THE elderly former owner of a Highworth farm is upset by a developer’s plans to build 190 homes on the site - but may be legally unable to stop them.

Eric Barnes sold the land covered by Catsbrain Farm to Castlewood Commercial Properties on the apparent condition that it was for industrial development only and was due to discuss his displeasure at the developer's plans at a Stratton St Margaret Parish Council meeting but had to go to hospital. Mr Barnes' neighbours attended the meeting in his stead to listen to councillors discuss the issue.

Coun Theresa Page said: "I'm sad about what's happened to Mr Barnes. I don't know what he can do to change this if he didn't put the condition in when he sold the land as part of the agreement. I know he would have done it in very good faith and believed what he was being told, he's very trusting, but if it wasn't in writing as a caveat that it was sold under an agreement for industrial use only, then..."

Coun Tim Page said: "Unless the land was sold with a covenant on it, I can't imagine there's any legal route he can take. Once something is sold, it's sold and you can do with it what you wish."

Couny Barry Jenkins made a similar point and suggested that Mr Barnes mention his concerns directly to the borough's planning committee.

One neighbour noted that the man who dealt with the sale "made himself a very close friend to Eric, but since it's gone through he hasn't seen him once so it's a double blow for Eric really because he's disappointed with the land and feels that he's lost a friend, he's very upset."

Chair Stuart Leach said: "We sympathise with Mr Barnes and hope he gets better, though unless he has something in writing, the gentleman's agreement which he thinks he has made may not be a gentleman's agreement. Swindon Borough Council is having having difficulty with some parts of the proposal, like the access along Kingsdown Road and traffic movement over the humpback bridge where the railway used to be. As a parish council planning committee, which is only advisory, we back up the objections that were made by the borough. "

The 6.5 hectare site on Catsbrain Farm would also have a new children’s play area, seating and picnic areas and a trim trail as well as community allotments if Castlewood Commercial Properties get the go-ahead from the council.