THE dramatically changing shape of the town, which could lead to 19,000 homes being built in 15 years is up for discussion.
As reported in the Adver Swindon Council’s re-drafted Core Strategy, which will go before councillors tomorrow night (Thursday), planners have reduced the previous target of 37,200 houses to be built by 2026.
But behind the headline figures many existing residents have raised concerns over infrastructure, schooling and health provision among others.
By far the biggest development will be to the east – with 7,500 homes spread across three or four ‘villages’ to the east of the A419 – even though it has been significantly scaled back from 12,000 in the Core Strategy.
Coun Peter Greenhalgh, cabinet member for sustainability, strategic planning, property and transport, said the village concept was a way of ensuring minimum impact on existing parts of east Swindon, such as Stratton, Covingham and South Marston.
“It’s about helping people get a sense of belonging to a place,” he said. “Rather than having a contrived patch of housing it’s allowing people the opportunity to live in an area that has distinct boundaries.
“We still want the green corridor bridging the A419 but we have also got to look at how to strengthen links with these new communities and Swindon without impacting on existing residents.
“ Planning law means we have to put time frame but it is not a race to the end – if it takes 30 or 40 years fine but it has to be done right.”
Dave Potter, the council’s director of planning, said: “This is the council planning again as it did in the ’70s.
“It started with the urban village concept in West Swindon and the eastern extension will develop that concept.”
To prevent the new developments to the east being left out in the cold the Core Strategy outlines a plan for a learning campus and a ‘gateway to the east’ at White Hart to relieve traffic pressures.
There is also talk of a road link to Commonhead, the site of another new development of 900 houses between Day House Lane and the Great Western Hospital.
Controversy surrounds the ‘Commonhead’ proposal because of its proximity to Coate Water but Coun Greenhalgh (Con, Freshbrook and Grange Park) said: “The development isn’t around Coate Water, it is around the hospital site.
“I believe, as part of the application, monies will be paid for improvement actually at Coate Water itself and we would also be seeking that land directly around Coate Water is preserved for future generations.”
To the west, locals have been up in arms against plans to develop fields at Hook Street, near Lydiard Park, and also Wiltshire land to the north of Peatmoor.
Coun Greenhalgh said the west could not absorb any more housebuilding projects but admitted Wiltshire Council’s lack of a planning strategy was a concern.
“West Swindon could not swallow another 600 or 700 houses let alone what is being proposed. Wiltshire’s Core Strategy will not be ready until 2012 and that is a personal concern – I would like to be working with them as partners.”