ACRES of protected land on the edge of West Swindon will be destroyed after developer Wainhomes won its bid to build 50 houses on environmentally sensitive grassland.

After a three-day planning inquiry in March, an inspector has ruled that, despite conditions being put in place to protect the area around Bradley’s Meadow in Purton, the need for housing outweighed preservation of the land.

At the inquiry, Vincent Fraser, speaking for the developer said: “Bearing in mind the appeal decision of Ridgeway Farm, there should not be any issues with this development.

“The local authority does not have a five-year plan for housing need in place, which is a factor in considering what harm is caused by the development of the site.”

A provisional five-year housing supply for Wiltshire expired only months ahead of the decision, after it had been accepted during an appeal against new homes at Widham Farm.

Dr Richard Pagett, who gave evidence at the inquiry, said the decision could set a precedent for future appeals.

“The inspector considered that the need for housing outweighs the need to safeguard this protected site,” he said.

“This is bizarre logic, the inspector acknowledged that these houses would be for Swindon yet Swindon Council says in its Local Plan that it does not need housing in this location.

“Wiltshire Council badly mishandled the whole thing. “Before the appeal inquiry it had begun negotiating with a property developer to find a different location for the grassland. “In the end it naively consented to the concept that the Moredon Bridge grassland was not crucial.”

The grassland will now be relocated to a site close to Fitzmaurice Primary School, in Bradford-on-Avon.

Kevin Fisher, the chairman of the Shaw Residents’ Associa-tion, said the impact on Swindon would soon be felt.

“The real day-to-day impact for West and North Swindon residents will be in yet more traffic negotiating the tricky junction in and out of this new, unplanned development,” he said.

Planning inspector John Braithwaite said in his decision: “The planning system seeks, among other things, to provide certainty in the development process and to bring forward development without undue delay. “This is particularly the case for housing.

“There is a Government imperative at this time for housing such as that proposed at the appeal site which would include, on the net increase in housing over the whole site, 30 per cent affordable housing.

“The development of land at Moredon Bridge would not cause demonstrable harm to nature conservation interests.”