LAND earmarked for a £19m eco-development could instead be snapped up by local residents determined to derail the scheme.

Residents living near Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud’s Pickard’s Small Field site, in Gorse Hill, are hoping to have part of the land designated as a village green.

They are angry that the development could increase traffic, create noise and disturbance and scare away wildlife.

They are also concerned that local children will be forced to play in the road if the land is built on by developers.

The debate centres around a plot of land known as Kembrey Grass, which backs on to houses in Tiverton Road.

Residents are opposed to a planned development of 200 homes on the site and nearby Pickard’s Small Field, which is currently being negotiated between Swindon Council and Mr McCloud’s company – HaB Housing.

Now residents are calling for an independent hearing of their application, because they believe there is a conflict of interest for the council.

Campaigner Josie Lewis is angry that the council has not allowed more scrutiny on the matter.

She said: “Every time this comes up at council meetings the press and public are excluded. We want to push for an independent hearing on this so that it is all out in the open.

“We think that our application has a good chance because under a little-known by-law you only have to prove that the community has been using the land for 20 years. We have been using it for more than 50 years.

“It’s a nice space for children to play without their parents worrying about them. There is all sorts of wildlife that use this area – I’ve seen deer, foxes, squirrels and all sorts.”

Frank White, another resident opposed to the scheme, said: “People move here because it’s peaceful, because you can feel you’re out of the town even though you’re just by Cricklade Road.

“But that will all change if they get their way – the traffic is going to be horrendous, no matter what they say.

“Cricklade Road is already a nightmare. Plus, where are the children going to play if they take away that land? They are going to have to play in the street.”

A spokesman for Swindon Council said: “We have received the application and we will be considering it.”

Mixed reaction to project

RUMOURS that Kevin McCloud had grand designs on Swindon have been circulating for more than two years.

In 2007 the TV presenter announced that he had chosen Swindon for his first foray into house building.

His company, HaB Housing – which stands for Happiness, Architecture, Beauty – announced the aim of creating sustainable communities with environmentally-friendly housing.

Since then reaction to the development has been mixed, with some welcoming the addition of more sustainable housing in Swindon, but others concerned about issues such as access and the removal of allotments to make way for the houses.

In August Mr McCloud was forced to respond to suggestions the project was in tatters after a new firm of architects were recruited and he reiterated his company’s commitment to Swindon.

Developments have been thin on the ground since then, but the Advertiser understands that an announcement about the future of the project could be made soon.