Monday, December 15, 2008

Indicative diagram of latest proposals for Coate

The developers have been tweaking their planning application again in an attempt to make it more acceptable!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Public Inquiry - planning applications for Coate

The Public Inquiry is likely to run for 16 days. It will commence on Tuesday 10 February: 10am at the Marriott Hotel. There are no sittings on Mondays and the Friday sessions will finish at lunchtime but commence at 9.30am. Tues-Thursday 10am-5pm. The programme will run for two weeks, then one week off, and resume again for a possible two weeks.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Write to the Planning Inspectorate about the Coate development proposals

Swindon Borough Council has sent out notices of a planning appeal lodged by the Swindon Gateway Consortium (namely Redrow Homes and Persimmon Homes) asking the Secretary of State to make a decision about one of their applications to develop at Coate. A local planning inquiry will be held and you have an opportunity to have your say on the matter.

You must send 3 copies of your letter to the Bristol office by 4 November 2008. Below is a standard text that can be adapted and submitted.

The Planning Inspectorate
Room 4/04
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Temple Quay
Bristol BS1 6PN

Dear Sir or Madam

Appeal reference number: APP/U3935/A/08/2085605/NWF

Re: outline application for the provision of a university, houses, offices etc on land adjacent to Coate Water Country Park, the Marlborough Road, the A419 and M4 at Coate, Swindon Wilts.

I have already submitted an objection to the planning applications lodged by Persimmon Homes and Redrow Homes to build on one of Swindon's most precious and environmentally sensitive sites. I am one of the 50,000 people who signed a petition calling for a wide buffer of countryside to be retained around Coate Water. Never has a planning application in Swindon aroused so much passion against a building proposal.

I am a member of the Jefferies Land Conservation Trust whose goal is to protect the land under threat from development and to turn it into a nature reserve in order to enhance Coate Water Site of Special Scientific Interest and its wildlife interest, to protect the special landscape between Coate Water and the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and to preserve the literary and historic value of this pocket of countryside.

You may not be aware that Richard Jefferies was a pioneer ecologist and is best known for his nature writing. He lived at Coate, next to the proposed development area) and every inch of hedge, stream, ditch, field, tree, plant and animal and Coate Water was explored and recorded in his writing. In a poll in the Guardian in 2006, he was voted as Britain’s favourite countryside writer.

Despite Jefferies’ international following and his local importance, no attempt has been made to evaluate the environmental impact of the proposed development on the literary value of the land at any stage of the development plan or planning application process. So keen were Swindon Borough Council to let the University of Bath build a campus at Coate, that their assessment of Coate as a development area hid many of the great environmental features of the landscape.

The current Swindon Borough Local Plan 2011 policy DS3, relating to the land in question, is an enabling one adopted to facilitate the needs of the University of Bath who then pulled out of the Swindon Gateway Partnership early last year. This action was closely followed by the Swindon and Marlborough NHS Trust, leaving only Persimmon Homes and Redrow Homes in the “partnership”. This position still holds – no new “partners” have come forward. Both the Panel who conducted the Examination in Public of the Wiltshire and Swindon Structure Plan 2016 and the Swindon Borough Local Plan 2011 Inspector were swayed to recommend that the site might be developed because of the University of Bath’s insistence that no other site at Swindon was acceptable to them.

I request that the Planning Inspectorate ensures that the scope of the planning inquiry is as far-reaching as possible. I believe that it was inappropriate to identify the area for mixed use development in the development plans and many of the criteria, on which sustainability of the site was based, are unsound.

Please keep me informed about progress on the planning application appeal and the local planning inquiry.

Thank you.

Yours faithfully

Monday, September 08, 2008

Where Will You Go When The Concrete Comes?

Where Will You Go When The Concrete Comes?

A canal-cut reservoir at Coate Water,

A manuscript of field, sky and lake-land

For Richard Jefferies and his muse,

Wandering east from England’s Chicago.

Recreation for Railway families,

Who couldn’t afford the annual Trip,

Just trying to forget the Great War

And short-time working.

It’s where my mother dived deep into the waves

Wind-whipped and keen before the polio scare,

And where mum and dad courted before the War.

It’s where I paddled in the 1950’s,

Thrilled by miniature railway rides,

Egg sandwiches and ice cream cornets,

In long summer holiday equal measure,

Until the smell of creosote and Woodbines

Wafted through the wooden changing rooms,

With the 11 Plus, The Beatles,

And Don Rogers on a thousand transistor radios.

It’s where young men impressed their girl friends

With a clean sweep of the oars from out the boathouse,

Cries of joy echoing in the willowed, muddied banks,

While the great crested grebe stared up to the Downs

And the thatched cottages up in Hodson,

“The Gamekeeper At Home”, still.

You can see all these memories reflected in the waters,

You can see all of yours too,

Take a walk and peer into the shifting surface,

There they are just waiting to be netted,

With the rod and line of recollection,

But where will they all go when the concrete comes?

by Stuart Butler

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

House-builders launch a planning appeal

Redrow Homes and Persimmon Homes have lodged an appeal with the Secretary of State against Swindon Borough Council over their failure to make a decision about one of their planning applications to develop land east and south of Coate Water Country Park.

There are two planning applications related to the area - the main planning application relates to the bulk of the houses (1550 houses), the employment land and university campus. The second relates to a field owned by Mr & Mrs Austin (who live in Bourton, Oxfordshire)that is designated for 250 houses. It is the first of these planning applications that is up for appeal.

The decision whether to allow the development will now be in the hands of the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol. All being well, a Local Public Inquiry will be held where the public will have an opportunity to make their comments about the proposals.

Watch this space to find out what to do to save Coate.

Monday, June 23, 2008

House builders submit revised plans

Persimmon Homes and Redrow Homes have submitted a revised planning application to Swindon Borough Council for 1,800 houses, 14 hectares of employment land, a university campus etc etc.

It is virtually the same as the one submitted in August 2007. The house-builders still haven't found a university partner.

Keep up the fight!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Swindon Core Strategy consultation - please respond!

Once again Swindon Borough Council is proposing policies in their Swindon Core Strategy that would blight the landscape east of Coate Water.

Here are some notes to help you respond to the Council’s preferred option of Coate/Badbury Wick (“Commonhead”) for development of 750 houses and 15 hectares of industrial landuse, followed by a sample letter that you might send to the council instead of using their glossy response sheet. (The forms are available at the council offices and libraries or at Swindon Core Strategy along with all the documentation [and online response pages]. Completed forms to: Forward Planning Group, Freepost SCE5251, Swindon Borough Council, Premier House, Station Road, Swindon, SN1 1TZ and must arrive no later than 4.30pm on Monday 12th May 2008.)

Support Key Objective 5 to allocate land for a university campus at North Star. This objective is in line with government planning policy (PPS13) that encourages the siting of facilities of this nature at places that can be readily accessed on foot, by bicycle and by public transport. The objective is also in line with SBC policy to situate tertiary education in the town centre to aid its urban regeneration programme.

Object to Spatial Framework Preferred Option in para 19.11.
Delete “Commonhead” as a preferred location for 750 houses and 15 hectares of employment land.
Reason: Whilst appreciating that SBC must meet housing and employment land requirements set down in the emerging Regional Spatial Strategy for the south-west, there is no duty upon SBC to put forward sites that are not sustainable. Indeed, if SBC must accept the requirement to accommodate a further 37,000 houses in Swindon between 2006-2026, never was there a greater time in Swindon’s history to protect this most treasured landscape in the foothills of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that stretches to Coate Water (the area missed national designation as an AONB in the 1970s because the building of the M4 motorway and A419 Trunk road at that time formed a “convenient line on the map” to limit the designation). On environmental, historic and literary grounds, the land between Coate Water and the Richard Jefferies Museum, stretching east-south-east to Liddington Hill, is of major archaeological importance – it is a Bronze Age gateway site to the Downs; it is of major literary significance – inspirational in the works of Richard Jefferies (who is still rated as one of Britain’s best nature writers) and Alfred Williams who shared a common passion for Liddington Hill and the views from it; and it is next to Coate Water Site of Special Scientific Interest and the Country Park; a major public amenity as well as a wild-life sanctuary.

Object to Para 20.24 – “Commonhead Preferred Option”.Reason: This option is in conflict with advice in para 23.23 that supports protecting and enhancing historic landscapes. Can there be any other landscape of greater historic importance in Swindon given its roots in pre-history and its cultural and literary importance associated with Richard Jefferies? The proposed development area includes key fields of significant archaeological importance to the north of Day House Lane opposite the Richard Jefferies Museum and Day House Farm that date back to the Neolithic period. The proposed development area also takes in fields of major Medieval archaeological significance at Badbury Wick. These fields were also extremely important to Richard Jefferies – he recorded the archaeology and many were noted as favourite “thinking” places.

The proposed development area includes Day House Copse, a local nature reserve that would be isolated from Coate Water restricting movement of terrestrial wild life species dependent on the link. The copse is an ancient oak woodland that features in Richard Jefferies writing (e.g. Greene Ferne Farm, Wood Magic).

SBC committed itself to the principle that if no university is based at Coate, there would be no houses. Following shortly after their promise that the only development in the area would be the hospital, SBC must uphold the “no university, no houses” rule.

Whilst supporting the protection of a buffer around Coate Water and incorporating what is now private farmland into the Country Park, the views from the park would still become urban in nature as a result of the morphology of the landscape. The hospital is clearly visible from Coate Water. There is no indication in the preferred option to indicate how proposed buffer land would be incorporated into the Country Park or how it would be obtained, protected and managed in perpetuity.

It is difficult to see how the views from the Downs can be “respected” if the fields are urbanised. The fields leading to Coate Water dominate the landscape particularly as viewed from Liddington Hill. The hospital is a major intrusion on the landscape from Liddington Hill.

Day House Lane has a unique rural quality and is used by walkers, joggers, ramblers, cyclists and horse-riders for recreation on a regular basis. The site is a gateway to the Downs. The route to Liddington Hill was inspirational to Richard Jefferies who walked it regularly from Coate Farm and it led to the production of his autobiographical work The Story of my Heart that has strong spiritual overtones.

The area identified includes land that has been used to bury waste that was never subject to regulation. It is contaminated and leaching pollutants to air, ground and water. The only appropriate after use of the site is for public open space or tree planting – not development.

We accept that land will be required at Commonhead for hospital expansion. Have all plans for a Park and Ride site at Commonhead now fallen? The Swindon and Marlborough NHS Trust have bought the field earmarked for Park and Ride and they have no intention to sell it. Where does this leave SBC’s transport plan?

Development near Junction 15 of the M4 is inaccessible and remote from Swindon town centre. It cannot be accessed from the A419T or the M4. As such it is an unsustainable site that is unlikely to attract a bus service and will encourage car-based commuting.

Development of fields opposite the hamlet of Coate will exacerbate flooding of the existing buildings (some are below ground level) and there is a scheduled building next to the proposed development field that is also of major literary importance to Richard Jefferies.

Support 23-23 Historic Landscapes and Buildings options. Landscapes and buildings of importance to Richard Jefferies should be carefully preserved and enhanced for their cultural and historic quality.


Forward Planning Group
Freepost SCE5251
Swindon Borough Council
Premier House
Swindon, SN1 1SX.

Tel No (home):
Tel No (work):

Swindon Core Strategy Preferred Options Draft, March 2008

I disagree with Swindon Borough Council’s draft spatial framework for the borough and its preferred option to allocate land at Coate/Badbury Wick (“Commonhead”) for the building of 750 houses and for 15 hectares of business use. This option should be deleted from the Swindon Core Strategy and a policy put in place that protects the high landscape value of the area.

I am one of 35,000 people who signed the Save Coate petition in order to protect open countryside between Coate Water and the Downs from development. Swindon Borough Council pledged that if no university wished to develop at Coate, there would be no houses built. Once again, assurances to protect this unique countryside are being broken and I have no faith that any buffer land left around Coate Water won’t become a building site when circumstances change.

The proposal conflicts with advice elsewhere in the Swindon Core Strategy that supports protecting and enhancing historic landscapes. Coate and Badbury Wick are steeped in history given their roots in pre-history. The significant cultural and literary importance of the landscape that influenced Richard Jefferies’ writing, is unique. Key fields of significant archaeological importance to the north of Day House Lane (opposite the Richard Jefferies Museum and Day House Farm) that date back to the Neolithic period are included in the proposed development area. The area also includes fields of major Medieval significance at Badbury Wick. Day House Copse, a local nature reserve and ancient oak woodland, would be surrounded by a housing estate isolating wildlife from Coate Water and the surrounding countryside. The views from the Downs and Coate Water cannot be “respected” if the fields are urbanised. The hospital is already a major blot on the landscape and we were assured that the hospital was a one-off building in this area. Day House Lane has a unique rural quality and it is used by walkers, joggers, ramblers, cyclists and horse-riders for recreation on a regular basis. Development near Junction 15 of the M4 is inaccessible and remote from Swindon town centre. It is unlikely to attract a regular bus service and will encourage car-based commuting.

I am appalled that Swindon Borough Council is proposing that land in this area should be developed further – this is nothing less than vandalism.


Friday, February 15, 2008



The Trust has set up a Land Fund with the aim to buy as much farmland as possible between Coate Water and the North Wessex Downs in order to create new wild-life friendly habitats.

Donations can be made through the Charities Aid Foundation by following the link. Type in Jefferies Land Conservation Trust once connected to the site.

Donate through CAFOnline

Thank you.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Charity will uphold Swindon Council’s pledge of ‘No university, no houses’ at Coate

The Jefferies Land Conservation Trust [1] has pledged to fight on to ensure that Swindon Borough Council keeps to its promise that if no university comes forward to set up a campus in the Coate/Badbury Wick area, no houses will be built there.

The conservation trust, a registered charity set up in 2005 with the aim to protect and enhance the environmental, historic and cultural quality of the landscape beloved by Victorian nature writer Richard Jefferies, held its Annual General Meeting on 2nd February. Members received news of a new draft Swindon Borough Council blue-print. Entitled ‘Swindon Core Strategy,’ [2] the Council sets out its preferred options for the development of Swindon to 2026 that went to their Cabinet for approval on 23rd January. The Trust was disappointed to learn that Swindon Council wishes to make provision for 750 new houses and 15 hectares of employment land at ‘Commonhead.’ The Trust had asked that the land, under threat from development next to Coate Water Country Park and in the foothills of the Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, should be re-designated as an Area of Local Landscape Importance. Up until five years ago, the area was protected as a result of its high visual value.

The proposal to develop two square kilometres of land between Coate Water and the Downs by the Swindon Gateway Partnership (essentially Redrow Homes and Persimmon Homes) has been the most controversial building plan to face Swindon and it generated objections from 35,000 people who signed a petition against it.

Jean Saunders, Secretary of the Jefferies Land Conservation Trust said:

“ ‘No houses’ means ‘no houses.’ The Council might propose a larger buffer around Coate Water Country Park that they claim will be safe from development, but we might have this same battle again in a few years time. Only seven years ago we were promised that the only new building in this corner of the town would be the new hospital and we won’t be fooled again”.

Mrs Saunders added:

“Our Members have agreed to set up a Land Fund with the intention of fund-raising to buy as much of the threatened farmland as possible and turn it into a wild-life haven, given a positive response from the land owners. We hope that Swindon people will back this idea and dip into their pockets to help”.

The draft Council Strategy document should be issued for consultation in March and the public will have only eight weeks to make their views known.


Editor’s notes

[1] More information about the Trust at

[2] The draft consultation document can be downloaded here: