Local protest group, the South Swindon Protection Group, today called for the classifications for the proposed land development in Lower Wanborough to be thoroughly re-evaluated.John Warr, the Group’s Chair, went further: “The South Swindon Protection Group has commissioned expert advice in the form of a number of technical reports on the many aspects of this application that trouble us. We have identified over 20 significant flaws in this proposal, which demonstrably flies in the face of the Swindon Borough Council’s own published ‘Local Plan 2026’, which sets out their intentions for Swindon developments for the next 7 years. This distasteful, cynical, speculative application should never have reached even this far in the planning process, and the Council’s planners should reject it forthwith.”
Employment Land Review plans relied upon in the Inlands Farm development proposal submitted by Wasdell clearly show that their requirements are:
Phase 1: 33,500m 2 for packaging production and warehouse storage (that’s 8.28 acres)
Phase 2: a further 16,500 m 2 for expansion for ill-defined use (4.1 acres)
Totalling: 12.4 acres
Total of proposed land area to be developed: 99 acres
Somehow their requirement for two commercial sites expands into a total acreage of this proposal of 99 acres; one can only speculate what the developer’s commercial intentions are for such a sizeable inflation.
The proposal shows the use of Phase 1 as “General Light Industrial use”; this designation of the purpose to which the site will be put is crucial because it has significant implications upon infrastructure considerations such as traffic and transport.
Study of their detailed proposal reveals specific package production areas on 2 levels within a building that is predominately storage, with 85% or the floor area used for 12m (40ft) high racking. Phase 2 layout is smaller than Phase 1 but similar in construction. A specification on this scale, including buildings over 13m (50 feet) high, do not reconcile as “light industrial” use units in a
rural protected environment. To be sure about our interpretation of the application, we commissioned an architect to examine the plans submitted for Wasdell’s operational requirements.
His expert advice made for grim reading; “General Light Industrial” use as claimed is for that which can be carried out in any “residential area without detriment to the amenity of the area”. This development would patently have a devastating impact on the area, on a combination of environmental, ecological, archaeological, economic, planning and infrastructural grounds.
Advice was that the proposals are entirely consistent with a Storage and Distribution Centre (with the attached loading bays, gatehouse and driver facilities). This designation would confer considerable additional requirements on the plan specifications, which this proposal falls far short of. Commented the Group’s Planning expert Richard Hughes:
“This proposal is the equivalent of a development the size of Wembley Stadium built on agricultural lowlands, within feet of a defined Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty designated as a rural area for protection. Phase 1 usage should be re-designated as Storage and Distribution rather than the much more benign General Light Industrial. The usage to which Phase 2 is vague in the extreme; the planning application misleadingly and erroneously described it as a ‘Science Park’; we have expert advice that it in does not qualify as such in any respect whatsoever”.
Once planning permission is granted, there is no going back - as we have seen recently at Badbury, within close proximity of this site and J15 of the M4. This was similarly a speculative proposal that was passed on the basis of one set of criteria, yet when the site failed to attract interest - after 5 years of vigorous marketing – it swiftly changed into residential housing under “Permitted Change” rules. In the process this increased the value of the site to the landowner and developer by around thirty-fold 1 .
These planning shortcomings have the inevitable effect of undermining existing planning consents; the troubled proposals passed for the New Eastern Villages (8000 homes) less than 3 miles away will similarly be weakened and less likely to succeed. This is by no means an application that justifies the Borough Council setting aside its own published planning policy; the Council has recently rejected this entire site as unsuitable as an employment site in this location (in its SHELAA findings: its review of the housing and commercial elements of its Plan).
John Warr observed: “The damage to rural Swindon would be irreversible. The Campaign to Protect Rural England have expressed increasing alarm at the rate at which Areas Of Outstanding Natural Beauty, such as that which abuts onto this proposal in Inlands Farm, have come under development pressure despite having the highest level of planning protection. It’s a concern that the South Swindon Protection Group shares, as should all Swindon residents.”
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Action Group opposed to the development of land in the non coalescent area or joining the AONB in the South Swindon Area
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