For years Swindon Link has been publicising proposals to build thousands of houses on Swindon’s western borders in Wiltshire. Now developers Taylor Wimpey Homes have revealed their ideas for the first phase of house building next to Peatmoor and Sparcells.
But residents and councillors in both West Swindon and north Wiltshire hope the government’s promise to scrap the last government’s regional planning policy will allow a level playing field in the planning decision making process.
At a poorly promoted display of the plans organised by Taylor Wimpey at less than a week’s notice at the end of May – in advance of a planning application to Wiltshire Council in July – the developers claimed the 800 houses to the north of Peatmoor will ‘finish off’ the western expansion of the town.
Ridgeway Farm was included in the 1980s master plan for West Swindon but a planning inspector at the time limited the western development to its present boundaries. Taylor Wimpey proposes to extend Mead Way northwards into the green fields, turning Purton Road adjacent to the existing houses into a green lane. Swinley Drive will be extended north into the site from Roughmoor Village Centre – past a proposed one form entry primary school – to meet the Mead Way extension.
This area will contain 700 houses.Another 100 are proposed to the north of Purton Road, between the railway line and the River Ray, with a junction on the hill close to the railway bridge. (See Railway shock story below). This will be opposite the junction on the single lane road into the 200 home Moredon Bridge development that was started in March.
Thanks to volunteers coordinated by councillor Keith Williams, in four days over 2,000 homes were distributed with a leaflet designed by The Link to raise awareness of the display. The information was also spread by e-mail. An estimated 500 people from West and North Swindon and Wiltshire attended.
Coun Keith Williams, pictured right with Wiltshire resident Amanda Heard at the Taylor Wimpey display, said the Taylor Wimpey plans have to be put into a wider context. “Developers cannot argue their plans are still valid because the area was proposed for housing thirty years ago. West Swindon is suffering massive congestion and Mead Way has become the western by-pass for the town from the A419 to the M4.“
He pointed out there are still already almost 3,000 houses already been agreed or are proposed within Swindon which will add huge amounts of traffic to the west of the town
• 1,000 houses are still to be built in North Swindon
• 273 have been given permission for the old Hreod Parkway school site off Akers Way
• the old Moredon primary school site could accommodate about 250 houses
• work on 200 houses at Moredon Bridge has started
• Crest Homes are very likely to be given permission by Swindon Council to build up to 2,000 houses north of Priory Vale at Tadpole Farm.
Coun Williams said, “the Taylor Wimpey proposal for 800 more houses is not welcome and I hope it can be stopped – but we rely on Wiltshire Council to make the decision.”
David Socket from Sparcells said, “my objection is fundamental – there has been enough development in Swindon and there should be no more substantial building on green fields, full stop. The details of the scheme are irrelevant: a new road here, some landscaping there does not hide the introduction of 800 more homes. Commenting on the details just gives the scheme credibility.
“Losing green space and farming land is crucially important to all of us; once this land is used it’s gone forever – this is selling the family’s environmental silver on an outrageous scale. As someone once said, if you put lipstick on a pig it’s still a pig. This is a monstrous pig of a plan.”
Marilyn Kempshall from Peatmoor said she was worried about increased traffic volume, the loss of green fields and increased flooding by the River Ray, particularly upstream in Westlea.
Kevin Fisher from Old Shaw Lane, said, “only providing a detailed drawing of how the development could look is of little value. The developer will design the area in the best way possible to sell houses – this is of zero consequence to the existing residents.
“The important issue is how it will impact the people already living in the area and what they plan to do to mitigate any infrastructure problems. Taylor Wimpey provided absolutely no insight into how the existing road system will not be overwhelmed and other aspects such as ensuring water pressure is maintained and sewage is dealt with.
“Frankly, the presentation was a waste of my time and I ask the developers to set up another consultation where they present their plans to ensure the quality of life of current local residents is not negatively affected by this development. However with Wiltshire Council making the planning decision, we should be worried that they will not be much concerned with the effect on Swindon people.”
Mollie Groom, Wiltshire councillor for Wootton Bassett East which takes in Lydiard Millicent has set store by the coalition government announcement that Labour’s Regional Spatial Strategy will be abolished. “The communities secretary Eric Pickles has said the building of thousands of unwanted houses, especially in green belt land surrounding towns and cities, will stop.
“Decision making will be returned to local councillors and it’s heartening that the government is telling planning inspectors to take account of local concerns.”
Les Durrant of DPDS Consulting, who prepared the Taylor Wimpey Ridgeway master plan above, said he was worried that the need for new housing would not be satisfied. “There is a huge demand for housing nationally and particularly in Swindon. Blocking development is going to cause major problems in the future.”
Right, Taylor Wimpey strategic projects director John Aylwin listening to residents’ concerns on 26 May
Ridgeway Farm proposal shocks railway society
At the Taylor Wimpey display of plans for Ridgeway Farm on 26 May, members of the Swindon & Cricklade Railway Society were shocked to discover that the proposal to build a station next to the Network Rail line between Swindon and Gloucester has been completely ignored.
Taylor Wimpey is suggesting 100 houses can be built to the north of Purton Road, next to the Swindon to Gloucester railway line. But the society has been in discussion with Network Rail about the creation of a commuter halt next to Moredon Bridge on the same land.
Railway society vice chairman Dave Peacey said they had been involved in negotiation with Network Rail, Wiltshire and Swindon Councils over many years about extending the heritage railway beyond Taw Valley Halt to the other side of Mouldon Hill so that people could travel from Cricklade.
Society officers showed Taylor Wimpey and DPDS representatives a plan drawn by Network Rail showing how the two railway lines could meet up. “They were a bit surprised when we produced the drawing,” said Dave. “We need to have a more detailed meeting with Taylor Wimpey because, now that we are in sight of completing the line to Mouldon Hill by next Easter, we will be looking at the longer term plan of extending the track another mile to Moredon Bridge.”