The latest piece in Swindon Town owner Lee Power’s jigsaw development of a former golf course near Highworth can be slotted into place.
The football club’s application to build 18 luxury houses on the land once used by Twelve Oaks Golf Club has been approved despite opposition from neighbours and councillors.
And it only scraped through by the casting vote of Swindon Borough Council’s planning committee chairman Tim Swinyard.
The committee had split down the middle, with seven votes for and seven against Mr Power’s plans – and as Coun Swinyard had voted for the plans, they were passed.
The committee had only been reduced to 14 members because councillor Malcolm Davies’ internet connection to the meeting had failed for several minutes at the start of the item – and by law he had to withdraw from the meeting and not vote.
The football club’s plan will see 17 five-bed and one four-bed detached houses built on a rectangle of land to the south of the main access to the golf club of the A361 just north of Highworth.
Across the access road Mr Power has already been given permission to construct a new training complex for the football club and a racehorse training stables.
Speaking in favour of the application, the club’s agent Danielle Wyatt Bond said: “This development will add to the demographic of Highworth, attracting young families to an ageing town. It will provide support to the mainly independent shops and facilities in Highworth High Street.”
But ward and parish councillors and residents from Highworth were united in opposing the scheme.
Sarah Freeman, who runs a farm next to the development, said: “The benefits the club says will come to Highworth from this are nothing to do with this site; they could come from any greenfield site around Highworth. Using this logic, any such area could be built on.”
The chairman of the town council’s planning committee Julie Murphy was very much against the application – particularly as the plans include no affordable housing
She said: “This footballers’ village does not meet the housing needs of the area.
“It extends urban sprawl into a rural area and it will bring no benefit to the community.”
Borough councillor Maureen Penny criticised the plan because it was outside the Highworth development area, was on land not in Swindon’s Local Plan designated for housing and would affect the dark sky area and sense of remoteness.
With planning officers having recommended granting permission, some committee members said the matter was a very fine balance.
Coun Swinyard’s casting vote having decided matters, Swindon Town FC will be required to pay the borough council £600,000 in contributions in lieu of providing affordable housing as part of the planning conditions.
The club has not yet responded to a request for comment.
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