CHEERS greeted news last night that a Park South green space would be saved from future development.

And this morning, councillors have taken to social media to announce a handful of sites that have been removed from the Swindon Borough Council’s strategic housing economic and land availability assessment as potential development land.

Among them are Oldlands Walk in Park South, Lakeside near Lawns Park, Rannoch Close in Sparcells and The Willows site in Peatmoor.

Oldlands Walk removed

More than 120 people wrote to the council asking for the Oldlands Walk site to be removed from the assessment, ward and parish councillors made their own representations, and last month scores of frustrated residents demonstrated against the inclusion of the Park South green space in the plans.

At a public meeting at a Park South community centre last night, Gary Sumner, the borough’s lead for strategic development, announced the site would be one of those saved from the builder’s digger.

“We have gone through a detailed review of comments that came in,” he said. “We really appreciate people went to the time and trouble to comment on this process.

“That site is coming out of the SHELAA process. We do listen, believe me.”

He said the Oldlands Walk site had originally been included in the development process in good faith by the borough’s property team, as it had the potential to provide affordable homes for low-paid staff working at the Great Western Hospital nearby.

Praise for residents who responded to consultation

Phil Smith, a planning officer at Swindon Borough Council, praised residents and councillors for the quality of their responses to the plan consultation: “The councillors and other people involved did their homework, reading the local plan and the national guidance.”

The site was removed from the housing assessment over its importance as an important amenity for the local community.

The borough would now enter negotiations with South Swindon Parish Council, who hope to take a 99 year lease on the land. Parish chairman Chris Watts said he wanted Oldlands Walk to be declared a village green, which is a specific designation in planning law.

'I'm delighted'

Residents at the Park South residents welcomed the decision to remove Oldlands Walk from the process.

Pauline Hall, from Park South, said: “I’m so happy. I’ve been living here for 37 years. My children and grandchildren have played on Oldlands Walk. Everyone gets together in the summer and plays games there.”

Eileen Short, a resident of 17 years, added: “I’m delighted that they’re not going to build on it and it will be there for the children.”

Zachary Hawson, an Eldene parish councillor, said he was pleased the Oldlands Walk site had been removed by the borough: “There was a real strength of feeling.”

Fellow parish councillor Bazil Solomon added: “We all sent stern messages to Swindon Borough Council that that land is protected green and open space. Developers cannot be given the contract to build on the tiny pieces of land on our doorsteps where our children play and wildlife flourishes.”

...but nearby site could still be built on

While there was rejoicing over Oldlands Walk, Coun Sumner said a piece of land on the opposite side of Queens Drive, near Marlborough Road, would stay on the strategic housing land assessment and be put forward for the next consultation phase in 2019.

Council officers think the land, between Marlborough Road and Queen’s Drive could be developed into affordable bungalows.

Last night, some residents raised concerns about the site being liable to flooding. However, Coun Sumner said any future development would need to gain planning permission and would be subject to a flood risk assessment.

Other sites left off SHELAA

Councillors have this morning taken to social media to announce other sites that will be removed from the strategic housing assessment.

Keith Williams said Rannoch Close, Sparcells, and The Willows site near Clayhill Copse, Peatmoor, had been removed: “Many thanks from me, Nick Martin and Mary Martin to all of you who wrote in raising objections. Planning reasons have been identified that clearly render the sites as unsuitable. The land will continue to be retained as open space.”

The inclusion of Lakeside, overlooking Lawn Woods, had proved controversial. Parish councillor Nick Burns-Howell said he was delighted the borough had listened to residents’ concerns.

Swindon Borough Council is yet to officially publish a list of sites removed from the SHELAA. The full list is expected later today.