CAMPAIGNERS have slammed Swindon Council’s decision to avoid a planning appeal over controversial plans to build nearly 1,700 homes at Tadpole Farm.

Developer Crest Nicholson wants outline permission to construct 1,695 homes on the site at Blunsdon St Andrew, plus other facilities, including a community centre, pub and primary school.

On Tuesday, despite concerns about congestion, increased flooding and lack of school places, the planning committee agreed they could not refuse or defer the application because they claimed there were not strong enough planning grounds to win an appeal.

Therefore members empowered officers to grant final approval in three months, providing Crest Nicholson – through negotiations with officers and ward councillors – can address concerns through agreements and additional financial contributions in this period.

However, Steph Excell, the secretary of Oakhurst Residents’ Association, claims the council should have refused permission, saying the association had researched an appeal case on which the council could have won.

She said that Tadpole Farm is not in the adopted local plan, the application was premature because the emerging core strategy, which earmarks it for housing, has not yet been adopted, and the site is not very sustainable.

She said: “We’re disappointed they didn’t put up more of a fight.

“The application was not good enough for Swindon and therefore if I had been on the committee, which I was before, I would have voted against it.

“There’s little in there for the community as it stands, all we would have lost is £60,000 for two pedestrian crossings, so if I had been the ward councillor there’s absolutely no way I would have recommended approval.”

She said she hoped ward councillors would consult residents to find out what they want from the developer, adding that she would like a dedicated community hall for Oakhurst, environmental improvements to Oakhurst Way, and improvements to a local field containing rare orchids.

Coun Peter Heaton-Jones (Con, St Andrews), who confirmed there would be a consultation, said: “I think it was probably the best decision we could have put forward for local residents. It was quite clear from the advice from planning officers and the solicitor that there were no grounds on which the application could be refused.

“And if it had been refused or deferred, the developer would almost certainly have won the subsequent appeal. So in the circumstances, ward councillors have fought to make sure we’re still involved in the process and we will be making sure we fight for what’s best for our residents in the three months to come.”

John Terry, the managing director at Crest Strategic Projects, said: “We are delighted that the application for development at Tadpole Farm was approved unanimously by Swindon Borough Council’s planning committee, subject to the conditions and legal agreements.

“We will continue to work with the council and community providing more detailed plans throughout construction.”