Inquiry to look at Local Plan
A PUBLIC examination of Swindon Council’s 26,000 home local plan will address serious concerns from the planning inspectorate when it opens later this year.
Mike Fox, the government appointed planning inspector, took issue with certain aspects of the plan last year, including a predicted shortfall of around 2,519 homes.
He added the plan should incorporate gypsies and travellers by identifying suitable locations in the area for the community, and more detail was needed for the provision of water following large scale developments.
Mr Fox said the examination would focus on the plan itself rather then the list of objections after he felt confident he could proceed following responses to his concerns from Swindon Council.
“My role is to examine the soundness of the plan having regard to the representations submitted and issues identified, rather than considering individual objections as such,” he said.
“I stress the need for everyone to work together during the examination process on changes that could be made to the Local Plan, whilst avoiding producing so many alterations that they together might render the Local Plan cumulatively unsound.”
The examination, to be held at Steam, will begin on April 29 and finish on May 22.
The inspector will test the evidence put forward by the council for its proposals and make sure the plan is sound. Among them will be the plans for the Eastern Villages and proposed expansion at South Marston, the assumptions for future growth in the Borough and whether infrastructure such as transport will support the overall plan.
Coun Dale Heenan, cabinet member for strategic planning and sustainability, said: “Swindon Council submitted its 2026 Local Plan in June 2013, and the Minister for Planning has confirmed that we can use it alongside the existing local plan for decision making.
“The timetable is the Inspector’s decision, and now we know the dates for the final vital stage. Making sure that lessons from 20 years ago have been learnt, by ensuring infrastructure like roads can be funded, is one of the key challenges we face.
“The scale of what Swindon faces is highlighted by the fact that there have been a number of Local Plans around the country where the inspector examining them has recommended they be withdrawn, or have significant changes made to them. Of the 52 plans submitted last year to the Inspectorate, only six progressed rapidly to a finding of soundness.
“If the planning inspector rejects our Local Plan, it will leave Swindon open to any speculative planning application from developers.”
Swindon Council’s previous Local Plan was formally adopted in 2006 but is becoming increasingly out of date. The replacement Local Plan has been through several drafts and rounds of public consultation, and has had to adapt to changing national planning policy and guidance.
Once the four-week examination is over, the inspector will produce a report outlining his findings. This is expected in September.
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