HIGHWORTH’S Neighbourhood Plan is not worth the paper it is written on, say residents following the council’s decision to approve a controversial planning application.

The remarks come after Swindon Borough Council on Tuesday night voted to allow the erection of 50 homes on a patch of land off Shrivenham Road.

Pauline Webster, chairman of Highworth Town Council’s planning committee, was one of many residents who vociferously opposed the plans.

She labelled the development “intrusive” and demanded it be refused.

One bone of contention was the fact that approving the application would fly in the face of the Highworth Neighbourhood Plan, which town councillors and residents have spent the past four years putting together.

The Swindon Local Plan, adopted by the borough council in 2015, allocated 200 houses for Highworth, of which 88 have already been built, leaving a further 112 dwellings still to be erected.

Two sites have already been selected to cater for this expansion. Granting the application would therefore mean exceeding the 200 houses by more than 25 per cent.

Speaking at Tuesday’s planning meeting, Ms Webster said: “It will be a bizarre situation for Swindon Borough Council to accept the Neighbourhood Plan and then completely ignore it.”

Coun Maureen Penny, who lives in Highworth, claimed the proposals would “harm Highworth’s heritage and development strategy”.

The two hectare site will contain a mixture of one-bedroom apartments and five-bedroom houses.

However, because the borough lacks a five-year housing land supply, applications refused by the council will likely be granted by the Planning Inspectorate when the developers appeal, costing the council added expense.

But one Highworth woman said: “Why should Highworth suffer just because Swindon Borough Council doesn’t have a five-year housing land supply?”

“If this is granted, what a waste of time it will have been developing the Neighbourhood Plan.”

Councillors expressed sympathy with those worried about the implications for the Neighbourhood Plan, but insisted they had to assess the merits of the proposal in terms of its practicality.

Coun Tim Swinyard (Con) said he understood people’s concerns, but added: “I can’t see any planning reasons to refuse this, and that’s what we need to be looking for.”

Work by developers Persimmon will start early next year.