26,000 new homes plan ‘warning shot’
A GOVERNMENT planning inspector has written to Swindon Council highlighting a number of major concerns about its blueprint for the development of up to 26,000 new homes in the town.
The letter has asked for clarification on a number of issues relating to the council’s local plan – which designates areas for development in and around the town until 2026.
Among the concerns raised is that the plan has insufficient evidence of public consultation, was unclear where the source of water for the new houses would come from and had a lack of certainty of funding for necessary transport infrastructure projects.
The letter, written of behalf of the inspector, said: “The inspector is seriously concerned that the local plan may not provide a sufficiently robust platform for providing new homes in Swindon or an adequate strategy for delivering that objective.
“He also has concerns relating to the deliverability of a number of other aspects of the plan.
“You will appreciate that the initial concerns the inspector has raised relate to fundamental matters at the heart of the plan.”
Other problems raised in the letter are a lack of clarification on where certain figures come from, such as the forecast of zero net migration, and no provision for gypsy and traveller accommodation.
In the letter, the inspector accepts he has not fully examined the plans in detail but feels it is important to contact the council early to avoid problems later.
He also confirms that these may not be the only problems with the plan.
The council have said the letter is standard procedure and they will be able to answer all the inspector’s questions but parish councillors said the letter simply confirms what they have been saying for some time.
“The inspector has fired a warning shot across the council’s bows,” said Gary Sumner, chairman of Wanborough Council.
“It confirms what we have been saying for some time.
“Despite what the council may say, there has not been enough serious consultation. You can’t just put in a plan without doing the proper work beforehand.
“Essentially the inspector has mirrored our concerns – a lack of community involvement and problems with infrastructure and funding.”
The council is concerned that if a formal plan is not accepted, developers will have far fewer constraints on where they can build.
However, Councillor Dale Heenan (Con, Covingham and Dorcan), the cabinet member for strategic planning and sustainability, said the letter is nothing to be concerned about and felt the council would be able to answer the concerns which have been raised.
He said: “This is a standard letter which the inspector has sent out.
“I am confident that we will be able to respond to the all the issues raised fully and there will be no significant problems with the plan.
“When the letter was written the inspector had only briefly looked at the plan and had not examined everything in full detail. I believe the plan will be agreed.”
The council have been given until August 31 to respond to the letter.
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