FIERCE opposition against plans to turn a former golf course into a new football training ground, housing estate and horse training centre could put the redevelopment in jeopardy.

Highworth councillors unanimously recommended that all three projects be refused after concerns were raised about the lack of affordable housing and apparent benefits to the town, and its adverse impact on the local environment.

Similar issues were raised months ago when the plans were first discussed and it seems that little has been done since then to ease their fears. DPDS hopes to construct 18 five-bedroom houses separately from the ones already given the green light.

Coun Keith Smith said: “They are outside the settlement boundary in the neighbourhood plan and Swindon’s local plan, there’s no affordable housing indicated, and the access for children walking to school will be poor. It’s not a good place to put houses.”

The homes would help pay for the new football training facility which would have an all-weather pitch, nine grass pitches, and a new headquarters for Swindon Town FC with changing rooms, conference rooms and a gym.

Coun Nick Gardiner said: “We are a hilltop town and this is going against that, approving this would allow for further dwellings on the green belt. The housing plans went in after the proposed sporting facility, they’re linking the two.” Coun Gerry Edwards said: “It’s a carrot, but a rotten carrot. The land is unsuitable, there are archaeological sites nearby and the area floods.”

Despite assurances that the new HQ would be a community asset, a lack of engagement with the grass roots football community in Highworth was noted. Highworth Town Junior FC worried that teams would not be allowed to use the new all-weather pitch at an affordable rate and that, if this was given the go-ahead, plans for a similar facility to be built in Highworth itself would not be approved.

Councillors were surprised by the addition of an equestrian training facility, in an application lodged by STFC’s chairman Lee Power, which would have two barns with 20 stables and 50 horse boxes, space for paddocks and parking, plus accommodation for stable hands.

A resident who attended the meeting alleged that hurdles had been set up and horses were already being ridden on the site before permission had been given, so Coun Maureen Penny ordered for that to be stopped immediately.

The resident said: “Highworth residents are concerned about the size of this facility and the impact it will have on the landscape and wildlife.”

Coun Keith Smith added: “I can’t see the point of this, who asked for it? Will it be for the town to use or just for the landowner’s horses?”

Mayor Julia Bishop said: “It would have been good for them to come back to us after making such massive changes to give us more detail about the plans, and the issues we’ve raised have not been addressed at all.”

There were fears that the amount of vehicles using the sites would cause problems and the height of the new buildings and floodlights would be an eyesore.