700 houses to the West of Swindon granted.
Earlier this week, Wiltshire Council heard about the appeal decision by developers on Ridgeway Farm from the Secretary of State. The developers won and since Taylor Wimpley submitted an outline planning application for 700 dwellings in December 2010, this has been rumbling along for some time.
On the 9th May 2012, there was a public enquiry held by a Planning Inspector, and while the application is under Wiltshire Council’s jurisdiction, Swindon Borough Council supported them in having the refusal upheld because of the impact of Swindon’s infrastructure and residents.
I don’t believe SBC could have done anymore to support Wiltshire Council on this case. The appeal was heard in the fortnight before I took over the Cabinet portfolio, and I have been over the detail with Officers.
The joint Councils case is that our local plans/core strategies should be material considerations, and all the evidence shows that the Councils have a 5 year land supply and that Ridgeway Farm was not allocated in any plan for development. Unfortunately the Planning Inspector gave little weight to them since the application was 2010, not 2012, and the previous governments Regional Planning Strategy and Councils existing Local Plans (both dating back to 2006) were the only ones considered valid! This isn’t a party political point, but fact and a very unfortunate legacy which is still being felt today.
The same applies to the Localism Act which abolishes the Regional Strategies. The Inspector gave little weight to the Act, since it only came into law this year and not when the application was submitted in 2010. This left the case with the developers view of using the previous Regional Planning Strategies (the RSS) housing build target figures to justify them being granted planning permission.
While both Councils can demonstrate a 5 year land supply under our new Local Plans, under the Regional Strategy this isn’t the case. The historic build rate for Swindon over the last 30 years is approx 1085 houses a year regardless of booms and recessions, but during the draft RSS days of 2006-09 it was closer to 2000. I certainly hope Labour aren’t proposing thousands more homes in the East of Swindon to hit these old targets.
Swindon’s new Local Plan has a starting point of the 30 year average and regular assessments on the economy if the rate is to be increased – a jobs led approach.
The Inspector agreed that the development will have a detrimental impact on roads like Mead Way, but by itself it wasn’t sufficient to uphold a refusal.
The Inspector gave her recommendation to grant to Eric Pickles office, and seven months on from the appeal hearing we find it has been signed off as granting permission. Disappointing.
Because of the glaring issues around the Regional Strategies being used to justify the development and ignoring the Localism Act and our local plans, I have asked Swindon Borough Council legal officers to see what the options exist for a judicial review. If a case is possible then it has to be made in the next six weeks, but the grounds for challenge are very narrow so we shall have to see.
In the mean time, our new local plan will go out to consultation for nine weeks next month, and it’ll then its own public enquiry next summer before it is adopted as our new plan.