FEARS have been raised over a developer's bid to build 400 homes on former railway sidings.

The Advertiser understands that plans for the development on a site between Dean Street and Wootton Bassett Road could be put before the public within weeks.

Bristol-based agent Turley won a bid to get pre-application discussions heard in private, clearing members of the public and journalists from a meeting of South Swindon Parish Council’s planning committee. Turley is acting for One Swindon Limited.

Despite representations from the Swindon Advertiser, parish councillors chose to hear the pre-application discussion behind closed doors.

Residents on Dean Street and nearby Newburn Crescent said they would not want to see homes there.

Samantha McCarthy, 44, said: “It’s madness, because of the traffic that goes into Rodbourne Road already.

"I don’t know how it’s going to cope with the amount of new traffic.”

Koren Simons, 39, added: “It will block a lot of light out for us and the view. We love seeing the trains, especially my son.”

The Advertiser understands the discussion concerned a 13-acre site behind the Wootton Bassett Road recreation ground.

Jim Robbins, councillor for Mannington and Western, leaked designs for the sidings site on to a residents’ Facebook group. He said: “I was shocked to see the proposal come forward. Knowing the traffic issues in the area it is ridiculous to propose so many houses.”

Peter Lawson, a director at Turley, clarified the reasons to members for requesting the discussion be held in private. “The purpose of coming to you at this very early stage is to have a discussion with you about the issues in relation to developing a particular site.Those issues could well have an impact on contractual negotiations,” he said.

Former railwayman Bob Wright, councillor for the Central ward, questioned why Turley had wanted to discuss the proposal behind closed doors: “I can’t understand why a proposal for developing the sidings site needed to be in private with the parish council. It’s not very democratic. The best way to make a plan is openly and transparently, where all the issues can be heard.”

Other politicians have in the past raised concerns about the potential flooding impacts and effects on wildlife building on the sidings site may have, the Adver has learned.

The site was put up for auction in 2014 by the Homes & Communities Agency, but was withdrawn prior to auction.

The land north of Dean Street continues to be owned by the HCA and has a stated value of £1million, according to the Land Registry.

No planning application has yet been lodged with Swindon Borough Council.

One Swindon Ltd said: “We are currently looking at the potential to bring forward the brownfield Swindon Sidings site for residential development and we are undertaking a range of technical assessments on the site.

"The significant investment will redevelop the brownfield site to provide much-needed housing in a central and sustainable location in Swindon, as well as creating new pedestrian and cycle links through the site, screening of the rail line through new planting and the potential to upgrade and formalise the adjacent area of disused allotments.

“Our initial designs will create a new gateway into Swindon when approaching from the west by rail, whilst taking into account the site’s neighbours on and around Dean Street. As we move forwards we are looking to work with local stakeholders and residents.”