writes Aled Thomas

Developers are hoping a government-appointed planning inspector will overrule Wiltshire Council.

Beechcroft Land Ltd had applied for permission from the council to build 81 houses on land bound by Purton Road and the railway line.

Although it is on the very edge of Swindon and would, in effect, form a suburb of the town, the land is in the county council’s area.

It was Wiltshire Council which turned down the proposals in March last year.

A spokesman said: “The proposed development would result in loss of ecologically important habitats and disturbance of sensitive wildlife species.

"The inclusion of the land between the development site and the river as public open space will not provide mitigation for this loss but will result in further loss of habitat and disturbance of sensitive species in this landscape buffer from the built up parts of the surrounding area.”

But now the company has appealed against that decision. A public hearing will be held presided over by a planning inspector appointed by the government, who will make what is in effect the final decision.

The developers said: “The site is located within an apex of existing development whereby it represents a rounding off of the settlement at this point. The site has a significantly-built backdrop.”

The company added the council’s own planning officers had said: “Residential development of this site is unlikely to generate any particularly harmful resulting visual effects.”

Part of the original decision to refuse permission hinged on the plan saying it would address Swindon’s housing need, which Wiltshire Council’s officers said was irrelevant.

The development company said its appeal would rest in part on their belief it was relevant.

It said: “ The proposed development will contribute to the housing needs of Swindon. Given the absence of a five-year supply in Swindon, the relevant test in this appeal is whether the harm significantly and demonstrably outweighs the benefits of granting permission. In this instance, it is plain that the benefits significantly outweigh the harm.”

But residents do not agree.

Lauren Buss, who lives in Dew Pond Close in Purton, said: “We object to the destruction of more mature and healthy trees. Buzzards and heron fish along the river and there are numerous other birds living in these trees. A development here would destroy their homes.”

Michael Wilks said he wanted an environmental buffer between the houses and the railway line and said his house would be overlooked by the new houses if they were built.

The hearing will start on February 4 at Wiltshire Council’s offices in Monkton Park in Chippenham.

Originally published in the Swindon Advertiser

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