Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Times Literary Supplement

Adam Thorpe had he following letter published in the Times Literary Supplement dated 9 December 2011

Dear Sir,

I thank all those readers who, following my request (Letters, 15 April), wrote to Swindon Borough Council, objecting to the proposed development of the 75-hectare stretch of fields and woodland abutting the Richard Jefferies Museum, the writer's birthplace and home. This area was one that Jefferies cherished and wrote about in books like Bevis, Amaryllis at the Fair or The Story of My Heart. To everyone's surprise, the proposal for some 900 houses and a business park was turned down in June by the Council's own planning committee on environmental as well as heritage grounds, after some stirring speeches by local people.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Decision expected by 3 April 2012

The inquiry is closed. Mr Geoffrey Hill (not Mr E Grace, as anticipated)  has listened to the evidence.

The Secretary of State will make his decision known on or before 3 April 2012.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Planning appeal inquiry information

The Planning Inquiry commences on Tuesday 15 November at 10am at the STEAM Museum, Swindon. Anyone who wishes to speak should attend that day to register their interest to speak. The Inquiry is set to last 6 days.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Developer's Grounds for Appeal

Pasted in below are the grounds for appeal cited by Redrow Homes and Persimmon Homes to take their case to planning appeal. The four reasons mentioned relate to those given by Swindon Borough Council for refusing planning permission. Please note that Swindon Borough Council will not be defending Reason 4 at the planning inquiry – the loss of Richard Jefferies literary heritage land – and have dropped this reason for refusal.
Please note that when you write to the planning inspector, you can raise other issues – e.g. the negative impact on archaeology and Day House Copse Nature Reserve (and other wildlife) whose value won’t be improved by setting them in a modern estate, flooding, recreational value of Dayhouse Lane etc. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Planning Inquiry to start on 15 November 2011

The planning inquiry appeal (related to Swindon Borough Council's decision to refuse planning permission for the Swindon Gateway application) will start on 15 November  at 10am at STEAM, Swindon. It will run for at least 6 days.

The timetable to submit comments to the planning inspector (see later post) is 23rd September 2011.

For those who also want to submit further evidence at the Inquiry (either oral or written) the deadline is 18 October.

Go to the Planning Inspectorate web page to submit comments and proofs of evidence online.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

How a 19th-century naturalist became a cause célèbre in Wiltshire

There is an excellent article (5 August 2011) in The Independent by Jack Watkins highlighting the lack of appreciation of the literary merits of Richard Jefferies homeland at Coate and the buildong pressures on it.

It can be viewed at: Battle for Jefferies' land

Monday, August 01, 2011

Coate not suitable for housing

Many of you who objected to the Swindon Gateway planning application will have received a letter from Forward planning inviting you to comment on the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment ‘Call for Sites’.
There is more information at:
This includes the report that was prepared to identify proposed sites in 2008. The report, of course, includes Coate and you can read what was said about it at:

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Developers appeal

It was announced today in the Swindon Advertiser that the developers (Redrow Homes & Persimmon Homes) have appealed against Swindon Borough Council's decision to refuse planning permission for their unwelcome application to build houses and industrial units at Coate and Badbury Wick.

The date of the local planning inquiry will be announced once the Secretary of State has appointed a planning inspector.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Planning decision - reasons for refusal

The reasons for refusing the Coate development planning application have gone up at

1. The proposed development by reason of its substantial scale and location is considered to be so significant to the future growth of the Borough of Swindon when considered against other suitable locations that it will be premature inadvance of the examination and adoption of the Swindon Core Strategy Revised Proposed Submission Document. This document is still under review and neither public consultation nor examination of the issues has yet been completed. The
Council considers that if planning permission were to be granted it would prejudice the outcome of the plan process by predetermining decisions about the appropriateness of the location, the scale and phasing of new development that should properly to be taken in the development plan context. The proposal therefore does not comply with national planning policies PPS1 and PPS3; is contrary to policies DS1, H4 and ENV9 of the Swindon Local Plan 2011 (2006)
and policy DP3 of the Wiltshire and Swindon Structure Plan 2016 (2006).

2. The proposed development by virtue of the increased levels of traffic associated with this mixed use development will have an unacceptable impact on traffic flows on Marlborough Road and Day House Lane compromising highway safety. Furthermore the location of the employment land, its sole vehicular access via the spine road/boulevard and expected weight of traffic within the site will result in a car dominated development and unacceptable level of severance to the detriment of residential amenity. The proposal is therefore contrary to national guidance in Manual for Streets 1 and 2 and policies DS6 and DS7 of the Swindon Borough Local Plan 2011 (2006).

3. The proposed development by virtue of its scale and location will have an unacceptable impact on the setting and intrinsic qualities of part of the adjacent North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in that the proposed mixed use development, some of which may be up to four storeys in height will fail to maintain an attractive and sympathetic vista from the Downs and a foreground that softens the urban edge of Swindon, or demonstrate that the intrinsic qualities of the AONB can be sufficiently protected. The proposal is therefore contrary to Planning Policy Statement 7, and fails to comply with policies DS6 and ENV10 of the Swindon Borough Local Plan 2011(2006)

4. The proposal by virtue of its scale and setting fails to satisfactorily consider in any detail the importance of the surrounding landscape as a heritage asset. The literary work of Richard Jefferies as a nature writer is significant in understanding the landscape of the Coate and Badbury Wick areas together with their relationship with the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and conversely the appreciation of his own work. If approved, this development will have a detrimental effect on this intrinsic historic value and importance, and
would in this respect be harmful to the visual amenity of the area as a whole. The proposal fails to comply with policies HE6, HE7, HE9, HE10, and of PPS5 and policies DS6 and ENV10, of the Swindon Borough Local Plan 2011 (2006) .

:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

The developers have still got 6 months to appeal and we still have an emerging policy in the Swindon Core Strategy for "Commonhead" to chuck out.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Will Persimmon Homes appeal after all?

In a quote from Paul Davis of Persimmon Homes, printed in the Swindon Advertiser on 10 June, a shadow of doubt has been cast as to whether the developers will appeal against the decision to refuse planning permission.
Paul Davis is reported as saying: 
“We’re considering our options. We’ve not made up our minds what we’re going to do yet. It’s not known when we’ll come to a decision. When we do we’ll let everyone know. But we’re not there yet.”
He said an appeal seemed ‘the obvious riposte’, but added: “We could put a new application and start again. I’m not saying that’s a possibility because honestly we haven’t decided yet.
“Or we could say we’ve spent so much money on this we’ll just throw in the towel.
“It’s a possibility; we have to work within our own financial guidelines. All things are being considered.”

Please urge Persimmon Homes to go for the option to “just throw in the towel.”

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Planning permission refused

After a long discussion with some tremendous speeches made by the public and some unexpected contributions from councillors, it was moved by Cllr Junab Ali, seconded by Cllr Fionuala Foley, that planning permission should be refused. The vote was 9-2 with the majority of the planning committee members voting for refusal. 
The members were placed under a lot of pressure to vote through the planning application, but they stood firm.
The main reasons given to refuse include traffic and transport matters, sustainability matters, impact on views from the North Wessex Downs AONB, heritage (ie Richard Jefferies) value, public opinion etc.
The developers will appeal.
It is now important that policy NC3 is thrown out of the emerging Swindon Core Strategy.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Jefferies Land Conservation Trust call for right to challenge plans for Coate

The Jefferies Land Conservation Trust is calling on Swindon Borough Council to throw out the planning proposals for Coate at their planning committee meeting on Tuesday 7 June on the grounds that the blueprint for planning the town’s future has not been agreed through the development plan process.
On top of the 52,000 petition that calls for no development at Coate the Trust has raised a new petition that has attracted nearly 3,000 signatures in response to the Core Strategy consultation that does not finish until 16 June. It states:
We, the undersigned, petition Swindon Borough Council to designate the open countryside between the A419, the Marlborough Road, the motorway and Broome Manor Lane as a high quality Landscape Character Area in order to protect the landscape setting of Coate Water Country Park, Dayhouse Copse Local Nature Reserve, the natural and archaeological history, as well as the literary importance of Jefferies Land and the views from the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Jean Saunders, honorary secretary of the Jefferies Land Conservation Trust said:
“If we are forced to give up more of Jefferies Land to development, we would like the opportunity to debate what scale and design of development might be acceptable under the emerging ‘Commonhead’ policy. A high landscape protection policy for the area won’t stop all development but we can insist on something special, linked to the function of the hospital, but of a traditional layout similar to Hodson village. Up until the university proposals came along, the landscape was protected in the town plan.”
Mrs Saunders added:   
“If Swindon Borough Council is really serious about involving communities in how they shape their town then it is vital that they take on board public criticism of the current planning application and the proposed policy in the Swindon Core Strategy. If planning permission is allowed next week, we will be denied the right to challenge the scale, location, design and layout of any development. This is undemocratic and unfair.”
Swindon Council’s Planning Committee meet in the Council Chamber at 6pm on Tuesday 7 June to decide the fate of Redrow Homes and Persimmon Homes planning application to build nearly 900 houses on countryside east of Day House Lane and a large industrial site to the west of the country lane.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Swindon Council planning committee 7 June 2011

The Swindon Gateway planning application comes up before the planning committee on Tuesday 7 June 2011 - meeting starts at 6pm in the Council Chamber, Civic Offices, Euclid Street Swindon.

More information under Agenda Item 6 at this link

Once again the planning officer recommendation is to approve planning permission despite the fact that the consultation for the Swindon Core Strategy doesn't even finish until 16 June.

There is no urgency to allow this planning application to go through. According to the new housing needs figures coming through the Core Strategy, there is an available supply of land on which to build houses for the next 5.64 years. 

Please write to the new members of the planning committee before the Tuesday meeting. There is only one councillor who cannot be contacted by e-mail.
Please attend the planning meeting and if you would like to speak, register with Iain Tucker.

Planning Committee
Tuesday, 7th June, 2011 6.00 p.m.

Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Offices.
Contact: Iain Tucker (Telephone 01793 463605)  email:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Trees to be axed

According to the planning application, there are 172 trees in the proposed development area and a massive 72 of them will be axed. Of the 90 mature trees on site, 22 will go. It is bad enough to lose so many trees that have taken hundreds of years to go, but why are trees to be felled that don't appear to be where buildings or roads are planned? Here are some examples along Day House Lane:

A group of eight trees is to be removed (opposite the house called the Oaks) for no apparent reason.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Vote for Coate

A Vote for Coate campaign is being launched by the Save Coate coalition in order to find out where candidates stand on the Coate development proposals and to make this a major issue for the 5 May elections. The full list of candidates for the wards of Swindon Borough Council along with their addresses (no e-mail addresses supplied) has just been put up at the following url as a downloadable pdf file:

We shall be writing to them all and any responses will be put up on a dedicated website

You can help. If you see any election campaign material that refers to the Coate development proposals, please let us know. We will set up a contact e-mail address for this purpose. If you live in Swindon, please would you write to all of the candidates in your ward and get their views. Again, let us know how they reply.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Say NO to Swindon Core Strategy to allow 900 houses at Coate

The Swindon Core Strategy is now out for public consultation until 6pm on 16 June 2011. Despite all our previous efforts, Swindon Council has increased the housing allowance for Coate and Badbury Wick to 900. The industrial/warehouse/office site is still huge (15 hectares) and will be part of a "new landmark gateway to Swindon from the M4". What picture does that conjure up for protecting this precious landscape? The proposal map is reproduced below - click on the picture to see it in full.

You can download a response form to policy NC3 by clicking here and using the suggested text to make your own comments. There is a freepost address given on the form for submitting your responses.

Please write and ask anyone who cares about Jefferies Land to do the same.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Please sign new petition to designate landscape


We, the undersigned, petition Swindon Borough Council to designate the open countryside between the A419, the Marlborough Road, the motorway and Broome Manor Lane as a high quality Landscape Character Area in order to protect the landscape setting of Coate Water Country Park, Dayhouse Copse Local Nature Reserve, the natural and archaeological history, as well as the literary importance of Jefferies Land and the views from the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Planning application decision deferred

The Council Chamber was packed and the overflows of protestors were put in another room with video link. The Labour and Lib Dem councillors on the planning committee wanted the planning application to be refused. However further debate led to a motion by the Conservative group to defer making a decision. Councillor Heenan (Conservative) said that we need more time to establish good planning grounds to refuse planning permission in order to put a successful argument to any planning appeal. The issue of the "safe" buffer was a key issue for councillors. None were convinced that it would be protected in perpetuity.

So the result is good - but there is still an emerging policy that supports the development area in the Swindon Core Strategy that must be deleted. The document will be out for public consultation in April.

The cynics say that the delay is just a ploy by the Conservatives to leave making a decision until after the elections in May.   

We shall see...

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Tuesday 8 March at 6pm - Swindon Civic Offices - be there!

The date that the planning committee meet to decide the outcome of the planning application for Coate is confirmed as Tuesday 8 March starting at 6pm in the Council Chamber, Civic Offices, Euclid Street, Swindon and if you care about Coate's future, please attend. 
The planning officer’s report recommends that planning permission be granted and ignores all our concerns. You can read more under Agenda Item 6:
You can ask to speak at the meeting by contacting  Iain Tucker (Telephone 01793 463605)  email:
Could you also consider writing to the planning committee members on e-mail listed below:
"Colin Lovell" <>,
"Junab Ali" <>,
"Andy Albinson" <>,
"John Ballman" <>,
"Sinead Darker" <>,
"Mark Dempsey" <>,
"Dale Heenan" <>,
"Jennifer Millin" <>,
"Anthony Peake" <>,
"Eric Shaw" <>,
"John Short" <>,
"Kevin Parry" <>,
"Martin Wiltshire" <>

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Please write to Swindon Council's Planning Committee now

The likely date for the planning committee to meet to decide the planning application is 8 March 2011. Please write to the following before then.

The May elections might alter the fate of four of them: Andy Albinson (Tory), John Ballman (Labour), Jennifer Millin (Labour) & Martin Wiltshire (Lib Dem) who may or may not stand for election again.

Email addresses for Planning Committee Members. Doreen Dart, Steve Allsopp and Vera Tomlinson are not on e-mail. Letters can be addressed to them at Swindon Borough Council, Civic Offices, Euclid Street, Swindon SN1 2 JH.

Colin Lovell is Chairman and Vera Tomlinson is Vice-Chair.

"Colin Lovell" <>,
"Junab Ali" <>,
"Andy Albinson" <>,
"John Ballman" <>,
"Sinead Darker" <>,
"Mark Dempsey" <>,
"Dale Heenan" <>,
"Jennifer Millin" <>,
"Anthony Peake" <>,
"Eric Shaw" <>,
"John Short" <>,
"Kevin Parry" <>,
"Martin Wiltshire" <>

Dear Councillor

Revised Planning Application for Coate – Ref. No. S/10/0842

Past history has shown that if you open up the Coate, Badbury Wick & Commonhead countryside to development, future councillors will not be able to stop the inevitable spread of more buildings on the fields that surround Coate Water. You all know what Redrow Homes and Persimmon Homes have in store for these fields – please don’t give in to them.

Over 52,000 people have expressed their concerns about these proposals and wish to see the countryside between Coate Water and the A419/M4 protected against further development for a variety of reasons that include its significant heritage (archaeological and literary) value, the intrinsic wildlife value of  Dayhouse Copse Local Nature Reserve at its centre, the recreational value of Dayhouse Lane, the rural landscape setting of Coate Water and the views from the Downs, and the ultimate knock-on effect on Coate Water’s special ecology.  

At the very least I ask that you vote for a site visit in order that you can view the application area from Liddington Hill, from Coate Water and from Dayhouse lane before making a decision.

Please listen to the people and refuse planning permission.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Open letter to Swindon Council's planning committee

To All Planning Committee Members

Dear Councillor

We beg your indulgence to clarify a few matters related to the planning application for mixed use development on land east of Dayhouse Lane and for a business park on Green Hill, west of Dayhouse Lane.

1. Whilst the planning inspector (who conducted the appeal that led to the refusal of planning permission for the previous planning application for the university) agreed that some development of the area might be permitted, the scale, nature and location was never discussed. You might remember the result of the planning application appeal for the Coate business park that took in 186 ha of land. Only 28.4 ha of this would have been used for buildings, road-building and car-parking. The remainder was proposed for landscaping and a golf course; but in February 1989 planning permission was still refused by the Rt Hon Nicholas Ridley, Secretary of State for the Environment who was not known for protecting greenfield sites!

2. The evidence base that Swindon Borough Council quote in bringing forward the proposed Swindon Core Strategy policy for “Commonhead” is assessed on the land area that extends from Broome Manor Lane to the A419 (i.e. Coate, Broome and Badbury Wick). There has been no assessment as to whether the land use put forward in the Swindon Core Strategy and in the planning application would provide a sustainable development. Just look at the shape of it for a start!

3. It has been suggested that the Save Coate petition that has drawn over 52,000 signatures only counts against the former planning application. This is patently untrue as the petition is worded as an objection to a change of use of the land in question.

4. The public has not had an opportunity to challenge the emerging Swindon Core Strategy policy for “Commonhead” through public inquiry and planning permission should not be granted for the planning application before this democratic process is played through.

5.  It seems that the planning application might be determined at your meeting dated 8 March. Please would you, at least, defer a decision by visiting the site, viewing it from Liddington Hill, Coate Water and Day House Lane in an attempt to picture how the proposed development might appear in the countryside. Please would you also take the trouble to learn why the landscape is of major literary importance to Richard Jefferies and how, with a little imagination, the historic Neolithic associations and the literary links can only add to educational/recreational opportunities in the future.  Please remember that Swindonians don’t have to go far to walk in a housing estate or business park! Leave them something special...

You all know that you (or future councillors) won’t be able to protect the countryside around Coate Water unless the buffer land is donated to the people and designated as part of the Country Park. If the developers were prepared to give the private land east and south of Coate Water CP to the University of Bath and then to UWE – put a condition in place that if they are given planning permission, they must give this land to Swindon Borough Council to expand the Country Park. It’s the least you can do.

Thank you.

Richard Jefferies Society and the Jefferies Land Conservation Trust

Friday, January 21, 2011

Can't Touch Coate!

We now have an anthem based on a song by M C Hammer and a BBC Wiltshire Radio interview with Councillor Peter Greenhalgh (Pogo) cleverly put together by Geoff Reid.

Download, listen and laugh by finding the Pogo Rap at the link below.

The Pogo Rap - (Can't Touch Coate If It's Under Concrete - 2011 Mix)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Say NO to draft Swindon policy to build on land at Coate and Badbury Wick

Here follows an open letter to Swindon Council's Cabinet members:

Dear Cabinet Member
At your Cabinet meeting, to be held this Wednesday [19 January 2011], you will be asked to recommend and endorse to Council the approval of the Revised Proposed Submission Document for the Swindon Core Strategy along with its accompanying land-use policies before it goes out for a period of public consultation.
One of the key themes in the draft document is “to promote local pride ... and community identity” expressed in emerging Swindon Core Strategy policy CT6 that Council should ensure “that decision making is transparent” and to “effectively communicate how the local community has influenced the decision”.
Please could I request that you look very closely at the proposed policy NC3 for “Commonhead” as this will now be given considerable weight when the revised planning application is determined. You should be aware that none of our objections to the former emerging Swindon Core Strategy policy SSP7 nor our suggested change to the policy for “Commonhead” has been accepted, despite the fact that more people objected to this policy than to any other part of the Core Strategy. This is without taking account of over 52,000 people who signed the Save Coate petition that opposed a change of land-use for the area in question.
The Council has done nothing to explain why our views have been ignored. Instead we are presented with a revised land-use policy for “Commonhead” that increases the housing allocation from 750 houses to 900, includes 15 hectares of B-use employment land (anything from offices to industrial use) that is not directly related to the function of the hospital (i.e. not a sustainable proposition from a transport perspective – the former proposal was to link 14 ha of employment land to the university to reduce the need to travel) and an objective “To create a new landmark gateway to Swindon from the M4”. By the latter, one can assume that the design principle is not to attempt to blend the buildings in the countryside respecting the views from Coate Water Country Park and the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but to make it stick out like a sore thumb.
The policy states that “The area between Coate Water and the new development will be protected” but there are no guarantees. The Council does not own the land and it has broken similar promises before that we do not need to list. We all know that this policy will only lead to infill development extending to Broome Manor.  Persimmon Homes and Redrow Homes still retain options on the majority of this land – they will not stop.
Once again Richard Jefferies’ literary landscape heritage is ignored. Instead of being the butt of all jokes that Swindon is a cultural desert, the Council should be taking advantage of the fact that an author, born and raised at Coate and who has been voted as Britain’s favourite nature writer, wrote with such beauty and detail about this landscape in his works.
Please give the people of Swindon something that they can be proud of at last. Please do not follow the officer’s recommendation that the Core Strategy goes out with its current wording.
Jean Saunders
On behalf of the Save Coate coalition.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Councillor Greenhalgh has strange ideas about development

Councillor Peter Greenhalgh (Cabinet Member for strategic planning) made some outrageous statements about the revised planning application that were published in the New Year's Eve edition of the Swindon Advertiser.

Please write to Swindon Borough Council's planning department to voice your concern by 25th January 2011 at the latest.  The planning application will either be decided by Swindon Council's planning committee at their meeting dated 8 February or 8 March at the latest.

A sample letter follows:

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

Dear Mr Halsall

Revised Planning Application for Coate – Ref. No. S/10/0842

I have looked at the recent revision to the planning application submitted by Redrow Homes and Persimmon Homes to develop countryside at Coate and Badbury Wick. The minor tinkering with the proposals has done nothing to allay my concern that it is unacceptable development in its own right by virtue of the nature, scale, layout and location of the buildings. It will still set a precedent for infill houses and offices to be built on fields between the application area and Broome Manor. The majority of the business park area is still on the Coate Water side of Dayhouse Lane whilst some of the houses and the school also open out onto Dayhouse Lane. This is not a contained and isolated design that will discourage further growth.  

On being questioned about the revised planning application, Councillor Greenhalgh was quoted in the Swindon Advertiser on New Year’s Eve as saying: ‘This proposal is the best one I think that has been put forward for this general area ... I think this development will protect the character of Coate Water and should prevent building between this land and Coate itself.’ How does opening up an area that has been protected from housing and office development since about the 1950s suddenly act as a stop for more of the same? It will clearly have the opposite effect that will be encouraged by the land-owners of the fields around Coate Water who have been waiting to sell their land to developers since the Science Park proposals over 25 years ago. Indeed that building proposal was far less intrusive in the environment – yet Swindon Council was opposed to it and so was the Secretary of State. Redrow Homes and Persimmon Homes still have legal options to buy these fields if planning permission is granted.

Swindon Borough Council has proved that it can’t be trusted to keep any promises – first the hospital – that was to be a one-off building complex for the area between Coate Water and the A419/M4; then the university with the promise that if the university wasn’t built, there would be no housing and now this statement from Councillor Greenhalgh (the senior cabinet Member for strategic planning) who is clearly in favour of the latest plans.

Over 52,000 people have expressed their concerns and wish to see the countryside between Coate Water and the A419/M4 protected against further development. Please listen to the people and refuse planning permission.