Pickles approves 700 homes outside Swindon

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has approved outline plans for up to 700 homes at a site outside Swindon, rejecting a council's plea that the proposals would 'prejudice' the development of its local development plan.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles
Communities secretary Eric Pickles
The application, by housebuilder Taylor Wimpey, was for the new homes along with 10.6 hectares of green infrastructure including public open space, up to 560 square metres of non-residential floorspace for community use, a primary school and the demolition of existing buildings on land at Ridgeway Farm near Swindon.

A public inquiry was held into the application in May after Wiltshire Council failed to decide upon it within the prescribed timescale. Following this, the inspector recommended that the appeal be allowed and outline planning permission be granted.

According to the inspector’s report, Wiltshire Council’s main objections to the scheme related to "the location of the site in the countryside and the lack of any specific allocation for it in any adopted or emerging development plan documents and the view that the proposed development would be premature in relation to the progression of the core strategies of both Wiltshire and and Swindon Borough Council".

The report added: "Wiltshire Council considers that the scheme would consequently prejudice the plan-led approach to sustainable development and the spatial vision for the area."

However, a decision letter issued on behalf of Pickles this week, rejected this argument and granted approval for the scheme. The letter said Pickles had "taken into account the level of local concern regarding the proposed development. However, he agrees that the weight to be given to objections on prematurity grounds is not so great as to indicate that this, alone, should result in a refusal of planning permission".

The letter said Pickles noted that the Ridgeway Farm site had "previously been considered suitable for allocation and there is no objection from the councils to the development of the site in terms of the sustainability of its location".

It said he agreed with the inspector that the council did not have a "confirmed five year housing supply identified through an adopted and up-to-date local plan", and that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) "gives strong support to the grant of planning permission for housing schemes on sites in a similar situation to the appeal site".

The letter added that although there would be "some adverse highway impacts such as additional road noise, longer journey times and pressure on existing parking availability" caused by the development, these were not "sufficient alone to justify refusing planning permission on highway safety grounds".

Concluding, the letter said: "Having weighed up all of the material considerations, the secretary of state concludes that, although there are material considerations weighing against the proposal, these are outweighed by those in its favour. In particular, he gives significant weight to the fact that the NPPF indicates that, in the absence of a five year housing land supply in an up-to-date, adopted development plan, planning permission should be granted for the proposal.

"He is satisfied that the appeal site is in a sustainable location for housing development, and does not consider that there are any material considerations of sufficient weight to justify refusing planning permission."

The decision letter (DCS Number 100-080-024) can be purchased from DCS Ltd (tel) 01452 835820 or email dcs@haymarket.com

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