LAWYERS locked horns yesterday on the first day of a planning inquiry to decide whether to build up to 700 homes at Ridgeway Farm, close to Purton.

Developer Taylor Wimpey is appealing against Wilt-shire Council’s refusal of permission for the development, which also includes a primary school and open green space.

Yesterday, at Wiltshire Council’s offices, in Chippenham, the counsel for each side laid out their arguments to inspector Katie Peerless, who will recommend a decision to the Government.

Anthony Crean QC, representing Wiltshire and Swindon councils, which both oppose the proposal, said: “The appellant invites approval for a massive housing development on a greenfield site in open countryside on land which is not allocated for any development at all in any adopted or emerging development plan.

“The site is a subject of countryside protection policies and the appeal proposals are in conflict with these proposals.”

Mr Crean said the development was not in accordance with the development plan and could not be regarded as sustainable within the meaning of the National Planning Policy Framework.

He said the proposals were based on the abolished Regional Spatial Strategy which imposed top-down housing targets and which he described as fundamentally undemocratic.

Mr Crean said both councils had clear, well-thought-out strategies for providing adequate local housing, with large developments expected soon at Commonhead and Tadpole Farm.

Patrick Clarkson QC, representing Taylor Wimpey, said there was an urgent need for housing in Swindon and both councils were in the process of bringing forward planning strategies identifying the need for housing west of Swindon.

He said the RSS and the structural plan had special provision for 1,200 homes on the western edge of the main urban area, and Ridgeway Farm and Moredon Bridge were later identified as sustainable locations for this growth.

He said the proposal was an appropriate opportunity to speed up the delivery of homes in Swindon.

He accused Swindon Council, with the collusion of Wiltshire Council, of using the planning process to slow down the process and reduce the overall amount of new homes.

He said the National Planning Policy Framework had an assumption in favour of sustainable development, which he claimed applied in this case due to the location of Ridgeway Farm.

He said: “Facilities are within reasonable walking distance of the site, including retail, doctors and a pharmacy.

“The school would be in the heart of the site.

“The existing number 19 bus service is proposed to be diverted to the site, providing a 30-minute service to the town centre. ”

Today others, including MP Robert Buckland, are scheduled to be heard, with the remainder of the council’s and developer’s cases being presented next week.