HIGHWORTH residents voted in favour of an ambitious plan which will help them direct new housing developments in the town.

The Highworth Neighbourhood Plan has been in the works for three years and after months of meetings and consultations between councillors and residents, it was put to the public vote in a referendum on Thursday.

This was the final stage of the development process for the plan and its fate was left in the hands of voters.

If they'd rejected it, the plan would have been scrapped and councillors would have had to go back to the drawing board.

The purpose of the plan is to give residents more of a say in where new housing can be built in the town and stop developers from having carte-blanche over the local land.

Highworth now follows in the footsteps of other towns in the county like Cricklade and Malmesbury who adopted their own Neighbourhood Plans in recent years.

Town Councillor for Swindon and Highworth, and new Mayor of Swindon, Maureen Penny was delighted by the referendum result.

Mayor Penny said: "We had a really healthy 36.5 per cent turnout, it meant people were interested in what we we doing, which is important.

"It's been a hard slog for three years and I'm really pleased with the result."

The plan required more than 50 percent of the vote to succeed and it received 70 per cent.

1,692 people voted in favour of implementing the plan, 727 voted against it, and three spoilt their ballots.

The plan will now be part of Swindon Borough Council's Local Plan and become a main consideration in the planning system when decisions on new applications are being made.

It can't be used to deny development but can direct new housing to locations that are agreed upon by the council and the community.

This plan includes elements other than housing, such as infrastructure, tourism and protection of open green spaces, which will also have to be fulfilled.

Highworth Town Councillor and Chair of Planning Pauline Webster oversaw the plan's lengthy development process.

She said: "The result is very encouraging and it was a team effort to get this far, thank you to the residents of Highworth for coming to the consultation events and supporting us all the way through.

"Paul Smith at Swindon Borough Council worked hard with us to get the plan through and Highworth Town Council office staff pulled out all the stops to get it ready.

"It's been a very busy time but now we'll deal with regular everyday council stuff for a while."