Tag: Front Garden

Poacher turned: an essay in little boxes part 26

After an absence that’s been far longer than I was intending, today marks the start of a return, though in may be gradual at first. And I’ll start that return with an admission: komadori now resides in a housing development he’s spent much time on this blog criticising.

Over a year ago now, someone living near Swindon’s Front Garden since before the new development — themselves no fan of the concreting over of this once green space — commented that, despite their objections, they might even consider one of the houses themselves. Thus when I came to look for a new nest myself, my thought went to that comment. Months later, komadori is settled into his own little box in Wichelstowe.

My view of the development remains unchanged: the Victorian look is a distinctly fake look. Having looked at several of the little boxes before making my choice it also confirmed my view that the differences between the boxes are just superficial. Behind the differing façades in East Wichel are mainly standard Taylor Wimpey/Bryant, Barratt/David Wilson, Bloor or Sovereign boxes. I’d also prefer that they hadn’t been built at all. But they have been built. And for the foreseeable future one of them will be komadori’s home.
The little boxes of East Wichel

A bridge too far: an essay in little boxes part 24

Now I appreciate that both the planning and bridge building processes can be slow and lengthy, especially judging by how long it has taken for Blackhorse Bridge to be reconstructed. Housing development at the moment is even slower. House building on Swindon’s front garden has slowed so much recently — with little likelihood of it picking-up in the immediate future — that the developers are accepting a financial prop from the state. In those circumstances, the recent outline planning application by Arup to build a bridge over the railway line at Southleaze seems a little premature.

Outline application for the construction of a footbridge over the railway line to facilitate pedestrian access between Wichelstowe and housing/ employment areas to the west of Swindon.

The nearest employment areas in West Swindon are two miles from the westernmost extremity of East Wichel. I’m fully in favour of encouraging a healthy commute, but I suspect it will be many years before this bridge earns its keep. In the intervening period, all it’s likely to do is open up Southleaze to further vandalism.

East Wichel up close: an essay in little boxes part 23

Victoriana with a barnRecently I went for a wander along the recently built streets of East Wichel. Despite the intentions of the developers to make it look ‘vibrant’, the main impression is of row upon row of terraced housing; little Victorian-style boxes which, although all different, look drab and monotonous. The only thing to break the monotony are the barn-like blocks of flats: they just look out-of-place.

I’ve also been in receipt of some sales spin from one of the developers.

[T]he town has been inhabited since at least the Saxon times, evolving from a small market town with the arrival of the industrial revolution into the thriving residential and commercial centre that it is today.

Let’s just forget the damage that the current — thriving even — recession has done, shall we?

For sheer variety, Swindon’s extensive range of amenities is hard to beat.

The copy writer must have lead a very sheltered life.

From the quirkiness of the Old Town to the more contemporary retail parks and a designer outlet, shoppers are exceptionally well catered for, with numerous cafes, bar and restaurants to choose from.

No mention there of shops nor of the town centre. Lots of well fed ‘shoppers’ with nothing to buy then. They’ve thought of that though: they have a fitness plan.

In addition to a cinema and arts centre, the town boasts two leisure centres and a golf course.

Just two leisure centres? What’s happened to the other eight?

[T]he ideal base from which to explore many of the museums and historic places of interest which enrich the region.

And what about Swindon’s own museums and historic places? Aahhmmoops!

Low-key worship: an essay in little boxes part 22

I’ve previously commented that the design of some of the public buildings proposed for the concreting over of Swindon’s front garden is, at best, ramshackle. Now it seems that a lack of funds will lead to the few religious buildings heading the same way.

The group called Swindon Churches Together has submitted a planning application for a place of worship portacabin, to be sited in the excitingly named Parcel 23 — or, as it now seems to have been renamed, The Stoweaway — of East Wichel, right next to the police point. I suppose we should commend them for choosing a design that will fit harmoniously with the surrounding development — the police point is also a portacabin.

The churches leading this plan are two local baptist churches, Old Town ecumenical parish and Wroughton Anglican parish. With such basic facilities, it’s not surprising that the group includes churches of a puritan persuasion. The supporting statement from the churches is an odd mix of pathos and over-optimism. First, the pathos.

The traditional church response in new housing areas has been to provide purpose built buildings for worship and with a view to community use. Christ the Servant Abbey Meads and Holy Trinity Shaw are two examples. The buildings have absorbed much money and local energy and with limited effectiveness.

Currently none of the major church denominations has funds available for the building of a church/community building in Wichelstowe.

So, new churches in north Swindon haven’t been a success, but they’d still like to build one in Wichelstowe if they have the money. With that logic, they should be grateful that they’re rather strapped for cash at the moment. Next, the over-optimism.

A new approach for community building
We would like to be on site as soon as possible offering moving day support and community information in order to welcome newcomers…. To fulfil this brief we would like to install a portakabin to work from that will also be a focus for early community activity. This might include a toddler groups
(sic), youth activities centre, a meeting place for community groups as well as a place for health professionals, council officials and members as well as other community activities.

That’s an awful lot to pack in to a single cabin that’s smaller than the homes little boxes being built around it. Unfortunately, in the current economic conditions, it’ll probably be the only community facility in Wichelstowe for quite some time. For that reason alone, one has can only wish them success.

Filling up… slowly: an essay in little boxes part 21

Unique, allegedlyI read that East Wichel now has its second resident. A month after the first residents moved in, they now have some neighbours… so they won’t be the only people on their new bus service. And if their housing association landlord is to be believed, their new homes are unique.

Each of the Sovereign homes at East Wichel has been designed so that every house has its own individual character and style.

Hmm… it’s only ‘its own individual character and style’ if you don’t look far… to the very next block of housing association properties, for example.

Painted Ladies

One of the consequences of the tenants being evicted from the farms in Swindon’s Front Garden — rather far in advance of development starting in earnest — is that most of the fields are now overgrown. The abundance of wild flowers makes it a haven for wildlife. Walking along the footpath from Southleaze to Mill Lane at the weekend, it was alive with butterflies, particularly the migrant Painted Lady (vanessa cardui) species.

Enjoy it whilst you can.
Painted Lady Butterfly © komadori

Wichelstowe goes global: an essay in little boxes part 20

I’m not sure whether the developers of Swindon’s Front Garden will be happy about being identified by the International Herald Tribune as

A glaring example of the real estate market gone bad.

Perhaps they’ll take solace from the thought that if the Tribune’s London correspondent believes that Swindon is “about an hour’s train ride south of London” perhaps her understanding of the housing market is as poor as her geography.

At least the international attention will be more welcome to them than the misplaced attempts by the Front Garden Action Group to thwart the sales of houses in the Front Garden. Some of their suggests look like grasping at straws.

There is no supermarket, no schools, no library, a very limited bus service. I think Sovereign are jumping the gun.

Well, the development is closer to those amenities than some existing parts of Swindon. It’s just a five minute walk (I’ve tested that) to the nearest bus service, and another ten to schools, supermarkets and — for the moment — a library in Old Town. Based FRAG’s analysis, parts of Cheney Manor, Moredon and Okus should be declared unfit for human occupation.

Some of the group’s other actions are just pointless obstruction.

Next month we will be writing to solicitors, estate agents, developers and so on to warn them that if they don’t let people know something about the history of flooding and noise at the site they may be opening themselves up to legal challenges in the future.

The law prescribes what information has to go in Home Information Packs. Information on environmental risks such as flooding is optional, not compulsory. But leaving these inaccuracies in what the campaigners are saying aside, just what do they hope to achieve? Do they think that if they can deter people from buying houses in the Front Garden, the developers will then demolish all the houses, dig up all the roads and put the land back to how it used to be? Just look at the area where Westlecott Farm used to be and you’ll see that it is too late to go back.
Westlecott Farm, buried
The damage to Swindon’s Front Garden has already been done — obstructing the marketing process now is just a worthless exhibition of sour grapes.

Nothing to shout about: an essay in little boxes part 19

The news that Sovereign Housing is to invest £ 48M in social housing in East Wichel and Priory Vale is really nothing to boast about. Step forward Mr Renard.

We welcome any investment in Swindon, especially during these difficult financial times. It just goes to show companies are still willing to invest here.

Sovereign Housing Group is a charitable company and gets most of its money for house buying from government grants. If the site of Woolies in Regent Street was occupied by a charity shop, would the council claim that as evidence of a booming town centre?