THE planning inquiry into the building of 175 homes on land next to Lydiard Park opened yesterday.

A long-running battle to prevent the building of the homes on a site off Hook Street and next to Lydiard Park is still going on, despite the council planning committee rejecting the plans.

Following an appeal by Primegate Properties Ltd on behalf of Bovis Homes SW Ltd, the public inquiry began yesterday at the Steam Museum.

Planning inspector Geoffrey Hill has been appointed by the Secretary of State to oversee proceedings and to make the final decision on the appeal.

He said: “There are two issues here for me. The first is whether this is a suitable location for new development in the context of adopted and emerging development planning policies and guidance with particular regards to housing local supply and the strategy for distributing development in Swindon.

“The second is the effect of a proposed development on the Lydiard Ridge area, the setting of Lydiard Park and the rural/urban edge of Swindon.”

The inquiry heard opening statements from Anthony Crean, representing Swindon Council, and Patrick Clarkson, representing the developers.

Mr Clarkson was first to speak and said that the council’s rejection of the plans went against the five-year housing demand.

“There is a shortfall of housing supply,” he said.

“The council have decided to dismiss the development when they only plan 850 homes for the next five years to 2016.

“That, we say, is a cavalier rejection to the five-year approach and compares to a throttling of economic growth for Swindon.”

Mr Crean said: “It is self-evident that the site and the surrounding area is hugely inappropriate for development.

“The grant of application here would indicate to other developers that greenfield sites were acceptable to develop.

“The consequences of the development go far beyond the site itself.”

Members of the public attended the inquiry and are due to speak this afternoon to voice their objections to the plans, including the Lydiard Field Action Group, Friends of Lydiard Park and Coun Peter Greenhalgh, the ward councillor for Freshbrook and Grange Park.

South Swindon MP Robert Buckland is due to speak on Thursday voicing his concerns for the development.

The inquiry continues today at 10am at the Steam Museum and is due to run until Friday.