Developers offer land to protect Coate Water
Swindon Advertiser – Wednesday 1st June
NEW plans to protect Coate Water park forever are on the table.
The would-be developers of the controversial Coate housing project have agreed to “gift” a large slab of land, standing between their housing development and the park, to a community trust.
“I’m an old Swindonian, and we’ve learned from experience that it will badly affect the land it’s built around.”
– Marilyn Beale
This would ensure that the built-up area would never spread westwards and encroach on the park, as many campaigners had feared.
But in exchange for this, the developers want to slash the money they give to Swindon Council by £1m.
The council was due to vote on whether to allow the controversial plans in March, but a decision was put off until after election.
Now it’s crunch time.
Next Tuesday the planning committee will meet to make its final decision.
The report it will consider reads in part: “…transfer of this land to a specifically nominated Community Trust will rendered (sic) it necessary to review the financial package that is discussed…
“In ‘gifting’ the lands as described, this will result in the reduction in the overall Coate Water Mitigation, Enhancement and Active Leisure contribution… from £1.6m to £600,000.”
Marilyn Beale, 66, of Avebury Road, Penhill, is treasurer of the Jefferies Land Trust, which has been campaigning to protect the land because of its connection to author Richard Jefferies. She said: “I don’t want to see Coate built anywhere near. Never did.
“I’m an old Swindonian, and we’ve learned from experience that it will badly affect the land it’s built around.
“You don’t always get what you want after the developers get what they want.
“It’s the next best thing. But the best thing would be for all the land to go to a community trust and to have no building there at all.”
She also said she would like the idea of being involved in such a trust, looking after the buffer zone land, saying: “With these things we’ve got to explore it. It takes a while, but I’m fairly sure we could do it.”
The report also suggests that the land belonging to the trust could eventually be incorporated into part of the park itself.
“One: that we allow development with this ‘ransom strip’ around the site; two: that 198 acres goes to the trust, and we have £600,000 to improve Coate Water itself; option three is to refuse the plans.
“Then the developer would go to an appeal to the unaccountable planning inspector in Bristol, and it would be in the hands of lawyers to argue whether it’s acceptable.
“We’re in a tough position, and I really couldn’t say which way the vote or debate is going to go on Tuesday night.”
The meeting cannot be adjourned again because major applications like this have to be decided within 13 weeks from the time of application. A spokeswoman for Persimmon said: “The latest proposal puts all of the land between the western buffer and Coate Water into the ownership of the community trust.
“The proposal continues to provide £600,000 of funding to further improve Coate Water.
“We believe this contribution, with both the additional country park extension land we are proposing to give to the community trust and establishment of 45 acres of public open space within the scheme, is in our opinion adequate mitigation.
“Affordable housing numbers will be agreed with Swindon Borough Council following an open book assessment of the scheme’s viability.”
The planning committee will meet on Tuesday, June 7, at the Civic Offices at 6pm.