WROUGHTON residents have been dealt a cruel blow after a the government overturned a council planning decision on 103 homes.

Villagers has fought a battle against Hannick Homes over a number of years in opposition to plans to build the new houses off Marlborough Road.

There were cheers in the council chamber way back in 2015 when Swindon Borough Council’s planning committee first rejected the proposals.

The unanimous decision from councillors was met with delight by local residents.

But sensing that they could show Swindon was unable to meet its required housing supply, the developer took the decision to an appeal.

In January, an inquiry lasting three days was convened to allow a planning inspector to make a formal recommendation to the Department for Communities and Local Government on the merits of the application.

On Friday, it was revealed that the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, had ruled in favour of the developer - deeming that rectifying a perceived shortfall in housing in Swindon was more important than listening to the views of residents, the parish council, the borough council, the Wroughton Neighbourhood Plan and the Swindon Local Plan.

Residents have reacted with anger to the decision.

Holly Woodward, one of the team who worked to research and produce the Neighbourhood Plan, said: “It has proved to be a total waste of effort.”

She questioned why communities should bother to make them now, adding “they are not worth the paper they are written on, it’s pure lip service to local opinions.”

Wroughton parish councillor, Talis Kimberley-Fairbourn, said: “The Government’s 'localism' agenda has been revealed as the right to say yes but not the right to say no on planning matters. This decision makes a mockery of our community's Neighbourhood Plan.

“These volume house builders get planning permission, but then don't build houses until and unless they deem the financial climate perfect to maximise their profits.”

Labour has blamed the debacle on Conservative planning policy.

The party’s shadow lead for strategic planning in Swindon, Jim Robbins, said: “Sadly, the decision made by the Secretary of State does not come as a surprise to me. We have known through other planning applications that Swindon’s Local Plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

“The Conservative Government has created a planning system that is chaotic. Nobody knows anymore what is off bounds when it comes to housing developments. I think it is incumbent on the Government and Swindon’s two MPs to make clear to local people that councils no longer have a role on whether housing developments will be permitted.

“I don’t think the Conservatives locally have helped by giving residents false hope and promising to get this and other planning applications rejected. All Swindon has got out of that approach is a bill worth thousands of pounds in planning appeal fees.

"They need to be forcefully and vocally telling their MPs and their Government that this planning system is unfair and they need to be asking for more measures to force developers to build on the land we’ve planned to have for houses."

But Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for strategic planning and sustainability, Toby Elliott, has pledged to explore all options open to contest the decision and defend neighbourhood and local plans agreed by residents.

“Firstly it is worth noting that we entirely disagree with the decision that has been made,” said Coun Elliott.

“We’ll be looking at all our options, that includes looking at the possibility of re-instructing a barrister to take legal action.

“This is an unsustainable development with poor access issues, it’s contrary to both the neighbourhood plan and the local plan.”

Coun Elliott has previously expressed frustration that as a council keen on encouraging development, the extent of permissions granted in Swindon is not reflected in the housing supply figure because developers are sitting on land and playing the system.

The leader of the council, David Renard, echoed that view and said he was firmly behind calls by the Local Government Association to redress the balance and give councils more of a stick with which to force developers to move forward with building.