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,’  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.
 More information about the Trust at http://jefferiesland.org.uk
 The draft consultation document can be downloaded here: