The size, and shape, of a proposed new housing development in Shaw in Swindon has lead to some puzzlement.

And the thought that perhaps it’s an attempt to avoid having to build affordable homes.

Swindon Borough Council owns a patch of green land, a former children’s play space, off Pilgrim Close in Shaw.

The council’s own housing company has applied for planning permission to build 14 bungalows on the land. It will sell them and raise money for the council to spend on its services.

But a couple of aspects of the application have raised eyebrows.

When the housing company was set up there was listed the hope that 16 homes could be built in a ‘Shaw Village’ plan.

Under the council’s own policy, any development of 15 houses or over automatically triggers a requirement to build affordable housing.

The shape of the scheme is also slightly odd. While the plot of land is broadly rectangular, the housing scheme application excludes two slivers of land either side of a central road from the plans, leaving a ‘waist’ effect near the entrance to the site.

That means the size of the site under application is 4,986 square metres, just 15 sq m shy of the 5,000 sq m threshold which, again, would trigger the requirement for affordable housing to be built as part of the scheme.

One neighbour who has written to Swindon Borough Council in objection to the scheme thinks it perhaps isn’t a coincidence.

The resident wrote: "The current proposed development is now just 14 square metres (about the floor area of a single garage), short of automatically triggering provision for affordable housing on this site.

“The developers have designed a contrived, contorted and bizarre site boundary to achieve a figure that is conveniently just below the 5,000 trigger point.

“Utilising the total area of the site would allow for more parking spaces, wider access roads and additional tree planting to replace the ones being removed for the building construction. I object to this ridiculous, cynical and obvious manipulation of the planning system in the creation of the weird and artificial shape of the proposed site. I object to this blatant avoidance of the obligation to make provision for affordable housing, and bending of the rules to achieve that end.”

A spokesman for Swindon Housing Company said: “The development at Pilgrim Close is one of a number of small-scale developments that have been identified on plots of land owned by the Council.

“The company has been tasked to assist the Council in raising additional revenue through a commercial house building programme and all profits generated are returned back to the Council to help support existing Council services.”