Tag: EDA

Developing the party line

It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that the vote at last night’s council meeting to oppose the Eastern Development Area proposals ended up dividing along party lines. It seems that the local red nest are totally ignorant of what their party’s mismanagement of the economy and distortion of the housing market has done, as illustrated by the comments of Mr Grant.

This plan will deliver much needed affordable housing to Swindon. We should be trying to make sure that the development is eco-friendly and includes green technology — we should back this development for the future of Swindon.

At the moment, just about the only building going on in Swindon’s northern and southern development areas is the construction of so-called affordable housing. And if you look at the prices of those ‘affordable’ houses, you’ll notice that most are more expensive than the equivalent allegedly unaffordable houses in other parts of Swindon. Forcing developers to make 30% of any large development ‘affordable’ just forces the average price of housing up without solving the underlying problem.

If you want to make housing affordable, the only way to do it is to ensure that supply exceeds demand. The recent collapse in the economy has done more to bring that about than market distorting government rules on affordable housing ever will.

Crunch, Stretch, Weave

Swindon Eastern Development AreaI spent yesterday wading through Swindon Borough Council’s consultation document on the proposed Eastern Development Area. With the main document running to over 90 pages, and almost 240 pages of supporting documentation, it wasn’t easy going. The consultants seem to have been enjoying themselves, with the document stuffed full of jargon. I have now been introduced to phrases such as “functional green infrastructure links”, “benchmark for exemplar sustainable development” and “urban acupuncture”.

It’s only once one has got through almost 30 pages of this guff that there’s something of substance about what is actually planned. For those living in South Marston and East Swindon it’s bad news.

It is important that South Marston retains its independent identity as a settlement and does not coalesce with Swindon.

The consultants have an… errm… unique way of doing that. The proposals change South Marston beyond recognition, more than doubling it in size, or in planner-speak “significantly enhance the sustainable credentials of the village”.

For those in East Swindon, there’s just a few fuzzy words about not increasing the likelihood of flooding, with nothing to say about the severity of flooding. There’s much talk of the ‘benefits’ the development might bring to East Swindon, but these are dependent on the most expensive option — The Crunch — being selected: an option that requires government subsidy to bury the A419 at the White Hart Roundabout. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that with the current government having run up a level of debt that would shame a 1980s third-world dictator, that money isn’t going to be forthcoming. Which leaves us with one of the other options, The Stretch or The Weave — just what were the consultants on? — with a new town centre facing South Marston across the railway line as the most likely outcome.

Unusually for anti-development campaigns in Swindon, the campaigners actually seem to have got their act together and learnt from the mistakes of some of the less effective recent campaigns. No petitions, but 200 individual responses submitted to the council. The last time there was a consultation on a similar matter, the Central Area Action Plan, the number of responses from individuals could be counted on one hand.

The consultation closes at 4.30 pm tomorrow.


Swindon Eastern Development Area, from figure three of Swindon’s Core StrategyI first came across the Campaign to Protect Rural England (then known as the Council for the Protection of Rural England, CPRE) as a child living in West Sussex, when they seemed intent on having the majority of the county frozen at some point in an imaginary Victorian past. (They still do.) My impression then was of an organisation of city dwellers and rich commuters that knew little of the countryside and wanted to preserve it as a playground for the rich, regardless of the implications of that for rural communities. (The organisation’s original name included the word ‘preservation’ rather than ‘protection’.)

As someone who has now been a town dweller myself for twenty years, I’m really no different from my description of them, but nevertheless find the comments of the chairman of their North Wiltshire branch on the South West Regional Spatial Strategy still tainted with the same lack of reality. There’s much in what they say about the proposed eastern expansion of Swindon to supply the 36,000 extra houses imposed on us (as described in Swindon Borough Council’s Core Strategy) that I agree with.

There needs to be a major investment in water supplies, sewerage and public transport to support the proposed increase of 36,000 more houses in Swindon and an additional 13,000 new homes in the surrounding areas. Already there are instances of severe sewage overflow; the existing infrastructure cannot cope. It is time the Government listened to our concerns over building in the flood plains, for the protection of Coate Water, and for maintaining the separate identities of Swindon’s neighbouring communities.

There’s nought wrong with any of that. But then they go a bit off track.

Expansion outwards has left a dead centre and a fall in the economy.

To ascribe the problems of the town centre to the growth of the town is bizarre. On that analysis, city centres like Manchester, Sheffield and Nottingham should be long dead and feeding the daisies. As the CPRE also say, central Swindon needs regeneration, but that regeneration can never supply the sort of living environment that outward expansion — welcome or not — could.