Changes to plans for the future development of the 4500 home Wichelstowe scheme in the south of Swindon, which will improve its financial viability and boost its environmental aims, are going out for public consultation in late August and early September
Swindon Borough Council is proposing a number of changes to the original planning blueprint – or Masterplan – which was approved in May 2005.
The changes to the revised Masterplan are necessary to improve the viability and attractiveness of the overall scheme, and increase its appeal to future joint venture development partners that the council will seek to continue the project.
They also have the potential to save £30m in the cost of providing future infrastructure such as roads compared to the original Masterplan.
Pictured, the new canal running through the first phase of the Wichelstowe development
The principal changes to the revised Masterplan are:
An increase in the number of mature trees, hedgerows and landscape contours that will be retained across the site
The re-alignment of the proposed Croft Road/Hay Lane link road, which is intended to give a more efficient road layout and bring greater life and viability to the development’s District Centre. It will also keep extra traffic away from Wroughton
A change to the ‘trigger point’ for providing some infrastructure, from 1100 completed homes to 2500. This will make sure that infrastructure costs are more appropriately balanced with the rate of house building
A greater emphasis on ‘walkable neighbourhoods’ to ensure that all facilities on site are easily reached on foot. The commitment to large areas of green public open space is retained
The consultation will run for three weeks from Tuesday 27 August until Friday 13 September, and will include the following public exhibitions:
Wednesday 28 August, East Wichel Community Centre, 2.30pm to 7pm
Friday 30 August, Ellendune Centre, Wroughton, 10am to 1pm, and 4pm to 7pm
Wednesday 4 September, Arts Centre, Old Town, 1pm to 6.30pm
In addition, a Wichelstowe South Locality meeting will be held in early September on a date yet to be set, and there will be a further meeting between the council’s Wichelstowe project team and Wroughton Parish Council.
Detailed information about what is being proposed will be available at www.wichelstowe.co.uk from Tuesday 27 August.
Feedback from the consultation will be incorporated into the planning application which will be considered by the council’s Planning Committee in early 2014.
The first phase of the Wichelstowe scheme, with over 800 homes in East Wichel, is now well underway and is being delivered by Taylor Wimpey. The remainder of the land at Middle and West Wichel, approximately 75%, remains in council ownership. Work on a Waitrose supermarket, which forms part of the planned District Centre, is underway.
The ambition for Wichelstowe is to create a neighbourhood that is attractive to all generations and which contributes to wider economic growth. The scheme will create construction jobs in the short term and attract new business to the employment land in the longer term, and provide vital income for the council.
The project stalled following the financial crisis in 2008, which led to a collapse in land values and developer confidence.
As is normal with large housing schemes, the council had provided infrastructure such as roads, a canal, and landscaping in Middle and West Wichel in advance of houses being built, to make the site more attractive to developers.
The cost of this was to have been recovered by the council from receipts from housing development, but the financial crash meant that the search for a development partner for the remaining land had to be postponed and new housing was not built.
The cost of servicing the debt to pay for the infrastructure is currently being met by money paid to the council by the original development partner Taylor Wimpey, on the ending of the development agreement with them in 2009, due to Taylor Wimpey’s own financial pressures.
This money will cover the cost of the debts for a few more years, but after that the council needs to secure income from the new development partner and house sales.