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.