A CONTROVERSIAL plan for 900 homes on land neighbouring Coate Water has been given the green light by a Government inspector.

The proposal by Persimmon Homes and Redrow Homes to develop land at Commonhead, off Marlborough Road, was rejected by Swindon Council’s planning committee last year, and more than 50,000 people signed a petition resisting the outline application.

But now the Planning Inspectorate has said the development, which includes 890 homes, a village centre and a primary school, can go ahead.

The decision has dismayed campaigners, including Jean Saunders, who spearheaded the Save Coate campaign over several years.

“It’s a tragedy,” she said. “Even though I was expecting it it is still extremely disappointing. The most worrying aspect is this is going to be the start of something bigger as the developer won’t be happy until they have built on all the fields.”

A report by Inspector Geoffrey Hill released yesterday stated that Commonhead had been earmarked for housebuilding in the council’s draft Core Strategy and that the arguments of residents over the impact on Coate Water and Richard Jefferies’ Land were not adequate grounds for refusal.

It is understood the developers have pledged about £6m in a Section 106 agreement to help fund infrastructure – £350,000 of which will be spent on improvements to Coate Water itself.

Swindon Council leader Rod Bluh said: “We fought every inch of the way to get the very best development we could on this site in order to protect the country park and the surrounding area. We have succeeded in doing that.

“People might not like it, but we would not have been able to resist development at Commonhead forever, and as today’s decision has proved, we always knew we would never have the final say.

“I would remind people that in 2009 we successfully fought off an appalling scheme which would have seen 1,800 homes right next to Coate Water, and on that occasion we were backed by the planning inspector.”

Robert Buckland, MP for Swindon South, said the recommendation was ‘deeply regrettable’.

“When I spoke at the inquiry, I made it clear that this development was completely inappropriate, and that remains my strongly-held view,” he said.

“I will now be discussing the way forward with Swindon Council and with the relevant government minister.

“Coate Water is a jewel in south Swindon’s crown, and I will not stand by and see it tarnished by this unacceptable development.”

A spokeswoman for Redrow said: “Redrow is extremely pleased to have received planning approval for the Commonhead site in Swindon.

“Redrow now looks forward to delivering this much needed development at the earliest opportunity.

“Redrow’s New Heritage Collection of detached family homes will be a real asset to the Swindon area."