The Planning Inspectorate has announced that the Examination in Public of Swindon Borough Council’s Local Plan – the planning blueprint which will guide new development and house building in Swindon to 2026 – will begin on 22 April and finish on 22 May.
The hearing sessions, to be held at STEAM, the Museum of the Great Western Railway are open for all members of the public to attend, although participation in them will be at the discretion of the planning inspector assigned to the task, Mr Mike Fox, BA MA MRTPI.
Organisations and individuals who have commented on the draft plan are being informed of the hearing and asked if they wish to participate.
The inspector will hear evidence on a wide variety of issues, and test the evidence put forward by the council for its proposals and make sure the plan is sound. Among them will be the plans for the Eastern Villages and proposed expansion at South Marston, the assumptions for future growth in the Borough and whether infrastructure such as transport will support the overall plan.
Cllr Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council Cabinet member for Strategic Planning and Sustainability, said: “Swindon Borough Council submitted its 2026 Local Plan in June 2013, and the Minister for Planning has confirmed that we can use it alongside the existing local plan for decision making. The timetable is the Inspector’s decision, and now we know the dates for the final vital stage. Making sure that lessons from twenty years ago have been learnt, by ensuring infrastructure like roads can be funded, is one of the key challenges we face.
“The scale of what Swindon faces is highlighted by the fact that there have been a number of Local Plans around the country where the inspector examining them has recommended they be withdrawn, or have significant changes made to them. Of the 52 plans submitted last year to the Inspectorate, only six progressed rapidly to a finding of soundness.
“It is vital that every resident and every community group gets behind the council on this issue because if the planning inspector rejects our Local Plan, it will leave Swindon open to any speculative planning application from developers.”
Swindon Borough Council’s previous Local Plan was formally adopted in 2006 but is becoming increasingly out of date.
The replacement Local Plan has been through several drafts and rounds of public consultation, and has had to adapt to changing national planning policy and guidance.
Before the examination begins, the planning inspector will hold a pre-hearing briefing at STEAM on Tuesday 11th March, which is also open to the public, where he will outline the scope and arrangements for the examination.
Once the four-week examination is over, the inspector will produce a report outlining his findings. This is expected to be published in September. If he finds the plan to be sound, then the council will move to formally adopt it as soon as possible.