Following heated objection by residents of Grange Park, Swindon, backed by their councillors and MP Robert Buckland – pictured below – a proposal to build 175 homes off Hook Street, close to Lydiard Park to be discussed at Swindon Council planning committee on 12 October has been recommended for rejection by Swindon Council planning officers.
The refusal principles can be downloaded from:
Now developers Primegate Properties (Hooknorth) Ltd. have put forward a revised scheme for the site which can be seen below. In a statement published by Swindon Planning Consultants DPDS, they say:
Primegate acknowledges that the application has generated considerable public interest and is aware of the range of issues raised in this context. The consultation responses of the Council’s professional officers and statutory bodies however show many of these concerns are without foundation:
• Neither SBC Highways nor the Highways Agency object, accepting that there are no safety or capacity issues;
• The Environment Agency has no drainage objection;
• There are no biodiversity objections from Natural England or Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.
The question of impact on Lydiard Park remains outstanding. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), the Government’s advisor on architecture, urban design and public space, concludes that there is no evidence that impact on views from the Park would be significant, supporting Primegate’s submitted cultural heritage assessment. Other respondents refute this but Primegate has not seen any evidence or substantive criticism in support of these statements.
CABE also concludes that development of the site would not create an unacceptable incursion into the countryside. However Primegate has recognised CABE’s concern that the proposal could diminish the character of Hook Street and has revised the indicative masterplan to incorporate its suggestions and submitted it – as seen below. Unfortunately the Council is unwilling to consider this.
Whilst Primegate accepts that the site is unallocated and outside, albeit immediately abutting, the defined Swindon urban area it does not accept that its development is contrary to adopted and emerging development strategy or that it would undermine such. This is because the development strategy not only seeks concentration of development at Swindon but also includes policy provision for the release of further greenfield sites outside the urban area where there is demonstrable non-delivery of housing from allocated sites and other sites within the urban area, which is the case in Swindon at the present time.
The basis of Primegate’s housing supply argument for the development is the Coalition Government’s guidance issued since revocation of regional strategies, application of which clearly shows that Swindon cannot demonstrate a 5 year supply of deliverable sites across a wide range of housing provision ‘targets’, including the Structure Plan to 2016 and adopted Local Plan. In contrast the Council and others argue such ‘targets’ are both no longer relevant and, due to the effect of the recession, outdated and that there is no agreed basis at present for calculation of a 5 year housing land supply. The apparent inference is to plan for recession, which should be a short term ‘blip’ in planning’s longer time frame, rather than to plan properly to meet economic and demographic needs.
Primegate understands a locally derived housing figure is not likely to emerge until at least January 2011 and an agreed figure will not be formally adopted in the Core Strategy until some time later. Primegate is not seeking to take advantage of the interim situation as the Government guidance also indicates planning decisions should not be put on hold.
Planning applications take a long time to prepare; in the case of Hook Street the survey and policy work began in May 2009 and the application was originally submitted in March 2010, well before the election, but was withdrawn before determination as requested by the Council. Primegate therefore totally refutes the allegation made recently by Councillor Greenhalgh in the pages of the Swindon Advertiser that it was seeking to take advantage of the gap between revocation of regional strategies and any new regime that will follow as the proposal predates both the new Coalition Government and its subsequent revocation of regional strategies as a matter of fact.
Primegate is disappointed that its application is recommended for refusal and will be considering all its options should this be confirmed by Planning Committee, including whether to appeal the decision and apply for an award of costs.