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Shortcomings in Swindon homes plan to be examined
THE council has been ordered to explain shortcomings in its response to the serious concerns raised by a planning inspectorate regarding the development of up to 26,000 new homes The government appointed inspectorate Mike Fox has called for an exploratory meeting to take place next month to allow the council to discuss issues still surrounding Swindon’s Local Plan for thousands of new homes to be built by 2026.
Population projections, provision for gypsies and travellers, infrastructure to provide water and the viability of the scheme were some of the main concerns cited in a letter to the council to which they responded at the end of August.
But Mr Fox was not satisfied with the authority’s reply and has sent another letter highlighting the areas he still has concerns about.
He said the council has failed to factor in a population increase between the years of 2021 to 2026.
“I note that the 2011 based household projections are ‘interim’ and only extend to 2021,” Mr Fox said in his letter.
“An additional five years worth of housing provision needs to be included in the plan to reflect the growth after 2021.”
He also said the authority’s accommodation for gypsies and travellers is not compliant with the national planning policy. And the plan needs to give more indication about sites’ viability and deliverability.
Dale Heenan, cabinet member for strategic planning and sustainability said: “The planning inspector challenges show a clear desire to see up to 6,000 extra new homes added to Swindon’s cross political party supported Local Plan.
“We are robustly holding the line. This debate is healthy for democracy, but this is high stakes for the future of the town. It is important that every resident and every parish council backs the council’s Local Plan because there are very real consequences for people agreeing with the Inspector.
“The one area of the Inspector’s concerns which are a bit of a headache is seeking more sites for gypsies. Swindon Council's approach is no different from Wiltshire and other Councils, and could be a political minefield I don’t relish but officers are starting a site search as contingency.
“Our primary focus is ensuring Swindon has the right roads, schools and infrastructure. This will cost money and cannot be avoided, and represents the real challenge we face.”
Wanborough and Bishopstone parish councils have expressed misgivings about the local plan in terms of deliverability.
“It is not that we are against new homes being built,” said chairman of Wanborough Parish Council Gary Sumner.
“We are concerned about the £345m shortfall in funding for the infrastructure.
“The fact is you can’t build that number of homes without knowing the money to build the infrastructure is there.”
Four possible outcomes could arise following the meeting, either the issues will be resolved and the examination in public will continue, the concerns will not be resolved but the examination will continue, the examination is temporarily suspended or the council withdraws its local plan.
Anyone wishing to attend the meeting should go to the Steam museum at 10am on November 13.