Highworth Road – This, the first main road off the Coxwell Road runs along the greenstone ridge overlooking the Thames Valley and links the ancient hilltop settlements of Coleshill, Highworth, Blunsden and Swindon. On a map of 1910 there were no houses on this end of Highworth Road at that time, except for a few farmhouses, and no side-roads up until the turning to Great Coxwell, just before Badbury Hill. There were just two farmhouses, Fairview and Viewlands up to what is now Westland Road, both losing their farms due to expansive housing developments in the 1970s. Houses and bungalows were strung along the left side of the road in the 1920s followed by the right side in the 1940s.
A field on the steep slope leading down into the Thames Valley, a green open area which serves a purpose as an unofficial and very popular recreation space for walking, dog walking and winter sledging, and is right on the boundary between town and country. A public footpath runs down the right-hand edge bordering the Orchard Hill housing estate. It is well used for access to Canada Lane and both the infant and junior schools. The tree-line below marks the start off an ancient track and footpath across open country to Badbury Hill running parallel to Highworth Road and linking up many farms and estates on the way.
At the beginning of the 21st century, numerous green fields surrounding the town were being allocated for large housing developments and in 2013 developers were lining up to get speculative building development plans for this site accepted. The local population rose up against it, petitions were signed, and many laborious meetings were attended (myself included). In March 2013, the Vale of the White Horse District Council refused planning permission submitted by Gladman Developments Ltd to build 94 houses on the site, but then the company put in an appeal. In April 2013, an application was made by local resident Robert Stewart to get the site registered as a Town or Village Green under the Commons Act 2006.
A public inquiry took place on 1st-9th July 2014 at Sudbury House. At the end of it all, the inspector recommended that the appeal be allowed and building permission granted. As a consequence, in November that year, the town council voted, against much public protest present at the meeting, to remove the earlier designation of the site as a local green space on the Faringdon Neighbourhood Plan that was being developed at that time. In February 2015, the secretary of state at the time disagreed with the inspector of the inquiry, dismissed the developer’s appeal, and gave the go ahead to allow the site to be registered as a Town or Village Green.
A further 5-day public inquiry took place in March 2015 at the Sudbury House Hotel to discuss this matter. It was hotly contested by the developers and land owners. Issues were raised by institutions such as the National Trust, Natural England and Thames Water, and by many local people. Masses of folders four inches thick appeared on the desks. The following September, planning inspector Dr Charles Mynors published a very thorough report (occ-humpty-hill-inspector-report-2015) on the inquiry and recommended that the field should receive TVG status. Thus in November, Oxfordshire County Council’s planning committee voted unanimously to register the area as a town or village green – it was declared that “the meadow must now remain open space and cannot be developed”. However, the inquiry’s recommendation and the County Council decision were challenged by the land owners and Gladman Developments, but the decision was upheld by the High Court in October 2016. Apparently an appeal would still be possible but as yet in 2020 none has been reported. It has to be said that if it wasn’t for all the hard work and determination lead by one individual, Robert Stewart, throughout this process then the developers would very likely have had their way in the end. One can only imagine how much all of this cost to prevent a field totally unsuitable for development for so many reasons from being buried under concrete.