Some sixty people living in Taw Hill attended a consultation evening on 22 January at St Francis School organised by Thames Water contractors Optimise to show off their plans to build a two huge storage tanks close to where people live.
The tanks, right in the middle of housing at either end of Queen Elizabeth Drive would provide storage for overflow rainwater and sewage that could result from future housing developments, namely from 1700 home Tadpole Farm development, to the north of the existing housing area.
But residents say the plans look almost the same as the scheme put forward by Optimise in the middle of 2013, save for the fact that a 6 foot high vent pipe has been removed. The tanks will be vented at ground level.
They believe installation of the tanks will create a flood risk and having them so close to housing may result in smells. The angry the tanks will not be part of the existing sewage system and the contents will have to be pumped out into mobile tankers, at any time that suits Thames Water.
Residents say that Optimise have completely ignored their suggestion that the tanks can be located on the other side of Thamesdown Drive, given the main sewer from North Swindon runs under the road.
Top, Dan Heely of Optimise, left, making a point to resident David Parkinson. The tank locations, below, the alternative site proposed by residents
Representatives from Optimise Dan Heeley and Hugh Thomas, tried to argue the benefit of the tanks to the wider community by removing the risk of flooding in other part of North Swindon, whilst they would only be used at times of extreme 1 in 30 year rainfall events.
They maintain that the Mouldon Hill is unsuitable because the high capacity electricity cables running over part of the site would be a health and safety hazard.
Although the event on 22 January was billed as a consultation event, local councillors Emma Faramazi and Toby Elliott received a notice from Swindon Council’s planning department that construction work could start on 17 February and they needed to make their comments by 31 January.
Campaign leader David Parkinson said: “What Optimise call a consultation process has been an absolute sham. They’ve decided their course of action and have been pursuing it relentlessly. No one has listened to anything the residents have said.
"Even the council’s planning officer has ignored the fact residents should have a say, the location of these storage tanks within yards of houses, and this proposal means destroying a mature green area at the entrance of Taw Hill.
"It was a shock when councillors told us they had been asked to comment on the Optimise proposal at the same time the company was hearing our objections."
Although Swindon Council could allow the installation as general permitted development under the Town and Country Planning Act, residents have learnt the council could invoke an Article 4 direction which would require the tank proposal to be debated by the full planning committee.
Left, trying to see eye to eye, David Parkinson, left, and Hugh Thomas of Optimise.
David added: "I cannot see how our council could allow this development to take place on an officer recommendation, given the impact on our environment in Taw Hill, our concern that the tanks could overflow – as has happened elsewhere in the country – the smell that could emanate, and the fact that there is a viable alternative site at Mouldon Hill which has not been seriously considered."
Councillor Emma Faramazi said: "As a ward member I was very disappointed that despite the meetings we and our local MP Justin Tomlinson have had with Optimise, they are pursuing pretty much the same scheme. In our view these tanks are far too close to houses. Taw Hill residents have had to put up with a lot of building whilst North Swindon has been constructed over the last 12 or so years. It’s very unfair to now expect them to put up with what is effectively a giant cesspit outside their homes.”
"And to receive an email from a planning officer telling us work could start on 17 February is a major concern, given there is so much opposition in the community."
Fellow councillor Toby Elliott, said: “What is frustrating is that many options have been put to Thames Water and they keep coming back with a long list of reasons why they can’t build at one site or another. It seems as though their mind is already made up.
"I congratulate David and Brian McLean for their hard work to examine the issues and investigating alternative ideas, and making people aware of what is going on in their community."
Coun Elliott is a member of the planning committee and said he was asking for the full planning committee to consider the Optimise proposal.
Back right, councillors Faramazi and Elliott observing the heated discussions