Plans for the 199-berth inland marina at Swindon were approved by South Staffordshire Council more than a decade ago, despite receiving more than 130 objections from residents concerned about traffic issues and loss of Green Belt land.
A request to increase the development off Swindon High Street to 236 berths was made a year after the consent, but refused permission by the council. And the latest application for the marina was also rejected by the council last year.
A supporting statement submitted on behalf of the applicant said the 51 holiday lodges proposed for the marina would be “high quality and green principled” and contribute to South Staffordshire’s tourism economy. It added that the benefits of the development would outweigh any harm to the Green Belt.
The statement said: “It is considered that the overarching socioeconomic benefits to the area would be significant. The proposal would result in further Full Time Equivalent temporary jobs in construction and FTE jobs in management, maintenance and servicing beyond those associated with the established marina.
“It would lead to increased spending in the local economy. Proportionally the proposals would bring great benefit to the local and wider area of economy.”
South Staffordshire Council said the lodges would be inappropriate development in the Green Belt and would harm the area’s openness.
An appeal against the decision was lodged. But planning inspector Samuel Watson has sided with South Staffordshire Council.
He said in his decision notice: “Whilst the appeal site currently appears undeveloped, I understand from the submitted evidence that works on the previously approved marina have started and that the permission is extant.
“Alongside the marina there would be a visitor centre, facilities building, vehicular tracks and parking areas. A significant portion of the site would be retained for landscaping and planting.
“The holiday lodges would be taller than the marina and likely taller than most boats which would be using it and the canal. They would therefore have a much more prominent visual presence within the site.
“Whilst there are two buildings approved on the site already which would be as prominent, and no smaller than, the lodges, they are very limited in relation to the holiday lodges cumulatively, which would result in a sprawl of buildings across the site.
“Therefore, as a result of their siting and scale in relation to the approved marina, the proposed lodges would have an unacceptable impact on the openness of the Green Belt.”
There were 24 objections to the holiday lodge plans from members of the public.
Elizabeth Vesty said: “The site floods regularly and occupiers of the proposed holiday lodges would be put at significant risk. The downstream flooding impacts of the development on Hinksford Caravan Park also needs to be taken into account, particularly because of the flooding which took place in February 2020 along the Smestow Brook.
“The development provides insufficient parking for the holiday lodges and only a small car park is provided. This will have a significant impact on car parking along Swindon High Street which is already busy and congested in the village.”
Swindon resident Debbie Humphries said: “I wholeheartedly object to this application which in my opinion is simply a way for the owners to generate funds to implement the marina development due to the costs associated with the development. The original application for the marina was made without fully appreciating the true cost of the marina development- had they wanted to allow holiday lodges on the marina site then why was this not included in the marina application?
“This piecemeal application is not acceptable as a way to keep adding to the development of an existing Green Belt area.”