Crunch, Stretch, Weave

Swindon Eastern Development AreaI spent yesterday wading through Swindon Borough Council’s consultation document on the proposed Eastern Development Area. With the main document running to over 90 pages, and almost 240 pages of supporting documentation, it wasn’t easy going. The consultants seem to have been enjoying themselves, with the document stuffed full of jargon. I have now been introduced to phrases such as “functional green infrastructure links”, “benchmark for exemplar sustainable development” and “urban acupuncture”.

It’s only once one has got through almost 30 pages of this guff that there’s something of substance about what is actually planned. For those living in South Marston and East Swindon it’s bad news.

It is important that South Marston retains its independent identity as a settlement and does not coalesce with Swindon.

The consultants have an… errm… unique way of doing that. The proposals change South Marston beyond recognition, more than doubling it in size, or in planner-speak “significantly enhance the sustainable credentials of the village”.

For those in East Swindon, there’s just a few fuzzy words about not increasing the likelihood of flooding, with nothing to say about the severity of flooding. There’s much talk of the ‘benefits’ the development might bring to East Swindon, but these are dependent on the most expensive option — The Crunch — being selected: an option that requires government subsidy to bury the A419 at the White Hart Roundabout. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that with the current government having run up a level of debt that would shame a 1980s third-world dictator, that money isn’t going to be forthcoming. Which leaves us with one of the other options, The Stretch or The Weave — just what were the consultants on? — with a new town centre facing South Marston across the railway line as the most likely outcome.

Unusually for anti-development campaigns in Swindon, the campaigners actually seem to have got their act together and learnt from the mistakes of some of the less effective recent campaigns. No petitions, but 200 individual responses submitted to the council. The last time there was a consultation on a similar matter, the Central Area Action Plan, the number of responses from individuals could be counted on one hand.

The consultation closes at 4.30 pm tomorrow.