Road link unlocking 8,000-homes to deliver net gain

Plans approved for a 2.5-kilometre link road to help deliver 8,000 homes in Wiltshire will deliver a biodiversity net gain, including for protected species such as the dormouse, according to the local authority in charge of the scheme.

Swindon Borough Council last week approved its own plans for the 7.3-metre-wide Southern Connector Road on the eastern edge of the borough, saying the scheme would provide an overall improvement in natural habitat, known as biodiversity net gain

The single carriageway will link to the borough’s New Eastern Villages (NEV) site and includes new pedestrian and cycle paths, a roundabout, crossroad junction, bridge and culverts. The NEV is expected to provide around 8,000 homes, 40 hectares of employment land and associated retail, community, education and leisure uses –  the largest strategic allocation in the Swindon Borough local plan 2026.

The scale of the project gave “significant weight” to the project being approved, "given the government’s objective to significantly boost the supply of homes,” according to the planner’s report. The report added that the 8,000 homes would make “a significant contribution to meeting the borough's housing supply".

Planning officers also favoured the council’s proposed landscape strategy, which would result in “an overall net gain of suitable dormouse habitats and ensure connectivity with off-site habitats,” by improving connectivity through “new hedgerow and woodland networks and improv[ing] the diversity of habitats”.

The plans make room for five hectares of woodland tree planting and 3.3km of hedgerow planting, which supported the objectives of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and local plan. Bat boxes to increase roosting opportunities would also be installed and a monitoring programme established as part of the council’s planning conditions to ensure a biodiversity net gain is delivered. The report said these measures "would also contribute to mitigating the impact of the proposed development on the heritage assets and landscape".

While the loss of a veteran tree, classed as “irreplaceable habitat,”  went against paragraph 175 of the NPPF, the scheme outweighed its benefits, the planners said. 

Last month, the government awarded Swindon Borough Council £18.9m of Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) cash to help pay for the road. 

A version of this article first appeared on ENDS sister title Planning

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