The Oasis leisure centre could be the venue of the next meeting to discuss controversial plans for wind turbines near South Marston after a record-breaking crowd forced the council to abandon its last gathering.
The number of attendees to last week’s planning hearing has now been totted up by the council, and the total smashes all previous records.
The log book by the entrance of the Civic Offices records 496 audience members on that night, when the Honda wind turbines application was discussed – and those are just the ones that remembered to sign in.
It is certainly the biggest since records began five years ago, and quite possibly the biggest ever, according to a council spokesman.
Now committee chairman Dale Heenan says the council is being forced to consider a much larger venue when it reconvenes.
Coun Heenan (Con, Covingham and Nythe) said: “I happen to think it should be the Oasis. I think it would be quite straight forward to sort out 500 people there.”
STEAM, Museum of the Great Western Railway, was another possibility. “The County Ground is also a possibility, but I don’t know if they’ve got the capacity there,” he added.
“It was the biggest meeting ever. It is unprecedented. Even going back to the days of the Poll Tax in the 1980s you didn’t get 500 people going along to a planning meeting. It just shows you the depth of feeling there is on the doors.”
The planning application is for three giant turbines, each almost the size of the London Eye, at the Honda plant.
It has faced stiff objections from campaigners, who claim that there is no other site anywhere in the UK where such giant contraptions are placed so close to large residential areas.
Campaigner Neil Burchell said he expected the next meeting to be even bigger than before.
The 52-year-old cheese importer, of Ash Gardens, South Marston, said: “I’m not surprised. One year ago when we had the first meeting in South Marston, we had 120 people.
“That was before anybody really knew what was going on – when you consider how many people now know about it, it isn’t hard to see why so many have turned out.
“I expect an even bigger number at the next meeting. It just speaks volumes for how much people are concerned.”
And Des Fitzpatrick, 64-year-old leader of pressure group Ill Wind, said: “We thought we had a good case and would have liked to get it tied down on the night.
“But we were delighted with the response from the residents of Swindon saying they don’t like these turbines as close to people as they are planning to put them.”
Coun Heenan also said he is considering asking it to be held on a Saturday, which would allow more residents to come.
It is expected the meeting will reconvene sometime in September, but no date is set.
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