A BID by the Richard Jefferies’ Society for nearly £600,000 to improve its museum, if “environmentally and culturally damaging” development at Coate goes ahead, has been thrown out.

The society opposes Swindon Gateway Partnership’s (SGP) plans to create 1,800 homes, a university and employment land on 200 hectares near Coate Water.

But members had agreed that if planning permission is granted they would apply for £596,200 of Section 106 money to improve facilities at the museum.

Jefferies, who was born in 1848 in a former farmhouse at Coate, was an author and defender of farm workers’ rights.

In a representation, first submitted in response to a Swindon Council consultation paper on SGP’s proposals, Jean Saunders and John Price, of the society, said: “The development proposals for Coate are the most environmentally and culturally damaging in the history of Swindon’s expansion programme – if this development goes ahead then the developers should be made to pay heavily for the loss of cultural heritage of ‘Jefferies’ land’.

“The museum, old cottage, out-buildings and grounds have been grossly neglected by Swindon Council. Development of the Jefferies’ farm for alternative uses, whether this has been for garages, hotels, road-widening or car-parking has not resulted in any money being spent on the Jefferies’ Museum.

“Despite the site being part of ‘Jefferies’ land’, the developers of the Great Western Hospital made no contribution to the loss of a literary heritage site.

“The Swindon Gateway consortium proposal will finally destroy the setting of Jefferies’ home and the landscape that influenced his writing. What remains of Jefferies’ literary heritage needs preserving at all costs – developers should expect to pay dearly for the lack of consideration for what we are about to lose.

“It seems that everywhere other than Swindon appreciates the work of this great writer.”

But SGP’s legal team rejected the society’s pleas, saying that as the council had no agreement to fund improvements there was no requirement for them to either.

Mrs Saunders said: “The Richard Jefferies’ Museum will get nothing despite the fact that the literary value of the appeal area will be lost completely. I hope that David Richards, the planning inspector, will see through all the garbage and come down in favour of recommending that planning permission be refused.” Swindon Council and SGP spent yesterday hammering out the finer details of the application to build at Coate.

SGP has submitted its conditions for the proposal and yesterday was spent considering Swindon Council’s objections.

They cover everything from the timing and duration of any development to conservation and biodiversity issues.