Plans for huge Wiltshire science park rejected as conflicting with local plan

Swindon Borough Council has refused plans for an 82,000 square metre science park on agricultural land to the east of the town after officers warned the development would harm both the environment and nearby heritage assets.

The Inlands Farm site - image: geograph / N Chadwick (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Inlands Farm site - image: geograph / N Chadwick (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Pharmaceuticals manufacturer Wasdell Group sought full planning permission for 33,507 square metres of light industrial uses and outline permission for a further 16,400 square metres of light industrial floorspace and 32,381 square metres of space for research and development.

However, planning officers recommended refusal on the grounds that the application represented a “significant departure” from Swindon’s local plan.

While officers acknowledged the need “to support the retention of local businesses and boost economic growth”, they added that development was expected to take place at allocated sites and in accordance with local planning policies.

Officers advised that the 38-hectare application site on land at Inlands Farm is located next to the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Upper Wanborough Conservation Area. 

The proposed development “would result in significant harm in environment terms” and would also cause harm to the significance of heritage assets, officers said.

Officers concluded that “the material considerations that weigh in favour of the proposal are not sufficient to outweigh the clear conflict with both the development plan and the policies within the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] when taken as a whole”.

The local authority received a series of objections to the project, including from local Conservative MP Robert Buckland who noted that the proposed development was on land outside the local plan development boundaries and would fail to conserve landscape character.

The Environment Agency, North Wessex Downs AONB, the Woodland Trust, and eight local parish councils also objected to the plans.

Conservation officers at the local authority warned the plans “would cause irreversible harm to the surrounding designated heritage assets and open countryside” while landscape officers objected on the grounds that the development “would form a substantial and incongruous addition to the rural landscape”.

At the same planning committee, Swindon councillors approved plans for a 1,550-home development on the edge of the town. In June, the authority granted permission for a for a 2,500-home urban extension.

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