Ambrose Field planning application to be decided at planning committee

Taylor Wimpey’s plan for Ambrose field is very similar to their 2014 proposal
The planning application from Taylor Wimpey to build 160 homes on land between East Wichel and Croft Road will be decided at tomorrow’s (Tuesday’s) meeting of Swindon Borough Council planning committee.

The council received 71 comments supporting the application and and 139 comments objecting to the application. Despite opposition from all the ward councillors, the parish council, and South Swindon’s MP Robert Buckland, the recommendation [pdf] of the council’s planning officers is for the application to be approved.

The main reasons for the officers recommending that the application be approved appear to be as follows.

  • Although the application is outside the development area in the Swindon Borough Local Plan, recent planning appeals strongly indicate that refusal on this basis would be overturned on appeal, as developers have not been building sufficient houses in Swindon.
  • The area is not officially part of the conservation area between Old Town and Wichelstowe. (The next field, closer to East Wichel, is in the conservation area, which is part of the planning permission for Wichelstowe.)
  • The council’s highways department are not concerned about access to the site from Croft Road, but have required that an island be placed in Croft Road near the site entrance, to make it easier for pedestrians to cross.
  • After receiving further information from Taylor Wimpey, the council are not concerned about flood risk.
  • Concerns about inadequate parking appear to have been discounted, as the parking provision complies with the standard set in the council’s local plan.
  • Concerns from the council’s Urban Design Officer about the layout of parking have been discounted by the planning officers, because covenants and utility pipes prevent building where the parking spaces will be. The planing officers appear to take the view that it is better to put the parking in an undesirable location than to reduce the number of houses in the development.
  • The planning officers recommend applying a condition for Taylor Wimpey to contribute to maintenance of open spaces and play areas elsewhere, rather than provide more open space and play areas in the development.

Taylor Wimpey’s track record on other developments, such as East Wichel, is not something that can be considered under planning law.

Despite the council’s landscape department noting that access from the proposed development to the ‘proposed nature conservation area for the Wichelstowe major development area’ is ‘inappropriate’, the planning officers have only added a condition requiring Taylor Wimpey to provide plans of this access and get them approved by the council. Apparently the development is within the ‘Mid Vale Ridge Landscape Character Area’.

Swindon borough council has written to the minister pointing out the perverse incentive planning rules give developers to apply for planning permission but not build houses. If developers built all the houses in Swindon that they have planning permission for, Swindon would be well ahead of its target for new houses. Instead developers like Taylor Wimpey can ride roughshod over local plans because they have not built enough houses in the borough.

The planning committee meeting starts at 6 pm on Tuesday 10th October, in the Council Chamber of the Civic Offices. It is expected to be well attended by members of the public.

Update, 10th October: The Planning Committee this evening approved the application to build on Ambrose Field, by 8 votes to 4, primarily because previous applications to build outside areas designated in the local plan had been won by the developers on appeal.