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Chair: Paul Exell (email: phone: 01793 703276)

Membership Secretary: Sarah McDermott

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Councillors' Quotes at Planning Committee - Cllr Heaton-Jones

And I am not here to represent the Conservative administration of this Council – I am here as a ward councillor to represent the views of residents...To do anything else would not have been honest....Chair, I have to say a phrase that includes the words ‘not worth the paper it is written on’ springs to mind....My job tonight has been to tell you that many residents I represent, many of whom are here tonight, are opposed to this application. I share their concerns, the message is loud and clear, please do not ignore it."

Cllr Heaton-Jones is ward councillor for St Andrews and spoke in this capacity at Planning Committee. 
"Thank you, Chair. I’m Cllr Peter Heaton-Jones and, along with Cllrs Tomlinson and Friend, I am one of the ward councillors for St Andrews ward.  I’d like to start by thanking all of the residents of the ward who have come here tonight, and, reflecting on comments we heard earlier on, many of the residents, and myself, own cars; and surprise, surprise we used them to get here tonight.  We don’t live in a fantasy world where people use them as museum pieces, chair.  I am here tonight speaking as one of the councillors for the ward which this application relates, and I am here to represent my residents.  A great many of whom have made their position abundantly clear to me – they are opposed to the Tadpole Farm development and I am here tonight to give voice to their views and to say unequivocally that I share their concerns.
I am not here to make a technical submission on the intricacies of planning law, to talk about spatial strategies or land supplies or structure plans.  I am here neither to second-guess what decision this committee might make.  And I am not here to represent the Conservative administration of this Council – I am here as a ward councillor to represent the views of residents and to put forward views that they expressed to me; and I’m sure with your forbearance and thanks I will do so.
Now I want to major on traffic and transport issues – not only because it’s the primary concern that residents have brought to me, but also because, although this is an application for outline planning permission, as has been pointed out, it also seeks approval for reserved matters in relation to the access arrangements.
 Let’s put that into English, shall we?  If this gets granted, the access arrangements, where the roads will go, will be non-negotiable from that point forward.  That’s what we will end up with.  So let’s have a look at what Crest will be suggesting – we have seen some of the figures on the screen – there will be very significant increases in traffic using roads such as Tadpole Lane, Saltzgitter Drive, and I declare an interest as I live on St Andrews Ridge and use Saltzgitter Drive all day, also Oakhurst Way and Ermin Street.
It is not in my ward, but one reflects that Blunsdon residents fought for a generation to get a bypass of their village – this seems to turn back that clock.  Now, let’s look at what Crest told us when they briefed members about their figures two weeks ago and some of the figures we have seen on this screen tonight.  How many additional vehicles per hour will use the various access roads into and out of Tadpole Farm at peak time?  These are their figures – using the Blunsdon route of Ermin Street 130, going east out of Tadpole Lane 140, west on Tadpole Lane 100, and using Oakhurst Way 300 additional cars per hour.
Now that total adds up to 670 vehicles from a modern development of 1,700 houses, many of them 3 or 4 bedrooms – are Crest really trying to suggest that only 670 extra vehicles an hour will use the roads at peak time, or are we talking about more of these fantasy exhibition vehicles.  This doesn’t seem to add up to me. 
But even if we do accept these figures, let’s take Oakhurst Way, for example, 300 hundred extra cars an hour is one car every twelve seconds – that’s in addition to the traffic that currently uses the road. Remember – this is not acceptable in my view.  But we must also look at the wider picture, the roads beyond the immediate vicinity of this new development.  Traffic from this new development will automatically be funnelled down, one way or another, onto Thamesdown Drive.  The sign posted route from Thamesdown Drive to the town centre is along Akers Way and through Cheney Manor Industrial Estate to the Bruce Street Bridges.  Try getting into Swindon in the rush hour to the west along Mead Way if you are thinking of using that as an alternative route.
I have to say, Chair, for six years I did use Mead Way to get into the town centre and I don’t recognise the illustration we have been given tonight of the impact that this traffic will have on Mead Way.  And if you try coming down the east side down towards Cricklade Road to the Moonrakers roundabout, either way you are gridlocked before you even add in the 1,700 new houses and all the occupants who will have to use those same routes to get into the town centre.
The figures, in my view, do not add up.  The applicants have come up with the bright idea of the Rapid Transit Bus route – it will sweep us in to town scattering all before it.  At a recent members briefing I asked how long will the Rapid Transit Bus route take to get into town in peak hours from Tadpole Farm to the centre of town?  Do you know the answer I was given by the representative of Crest?  20 to 25 minutes!  Chair, it can take that long just to get along Akers Way from Purton Road to Cheney Manor at peak hour.  This is pure fantasy.
Now on transport matters alone this application is not acceptable – as I have said this is my primary concern because it’s what residents have expressed most concerns to me about.  And as we’ve heard this application seeks recommendation for this as a reserved matter, so if this gets passed tonight this is the highways system we will end up with.
Let’s look at one of the other main concerns that residents have asked me to raise.  That is school places.  We already have a shortage of school places in the northern sector, but is there any cast iron guarantee in this application that extra school places will be provided in time for the significant numbers of new residents moving into Tadpole Farm?  No, there is not!  Yes, space has been provided for a new school – that’s nice.  Is there a timescale for when the school would be built?  No!  Is there explanations of who will build it or operate it?  No!  In short we have no guarantee that there will be adequate school places either for the new children on Tadpole Farm or for the growing population of our current community.
And just for confirmation of that, Chair, this is the addendum to the agenda – which despite, I am told was published on Friday, I only received an hour ago, and I quote from paragraph 4: “Officers are continuing to identify where the necessary trigger points will be for the applicant to release funds to the Council and how the necessary quality of school places can be delivered.”  Chair, I have to say a phrase that includes the words ‘not worth the paper it is written on’ springs to mind.
Now, another matter we must consider here is what the applicant is promising for the village centre.  We have seen some pictures of this on the screen tonight.  We’ve been shown glossy brochures and PowerPoint demonstrations – a High Street, a village green, a local shop, people bustling to and fro with their wicker baskets like a scene from Lark Rise to Candleford.  Haven’t we seen this somewhere before?  Doesn’t this sound rather similar to what we were promised by this same developer at the last major development they undertook – Redhouse village centre?  And have they delivered?  Have they heck!  A lot of residents in St Andrews ward have said, quite frankly, they feel they were sold their houses under false pretences.  Crest did not deliver on promises in their glossy brochures in Redhouse – why should believe that they will do so now with Tadpole Farm?
Chair, I haven’t got much more to say.  We’ve heard that there is a need for new housing in Swindon and we have a duty to supply that housing.  Most residents here, I’m sure, can accept that number, especially as in St Andrews ward we all live in new houses or relatively new houses.  We are not NIMBY’s; we just believe that this is the wrong application for our community.  I said this wouldn’t be a technical speech; it wouldn’t address clauses of planning legislation or quote chapter and verse of core strategy at you.  And so it hasn’t – I don’t believe that was my job today.  My job today was to represent the residents in St Andrews, of whom I am one of the ward councillors, and residents have been telling me from the word go that they are opposed to this application.  I have been telling them all along that I share their concerns and it was my job tonight to express those concerns on their behalf.
To do anything else would not have been honest.  I don’t know what the outcome this evening will be and I am not trying to second--guess it.  The committee will make their own decision, unless anyone has missed this point about my comments tonight, let me be absolutely clear, I have made no suggestion to the planning committee tonight about what their determination should be.  My job tonight has been to tell you that many residents I represent, many of whom are here tonight, are opposed to this application.  I share their concerns, the message is loud and clear, please do not ignore it."