HIGHWORTH councillors expressed their fury and frustration with the decision to approve a development of 50 homes on Shrivenham Road during their meeting on Tuesday.

The area was not earmarked for development in the town’s Neighbourhood Plan, which had taken years to create and was supposed to prevent developers building homes wherever they wished by limiting development to certain sites.

However, Persimmon Homes’ plan was given the go-ahead by Swindon Borough Council’s planning committee after a heated planning meeting full of heated debate last week.

Councillor Pauline Webster, chairman of Highworth Town Council’s Planning Committee, was outraged.

She said: “I have never been so angry in all my life, it was a farce and a complete waste of time and effort, as was the Neighbourhood Plan.

“The majority of those officials on the Swindon Planning Committee don’t seem to know what they are supposed to be doing.”

“To tell people it has to be done according to planning law is completely wrong, we take things to the planning committee so we can overturn planning law and make decisions which are in the best interests of residents.”

Cllr Steve Weisinger outlined the problem facing councils trying to stop developers having carte-blanche over the town.

He said: “Developers come in, get applications approved, then sit on the fence - the limits need to be changed so that if they get an application granted they need to do it within 12 months.

“Even if Swindon Borough Council had refused every application, the developers would’ve gone to appeal and won because Swindon doesn’t have a good enough housing supply.

“It’s a country-wide issue and we need to take this further, invite Justin Tomlinson to a council meeting to say how disappointed we are and ask him what he will do as an MP to get the planning situation changed.”

Cllr Charles Adams said: “I never experienced such a high level of disillusionment with Swindon Borough Council and what is going on than I did during that meeting.

“This will keep happening until we see a change right at the top with the environment minister.”

Cllr Pam Adams said: “We had a planning officer at meetings while we developed the plan and he approved them and encouraged us to go in this direction.

“The plan was based around this approval of our ideas, so we have to ask why they accepted this plan if they have no intention of sticking to it.

“People need to know that this has happened because of the powers that be who are negating all the work that we did.”

But it wasn’t all bad news. Thousands of pounds of funding has been given to Highworth by developers as a result of the application being approved.

Pauline added: “We have managed to get three items for Highworth in the 106 agreement, with £20,000 to be spent on the skate park, resurfacing the Brewery Street car park, and helping to pay for gym equipment at the recreation centre, so at least we got something out of it.

Cllr Lynn Vardy said: “I’m sad to hear of the 106 money as I think it’s bribery and I don’t think it makes it any better that this application has gone through because it opens the floodgates.”

Councillors brainstormed plans for the future.

Mayor of Swindon Maureen Penny said: “I don’t think the Neighbourhood Plan was a waste of time, though I’m as angry and disappointed as anyone else.

“We should be on the attack to make sure these are really good-quality homes and the access is good.”

Lynn added: “Shrivenham Road has become a nightmare. These houses are going to generate more traffic and there are very few paths, we should ask what we want on that road for safety.”

Town Clerk David Lane said: “Swindon has thrown in the towel because they don’t have a choice.

“We have outstanding business with Wroughton, who are in the same boat as us, so we should get all parishes to meet and think up a joint strategy. “

Cllr Keith Smith said: “We have to keep fighting this.

“We have lost one battle but if we work really hard, we can start to win a war.”