Tag: Westlecott

East Wichel — in search of ghosts

Last night in their Inside Out programme the BBC presented a report on Wichelstowe. The report was introduced by Alastair McKee as “The Homeowners who say they’re living in what amounts to a ghost town’, yet the reality is very different.

The BBC have interviewed many people in East Wichel over recent weeks — komadori was one of them. The views expressed by many in those interviews were that it’s a very nice place to live. The community spirit is great and there’s quite a bit going on. It would be nice if there were some more facilities open in the development — such as some shops and a children”s play area — but given how slow the housing market is, it’s no surprise things are taking longer than originally planned. Some of the first that were housed in the area by Sovereign Living feel let down as things haven’t turned out as planned, but most that have moved in since knew it was going to be quite some time before facilities would be available. In short, it’s nice, it could be better, but for most there haven’t been any surprises.

Watch Mr McKee’s report and the impression you’ll get is distinctly grimmer. No mention of community spirit, only of ‘out reach’, despite filming community events. Little mention of what people expected before they moved here, only of what more they would want. Only five interviews were used of the many that were done, and many whose interviews were left out have said their comments were more positive than those used in the report. Even the interviewee in the most critical interview shown in the report has said her interview was edited to leave out the good things she had to say about the community. And where are “The Homeowners who say they’re living in what amounts to a ghost town’? Despite Alastair McKee’s introduction, none of the interviews in the report express that opinion. Fast forward through the programme to leave out Mr McKee’s distortions and listen only to the interviews, and the impression you’ll get is of a far more contented community than the report portrays. Yes, what may one day be West and Middle Wichel look rather forlorn, with roads in place years before they will carry traffic, but the East Wichel community is coming along quite contentedly thank you, albeit rather slower than most living here would have liked.

No doubt to many that watched the programme, Mr Greenhalgh’s defence of Swindon Borough Council will seem rather aggressive. To me as someone aware of the background of the report, he was giving a biased reporter everything he deserved.

East Wichel canalside

Yet another pub for East Wichel?

It’s less than a month since Swindon Borough Council granted planning permission for Marston’s Inns to build a pub-restaurant near the Croft Road entrance to East Wichel — on Langdean Road between Blackhorse Way and Frogden Road. Councillors criticised that application saying “it wouldn’t win any architectural awards”.

Now Mitchells & Butlers have submitted a planning application for a site almost opposite — on the stub of Croft Road that leads to a veterinary clinic — to build a Toby Carvery. The application refers to the new draft National Planning Policy Framework, saying that as the local plan is, in their view, out-of-date the application should be allowed — despite appearing to contravene almost every planning policy the council has. And although the application acknowledges that

The site is considered to constitute a free standing gateway site to the Witchelstowe (sic) development

the application almost entirely ignores the Wichelstowe design code:

[B]eing situated beyond the boundary of Witchelstowe (sic) it is beyond the remit of the Design Code….Materials and features have been specified to reflect some of the guidance within the Design Code, whilst retaining an appropriate degree of separation.

It’ obvious from the drawings that actually very little effort has been put into the design at all. Imagine an unadorned prefabricated concrete box, and you’ll have a fairly accurate idea of what this building will look like. In comparison with this, Marston’s planning application was positively imaginative.

Toby Carvery ugly pub

Anyone wishing to comment on or object to the application must do so by 29 September. Comments and objections can be submitted online.

A pub for East Wichel

Artist impression of Marston’s East Wichel pub

Today the Adver has reported that Marston’s Inns has submitted a planning application for a pub at East Wichel. Despite what the Adver says, I can’t yet find the planning application on Swindon Borough Council’s website. The only information on it I can find is in the minutes of the March meeting of the Wichelstowe developers’ community forum.

East Wichel pub plans. Click for larger image.What this pub won’t be is one that’s at the centre of the community. It’s on a plot — designated as a ‘commercial plot’ in the East Wichel masterplan — right at the edge of the development. Indeed, once Blackhorse Bridge across the motorway is opened, it’ll be not much closer for most East Wichel residents than the Check Inn in North Wroughton — the two pubs will stand almost opposite each other separated by the M4. With the new pub including a 180 seat restaurant — dwarfing the Check Inn’s 30 seat dining area — it’s clearly aiming to serve rather more than just the local community.

The Check Inn has had a fairly chequered history of late, with landlord’s struggling to make a success of it — Fuller’s are advertising it to let at the moment. A vast new pub nearby, just across the motorway, may be good for the residents of East Wichel, but for those of North Wroughton it’s likely to bring further disappointment.

Poacher turned: an essay in little boxes part 26

After an absence that’s been far longer than I was intending, today marks the start of a return, though in may be gradual at first. And I’ll start that return with an admission: komadori now resides in a housing development he’s spent much time on this blog criticising.

Over a year ago now, someone living near Swindon’s Front Garden since before the new development — themselves no fan of the concreting over of this once green space — commented that, despite their objections, they might even consider one of the houses themselves. Thus when I came to look for a new nest myself, my thought went to that comment. Months later, komadori is settled into his own little box in Wichelstowe.

My view of the development remains unchanged: the Victorian look is a distinctly fake look. Having looked at several of the little boxes before making my choice it also confirmed my view that the differences between the boxes are just superficial. Behind the differing façades in East Wichel are mainly standard Taylor Wimpey/Bryant, Barratt/David Wilson, Bloor or Sovereign boxes. I’d also prefer that they hadn’t been built at all. But they have been built. And for the foreseeable future one of them will be komadori’s home.
The little boxes of East Wichel

Wichelstowe goes global: an essay in little boxes part 20

I’m not sure whether the developers of Swindon’s Front Garden will be happy about being identified by the International Herald Tribune as

A glaring example of the real estate market gone bad.

Perhaps they’ll take solace from the thought that if the Tribune’s London correspondent believes that Swindon is “about an hour’s train ride south of London” perhaps her understanding of the housing market is as poor as her geography.

At least the international attention will be more welcome to them than the misplaced attempts by the Front Garden Action Group to thwart the sales of houses in the Front Garden. Some of their suggests look like grasping at straws.

There is no supermarket, no schools, no library, a very limited bus service. I think Sovereign are jumping the gun.

Well, the development is closer to those amenities than some existing parts of Swindon. It’s just a five minute walk (I’ve tested that) to the nearest bus service, and another ten to schools, supermarkets and — for the moment — a library in Old Town. Based FRAG’s analysis, parts of Cheney Manor, Moredon and Okus should be declared unfit for human occupation.

Some of the group’s other actions are just pointless obstruction.

Next month we will be writing to solicitors, estate agents, developers and so on to warn them that if they don’t let people know something about the history of flooding and noise at the site they may be opening themselves up to legal challenges in the future.

The law prescribes what information has to go in Home Information Packs. Information on environmental risks such as flooding is optional, not compulsory. But leaving these inaccuracies in what the campaigners are saying aside, just what do they hope to achieve? Do they think that if they can deter people from buying houses in the Front Garden, the developers will then demolish all the houses, dig up all the roads and put the land back to how it used to be? Just look at the area where Westlecott Farm used to be and you’ll see that it is too late to go back.
Westlecott Farm, buried
The damage to Swindon’s Front Garden has already been done — obstructing the marketing process now is just a worthless exhibition of sour grapes.

A suburb rises: an essay in little boxes part 18

It’s four months since I last posted any photographs of Swindon’s Front Garden slowly disappearing under the bricks and concrete of Wichelstowe, though I have made an extensive photographic trip around South Leaze for future reference. This weekend, whilst on my way to make some purchases from those helpful people at Old Town Hardware, I took a photograph of the low-cost housing blocks of East Wichel being built where Westlecott Farm once was. The style and housing density remind me of the dense Victorian terraces that once made up the St Ann’s area of Nottingham… which were demolished over thirty years ago as slums.
Victoriana, real and fake

First build: an essay in little boxes part 15

The first houses of the Wichelstowe development are now being built, near the site of Westlecott Farm. Even at this early stage, it is easy to see that the houses are being tightly packed, with very little space between the terrace almost completed and the one just started construction behind. With the fake-Victorian design, you could be forgiven for thinking that this might end up looking like one of those areas in the northern industrial cities that were cleared as slums during the 1970s.
A housing estate arises
Wichelstowe builders packing ’em in

Flapping around: an essay in little boxes part 3

Seems that the might of the developers has been temporarily thwarted given a sideways nudge. Finches and swallows have been found (well, actually more a case of actively sought) nesting in Westlecott Farm (the white building and outbuildings in my earlier photographs). As a consequence the farm cannot be demolished until late August. The joy of the campaigners does seem somewhat sulky though, and their hopes unrealistic.

I’m a realist so understand that the development will go ahead, but all the setbacks might mean that they reconsider the size of it.

Delaying the demolition of one farm is but a minor blip in the path of a 4,500 house development.