Sunday, August 12, 2007

Letter of objection to new planning applications

Mr Ian Halsall
Planning Department
Swindon Borough Council
Premier House
Station Road
Swindon SN1 1TZ

Objection to outline planning applications SO7\1688 & SO7\1689 – Swindon Gateway proposal for land at Coate.

Dear Mr Halsall

I wish to lodge a formal objection to the outline planning applications submitted by Persimmon Homes and Redrow Homes to build 1,800 houses, a university campus including accommodation for students, offices and community facilities on countryside at Coate and Badbury Wick.

Whilst I appreciate that land at Coate has been allocated in the Swindon Local Plan for mixed use development incorporating a university campus, the policy was drawn up to meet the needs of the University of Bath who are no longer interested in developing the site. As no new university partner has come forward, it is premature to consider the planning application given that the elements of the proposals must relate to each other and cannot proceed until the requirements of any future university partner, if any, are met. Currently, the planning applications conflict with Swindon Local Plan policy DS3 and should be refused planning permission.

The planning applications also conflict with many other requirements of policy DS3.

The rural views out of Coate Water Country Park have not been respected – offering glimpses of countryside between the buildings is not in the spirit of the policy.

The height and layout of buildings do not respect the views from the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, particularly those in the business park, and do not provide a soft urban edge to Swindon.

The provision of at least 60 hectares of land for a university campus has not been met (DS3a) – there is barely 44 hectares of land set aside for a campus. The land allocated for the university campus falls within the area that Natural England believe should be protected and enhanced to secure the conservation value of Coate Water Site of Special Scientific Interest. The proposed buildings next to Coate Water nature reserve are too close, too concentrated and too high.

Whilst the policy calls for the provision of up to 1800 houses, this was conditional on there being sufficient land suitable and available for development. This is clearly not the case given that a buffer of at least 300m is required at the north- east boundary of Coate Water to protect the rural setting of the Country Park and archaeological features whilst the old landfill site is also proposed for house-building contrary to government planning guidance.

The setting of the listed buildings in the area has not been considered. These include the Richard Jefferies Museum, Day House Farm and the milestone along the old Coate lane – all have Grade II listing and their rural setting is also important given the context of their importance to Richard Jefferies’ writing. Indeed, there has been no environmental impact assessment of the proposals on the literary landscape value of Jefferies Land – a unique feature in Swindon that has been grossly under-rated by both the borough council and the developers.

The transport infrastructure is inadequate to cope with the increased traffic that would pour out onto Marlborough Road. The residents of Coate should not be forced to live on a plot of land that acts as a roundabout.

The underpass at Coate roundabout regularly floods – the sewage infrastructure is already inadequate whilst any increase in flow in the Dorcan Brook and the River Cole will increase flooding incidents elsewhere. Day House Lane is regularly flooded as are the fields to the south-east of Coate Water.

This area of Swindon is very special to me and should be protected at all costs. With the pressures on Swindon to get bigger, this last remnant of local countryside next to Coate Water, along with its historic and literary connections with Coate-born writer Richard Jefferies and the varied extensive archaeology dating back to the early Bronze Age, is even more valuable as an educational and recreational facility than ever before.

The buffer proposed around the Country Park, is insufficient to protect and enhance the wildlife interest of the Coate Water Site of Special Scientific Interest and the rural landscape setting of the park. It is too narrow to be of any value and there is no indication that building work will be delayed for several years until after newly created habitats have had an opportunity to mature. In some places there is no buffer proposed – merely a row of trees that will ultimately block out the treasured views from Coate Water across to Liddington Hill and the Downs.

The scale, nature and location of the different elements of the proposed development will reduce wildlife movement, drastically reduce feeding areas and habitats for protected species such as hares, badgers, bats, otters and endangered birds both within and outside the nature reserves. Human intrusion and predation from household pets could further destroy the wildlife value of the area forever.

The impact of the buildings on the landscape will be indescribably awful and totally unacceptable. The new hospital – one kilometre from Coate Water - has been a good marker to show just how badly a modern building can ruin the views from the Downs and Coate Water.

The university campus should be located in the town centre near the railway station as originally proposed. There is already provision to build thousands more houses whilst empty industrial units and offices litter the Borough. We don't need more.

Coate Water is my favourite place in Swindon. Its value to the town is beyond price. Please refuse planning permission and protect this area for future generations to enjoy as much as I have.

Please keep me informed about any decision that is taken.

Yours sincerely