Planning Objection from Robert Buckland MP
Reference S/OUT/18/1943 -A Hybrid Planning Application for a Science Park and associated works - Inlands Farm.
I have been contacted by many local residents in and around the area of this proposed development, as well as members of the South Swindon Protection Group.
I am extremely concerned to see that the application relates to a site that is not within the development boundaries as outlined in Swindon's Local Plan. I also note this this land is not proposed as suitable for development by the Council as part of its Review of its Plan.
The proposed development is largely within the designated ‘Area of Non Coalescence’ and the ‘Setting’ of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which has national protection. From my own previous experience as your MP, other applications in Swindon have been refused for this reason. National guidance has confirmed that great weight should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty in AONBs which have been confirmed as having the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty.
Turning to the Swindon Local Plan, there are two policies that are of particular relevance. Firstly, Policy EN2 states that 'Swindon Borough is set within a beautiful landscape context including the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'.
Secondly, Policy EN5 in the Plan states that 'The North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a nationally recognised area of landscape protection. Proposals within the Borough which are within and or abuts the North Wessex Downs AONB must accord with relevant criteria set out in the AONB Management Plan and paragraph 115 and 116 of the NPPF. Proposals outside the AONB should not adversely affect its setting.'
This application is in direct conflict with policies EN2 and EN5. I am very supportive of the success of companies such as Wasdell and the significant contribution they make to our local economy.
I have worked with them and Cllr Gary Sumner to help identify more suitable sites in Swindon where they could expand. I have long opposed applications that are not in accordance with Swindon’s Local Plan, however.
For these reasons, I feel compelled to raise objections on behalf of me and my constituents.
A hybrid planning application was submitted for 'Swindon Science Park' in December 2019 - despite the name the detail very effectively shows a huge industrial development between 'The Marsh' & 'Pack Hill' on the edge of the AONB!
Comments closed 31/1/2018 - however you can still submit comments until the Planning Committee date is announced (likely to be June 2019) and the application can be found at S/OUT/18/1943
Background: Residents in Wanborough, Covingham, Liddington and the surrounding villages are NOT NIMBY’s
We have accepted the principle of 8,000 homes to the North of Wanborough (coming as close as Redlands and Foxbridge) as well as a huge employment site at Symmetry Park. We have accepted roads, schools, shops, District and Local Centres - probably 15-20 years of building.
This was all agreed in the 2015 Swindon Local Plan which carefully assessed the housing and employment requirements to 2026.
Swindon Borough Council proposed and the Planning Inspector agreed to an 'Area of Non Coalescence' designed to protect the villages from being joined to the Urban area of Swindon.
This proposal: The ‘Science Park’ or more precisely the industrial park would join Wanborough to the Urban area. The first and most obvious building is a 50’ high, 33,000 sq.m distribution warehouse for Wasdell Packaging, with lorry loading bays and the main cavern filled with racking. The designs show it clad in coloured panels and (on one side only) they propose to shield it behind a 50’ wall of ivy.
They reference established ‘Science Parks’ – many with trees and planting schemes established over decades. They are not proposing – and nor would it be possible to hide it behind 50’ trees from day one – or for decades.
Phase 2 is another very large, possible expansion building for Wasdell. But as this is not yet required this does not form part of the outline application.
A ‘Science Park’ would follow 'they say' (subject to demand). There are absolutely no guarantees this would happen.
About the location: Inlands Farm is established good arable farmland, rising in the East to the Upper Wanborough Conservation Area and to the South ‘Pack Hill’ which forms the boundary with the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The AONB as well as the 'setting' of the AONB have national protection. For this reason, applications close to Lydiard House (for example) have been refused because often the 'setting' is as important as the designated asset.
The 'setting' of the hillside village and Conservation Area of Upper Wanborough has designated significance (as evidenced in previous appeal decisions) and again few people would argue that the village (when viewed from the area around 'Great Moorleaze' at the entrance to the AONB) would disappear behind the 50' high industrial building and its attendant lighting, noise and infrastructure. About 80% of the site sits in the Area of Non Coalescence designed to protect Wanborough, the AONB and other villages from coalescing with Swindon. It is an open landscape with few major trees for example meaning that anything which is built will be obvious.
The Commonhead roundabout and the planned Southern Connector Road are the gateway to the 8,000 home ‘New Eastern Villages’ development. Siting an industrial area at this entrance may lower the wider value of the residential development and thereby compromise its delivery.
Making comments: Please concentrate your comments on the practical - and ALL COMMENTS MUST INCLUDE YOUR ADDRESS:
There are some important policies within the 'Swindon Local Plan' which are relevant - bear in mind this is not a Housing application so the Local Plan is still a living and relevant planning document':
1) This site is not allocated for development - housing or employment. It is largely with the designated 'Area of Non Coalescence' and the 'setting' of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'
Policy NC3 in the Local Plan states (bullet e): The character and identity of Wanborough, Bishopstone and Bourton will be protected by a principle of non-coalescence between the settlements. The land between the New Eastern Villages site boundary and the existing villages shall remain part of the countryside. However, small scale development within this area, as defined on the Policies Map, will be permitted where it retains or enhances the existing character of the countryside and:
involves the re-use, conversion or extension of existing buildings at a scale appropriate to their location, in accordance with the criteria specified in Policy DE1; or is an essential requirement directly related to the economic or social needs of the rural community.
2) Policy EN2 in the Local Plan states 'Swindon Borough is set within a beautiful landscape context including the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'.
3) Policy EN5 in the Local Plan states 'The North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a nationally recognised area of landscape protection. Proposals within the Borough which are within and or abuts the North Wessex Downs AONB must accord with relevant criteria set out in the AONB Management Plan and paragraph 115 and 116 of the NPPF. Proposals outside the AONB should not adversely affect its setting.'
Policy EN5 further states 'In meeting the requirements of EN5a, applicants for development should demonstrate how they have taken into account Landscape Character Assessments and assessed the potential impact of the proposal upon the following attributes of the landscape: existing landscape form, features, topography and character; the contribution of the landscape to biodiversity and wildlife; local geology and geo-diversity; views, visual amenity and the landscape setting;
Biodiversity - locally distinctive and characteristic pattern and species composition of natural features such as trees hedgerows, woodland field boundaries watercourses and water-bodies;
Geology - locally distinctive and characteristic landforms and topographical features throughout the Borough such as locally important views, visually sensitive sky lines, ridges and valleys;
Views both in and out - visually sensitive skyline, geological and topographical features; and The separate identity of settlements and the transition between man-made and natural landscapes at the urban fringe.
The North Wessex Downs AONB lies to the south, partly within Swindon Borough. Its landscape is predominantly a chalkland landscape of scarp slopes and moulded dip slopes that reflects the underlying chalk geology.
National guidance has confirmed that great weight should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty in AONBs which have been confirmed as having the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty.
NOTE: AONBs are protected under the existing statutory requirements of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, specifically under Section 85 it is a legal duty for all relevant authorities to have regard to the primary purpose of AONBs to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area.
The potential for harm on the setting of the area from large-scale urban extensions is substantial. Any new uses or development proposed outside but within the setting of the area should consider the North Wessex Downs AONB Position Statement on Setting. Proposals should include detailed measures to mitigate against harm on and into the area. Forms of mitigation may include strategic landscape buffers, restrictions on building heights, care over massing and scale, care over roofscape design, or avoidance of development in the most exposed locations.
4) The applicants submitted the site through the draft SHELAA process of the new 'Local Plan' review and the entire site was rejected as unsuitable in the draft conclusions.
5) This is a huge site yet the argument for it's delivery is one employer seeking a freehold base for his distribution business, where convenient with some 'other' employment land to follow.
6) The employment site at Badbury Park was marketed for over 5 years (unsuccesfully) and due to lack of interest it is now going to become 300 homes. Brownfield and other allocated employment sites are available.
7) The New Eastern Villages (NEV) is a long term 'planned' urban expansion to the North of Wanborough - for developers it could be considered to be prejudicial to the delivery of that carefully planned residential led expansion, by having a highly visible industrial development at the Southern entrance, potentially blighting the countryside and the landscape features which could have made the NEV a unique place to live. Tree planting in the AONB at Pack Hill has just taken place supported by Nationwide and the Woodland Trust as part of the NEV infrastructure planning. this woodland will be within 100' of the first factory building.
For research (if you are keen) the SBC Local Plan can be found by clicking here: SBC LOCAL PLAN
Please email your comments to the SBC Planning Officer - Mr Ed Snook firstname.lastname@example.org - please copy me in as the Ridgeway Ward Councillor
Although my Cabinet Role is 'Strategic Planning', I am not a member of the Planning Committee and I represent the residents of my Ward,
who have so far shown overwhelming opposition to this proposal.
Robert Buckland MP has stated publicly that he is against this location for development (whilst supporting Wasdell's wish to expand).
For Ridgeway Ward residents please copy me on your comments: email@example.com
Gary Sumner –
your Ridgeway Ward Councillor
As the proposed 'Science Park' immediately adjoins the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty I thought I would share a useful extract from:
'NORTH WESSEX DOWNS AONB POSITION STATEMENT'
(Development Affecting the Setting of the North Wessex Downs AONB)
1. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are designated by the Government for the purpose of ensuring that the special qualities of our finest landscapes are conserved and enhanced. In planning policy terms they have the same status as National Parks.
2. The primary purpose of the North Wessex Downs AONB is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the AONB. The AONB also has secondary purposes to increase awareness and understanding of the special qualities of the AONB, to take account of the needs of agriculture, forestry and other rural industries and to foster the social and economic well being of local communities and those who live and work in the area.
3. The setting of the North Wessex Downs AONB can be explained as being the surroundings outside the AONB and although outside its boundary its extent is not fixed and may change over time. Elements of a setting may make a positive or negative contribution to the AONB, it may affect the ability to appreciate that significance or may be neutral. For the purposes of spatial planning, any development or change capable of affecting the significance of the AONB or people’s experience of it can be considered as falling within its setting.
4. The surroundings of the North Wessex Downs AONB are also important to its landscape character and quality. Views out of the AONB and views towards or into it from surrounding areas can be very significant. Development proposals that affect views into and out of the AONB need to be carefully assessed to ensure that they conserve and enhance the natural beauty and landscape character of the AONB.