By Paige Warman
Ainscough Strategic Land is to appeal against Swindon Borough Council’s recent decision to refuse outline planning permission for residential development at the allocated Lotmead Villages in Wanborough.
Ainscough Strategic Land submitted two planning applications in May 2015 to develop two new villages within the strategic allocation of the New Eastern Villages, to be known as Lotmead and Lower Lotmead, but Swindon Borough Council argue that Ainscough did not suitably address issues such as educational provision and transport links in these applications.
Prior to submitting these applications, Ainscough had seven pre-application meetings with various officers at Swindon Borough Council at which council members expressed their concerns regarding multiple issues in the applications, and at the last of those in February 2015 had agreed common ground on a range of issues, which paved the way for the planning application submissions.
The target determination date for each application was originally set as 28 August 2015. However, during 2015 and early 2016 the council requested several extensions to the planning decision date, all of which Ainscough agreed to support. There was no clear evidence of progression in the application, officers requested a further extension to the latest determination date of 30 June 2016.
Just days before it was set to pass, Ainscough declined. Both applications were then refused by planning officers, using delegated powers. Neither application has gone before the council’s planning committee.
The Council did have the ability to continue to work with Ainscough, outside of the determination date parameters, to enable the applications to be progressed in a cooperative manner and brought before their planning committee for consideration.
Lotmead and Lower Lotmead villages plan to deliver up to 2,600 homes, up to 1,765 sq m of community/retail use, up to 3,000 sq m of business/employment use, a primary school and open space, over 200 acres of strategic landscaping and other green infrastructure, including nature conservation. Provision was also made to protect a route for the Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal through the development.
Phase 1 includes 200 homes, with access off Wanborough Road, and provides a catalyst for delivery of the New Eastern Villages project, which is already very substantially behind schedule.
Swindon Borough Council’s own Local Plan recognises that there is a pressing need for new houses in Swindon. The land at New Eastern Villages is a key allocated site in the Local Plan.
The Local Plan requires 22,000 new homes to be built between 2011 and 2026.
This equates to 1,150 new homes being built every year between 2011 and 2016, and for 1,625 dwellings to be built each year between now and 2026.
The council’s Local Plan is required to demonstrate that this level of house building is deliverable for the coming five years – which is known as the “five-year housing land supply”.
The council has acknowledged that it cannot demonstrate a five-year housing land supply. The most recently published housing trajectory includes delivery of 4,050 homes at the New Eastern Villages by the end of 2020/21. From 2014 – 2017 1,000 new homes have been programmed for delivery, but to date, no housing has been delivered there with no planning consents in place to deliver the council’s target.
Ainscough Strategic Land believes that both applications will not only remedy this situation, but will deliver two new villages that will support a first class quality of life for the people who choose to live there.
Paul Martin, MD of Ainscough Strategic Land, said: “We were very disappointed by the decision to refuse planning permission on both applications, and that after so much work and consultation on both sides the elected members on the planning committee weren’t even able to consider them.
“It was unnecessary to rush to a refusal, seemingly only to satisfy the meaningless government targets. The value of our scheme is over £500m and we don’t believe that the decision was in the best interests of the people of Swindon, of those people who are desperately hoping to buy their own homes, access social housing, or of democracy itself.
“We have taken expert advice and believe that we have a compelling case to make at appeal, and will be demonstrating how our applications are a key part of Swindon’s future economic prosperity. Based on recent actions of the council, having the applications considered by an independent planning Inspector is now the only way to ensure that they are considered fully, and in the most expedient manner which will be to the benefit of all.
“However, we must all remember that achieving that is the joint responsibility of all the delivery partners and the council. For New Eastern Villages to be the success that Swindon deserves, there is going to need to be strong strategic contribution by both parties. With this in mind we will be seeking a meeting with senior officers and councillors to constructively find a way forward.”
Cllr Toby Elliott, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, said: “We remain, as we always have been, very keen to work with Ainscough Strategic Land and other parties to realise the sustainable development of the new Eastern Villages. The reason why the application wasn’t progressing was quite simply because many issues, which we highlighted repeatedly as being obstacles to gaining approval, were not addressed. These included lack of provision for crucial infrastructure, such as education and transport links, as well as how aspects such as noise, archaeological protection, flooding and drainage would be managed.
“We urged the developers to extend the deadline and amend their application so it met the necessary requirements, but unfortunately our efforts were to no avail and resulted in the refusal of their submitted outline plans. However, we are still hopeful that the developer will revisit their application and modify it so it presents a development that is attractive and incorporates the prerequisite infrastructure that Swindon both needs and deserves.”