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

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