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.