House building in the town is mainly focussed on the south of the town at Wichelstowe, and also to the east between South Marston and Wanborough. But attention could soon return to the west and north-west of Swindon
Over the last few years permission has been given to build new estates at Tadpole Farm in the north, Bagbury Park next to Coate Water and in and around Wroughton. The development of Wichelstowe is still far from complete, and building has yet to start on the 10,000 houses proposed for East Swindon.
It's a process that's been going on for more than 176 years since the Great Western Railway chose the town for its locomotive repair shop on the green farmlands below the small town on the hill.
More recently, the 1968 'Silver Book' study for town expansion envisaged Swindon absorbing Purton, growing a town of 100,000 to a city of 400,000 by year 2000. This target was scaled back by central government to around 250,000 people but we’re still well short of that number.
Currently there are around 220,000 people living within the boundaries of Swindon Borough. The 11,000 homes in West Swindon as we know it now in 2019 is on the edge of the urban envelope. But in 2009 a joint report by Wiltshire and Swindon planners considered a range of sites beyond the town's western boundary - illustrated right. Pry Farm (10) was identified as the preferred place for future large scale house building. This could provide space for 3,000 houses, though access could see a road built across the edge of Mouldon Hill Park to join with Thamesdown Drive.
While the agreed current Local Plans for Wiltshire and Swindon outlines long term development until 2026, house building companies have been able to gain permissions on sites not in the plan by appealing against rejections by both Wiltshire and Swindon's planning committee.
Two such are the 150 homes at Mouldon View (9) off Purton Road, now completed, whilst the 700 houses at Ridgeway Farm (8) are well underway. A new application for 81 houses off Purton Road, opposite Moulden View, is currently being considered in a planning appeal.
Ridgeway Farm, being built by Taylor Wimpey, was successful at appeal partly because the site was part of Thamesdown (Swindon) Council's original development plan in the early 1970s that arose out of the 'Silver Book' mentioned above. The Ridgeway Farm site was excluded from Swindon's proposals by a planning inspector who declared the western expansion of the town should not go beyond Purton Road.
Taylor Wimpey has made several unsuccessful attempts to build on land close to Lydiard Park (2), resisted by demands to protect the park's heritage.
A minor development not marked for consideration in the 2009 study, which received permission at appeal in 2012 is the site north of Hook Street, next to Grange Park, within sight of Lydiard Park.
The next Local Plan is not due until 2026, but the pressure from central government for new houses may give encouragement to house builders to try and secure permission well before then.
There are rumours that Hook Street South (1), between Lydiard Park and the M4, from Windmill Hill to the hamlet of Hook, could soon be subject to a planning application for up to 2,000 houses.
Areas 3 to 7 are smaller parcels of land which could be the subject for other opportunistic planning applications
If Pry Farm was to be permitted in the next eight years, it's a short step to the 2026 Local Plan identifying even more green fields close to Cricklade and Purton as ripe for development. The vision for Swindon outlined in 1968 could be achieved in the next twenty years.
It seems unlikely that the Thamesdown Drive extension to Great Western Way will be built before the 2026 Local Plan is in place. In the forseable future the daily gridlock on Mead Way, with drivers using short cuts through the residential roads of West Swindon, will continue to worsen whilst the congestion on Thamesdown Drive will mount.
One day an outer western ring road from the A419 near Cricklade to the M4 beyond Junction 16 may be required.