Inspector set to rule on town’s blueprint

This Is Wiltshire: Planning inspector Mike Fox presiding over the Local Plan inquiry Planning inspector Mike Fox presiding over the Local Plan inquiry

TODAY sees the final day of the public hearing into the Swindon Local Plan, a document which will outline major development projects in Swindon for the next 12 years.

For the past four weeks planning inspector Mike Fox has been hearing from the council and local organisations as he decides on the soundness of the plan.

The plan will cover housing developments in the area, including Tadpole Farm, Wichelstowe and the Eastern Villages.

After today’s session the inspector will spend several months examining the evidence before announcing whether the plan is ready to be adopted. He may recommend that certain parts need to be amended or even that it should be rejected.

Should the plan be rejected, it would leave Swindon open to development projects with the council in a difficult position to reject.

But some organisations have said there has been a lack of consultation and not enough has been done to mitigate for the pressures on the road network an extra 22,000 houses will bring.

On the penultimate day, one of the main topics up for discussion is the plan’s impact on the environment and whether enough is being done to promote green infrastructure.

Among the topics discussed were the canals within the borough, and a plan to have one running through the town centre linking Wiltshire with Oxfordshire.

Swindon Civic Voice said while it supported the idea of a canal, the town centre was not the best route.

Martha Parry said: “We want to see a canal built but, and we say this after a great deal of thought, we don’t think the town centre is the best route for it.

“There historically has not been a canal so it would not be a restoration but rather a new build. We feel there are other things which need focusing on in the town centre and this would take away resources.”

The Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal Trust disagreed with this position and said the canal could play an important part of any regeneration.

Chris Coyle said: “We believe the canal would in fact play a big part in helping regenerate the town centre.

“We also feel the canal would make a big contribution to the economic growth of Swindon.”

Richard Bell, the council’s Head of Planning, said: “I’m pleased with the way the Local Plan Examination has been conducted, with the quality of the debate, and conduct of everyone who took part. “The Inspector is now likely to produce a set of Proposed Modifications, which it is envisaged will be consulted on in the next couple of months. The response to these modifications will inform the Inspector’s final decision on the plan which I anticipate will be received by the end of the end of the summer.”

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