Plans to consult residents on where to build an extra 1,000 homes in the borough by 2036 will be discussed by councillors at next Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.
The consultation should help inform a refresh of the council’s Local Plan, which sets out how much housing Swindon needs over a 20-year period and identifies where, when and how development will take place.
Swindon’s current Local Plan runs to 2026 and was adopted four years ago, but it is important to keep it up to date. Revised forecasts have resulted in a lower housing target for the Borough with a total of 19,500 additional homes required by 2036 to meet demographic and employment needs.
A large proportion of these new homes are already in the pipeline within large-scale new communities allocated for development in the current Local Plan, including the New Eastern Villages, Wichelstowe and Kingsdown.
Following the Strategic Housing and Employment Land Availability Assessment (SHELAA) carried out by the Council earlier this year, the prospect for further growth in the Swindon Urban Area is limited particularly as many of the potential sites are open space.
On that basis and, taking into account existing commitments, the Council needs to find sites to accommodate about 1,000 extra homes on greenfield land beyond the existing urban area.
The consultation identifies four strategic options to accommodate the additional homes.
Option 1 includes continuing the expansion of Swindon to the north and allocating some additional land for housing in Highworth or Wroughton. Option 2 is a more dispersed approach with some development at Highworth, Wroughton and other villages, while Options 3 and 4 focus development at Blunsdon and Wroughton, respectively.
Residents will be asked for their views on each proposal and the Council is keen to understand what local infrastructure improvements people would like to see.
Residents will also be asked what they think of plans to refresh certain policies used to determine planning applications. These include planning policies relating to design, conservation, open space provision, affordable housing and infrastructure.
Additional new policies are also being proposed for the Local Plan which would supersede the Swindon Central Area Action Plan (2009). These relate to proposals for a more flexible approach to primary and secondary retail frontages recognising the changing nature of the town centre.
New policies are also proposed to limit the cumulative impact of ‘unhealthy’ shop uses such as betting shops and hot-food takeaways, and to meet the accommodation needs of an ageing population.
If Cabinet Members approve the consultation at their meeting next week, the public will be asked for their views over an eight-week period between 29th July and 23rd September. Following the conclusion of the consultation, the plan will be finalised over the autumn before another round of public consultation at the end of the year, prior to an independent examination.
Councillor Gary Sumner, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, said: “It is vitally important we continually review and refresh our Local Plan so we ensure we have the right homes in the right places as Swindon continues to grow. This consultation, if approved by Cabinet, is part of our continual engagement with residents and organisations to ensure we respond to their aspirations, rather than presenting the final Plan.
“The good news is that we already have a large amount of our housing target earmarked for developments like Wichelstowe and the New Eastern Villages. This means we are not looking for a large green field expansion as we have done in the past and our focus is on delivering housing on those sites that have already been allocated.
“We have identified four options for the additional 1,000 homes we will need in the future and, if Cabinet agree, we will be asking residents to give us their thoughts on which options they prefer.
“The Local Plan review also gives us the chance to look at some of our housing policies so they deliver the types of developments we want to see across the borough focusing on issues such as improved air quality and limiting the amount of betting shops, payday loan shops and drinking establishments, which can have a negative impact on communities.”