Justin Tomlinson MP

Justin Tomlinson MP

MP For North Swindon

Highworth Link Article - Highworth Has Had More Than It's Fair Share Of Building Development

As we enter 2022, I have been struck by the constructive and highly visible ‘Save Highworth’s Old Golf Course’ campaign.

I have met with representatives of the campaign group who were always well prepared, well researched and presented their case strongly. I have seen the 4,500+ petition and you can’t fail to notice the posters proudly displayed across Highworth. The scale of opposition to the proposed houses is clear.

I have previously written about the process for identifying land for new houses across Swindon. This will form a new Local Plan – once agreed, this will provide full protection to land outside the Local Plan from speculative development. In recent years without a Local Plan we have seen first-hand how developers have been able to secure new sites across Highworth, with little or nothing the Borough or Town Council can do to either block, or shape these developments.

The vast majority of the draft Local Plan is not contentious – whilst new development is often not welcomed by existing communities, the balance seems to have been struck. Ahead of Swindon Borough Council’s crunch meeting on January 20th the areas still for debate are Highworth’s old golf course, and various proposed developments in Wroughton.

For me, balance is key. We need a Local Plan. Without one we have seen numerous developments across Highworth, in particular along Shrivenham Road. These combined with the other planned developments through the Neighbourhood Plan, will see Highworth grow by 25% over a matter of years. That is more than enough, and demonstrates that Highworth is providing more than its fair share of development for the Borough. So on balance, the additional housing at Highworth’s old golf course is too much. Alternative site(s) could and should be found for the Local Plan.

I have never been an MP who calls for more housing nationally whilst opposing development in my area. Instead, I have sat down with developers to try and shape developments with maximum green space and investment for local communities, rather than just oppose which then inevitably leads to developers winning on appeal and reducing their spend on the community. It has always been about balance, and every community in the Borough should play its part equally where possible. Highworth has done so without the need to build housing on a much-loved green space.

Along with Cllr Steve Weisinger, I have made strong representations to Cllr David Renard, Leader of Swindon Borough Council. Proposals for the 350 houses at Highworth’s old golf course need to be removed – something Cllr Steve Weisinger will formally press at the January 20th meeting, with my full support. This site needs to remain for the community, solely for leisure use with a long-term, sustainable plan that protects the site both now and in the future.

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