Thursday, December 30, 2010

Open letter to Swindon Borough Council

To: Ian Halsall, Planning Officer, Swindon Borough Council, Wat Tyler House, Beckhampton Street, Swindon, SN1 2JH

Revised Planning Application No. S/10/0842

Dear Mr Halsall

We maintain our objection to the revised planning application submitted by Redrow Homes and Persimmon Homes on 24 December 2010 along with the 52,000 good citizens who signed the petition urging Swindon Borough Council to protect a kilometre buffer of countryside around Coate Water from further development.

This planning application is not of national importance whereas the application area, although not designated as such, is of national importance as a result of its unique literary and archaeological heritage and it lies in an area that would have been included in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but for the intrusion of the motorway. These foothills to the downs soften the edges of Swindon and play an important role for the setting of Coate Water Country Park and provide additional habitats to support, encourage and enhance Coate Water Site of Special Scientific Interest, designated for its wildlife value. Dayhouse Lane in its own right is of immense recreational value bringing a small area of countryside within easy reach of Swindonians; whilst, at its centre, it boasts its own Local Nature Reserve – Day House Copse.

As such it is a well-known tenet of planning law that if you have to rely on conditions and Section 106 agreements to make an unacceptable planning application acceptable, then planning permission should be refused.

Making some reductions to the number, height and density of buildings and planting a few more trees does not make an unacceptable planning application acceptable.

On three separate occasions over the last 5 years, the Jefferies Land Conservation Trust has made approaches to the owners of Day House farm with a view to buying the field that borders the eastern edge of Coate Water Country Park to put it into wildlife conservation use. On all three occasions the Trust has been refused. Given that the latest approach was made recently and the field of interest is outside the application area, we can only assume that this field is still likely to be the next target for development. As such, if planning permission is granted for this proposal, it will set a very strong precedent for further development of houses and offices around Coate Water Country Park and will encourage infill between Day House Lane and Broome Manor Lane in order to better integrate the area with Swindon. This is a major material consideration.

Swindon Borough Council claimed that the new hospital would not set a precedent for more development of the area and that if no university was built at Coate, there would be no housing. Yet the Council is also promoting this site for housing and employment land. As such we cannot trust the Council to protect any buffer land around Coate Water Country Park and it is down to the good people of Swindon to do so.

Monday, December 27, 2010

revised planning application for Coate now in

Redrow Homes and Persimmon Homes presented a revised planning application to Swindon Borough Council just before Christmas. The Swindon Gateway Partnership proposes to use countryside at Coate mainly to build up to 890 new houses and offices mostly to the east of Day House Lane. The fields immediately next to Coate Water Country Park are not directly affected but judging by the look of the hospital, the views from Coate Water and the downs will be.
Swindon Council’s promises that the hospital building would be a one-off and, if the university wasn’t built at Coate, there would be no houses, have proved to be short-lived. There are no guarantees in place that, if this planning application is allowed, the fields around Coate Water won’t be targeted for development next. We all know that this will be the next step and that over 52,000 names on a petition urging the Council to protect the land around Coate Water means nothing. So much for democracy.
You can look at the plans (Ref No. s/10/0842) in the Council’s Offices at Wat Tyler House and should you wish to comment, write to Ian Halsall in the planning department. Some of the documents, including the illustrative master plan above, are up on the Council's web site

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

latest on the Swindon Gateway planning application

Objections to the planning application for 960 houses etc have been lodged by Natural England, the Environment Agency, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment). About 100 objectors have submitted comments in all.

The CABE response has been put up on SBC’s planning portal - essentially they object that the proposed layout and design is poor

If this doesn't work, go to and look in the folders.

The response from Natural England is pretty strong as they now have the remit to cover landscape matters (i.e. development that has an impact on the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) as well as conservation issues related to Coate Water Site of Special Scientific Interest. They are highly critical of the likely impact of the development on views from Liddington Hill and the Downs; they have concerns about the height of buildings, loss of mature trees, and the lack of information in the planning application as to what the development would look like. Least of all, Richard Jefferies is actually mentioned – at last!!! It says: “The significance of cultural associations with Richard Jefferies are under-estimated; it was the landscape in the vicinity that prompted much of his work, and much of that work was related to envisioning a future, changing environment (notably ‘After London’).”

With regard the potential impact on Coate Water, the main objection relates to the impact of development on the D-shaped field that is not within the country park and is outside the planning application area. This field is lovely and boggy (it is part of Day House farm) and is much used by over-wintering and breeding birds. Those who know it will be aware that there is a footpath that runs through the middle that attracts very few visitors. Natural England makes much of the fact that this field and footpath would become a major corridor for dog-walkers etc (as the other main footpaths run alongside the M4) whilst their concerns about cat predation is flagged up as a major concern.

Other objections are raised by them and others.

Evidently a revised planning application is to be submitted to Swindon Borough Council soon. It is expected that the housing numbers will be reduced from 960 to 890 along with other proposals that include a reduction in density and the height of buildings and to take out the landfill area from the development area.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Save Coate again!

The Jefferies Land Conservation Trust takes heart from the news released on 4 June that the Rt Hon Eric Pickles (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) has written to all councils to let them know that they can make planning decisions in the knowledge that ‘regional strategies’ will soon be history. The Minister is quoted as saying:

“It will no longer be possible to concrete over large swathes of the country without any regard to what local people want.”

Over 52,000 people, who signed the Save Coate petition, made it clear that the land between Coate Water and the new hospital should not be concreted over. The people have already decided.

After promises from Swindon Council that this land would be protected from development if the hospital got the go-ahead and, more recently, that if the university plans failed at Coate, there would be no houses, we are now faced with a new planning application (see overleaf) for nearly one thousand houses, offices and shops on the fields located mainly east of Day House Lane. The majority of the buildings proposed are 3-4 storeys high. They won’t sit quietly in the countryside without sticking out like a sore thumb; the hospital is already a blot on the views from Richard Jefferies’ beloved Liddington Hill and Coate Water that are immortalised in his writing.

Whilst the new proposals, unlike the last ones, do not extend to the edge of Coate Water Country Park, it won’t be long before Redrow Homes and Persimmon Homes apply to build on these fields too. If this site falls to the house-builders, it will set a precedent for more of the same.

We can’t trust the Council to safeguard the fields next to Coate Water no matter what they promise.

Please help to preserve Swindon’s best literary and historical heritage and to ensure that Coate Water remains a country park for wildlife and people by writing now to Ian Halsall, Planning Officer, Swindon Borough Council, Wat Tyler House, Beckhampton Street, Swindon SN1 2JH and object to planning application S/10/0842.

Friday, June 04, 2010

New building plans for Coate

Some news to report, at last – but you will have to wait until next week (Monday?) for confirmation – and it is not going to be good news. Redrow Homes and Persimmon Homes have submitted their new planning application to Swindon Borough Council for nearly 1,000 houses etc. at Coate/Badbury Wick. Assume that it will be the same as that proposed at the developers’ exhibition held earlier this year (see previous blog) and will take in land mainly east of Day House Lane.

There has been no response from the Horton family (owners of Day House Farm) with regard to our (Jefferies Land Conservation Trust) offer to buy their large field that hugs the eastern edge of Coate Water Country Park and extends to Day House lane. The Trust want to put the field to conservation use – a wildflower meadow – and Richard Jefferies’ fans will be aware that this field included names such as “Green Fern” and “The Plain” which featured in Greene Ferne Farm and Bevis. Redrow Homes has an option to buy this field from the Hortons if planning permission is granted for development. Okay, so this field might not be included in the new proposals, but development east of Day House lane will set a precedent for more development across the road. This field is not protected from development apart from small areas of it that are of significant archaeological interest. Swindon Borough Council would like this field to be included in Coate Water Country Park, but neither the Hortons nor the developers are going to hand it over!

The emerging Swindon Core Strategy (that includes a draft land-use policy for the proposed development area for 750 houses etc) is on hold. Local Planning Authorities throughout the country are not sure how to progress their forward planning programmes as the new Government has vowed to get rid of the regional tiers for planning. The so-called Regional Spatial Strategy that was setting house-building targets to 2025 is also frozen which means that developers are likely to submit a flurry of planning applications in the hope that they can force through their particular building programmes.

Swindon is likely to be hit badly by this as different developers are targeting greenfield sites all around the town as you may have read in the papers.

It is vital that everyone objects again to the new planning application for Coate – previous objections will not count. The Save Coate petition with its 52,000 signatures will still add weight as it was worded to take account of future building programmes for the area.

Watch this space for more news.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tell Redrow Homes & Persimmon Homes what you think about their new proposals

Redrow Homes & Persimmon Homes new proposals for development at Coate/Badbury Wick/Commonhead - January 2010
The national house-builders revealed their new proposals for development at an exhibition in Swindon on 22nd January. They have asked for your comment! The closing date for your thoughts is 29th January but as this is not an official consultation, it is still worth writing to them at FREEPOST RLUC-EZKA-BHS, CONSENSUS, 93 Walton Road, Clevedon, BS21 6AW or e-mail

Points you might make:

The development would set a precedent for further development west of Day House Lane – the developers still have options to buy this land and appear to have no intention to relinquish this legal right. As such, you would object to any development of the land.

The southern end of Day House Lane is proposed for widening to feed a large employment area. This would remove the rural tranquillity of the country lane much used for recreational purposes – cycling, jogging, horse-riding, walking, rambling and it is the first rural leg of the yearly half-marathon.

The main badger route from Day House Copse to Coate Water will be blocked by a school. The otter stream runs through the employment zone. The impact on wild-life in general is not acceptable.

There is insufficient space to allow for hospital growth – 5.5 ha is clearly insufficient for Swindon’s projected growth to accommodate another 46,000 new homes by 2025.

The proximity of the development area to the M4 motorway and A419 trunk road is likely to result in high levels of out-commuting – this can only be overcome by linking the housing to the hospital.

The topography of the land is undulating and very visible from the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (particularly from Liddington Hill) as well as from Coate Water (the hospital is extremely visible from both view-points). Any development will detract from the natural beauty of the area and there should be no buildings higher than two storeys.

The Marlborough Road is already running to capacity, it is a very busy dual-carriageway with few crossing places – any further traffic would compromise safety and environmental credentials.

The local facilities proposed will not deter out-commuting. The nearest secondary school is at Dorcan and the closest existing primary school/ shops/ community centre etc are not within a comfortable walking distance. The development area is ‘remote’ from the rest of Swindon and is not a sustainable location.

This is an ancient area, crammed full of features from pre-history – any development would be unsympathetic to the surroundings – a modern development, in particular, would not be acceptable.

This is Jefferies Land – associated with the writings of the Victorian author, Richard Jefferies. His former birthplace and home is on the edge of the development, whilst his wife grew up at Day House Farm. The landscape features heavily in the majority of his works and is of immense literary, environmental and educational value.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Persimmon Homes and Redrow Homes will now be showing their plans for 960 houses etc at an exhibition on Friday 22 January 2010 from 1-7pm at Park South Community Hall, Cranmore Avenue, Swindon.

Click on the picture to enlarge.