Tag: Gateway

An invisible town

I don’t like the idea of 750 houses being built around Coate Water any more than Ms Saunders does. However, I do find some of her reasons for wanting to protect the area from development a bit odd.

The council also has to consider the beautiful views from Liddington Hill and the area of outstanding beauty. These views are equally as important as the views from Coate Water.

Ms Saunders seems to be suffering from an affliction common amongst campaigners: an inability to see existing large developments. For those that haven’t noticed, if one looks from Liddington Hill in the direction of Coate Water, rather prominent in the background is a town called ‘Swindon’. In comparison with that backdrop, another 750 houses are not going to change the view from the hill that much.

An empty Gateway?

No, a Gateway that is full of only houses. It seems that now, not only is there no university interested in the plans to concrete over the area around Coate Water, but the GW Hospital is not interested either. Apparently the developers’ plans have not allocated enough space for the hospital, proposing instead that an area reserved for an expanded park-and-ride car park be used for hospital development. Guess that means there’ll be no alternative but to build houses over the entire Gateway site. I’m sure the developers will be distraught at the thought.

The art of consultation

This morning I went to the Swindon Gateway Partnership’s display of their new plans for the area to the east of Coate Water. They are a great improvement on the previous plans. That does not make them good. To quote the developers’ consultants.

Sarah Smith, associate director of DPDS, said: “Essentially what’s changed is we have taken on board the local planning inspector’s comments about the views into and out of Coate Water Country Park. Therefore we have looked at moving the university site further south to remove some of the higher buildings out of these views. We have increased the buffer zone to the special site of scientific interest by about 40 per cent.

That’s all very well and is an improvement on their earlier plans. However, in place of the university at the northern end of the site there will now be a residential area… right up close to the northern arm of Coate Water. That’s the part of Coate Water that has the most visitors. There’s no buffer zone there. And at upto 5 storeys tall (according to Ms Smith this morning), even with a wider buffer zone, the university buildings are not going to be hidden out-of-sight. The possibility of imposing lower limits on those university buildings nearest Coate Water was considered but discounted by the developers (or in Ms Smith’s words “It’s in the plans’ environmental statement.”).

The overall impression from the display was of some fairly uncaring developers (they can afford to be — Swindon Borough Council is on their side). Ms Smith’s colleague was like a record stuck in a groove, repeating “it complies with national standards” in response to every concern raised (noise from adjoining main roads; provision of utilities; density of housing; impact on road congestion…). I’m sure that is true, but on its own it does not win many friends.

A university for Swindon?

In 2001, a report to Swindon Borough Council concluded that an area near the town centre called North Star should be developed as a university campus as part of Swindon’s regeneration programme. The Swindon Urban Regeneration Company was set-up the following year, with the University of Bath having a seat on it’s board. The plan was for the site to accomodate 1,000 students along with accomodation. Then a change of heart led to the University of Bath wanting a more traditional campus, and a site near one of Swindon’s main leisure areas, Coate Water, was selected. There was much local opposition, as the plans (paid for through major housing development on the site) would encroach on the currently open landscape. As a consequence of a change in government policy (towards more workplace learning) and of the housing developers wanting too much of the site, the university has changed it’s mind, again. Now Swindon College is offering to share their campus at North Star with the University of Bath. So we are back where we were six years ago.