A PLAN for an estate of luxury homes in Highworth is the biggest - but not the only - obstacle stopping a £6m training site for Swindon Town being approved.

The proposed 18 houses would form part of a complex around the former Twelve Oaks Golf Course which includes a new training ground for the League Two team and a training centre and track for racehorses.

Though submitted as separate planning applications, Highworth councillors considered all three as one because they are interlinked - and unanimously recommended that the borough reject them.

The minor changes made in the revised plans made no difference to the issues that councillors had with the complex: neighbours’ complaints about possible noise and light pollution, the size of the site ruining Highworth’s ‘hilltop town’ status, and the unanswered question of whether the town’s own football teams would be able to share use of the new all-weather pitch.

Coun Gerry Evans said: "I still can't see why the equestrian centre and football training centre depend on the development of 18 executive dwellings which I see as progressing towards Lechlade and going away from Highworth being a hilltop town."

Coun Paul Newton-Smith added: "There's a history with this, it's going on and on and I don't see a great deal of change."

Mayor Julia Bishop said: “I visited the site and I was absolutely astounded by how vast it was, it will have a massive impact on the area... this could be huge, so it has to be looked at carefully."

Taken in isolation, the plans for the horse training centre with barns for 20 stables and 30 horse boxes had support from three councillors - though some of it may have already been set up.

Coun Alan Bishop said: "The racehorses and track are already there. The revised consultation's changes are very minor and I don't think much has changed at all, especially its layout."

Coun Nick Gardiner said: “The equestrian centre is a good asset for the town and I would like to see them work with neighbours on their objections."

Coun Graeme Olley agreed, saying it was an opportunity to create employment, but Coun Keith Smith did not, saying it was totally out of proportion with the surrounding area

Coun Ken Saunders added: "They have been occupying the site for some considerable time but originally, it was stated they shouldn't be in occupation until they comply with contamination, drainage, ecology and other matters which they are just ignoring."

The training ground itself would include a headquarters building and ancillary accommodation, a single-storey equipment store building, the re-grading of ground levels and laying out of grass football pitches, the construction of all-weather pitch and associated works including a pumping station.

Clerk David Lane suggested that Swindon Town should offer to share their pitch because Highworth FC and junior FC had hoped to build a new one but the FA would not allow two new pitches to be built in the same area.

Swindon Town CEO Steve Anderson was approached for comment.