Spatial squabbling

Both the blue and red nests seem to be keen to blame t’other side for proposals to build 3000 houses to the west of Swindon. The government’s representative in South Swindon, Ms Snelgrove, would have us believe that it’s all the fault of the blues.

Under current proposals Tory run Wiltshire County Council plan to build 3,000 new homes neighbouring West Swindon…. The Regional Spatial Strategy that sets out housing numbers for each local authority area was drafted by the Tory controlled Regional Assembly (now known as the South West Leaders Council).

Naturally, her opponent lays the blame on the reds.

Yesterday, Labour bizarrely criticised the Conservatives for the Regional Spatial Strategy, which has led to plans for 3,000 houses next to West Swindon. But only four months ago, Labour’s South Swindon MP strongly supported the RSS, saying, “it lays out important manageable growth figures for Swindon”.

As is so often the case in politics, all are suffering from selective memory loss.

The Regional Spatial Strategy is a consequence of the planning legislation introduced by the current government (red). The housing targets in it were set by the government (red). The strategy itself was produced by the South West Regional Assembly, now known as South West Councils (both blue). This is a document that seems to aim to solve the housing problems of rural Devon and Cornwall by building in the corner of the region that is furthest from those two counties — 34,000 houses were to be built in Swindon. Not satisfied with this distortion, the government (red) added another 2000 houses to Swindon’s allocation plus another 1000 in North Wiltshire in ‘urban extensions’ to Swindon.

Where to put those 37,000 houses? The Regional Spatial Strategy identified a large area to the east of Swindon, the Eastern Development Area. Swindon Borough Council (blue) in the first draft of their Core Strategy identified a number of other ‘areas of search’ where there could be significant development. One was at Tadpole lane. It also suggested where the urban extensions in North Wiltshire added by the government should be: near Ridgeway Farm and Moredon Bridge. Neighbouring North Wiltshire District Council (varying hues) objected to Swindon making plans beyond its border.

Now Wiltshire Council (blue, successor to North Wiltshire District and Wiltshire County Councils) is consulting on its own Core Strategy. It allocates land near Swindon’s western border for 3000 houses. In doing so it follows where the Government’s development strategy, the South West Regional Spatial Strategy and Swindon Core Strategy have lead.

With that provenance, neither main party is innocent in the conversion of Swindon into a suburban sprawl.