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"University Belongs in the Town Centre"
SAVE COATE! PRESS RELEASE
Campaigners call for conservation area at Coate
26 January 2005
Campaigners call for conservation area at Coate
The Save Coate! coalition  is calling on Swindon Borough Council and the Government to designate land at Coate and Badbury Wick as a special
Campaigners believe that the archaeological and historic importance of the area under threat from development of 1800 houses, offices and university
buildings is unique. They say that a conservation area would require that any new buildings would need to be sympathetic to the surroundings and not
detract from its history. The coalition has written to Councillor Mike Bawden, as the leader of the council, and to Julia Drown MP to set the wheels in motion as both the Local Planning Authority and the Government have powers to designate conservation areas.
Coate boasts a host of Bronze Age, Romano-British and Medieval history that spans a period of up to about 3000 years. The oldest known ancient monuments at Coate are the Neolithic Stone Circle and the Bronze age burial mound along Day House Lane. However, no less than six Stone Circles have
been recorded in the Coate area linked up, in part, by avenues of large Sarsen stones. The remains of one of the stone circles probably still lies at the bottom of the lake at Coate Water  whilst other ancient finds are dotted around the area that include evidence of Medieval settlements.
The Richard Jefferies association is also unique. Recognisable land-marks can still be seen that were highlighted in his 19th century writings. Whether it is the land that featured in his children's book 'Bevis' that took in Coate Farm, Day House Farm and Coate Water, or his autobiography that described his spiritual uplifting experience of walking from Coate Farm to Liddington Hill or his walks to Hodson and Chiseldon or indeed the 'Little House at Coate', that is now the Richard Jefferies Museum, where he was born and bred - all are important to our heritage. John Betjeman launched a high profile and successful campaign exactly thirty years ago, that included support from other well-known authors and celebrities Spike Milligan, Richard Adams, Ronald Blythe, Robert Dougal, Henry Williamson and Johnny Morris, to save Coate farmhouse buildings that the former Swindon Borough Council sought to pull down.
The Brickworks at Badbury was once a listed building whilst there are commanding views of the area from the Iron-age hill fort at Liddington and
from Coate Water that is also of historic interest as the reservoir built to feed the Wilts and Berks canal.
Speaking on behalf of the Save Coate! campaigners, Jean Saunders said:
"Fourteen thousand people have signed a petition in support of protecting
this area from development. However, if these buildings are forced upon us,
the exceptional quality of the area must be reflected in the building
materials and designs used. It will add insult to injury to use modern
architecture in this setting. The use of traditional building materials is
vital to blend into the rural landscape and be in keeping with the history.
We believe that the best way to achieve this is to designate the land as a
"Thirty years ago, a prestigious group of celebrities had to fight to save Richard Jefferies birthplace from the council. Now thousands of people are
supporting the battle to save Jefferies Land from council planning policy. Swindon Borough Council now has an opportunity to redeem its bad record, by
doing something decent for local people."
Dr Sue Stebbing, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary spokesperson for South Swindon, commented:
"I think it is disgraceful that volunteers should apparently be battling alone to protect such an important and historic landscape. I applaud their initiative in seeking Special Conservation Area status for Coate and Badbury Wick and I hope that this will finally make Swindon Borough Council wake up to the fact that Coate has a value far greater than its financial worth to developers."
 Save Coate! is supported by local organisations and concerned individuals that include Friends of the Earth, Trades Union Council, Animal Concern, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Greenpeace, Civic Trust, Friends of Coate Water, Liberal Democrats, Socialist Alliance, Green Party, Liddington Parish Council, Chiseldon Parish Council, Wiltshire Badger Group, Ramblers Association, Forest Protection Group and the Richard Jefferies Society
 A D Passmore and the Stone Circles of North Wiltshire by Aubrey Burl, Wilts Archaeological & Natural History Magazine, vol 97 (2004), pp 197-210
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT
Jean Saunders on 01793 783040
SWINDON FRIENDS OF THE EARTH: DEVELOPMENT PROPOSALS FOR COATE ARE NOT CLEAR CUT.
Swindon Friends of the Earth claims that the recent recommendation to develop at Coate is not as clear cut as the public have been led to believe by Swindon Borough Council and Wiltshire County Council. The consultation process that selected Coate in the first place also came under criticism by the government's planning panel.
The report, produced by the planning panel who conducted the hearing into the Wiltshire and Swindon Structure Plan to 2016, has now been made available to the public . On closer inspection of the document, environmentalists claim that whilst the Panel support some development at Coate, they made it quite clear  that existing wildlife should be protected and that their habitats should be enhanced. The Panel suggests that extensive buffers must be provided around Coate Water Site of Special Scientific Interest and that general landscaping should be undertaken to protect the views from the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Recognising that the archaeology of the area might throw up further hidden surprises, the Panel has asked for a detailed archaeological survey to be carried out before any plans are drawn up.
Jean Saunders, campaigns co-ordinator for Swindon Friends of the Earth said:
"Once a full environmental study of the area is carried out, and assuming that a thorough inspection is made, we are confident that a one kilometre
wide buffer of landscaping will be required around Coate Water to achieve these goals."
Swindon Friends of the Earth also state that the Panel were scathing about the public consultation process that led to the councils' selection of Coate
in the first place . A Principal Urban Area study was carried out by Swindon Borough and Wiltshire County Council that informed the ultimate site
selection. The Panel wanted to know why public opposition to building on Swindon's Rural Buffer land was considered a no-go area whilst the strong
emerging public opinion against building at Coate is being completely dismissed by Swindon Borough Council.
Mrs Saunders added:
"The truth is that no-one was consulted about the option to build at Coate. Meetings have taken place behind closed doors. If the public had been
asked, the council will have heard a resounding 'no-way'."
At an Examination in Public of the Wiltshire Structure Plan review to 2016 this summer, there was a one-day debate about whether Coate is the most sustainable location for a university and for housing. Whilst there was little support for the proposed policy to develop Coate expressed by the majority of participants, the government’s planning panel will now have to make a recommendation that should be published around November.
The Public Inquiry into the Swindon Local Plan review to 2011 is expected to start in November 2004. It is anticipated that those who lodged formal objections to the Coate policy proposals will have an opportunity to put their case to the planning inspector in January 2005.
The developers have not submitted a planning application to Swindon Borough Council but sketch details have been revealed. The land next to Coate Water, at the Marlborough Road end, will be taken for houses surrounding Day House Copse nature reserve and the Neolithic Stone Circle and burial ground. No “buffer” land is proposed between the Country Park and the houses. The university buildings would be accommodated on the remaining land west of Day House Lane and next to Coate Water with a very narrow strip of buffer land left next to the nature reserve. More houses are planned between the university and hospital along with a small extension to the hospital. The business premises are proposed next to junction 15 on the M4 motorway. There are two access points from Woodbine Terrace at Coate
"We were deeply moved by a sense of such history and natural preserved beauty. I am deeply saddened to think that this area is under threat of development." Mrs Lucille (Jefferies) Adameck
"It is shocking that an alleged seat of learning should propose such a barbarian act based on such a spurious argument so arrogantly put." John Walsh
The full Plan can be viewed online
or at council offices and in local libraries.
Extracts from the Plan
(thanks to Simon Bridewell)
There is a comprehensive briefing
by Jean Saunders of Swindon Friends of the Earth, including How You can Stop the Urban Sprawl
and What Else is Wrong with the Plan?
(thanks to Simon Bridewell).
Briefing on the Pre-inquiry Changes to the Local Plan
Save Coate inaugural meeting
There is a discussion document
available arising from an open meeting of Swindon TUC on 5th November 2003.
At this meeting, members of the local branches of the following organisation spoke against the plans:
Animal Concern, Swindon
Campaign to protect Rural England, Swindon & N Wilts
Friends of Coate Water
Friends of the Earth, Swindon
Green Party, Swindon
Liberal Democrats, Swindon
Socialist Alliance, Swindon
Swindon Civic Trust
Trade Union Council, Swindon
The above organisations have all officially endorsed the campaign, and have been joined by the following:
Alliance of Literary Societies
Chiseldon Parish Council
Front Garden Action Group
Liddington Parish Council
New Mechanics Institution Preservation Trust
Old Town Group
The Ramblers Association, NE Wilts
The Richard Jefferies Society
Swindon Socialist Party
Swindon Forest Protection Group
Wiltshire Badger Group
The following websites have links to this site, expressing concern at the proposals:
The Megalithic Portal
UK Wildlife Links
Any further endorsements of the campaign are welcome!
The Richard Jefferies Society objection
Print little campaign cards/stickers from MS Word
Statement of principle
We believe that development of the Coate area will have a devastating impact on wildlife at Coate Water nature reserve. It would desecrate an area that has strong historic, literary and recreational attractions and destroy the last remaining pocket of unspoilt countryside close to Swindon. Coate Water Site of Special Scientific Interest contributes to the very best of the rich variety and abundance of wildlife that makes England's nature special and distinct from any other country in the world.
We demand that a one kilometre buffer of land is left undeveloped next to Coate Water.
We call upon Swindon Borough Council to say NO to development at Coate.