PROTESTORS against the Coate proposals said they had been left to fight their campaign without the support of environmental organisations.

Numerous people from campaigners, to parish councils, to residents stood up at the Coate inquiry to plead the case for why the land should be left untouched.

Speaking outside the inquiry Save Coate campaigner Felicity Cobb said: “We’re amateurs, it really is an unfair contest. It’s like playing rounders with your hands tied round your back.”

The inquiry is looking at Swindon Gateway Partnership’s proposal to build a university campus and 1,800 homes on land near Coate Water.

Also outside the inquiry Jean Saunders said that in recent weeks a number of key organisations had dropped their objections – including the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, Natural England and the Environment Agency.

She added: “There’s that big black hole where nobody is responsible for taking decisions.

“As a result this is what we get, bad planning because it’s somebody else’s responsibility and they haven’t objected.”

They finally got to have their say as the Coate Inquiry went into its seventh day.

Felicity Cobb said: “The land is much loved and there is exceptionally strong concern felt that its special qualities should not be harmed by nearby development.”

Signatures on the Save Coate campaign have now reached 52,000 and listed numerous local and national celebrities.

Mrs Saunders pointed out to the inquiry that the plans would not benefit Swindon greatly because of its proximity to major roads like the M4 and that she did not feel that the effect on people and wildlife had been properly outlined.

“It is very easy to argue a case that students and office workers can readily commute by car and never make any use of the facilities,” she said.

“Housing in the area with close proximity to these roads is more likely to attract workers who commute out of Swindon.”

She said she had seen the flood risk assessment conducted by the developers, which conclude the development wouldn’t add to the flood risk of the properties.

“They were advised to go and consult with existing property owners,” she said.

“As far as I’m aware this didn’t take place.”

In response planning inspector David Richards, officiating, said: “My understanding is that the problems of the flood risk is that the Environment Agency has withdrawn its objections.”

Mrs Saunders responded: “So have a lot of people – it doesn’t mean they’re right.”