POLITICIANS across Swindon have condemned a developer who has gone straight to the Government for a final say on its scheme.

The Swindon Gateway Partnership wants to build more than 1,500 homes and a university campus on land at Coate – between the M4, Marlborough Road and Coate Water.

An initial plan for the site was hatched in August last year.

Since then council officers have been in talks with the partnership over concerns about the fine detail of the plan.

By June, the developer had appointed consultants to revamp its plans which were put to the council.

They included provision for a university at the site although the firm refused to say which institution it would be. Now, three months on from submitting tweaked plans, the partnership has appealed to the Government for a decision – meaning elected Swindon councillors will not take the final decision on the project.

“A planning application was submitted to the local authority last year, who have unfortunately failed to reach a decision,” said Richard Briggs, managing director of Persimmon Homes special projects.

“This has left us no other option, but to submit an appeal. The appeal submitted is fully compliant with local planning policy and so we are confident the planning inspector will issue consent. When submitting our outline application, we followed the national guidelines set and met all requirements by detailing our design parameters.”

The site was earmarked for a university campus years ago but when the University of Bath pulled the plug on the scheme last February, the site’s future was cast into doubt.

Since then Swindon Council has been in talks with the University of the West of England about establishing a town centre campus. No deal has yet been struck.

“We have always said that we wouldn’t accept a housing development there without a university – it was also one of our 50 Promises to Swindon in 2004, that we would protect the special character of Coate. And we wouldn’t agree to anything that would compromise that,” said council leader Rod Bluh.

He added that worries over the project’s design and proposals to protect Coate Water, were not strong enough.

“The bottom line here is that officers have been concerned about this because it’s a very poor application.”

Councillor Kevin Small (Lab, Western) is the leader of the Labour group on Swindon Council.

He said: “I’m very disappointed that they have chosen to bypass local democratic decision making.

“It gives a clear indication to me that they have no interest in Swindon.

“The Labour group is opposed to the development on this site, and now there’s a plan for a university in the centre of town there is no longer any need for development here.”

And Councillor Stan Pajak, (Lib Dem, Eastcott), leader of the Liberal Democrats on Swindon Council, said: “I am totally opposed to what this partnership is doing – it sounds like they are trying to buck the system and not allow councillors to have their say.

“From what I have seen so far I fear the Environment Secretary may make the wrong decision on this.”

Despite the issue now going to the Government the council’s planning committee will still consider the plan.

Whatever decision it makes on the plan will be fed back to government, as it considers whether or not to approve the scheme.