A DRAFT of a plan setting out sites around the Swindon borough for future housing developments is one step closer to approval despite complaints about the strain they would put on roads and GP surgeries.

The borough council passed an early version of the Local Plan which sets out detailed ideas for how Swindon will change and develop in the years up to 2036. It does not focus entirely on housing – there are reports on infrastructure, industry and the environment as well - but this aspect has attracted the most attention and caused the most concern.

Highworth could have 866 new homes built and Wroughton could have more than 600 in addition to any which have been recently approved. Representatives from both areas spoke of their worries about the Plan.

Coun Brian Ford, who stepped away from his seat on the cabinet bench and sat with fellow parish rep Coun David Martin to make his case, said: “We appreciate the huge amount of work that has gone into bringing the Local Plan to this stage but… Wroughton has experienced massive growth and hundreds of houses already - most of which were built by developers against the wishes of residents. We are not against development, but Wroughton has suffered enough.”

He asked that the Local Plan housing sites be the same as those the people of Wroughton approved of in their 2018 vote, especially as one site in the Plan is too far north to be near any shops or regular bus routes.

Coun Martin added: “I’m concerned that the proposed sites will offer nothing back to Wroughton. Existing developments are being marketed on their commuting times to Bristol – that’s not building to support the local area.”

For Highworth, Couns Steve Weisinger, Julie Murphy, Vijay Manro and Alan Bishop stressed that the town had already seen several big housing developments approved and urged the local authority not to ignore a petition signed by half its population (4,500 people).

Coun Weisinger suggested the 350 homes which could cover a third of the old golf course should be cut from the town’s total in the Plan, and pushed for evidence from the borough which proved the hilltop town would be able to cope with all the new homes.

Coun Sumner said of the Local Plan, which has been in the works since 2019: “The public say we build too many houses and the development industry say we build too few. A lack of a five-year housing supply has continued.

“We need to build homes for residents who will live in the borough in future, it’s key to delivering economic growth and employment.”

He added that having specific sites allocated for development in this written document would stop housebuilders from picking any area they want, going on to successfully overturn refusals of their plans because of the housing supply issue then building the estates with fewer of the originally-promised extra benefits.

In regards to Wroughton, he said it was “not possible to dismiss sites arbitrarily based on feelings”, reassured Couns Ford and Martin that infrastructure improvements would be delivered along with the new homes and a bus service improvement plan, and that all the proposed sites had been assessed so “at this moment in time, there is no reason to see them withdrawn”.

As for Highworth, the old golf course is currently classed as countryside and not public space, so it can be allocated for housing and the remaining greenery could become a park.

He acknowledged the public resistance to housing there but recalled that Badbury Park was originally refused by SBC after a 52,000-strong petition but the developers successfully appealed.

Coun Sumner added that the Local Plan could see a new housing estate built 50 feet from his back garden but because he is "not a NIMBY and must practice what I preach", he will not complain about it.

A government inspector will now review the entire plan and decide if the sites suggested for development are sound.