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