Hundreds of houses could be built on the open space of Highworth Old Golf Course as Swindon Borough Council considers what to do with it.

Since the golf course closed in 2019 it has been used by people from Highworth as an open green space and it is a popular recreation spot.

 In October last year, Conservative Highworth councillors Vijay Manro and Steve Weisinger put forward a motion to have the space designated as the borough’s sixth country park and sold to Highworth Town Council for £1 so it could manage it.

As the motion involved assets it was not voted on and deferred for consideration by cabinet.

And the report to the Labour cabinet next week makes it clear it will not happen and brings back the prospect of houses on at least some of the site.

The report says: “The strength of local feeling and action the motion is seeking is understood.

“The motion is too simplistic given the legal constraints and cannot be approved. The transfer of the land for £1 would not meet the best-value considerations that the council has to take under section 123 of the Local Government Act.

“In order to act prudently, we need to fully consider the site within the parameters of the wider estates and assets review.

“The council has not made a decision on the long-term use of the site. It is a major asset and initial work has been undertaken looking at options for its use, recognising the current situation in regard to the site having been withdrawn from the draft local plan process.”

Cabinet members will be asked to instruct officers to look at three options, with detailed proposals to be worked up for all three: “1. Modifying the site to provide a country park setting.

“2. As a housing scheme with 400 residential units with 50 per cent affordable housing provision, with the remainder of the site modified to provide a country park setting.

“3. A housing scheme of 700 residential units with 50 per cent affordable housing provision, with the remainder of the site modified to provide a country park setting.”

Leader of the authority Councillor Jim Robbins said: “The Labour group understands the strength of feeling on the issue of the Old Golf Course and is committed to finding a way forward that delivers green open space for the town; but due to the financial situation we inherited we have to be really careful about making prudent financial decisions to ensure the financial sustainability of the council.

“It is clear from the legal advice we received that we would be breaking the law by following the Highworth councillors’ motion.”

Cllr Weisinger was disappointed at the news: “I’m particularly disappointed because in 2022 Labour members, including many in cabinet now, voted to approve a motion I put to council to remove an allocation of 350 houses on the golf course from the Local Plan.

“To see a proposal for even more houses, going from 350 to potentially 700 is much worse and my ward colleagues and I will be attending the cabinet meeting and speaking against the proposal.

“The loss of the green space will be very unpopular in Highworth, it is a well-used and popular space for people walking, walking their dogs, running and spending time out of doors- and the green space has become the gateway to Highworth.”

Cllr Weisinger said the campaign to keep the golf course and open space is also expecting dozens of residents to attend the cabinet meeting, next Wednesday July 17, at the Civic Offices, to protest against any housing proposals.