Swindon & Wiltshire Business News


Swindon Chamber acts to avoid ‘infrastructure gridlock’

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Les DurrantLes DurrantSwindon Borough Council has committed to working with business leaders to create an economic plan for the next 30 years after fears of UK-wide ‘infrastructure deadlock’ were raised by chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission.

Lord Adonis had warned that the government must tackle congestion, capacity, and carbon to prevent the UK’s roads, railways and skies from becoming gridlocked.

Swindon Borough Council’s assurance to the business community came at a cabinet meeting last week, when planning expert Les Durrant, who chairs Swindon's development delivery panel, urged the council to take a longer view on economic strategy.

“The panel has expressed its concern that the council’s economic strategy has a timeline to 2026, Wiltshire and Swindon’s local plan programmes have timescales to 2036, whilst organisations such as Highways England, who are responsible of the planning and delivery of key infrastructure, have investment strategies to 2050,” he said.

“Bearing in mind the urgent need for infrastructure to support the development needed to maintain prosperity associated with growth of Swindon, the SDDP would like to see a long term strategic vision to 2050 and alignment of economic and spatial planning timescales to this date.

“This has already been called for by Swindon Chamber of Commerce in their representations to the draft economic strategy. What is cabinet’s view on the appropriateness of this, bearing in mind the amount of employment and housing development that would need to be accommodated in the period to 2050 and the position of the administrative boundary between the two authorities?”

The cabinet member for strategic planning and sustainability, councillor Toby Elliott, responded: “Long-term planning for housing, infrastructure investment, and the economy is essential. Our adopted local plan looked at options to 2026 and within a year of it being adopted we started work on our Local Plan Review.

“This new plan, working in conjunction with Wiltshire Council, will extend our horizon to 2036. This will enable both local authorities to support managed housing and business growth. Over the coming months we will also look beyond this time frame and I am happy to work with a wide range of stakeholders in developing these ideas.

“I can confirm that we are currently undertaking work with key stakeholders, which includes the Swindon Development Delivery Panel, on a plan that extends up to 2050; however, these negotiations are still in an early stage of development.”

The development delivery panel will now be seeking a similar commitment from Wiltshire Council at its cabinet meeting on November 7.

Campaigning for infrastructure improvements locally and regionally is one of Swindon Chamber’s stated policy priorities.

The Chamber is particularly concerned with the creation of a Junction 16A on the M4 as the start point for a new western link road to connect with the A419 north of Cricklade, and the extension of Thames Drive into the town centre. Investment in railway services to London and creation of a third runway at Heathrow are also priorities.

The Chamber is also committed to the creation of a ‘2050 Vision’, which “maximises the potential to align economic and land-use planning to most effectively shape and frame Swindon’s future”.