Richard Pagett from Purton, an environmental consultant who travels the world advising governments on developing policies to reduce the impact of global warming, turns his focus on the profound impact of a change in government planning policy and the empty promise of localism – the British government’s attempt to transfer more decision making to communities.
There is something very British about putting up with adversity, and making the best of a bad situation. Although often quite laudable, one of the downsides is that those with something to gain simply take advantage.
And so it is with Ridgeway Farm on the edge of Swindon, but in Wiltshire. The Planning Inspector last November, using spurious grounds for agreeing the development in the face of objections from Swindon Borough Council, Wiltshire Council, Swindon and Wiltshire MPs, parish councillors, groups, and individuals, was simply hitting the first nail in the coffin of localism: a little bit of democracy died that day.
We are beginning to see the rest of the nails being hammered into place.
The Ridgeway Farm development has no redeeming feature. We stood up and blew the whistle, loudly, before and at the planning enquiry. We were heard, but not listened to.
This planning abuse is something we will have to live with for generations to come. The development is in Purton parish and will have a profound effect on our area, yet the first exhibition by the developers was held in West Swindon: a true victor’s justice. The developers were requested to change venue and host it in the parish yet could not even be bothered to respond. That is the nature of the beast with which we are now confronted.
The second nail was the complete misfit posed by the development with regard to education. Parents or guardians have a choice about where to send their children to be educated.
At Ridgeway Farm they will live in the parish and being in the Bradon Forest catchment will be able to send their children to the school in Purton, if they so wish. Wiltshire Council will be obliged to lay on free transport – the distance being unreasonable and unsafe to walk.
Yet a perfectly adequate, equivalent school (Nova Hreod) lies within walking distance just over the border in Swindon. Unnecessary bussing of children makes no sense: it creates pollution, it adds to climate change and it adds to village congestion. Yet we have to make the best of bad job.
The third nail is the design of the Ridgeway Farm spine road. It is clearly a design-nonsense currently and needs to be re-routed around the north and east of the development. It is far too narrow and with the number of driveways and side roads will force on-road parking, congestion and hazards. We have seen this before in nearby large developments. It is an accident waiting to happen, it is so obvious.
So what will happen? Drivers will do what drivers do, look for alternatives. The effects of this planning debacle will be felt far and wide.
We have seen this all before. We need to stay angry and not just accept the consequences. We need to be heard and we need to ridicule this development for what it is; a monument to planning blight.
There could be more planning decisions concerning green fields in north Wiltshire. More nails into localism.
See the Ridgeway Farm plan at: www.bit.ly/rftwplan