DEVELOPERS have offered to buy their way out of conditions preventing them destroying conserved land to the west of Swindon.

At the start of a three-day inquiry into an application to build 50 homes on Bradley’s Meadow, which is part of a county wildlife site, developers Wainhomes proposed a £50,000 cash settlement in Section 106 funds, or to move the ecologically sensitive land, including rare calcerous grass, to one of two other sites.

Claiming the decision to grant development on Ridgeway Farm had opened the doors to further expansion to the west of Swindon, Vincent Fraser, representing Wainhomes, said: “This is a matter where there are two particular options which we would suggest amply compensate for any loss from the site.

“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 this site.”

Richard Langham, for Wiltshire Council, said local development plans currently being examined do not allow for future development to the west of Swindon, and should be considered in rejecting the application.

“It is particularly important to assess the value of what is proposed to be lost,” he said.

“Last April the council were prepared to accept these proposals because we believed proper compensation would be given. The Wiltshire and Swindon structure plan made provisions for developments serving Swindon to be built in Wiltshire, including Ridgeway Farm, but at this moment both councils have plans that are in the process of examination.”

Because the development falls under Wiltshire Council, Swindon Council were not represented, but it was agreed such a development would look inwards to Swindon, rather than outwards to Wiltshire.

“Swindon has never liked the idea of significant development in the west, and is not setting a target for that in its emerging plan,” said Mr Langham.

“That position may change in relation to Swindon. The position established in the Ridgeway Farm decision remains, that there is a requirement for housing to meet the needs of Swindon, but a target has not been set.”

Lee Burnham, of the Royal Planning Institute, appeared as a witness for Wiltshire Council.

“The council does not think the need for housing is adequate for the harm caused by this development,” he said.

“The conclusion from Ridgeway Farm is that this location can contribute to meeting the requirements within Swindon Borough, but none of the local plans propose significant growth to the west of Swindon.”

Concerns have been raised about the implications of the appeal, which has been made after planning inspectors ruled the conservation area should be protected.

Jacqui Lay, councillor for Purton at Wiltshire Council, said: “Whatever the outcome this will make clear to other developers if they are expected to make the appropriate action when there is mitigation.”