Why are around 8,000 homes being built on countryside in a development called 'The New Eastern Villages'.
The Swindon Borough Local Plan was adopted in 2015 and set out the level of housing, employment and other development needs up to 2026,
where this should be located, and the infrastructure that is required to enable this development to take place.
Previous the Labour Government in 2009 had
supported growth of some 12,000 homes in the same area, which were fortunately rejected.
The land on which the New Eastern Villages will be built is not owned by Swindon Borough Council. It was promoted by landowners (farmers,
land agents and promoters with developers to a smaller degree) over 20 years. The area was accepted as suitable to enable sustainable growth in the Town when combined with the infrastructure required
to support the development.
For some years the planned developments stalled and Swindon Borough Council was successful in bidding for around £75m of government funding
to 'unlock' the growth by forward funding the upgrades to White Hart Junction (£30m), Gable Cross (£8m), Oxford Road/Nythe Road junction and Piccadilly roundabout at Covingham (£7m) and constructing
the SCR (Southern Connector Road c.£40m).
A SCR is a new strategic road from Commonhead to Lotmead which would accommodate traffic flows from the Southern part of the
development. It acts very effectively as a bypass for Wanborough, meaning that traffic will not drive through the village to access the M4 etc. There will be a signalised junction with Wanborough
Road to allow traffic from Wanborough and Covingham to continue to travel as it always has done, but to prevent traffic from the main area of the NEV (Lotmead etc) from turning left towards
Wanborough). It also means that traffic can't come from Covingham and turn right onto the SCR.
There are two/three access points planned for the A420 to enter the NEV and the internal road layout will be designed so that these various
access points do not encourage 'strategic journeys' as the roads will enter the various new 'villages'. Strategic journeys pas the NEV will use the new and vastly improved A420/White Hart route to
access Swindon and the M4.
Funding was also specifically allocated for Wanborough as 'Measures to minimise rat
running' in the plan - to 'deter' through traffic and this was delivered in 2022 primarily implementing the High Street traffic calming scheme which formalised parking areas, installing
'build-outs' to slow traffic and installing heritage 'primrose' double lines to stop parking inappropriately (which would have caused issues with the new calming features).
The original trajectory for building the NEV was envisaged to start in the North at Rowborough/South Marston and then build towards the
South (at Redlands and Foxbridge).
The Redlands development was promoted outside of the planned trajectory and after a succesful planning application was finally
granted consent in 2019 for 370 homes and a Primary School.
As the development at Redlands was in accordance with the adopted Local Plan I proposed at the Planning Committee that the application be
granted, but I obtained some useful concessions including camera monitoring of traffic flows, to ensure that if they exceed predicted numbers measures could be considered to stop this traffic. It was
also agreed that the Wanborough traffic calming scheme would be implemented before the development took place. As a condition of the Redlands consent, the Wanborough Road will be
narrowed and a pavement installed from Wanborough to Covingham as well as installing 'build outs' to slow traffic and a new priority junction with the development.
I was keen back in 2016 that the Southern Connector Road was delivered as early as possible to start to accommodate the traffic from the new
development areas. The land for the SCR was obtained through a compulsory purchase process which took some years to complete and then the route had to be carefully planned to avoid areas of high
sensitivity in terms of archaeology.
Lotmead now has consent for some 2,500 homes including two primary schools and extensive sports facilities. There are
also large areas of land protected for ecology, including river corridors and open spaces with public access. The SCR is the primary access point but with up to 200 homes off the Wanborough Road
directly by the existing Lotmead business park entrance.
Great Stall East (accessed off the A420) is now consented for around 1500 homes and will provide the Eastern entrance
to the NEV as welll as the 3,000 pupil secondary school, cricket and football facilities and a sports hub.
Foxbridge North was granted consent on appeal in November 2022, having been refused by SBC as funding was not being provided at a
level which could deliver the primary school. This site has access only to the SCR.
Foxbridge South has planning consent (December 2023) but with no school!
The development shall provide (amongst other things):
- about 6,000 dwellings (south of the A420)
- about 1,500 dwellings (north of the A420)
- 500 dwellings at South Marston
- about 40ha of employment land
- about 12,000m2 (gross) of retail floorspace
- comprehensive community infrastructure including sports and leisure
facilities, education provision, community facilities and a healthcare facility
- high quality public realm including outdoor civic public
- sustainable transport links including: walking and cycle network
improvements that integrate with existing networks and provide good connectivity within the development and to the surrounding area
- an extensive green infrastructure network that maximises
opportunities for habitat connectivity and enhanced biodiversity including extending the River Cole green infrastructure corridor and connecting with Nightingale Wood
At Wanborough Road - a new signalised crossroad junction. Traffic movements at this junction are restricted, as
• From north-east (proposed Lotmead village, NEV): Straight ahead towards Commonhead only.
• From the south-east (Wanborough Road, Wanborough): Straight ahead to Covingham, and left turn onto the SCR only.
• From south-west (proposed Foxbridge village and Commonhead): Straight ahead towards proposed Lotmead Village, and right hand turn
towards Wanborough only.
• From north-west (Wanborough Road, Covingham): Straight ahead towards Wanborough only.
New Eastern Villages: BOTH APPROVED JUNE 2020
Two hugely important applications
came to Planning Committee on the 9th June 2020.
At Symmetry Park the application
was for a B8 Employment use building, which at some 2.3m sq.ft will bring significant new employment (up to 1500 jobs) to the area.
The site is already allocated in the NEV
Master-plan for employment, so is not controversial and contributes towards the £72m of highways improvements currently under way in the immediate area including White Hart Junction, Gable Cross, Southern Connector Road etc.
Contributions also include over £600,000
to the Great Western Community Forest.
The other major planning application
is for 2,500 homes at Lotmead, Wanborough. This includes a large Sports Hub, Village Centre, two primary schools as well as connections to the adjoining development parcels. Lotmead is also an
allocated site within the planned 'New Eastern Villages' of 8,000 homes and the applicants have worked closely with planners and members to address previous concerns.
Measures have been agreed to assist with
traffic calming in Wanborough and the design of the junction between the main access (the new Southern Connector Road) and Wanborough Road is designed to prevent 'rat running'.
Both of these are further milestones in
seeing the long planned development come to fruition.
Your Ridgeway Ward Councillor.
The New Eastern Villages (NEV) is
one of the largest greenfield developments in the country. It will consist of 8,000 homes, new schools, employment spaces and community and leisure facilities.
It will be located to the east of
the A419 and is estimated to span 724 hectares, with its eastern boundary reaching the point at which the River Cole meets the A420.
Key cycling and pedestrian routes
will be incorporated in the development and there will be plenty of green spaces, including a nature reserve, playing fields and allotments.
The district centre and new
secondary school will be particularly important in establishing a sense of place and reducing pressures on existing facilities in Swindon. A GP surgery will also be built along with a library and
numerous other community facilities.
In order to allow the development to
progress, a number of highways improvement schemes are due to take place.