‘I would like to thank the 50 villagers who took part in the continuing exercise to help shape and influence the expansion of the village, held at the South Marston Hotel on the 15th September. The results of the information gathered are being collated, and will be published on line and distributed.
This exercise is part of the campaign to influence what might be built on both the Thornhill and Crown Timber sites, and on the fields between the village and the railway.
Some people are concerned that the approach that the Parish Council is adopting may lead to greater expansion than would otherwise be the case. This is not true. This area is nearly all owned or controlled by developers who are pressing for it to be developed and Swindon Council confirmed that it was available as part of the Eastern Development Area (EDA) last year.
Following this we managed to persuade the Swindon planners that the impact of such a large development on our community would be so great that we should be treated as a special case. They eventually agreed that the village, possibly uniquely, should have its own Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).
The SPD will be prepared by the Swindon planners, but they are keen that it is a ‘village led plan’. What they cannot do is reverse the established Swindon Council policy for expansion, or the identification of the EDA to take the lion’s share of this. As you may have read in the papers, this government is keen to build houses at a faster rate than the last, and so it seems unrealistic to expect the pressure to go away.
The SPD is likely to be published for public consultation in the early Spring of next year. Comments from the public will then be considered by the planners and the final SPD presented to the Borough Planning Committee for adoption. If adopted, the SPD then has legal status and sets the framework and requirements for development.
My personal vision is of community that works as a viable, cohesive whole with the feel of a rural village rather the hard surfaces of Wichelstowe.
The Parish Council is clear that the eventual vision should reflect the views of as many villagers as possible. It is undoubtedly correct that most of us would prefer no development at all, but having spoken with the Swindon Planners, seen the EDA proposals and checked the land ownership and options controlled by the developers, we do not see this as realistic.
We hope to best serve the village by achieving a binding, complete and integrated plan for the whole area. This would include a master plan for the layout and building codes for the house designs. It would incorporate a land transfer or similar to prevent the remaining open spaces from future development, maximise the green spaces both within and outside the built village and prevent further, piecemeal, building.
The planners themselves are coming to grips with a new planning framework that promotes ‘localism’. We are looking to meet with them shortly to better define what that means for both sides and firm up what it means for the village and its SPD.
I know that some people were particularly disheartened by the size of development shown on one of the plans produced at the May meetings. This was based on the original EDA plan that showed 20ha of development. We have made it clear to the Swindon planners that this is not appropriate. They wish to develop rather than swamp the existing community and accept that the strict requirements of the EDA are no longer valid. Provided we remain engaged in the process I am confident that a more acceptable development will emerge.
We hope that as many villagers as possible will continue to give their input as we seek to control development.