After a long and tortuous journey the Tadpole Farm application comes before Swindon Borough Council’s Planning Committee on Tuesday, 12 June, 6pm, at the Civic Offices in Euclid Street.
The Chairman of Oakhurst Residents’ Association, Paul Exell, says the whole planning process has been a frustrating experience for the Oakhurst community and is even being blamed for asking difficult questions.
"SF Planning, Crest Nicholson’s consultant responsible for community engagement, is blaming the North Swindon communities for not engaging properly with the consultation before the planning application was submitted by only wanting to discuss issues that the developers didn’t want to talk about”.
At the end of two years the local councillors, Justin Tomlinson (North Swindon MP) and council planning officers have secured just £60,000 for Oakhurst under the Section 106 legal agreement to mitigate the impact of extra traffic on Oakhurst Way.
Paul put this into context. “This amount is less than the administrative fee that the developers have to pay. The planning officer says that all the relevant parties have addressed the residents’ concerns – but we think he’s having a laugh”.
Oakhurst Residents’ Association have raised a number of issues with the officer’s report to the planning committee that they think councillors should be concerned about:
Tadpole Farm is a Premature Application:
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will be central to the determination of the Tadpole Farm application.
The NPPF (Annex 1) states that “Planning Law requires that applications for planning permission must be determined in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. The development plan includes adopted local plans, neighbourhood plans and the London Plan”.
The two adopted local plans that apply to this application are the Local Plan 2011 and the Wiltshire and Swindon Structure Plan 2016.
It is stated in the planning officer’s report that this application is a departure from the Local Plan 2011. This is because Tadpole Farm DOES NOT form part of the plan.
The Wiltshire and Swindon Structure Plan 2016 allows for 1,000 houses to be built to the West of Swindon but the River Ray proposal is rejected on the basis of the negative impact on Blunsdon.
The Secretary of State states in March 2012 reference the Commonhead appeal decision that: “The Core Strategy & Development Management Policies 2026 DPD is a material consideration. However, this is some way from adoption so it has been afforded limited weight.”
If Ridgeway Farm is upheld on appeal and Tadpole Farm is approved then there will be 2,400 houses on the western border which is a surplus of 1,400 to the requirements of the Structure Plan.
A decision about the Ridgeway Farm Appeal is expected by mid-October 2012 and Tadpole Farm should be decided after this.
Deliverability and sustainability: Key to the new planning framework is the statement: “Pursuing sustainable development requires careful attention to viability and costs in plan-making and decision-taking. Plans should be deliverable”.
The benefits must outweigh the disadvantages to the local communities. However Tadpole Farm should be considered in the context of:
The Purton-Iffley Road link (more easily understood as the once promised new road from Thamesdown Drive to Barnfield Road), deemed key to development of North Swindon. has never been delivered.
The new Rodbourne sewage treatments works promised as part of North Swindon development has not been delivered – this has already lead to sewage ingress to homes due to insufficient capacity.
No costs have been included in submitted plans with regards to waste water capacity expansion
Bus Rapid Transit scheme. Planning officers are still considering two different options, along Oakhurst Way or through Redhouse, neither route can realistically be expected to deliver journey times claimed by developer of 15 minutes from Tadpole Farm to the town centre.
Only £450,000 will be provided by the developer towards Bus Rapid Transit scheme, but the council will not be able to fund any upgrade.
No new primary school places are to be provided at Tadpole Farm until phase two of development commences – yet the closest, Oakhurst is almost full and there are worries that some 40 children from Oakhurst will be have to attend school outside their community.
To quote Old Town campaigner Kareen Boyd: "In 2009 the Department for Education awarded £6,374m to Swindon Borough Council on the basis of need for school places in North Swindon (295), Central Swindon (173) and Old Town (13). The Government proviso was that this money could be reclaimed if this award was not in permanent accomodation by Feb 2012.
"In December 2009 Swindon allocated all of the £6,374m to the school to be built in Old Town/Croft – the second 420 pupil primary school in Old Town in two years.
"North Swindon is now experiencing major shortage of school places and the Tadpole Farm planning application and officer recommendation to approve it without initial provision of a 420 pupil primary school will exacerbate an already strained Northern Sector.
"Provision of the September 2012 schools admissions requirements will clearly demonstrate whether the Croft primary school is in fact being built where the need exists. However officers are withholding this information."
At secondary level no new places are to be provided in North Swindon, although there is currently an 8 form shortfall in places. The money for secondary education will be given to two Academies which are outside of the LEA’s control.
Lack of employment, school places and shops resulting in an increase in trips to reach off-site provision.
Inadequate highways infrastructure, dependent on unclassified roads and existing residential roads that are already congested (developers optimistic forecast is that Oakhurst Way/Garsington Drive junction with Thamesdown expected to reach 88% Degree of Saturation, an increase of 12%, by completion. This equates to approximately 25% increase in wait time at junction).
Acknowledgement that there are existing capacity problems on Thamesdown Drive even without further development.
Overly optimistic traffic modelling for Tadpole Farm. The developers suggests that first 350 houses will only add 24 cars to southbound on Mead Way towards the M4 during morning peak times. They say the development will only attract on 9 cars going northbound at peak times.
Summing up Paul, pictured right, added: "The proposed Tadpole Farm development is just not good enough for Swindon – there has been no attempt to take account of the views of the residents or to try and get a good deal for them.
"Many Oakhurst residents feel that there has been no team effort to achieve the best result for all parties. The growing view is that this is happening more and more all over Swindon – recent examples are Coate and Croft – where the communities are superfluous to the Council’s plans.
"The report submitted by the planning officer for the planning committee appears to be one-sided and to selectively quote from source documents in order to justify the desired conclusion."
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