OLD TOWN residents have urged a change in the law to force developers with building land to “use it or lose it”.

They now plan to petition government for the rule change.

The decision came as around 50 people met at the Croft Sports Centre last night to discuss the Ambrose Road Field development.

Housebuilders Taylor Wimpey have submitted a planning application for 62 homes on fields behind Croft Road.

The development on the land, which was not identified as building land in Swindon’s Local Plan, is expected to be discussed by the council’s planning committee in October.

Coun Nadine Watts, who called the meeting, said: “This is not about nimbyism, it’s about having a robust local plan and building affordable sustainable housing in the right place.”

She said that developers Taylor Wimpey had been invited to the meeting. Coun Watts added: “Apparently they’ve knocked on 2,500 doors in Swindon, so it’s disappointing that they’ve not been able to come to one meeting.”

Residents shared their anger at the plans for the new homes.

Lucy Almond, 14, of Fitzroy Road, said that the fields were a haven for young people studying for exams and meeting friends. “I don’t think they’ve considered the students who use the area as a calm space and a public space to walk,” the teen said.

Anthea Hilson, 67, who has lived on Linley Close for almost 30 years, added: “If it’s built we’ll have houses directly behind our wall. People use that field just for the pleasure of walking. It’s a really sad thing to destroy.”

The meeting heard from borough councillors Chris Watts and Jim Robbins.

Coun Watts said that the failure of developers and the council to build the number of houses set out in Swindon’s local plan had left planners needing to build more than 2,000 homes a year to hit the plan’s targets.

He suggested that a change of planning law was needed to protect the local plan. Coun Watts said: “Westminster is where the blockage has been created.”

He suggested that planning permission should be given on a “use it or lose it” basis, which he said was policy in Germany.

Conservative parish councillor Nick Burns-Howell said that South Swindon MP Robert Buckland was opposed to the development and had written to both Taylor Wimpey and Sajid Javid, the secretary of state.

Coun Robbins, who sits on the borough’s planning committee, said: “I would encourage all of you to write to members of the planning committee and your MP.”

Coun Nadine Watts said that she would help organise two petitions. One would be aimed at a change in national law, while a second would target the borough’s planning committee.

If the latter is signed by 350 people, the petitioner is able to address the committee’s councillors.

Taylor Wimpey have previously told the Adver they have “worked hard” to address residents’ concerns, including on drainage.

Struan Power of Taylor Wimpey, said: “The Taylor Wimpey team remain committed to working with local residents throughout the planning process and we will continue to inform, and update over the coming weeks.

"If residents do have any questions, please contact our community engagement officer by email at michelle.thurgood@corkscrewcommunications.com.”