Making South Marston a Great Place to Live
You will recall that the replies the questionaire and public meeting in 2006 accepted that development at South Marston was inevitable and, to some extent desirable. They authorised the Parish Council to change its policy and seek to influence development rather than simply oppose it. We facilitated the preparation of the Village Plan that was submitted to Swindon Borough Council (Swindon) in 2007. That Plan implied a growth of about 300 homes to the South of the village.
At that stage Swindon had indicated to the Regional Authority that it would accept grpwth of 32,000 houses in the period to 2026, many of which were allocated to the Eastern Development Area (EDA), which lies between the village and Commonhead. In fact the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) requires the Borough to take 36,000.
Swindon are not happy about this but have drawn their plans in accordance with this requirement.
These plans show 12,000 houses to be built in the EDA. This total includes 600-800 on the southern boundary of the village. A separate initiative proposes additional residential development on the Crown Timber and Thornhill Industrial Estates.
Matters are complicated because the RSS has not been formally adopted and the EDA plans were rushed out before the draft Core Strategy that governs Swindon’s growth was published. The Conservative and Lib. Dem. parties are proposing the scrapping of the current national housing targets. Local Conservative politicians are seeking to make hay and have been quoted in the press as infering that they would stop the EDA.
You may have seen the headline words of the Council Leader ‘’Personally I do not want any houses built in the EDA.’ But that he also said ‘’I am not going to responsibly say that there will be no homes built on the EDA.’ Swindon’s senior planning officer confirmed to the meeting that if the RSS did not exist then Swindon’s policy would be for an additional 32,000 houses and included development of the EDA. I suggest that the politicians’ words are read in the context of that policy as well as the requirements of the RSS.
Swindon have acknowledged that the EDA plans are being extensively re-written, largely connected with transport issues, and are likely to be re-issued for further public consultation in the Spring.
Driving the action is the Government’s housing target. All political parties accept that more house must be built. Regulations require local authorities to maintain a 5 year supply of land with suitable planning conditions. If Swindon Council fails to do this, then it will be unable to refuse applications for development that do not have adequate proposals for infrastructure such as roads and schools.
The developers who have invested money in land in the EDA and around South Marston in particular are looking to make applications as soon as possible. If they consider that there is undue delay, then we must expect that they would proceed with a scheme designed to maximise their profit rather than enhance the village. Therefore both we and Swindon face a dilemma. Do we:
- continue to work with the system and seek to make a virtue out of necessity
- cease our involvement in the hope that the planning landscape will change so radically and so quickly that the pressure comes off and our problems go away?