Council opts not to take legal action over Marlborough Road development following expert advice

Swindon Borough Council will not challenge the Government’s decision to allow 103 homes to be built off Marlborough Road in Wroughton, after seeking legal advice from a top planning barrister.

The proposed development was initially refused by the Council’s planning committee in 2015 as it is on land that is not included in the Wroughton Neighbourhood Plan or the Swindon Local Plan. The development is also outside the settlement boundary, while residents raised particular concerns about road safety.

But, after developer Hannick Homes appealed the decision, a three-day public inquiry in January resulted in a government planning inspector making a formal recommendation to the Department for Communities and Local Government on the merits of the application. Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, ruled in favour of the developer last month approving the planning application.

Since the Government’s decision was announced, the Council has been exploring all the available options to assess if the proposal could be challenged. But expert advice from a leading planning barrister has concluded that while some minor aspects of the decision could be challenged, they would not be sufficient to override the planning decision.

Cllr Toby Elliott, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Sustainability, said: “We have made no secret of the fact that we entirely oppose this development and we have been working on behalf of local residents to ensure these houses are not built. We have looked at all the options and instructed a leading Planning QC to see if we could override the decision of the Planning Inspector and Secretary of State.

“Unfortunately, the advice we have been given is that we would be very unlikely to succeed in such a challenge. Although we cannot stop the development, the applicant will have to submit full or reserved matters applications and we will be encouraging the developer to actively engage with the local community through a liaison group so local people can have a say in developing the details of the scheme.”

The Secretary of State upheld the Planning Inspector’s view that even though the development was not included in the Wroughton Neighbourhood Plan or the Swindon Local Plan and had received significant opposition from local people, it would go some way towards satisfying a shortfall in the Swindon housing supply.

Cllr Elliott added: “We want to encourage development in Swindon, but it has to be in the right areas which is why we have developed neighbourhood and local plans. Planning permission has been granted for a significant number of sites in the borough, but developers are not building at the rate both the Council and the Government appointed Inspector into our Local Plan envisaged. This has put pressure on other sites.

“We are working hard to boost our housing supply figures and will shortly be publishing a list of brownfield sites, and other land put forward by the development industry to highlight available sites to small and medium builders, which will help to diversify the market.

“The Council is also embarking on a house building programme of its own and has established a housing development company. Alongside this, a review of the Local plan has also started, alongside Wiltshire Council and consultation on a first options paper is anticipated in the late autumn.”