is All the North Swindon developers’ dosh?’.)
• Promises of other Priory Vale community facilities by developers (see story in Swindon Link Dec ’10, ‘Resident’s questions reveal inconsistencies and gaps in decisions’.)
First of all, my thanks to Swindon Link for dealing with these issues. They are important, and it shows how essential it is to have independent publications giving the nitty gritty.
Secondly, it shows how we need to take an interest, and get involved in local politics. These are instances of what we get (don’t get) when we don’t take sufficient interest.
Proposed Tadpole Farm development
Due to the work done by the Oakhurst, and Redhouse Residents’ Associations, I was able to attend the Crest community consultation with useful background knowledge. One of the main points made by the Crest representatives is that the Tadpole Farm development will be of low density housing, which is pleasant to hear following the (relatively) high density of the recent North Swindon estates. This was made to seem as though this has been their plan all along.
However – as per the background information I had read – this is obviously not the case, since I understand that Crest initially proposed 2,500 houses (an increase from the 2000 target [see story in Swindon Link April ’09, ‘North Swindon to keep growing as well’), and then they were negotiated down to 1,690. (see story in Swindon Link Dec ’10, ‘Tadpole Farm: You will be consulted before planning application’.)
I say this to point out that developers need to be watched.
Generally though, I was pleased with the current proposed designs for the Tadpole Farm development. Apart from the low density housing, some thought has been given to the immediately local problems of the 2 main issues – roads/traffic, and drainage/flooding.
The green ‘belt’ in-between the existing North Swindon, and Tadpole Farm is a welcomed idea – one which I am surprised the local government took so much persuading of. Is this an example of SBC been too inward? (see story in Swindon Link Feb ’11, ‘Unsympathetic response at council meeting’.)
Proposed developments – flooding
Although this is an obvious part of the design process, thought has been given to reducing the risk of flooding, but only for the Tadpole Farm development. They must face up to responsibilities to the wider community, and do more on flood reduction.