A Shropshire Councillor’s week – 1

From time to time, I’ll write a resumé of my week’s activities, mostly about my work at Shropshire Council and Much Wenlock Town Council, of which I’m a member. I’ve no intention of writing a piece every week (and probably not even every month), but it will give you a flavour of my typical week’s work.

  • On Monday morning I drove to Shropshire Council’s offices at Stanley Lane, Bridgnorth for the South Planning Committee chair’s briefing. I’m vice-chair and have to attend for a number of reasons. Principally, if chairman Cllr David Evans finds himself unable to attend the planning meeting, I’m briefed and able to step into his shoes. Also, if there’s a matter being discussed for the area that a Planning Committee member represents, they take no part in the discussion and do not vote. If David was prevented from speaking, I would take the chair.
  • The briefing was carried out by the Shropshire Council planning officers who would present the application to the meeting on the following day. Also squeezed into the small meeting room was the Council’s solicitor who would be providing legal advice to councillors, and the committee officer who would take the minutes of the meeting. There was a discussion about the key points in each planning application, and a briefing on which members of the public and which representatives of town and parish councils would be speaking. We also decided to ask the committee to vary the order of the agenda in order that the Ludlow supermarket application could be taken first. There was likely to be a lot of public interest and we generally try to ensure that folk don’t have to sit too long waiting for the item they want to hear.
  • Once the briefing was complete, we met South Planning Committee members on the site of a planning application in Much Wenlock. This was for a proposed affordable dwelling development just off the A458 Bridgnorth Road and adjacent to Oakfield Park and the lane to Callaughton.The planning officer described the application, indicated where the site boundaries are and pointed out important aspects that had been raised in the period since the application was made. These included issues raised by neighbours and objectors, such as proximity of existing dwellings and drainage, access and traffic speed concerns. The site visit provides Planning Committee members with the opportunity to ask about physical features on site and to gain an understanding that will be helpful when considering the application at the formal Planning Committee meeting. Members of the public and local councils are able to attend site visits to hear what is said by the planning officer, but they are not permitted to engage in dialogue at this stage.
Callaughton lane planting scheme
Callaughton lane planting scheme

Callaughton lane planting scheme
Much Wenlock Neighbourhood Plan
  • On Monday evening I drove to Shirehall in Shrewsbury to attend a briefing about the new requirement for health and care planning from NHS England – Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP). There has been a significant amount of effort from partners in Shropshire to bring this plan together and Shropshire Councillors took part in the discussion. Prof Rod Thomson (Director of Public Health) and Mel Duffy (Director of Strategy, Shropshire Community Health Trust) have been leading the development of the Shropshire Neighbourhoods work stream and were very keen for us to hear the latest version of the STP plan and hear more details about the Neighbourhood element of this plan.

Fullscreen capture 17-Oct-16 72954 PM

  • On Tuesday morning I met other members of the South Planning Committee at Shirehall and we piled into the minibus for site visits. We set off down the A49 with the first stop being at Dun Cow Farm, Rocks Green, Ludlow where we met the remainder of committee members, who had made their own way to the site of the proposed supermarket. The format of the visit was similar to that in Much Wenlock on the previous day. We then went into Ludlow to take a look at development proposals for mixed use on a site next to the telephone exchange in Lower Galdeford. Then back on the minibus to look at a rural site proposed for an affordable dwelling to the north of Green Lane, Onibury. All three sites warranted us asking a number of questions of the planning officers in preparation for the afternoon meeting.
  • We got back to Shirehall in time for a bite to eat and then I prepared further for the South Planning Committee meeting. I was in the meeting room well before the meeting started and wasn’t surprised to see the public seating filling up quickly.
  • The South Planning Committee meetings are always held on a Tuesday afternoon, which does mean I can plan my availability a year ahead. Cllr David Evans opened the meeting with all eleven members present and dispensed with the formalities fairly quickly. We confirmed the minutes of the previous meeting held in September and then declared any interests. I had no pecuniary interests, but I did declare that I am a member of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership (the Onibury site is in the AONB) and that, as the Local Member for Much Wenlock, I would not take part in discussion or voting on the Callaughton lane proposal.
  • We agreed to alter the order of the agenda so that the Ludlow supermarket proposal could be heard first – the overwhelming majority of members of the public present were clearly there to hear it. The planning officer presented the application, which was recommended for approval. Objectors were heard, as was the local Shropshire Councillor, and then the applicant’s agent sat at the table to expand upon the merits of his client’s application. He didn’t get an easy ride and then David opened this discussion to the Committee. There were widely varying views, and exchanges were heated at times. Officers were pressed for advice and information and, after 2¼ hours, the decision was taken to defer further consideration of this planning application, which  they were “minded to refuse“, to a future meeting. In my experience, this is the longest time for which any planning application has been considered.
  • We dealt with three further planning applications. One was for affordable housing in Onibury, and David Evans (one of two Local Members for Church Stretton and Craven Arms) listened to the planning officer’s presentation of his report, and to representations from members of the public and the applicant. He then made a statement in favour of the application and left the room. I took the chair and, after a detailed discussion, the committee decided to approve the application against the planning officer’s recommendation.
  • The final application was for affordable housing in Much Wenlock. A local resident spoke against the application and another spoke in its favour. A member of Much Wenlock Town Council also spoke in support, which was the Town Council’s agreed stance. I then set the scene as regards the need for affordable housing for local people in Much Wenlock and urged the committee to approve it. The applicant’s agent spoke and answered some questions from committee members, at which point I left the room. I was summoned back a few moments later when consideration of the item was complete and the vote had been taken. I was pleased to learn that it had been approved.
  • At the end of the meeting I went to a different room, where a Highways Maintenance briefing and workshop was about to start. I spent about thirty minutes listening to future plans for Shropshire’s roads and then had to leave for my next engagement.
  • Tuesday evening saw me take a seat in the public area at Broseley Town Council. All eleven councillors and the clerk were present, and the Mayor, Cllr Simon Harris, opened the meeting and referred to his official engagements in the past month. The public speaking session soon passed and the Town Council got on with the business of approving the minutes of the previous meeting and a number of financial matters. I made my excuses and left. I usually only stay at this meeting for half an hour or so, to get a grasp of what public concerns there are and, occasionally, to speak on matters of general interest or which specifically affect the Broseley Wood ward, which is part of my Much Wenlock Division.
Broseley Town Council
Broseley Town Council
  • Wednesday morning saw me join a number of Much Wenlock residents at Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s Board meeting at Shrewsbury Town Football Club. The full story is here. I then left for Shirehall, where I had a chat with a senior officer about the provision of youth activities in Shropshire, and specifically in Much Wenlock and Broseley.
  • Wednesday afternoon was spent catching up on still more emails and dealing with residents’ concerns. On Saturday, whilst shopping in Much Wenlock High Street, I had been approached by a number of people who had queries and I’d borrowed a pen to scratch them down on the margin of my newly-purchased newspaper. I now had to decipher my hand-writing! I also updated my social media accounts – Twitter and Facebook – and this website.


  • Wednesday evening I spent at the monthly quiz at The Pottery in Sheinton Street. Over the years it has raised lots of money for the Scouts and Guides and it’s a lot of fun to take part in it. Inevitably, I picked up a further concern from a local resident which I dealt with later in the week. Oh – and my team didn’t win; we were placed five out of ten, which isn’t bad , based on our recent performance!
Broseley Town Council
Wenlock Pottery
  • Thursday morning found me at William Brookes School answering well-informed questions put by a handful of Year 11 students concerning youth activities, public transport and communication. I think we all came away from the discussion having learned something, and there is more for all of us to consider. I then slipped into the classroom for ten minutes with the whole class, who asked me what a Shropshire Councillor does and what my challenges are – which has prompted me to write this account!
William Brookes School
William Brookes School
  • I spent most of Thursday afternoon writing my regular article for the Wenlock Herald, and other local magazines. When I stood for election in 2013, I undertook to keep local residents informed, and I take this pledge seriously.
The Wenlock Herald
The Wenlock Herald
  • On Thursday evening I chaired a well-attended meeting in Much Wenlock about parliamentary constituency boundary changes. After I finished my supper at home later, I realised that I’d missed the Wenlock Herald deadline and worked until midnight to get it finished. There was lots of good news to report! Hopefully my plea to the editor will have worked…
  • I spent most of Friday morning catching up on more casework – I wrote thirty emails about a variety of subjects, including local planning matters, gas supply, committee attendance, the flood alleviation scheme and HGV routeing. I then spent a short while at the soup lunch at Holy Trinity Church in Much Wenlock. My table companions were reflecting on the CCG Board meetings they’d attended in recent weeks, and on the prospects for Ed Balls lasting the course in “Strictly Come Dancing”!
Tasty soup!
Soup lunch
  • On Friday afternoon my wife made it very clear that it was about time I put down my Council iPad and helped her prepare for house guests we were expecting for the weekend.
  • So, on Friday evening, four of us went into Much Wenlock for a lovely meal and a few drinks at one of our excellent pub/restaurants. I try wherever possible to use local businesses – our local economy needs plenty of support.
Yum yum!
A great evening out in Much Wenlock
  • Because we had guests and were going to a wedding party in Shrewsbury on Saturday evening, I didn’t get to my desk again until Sunday afternoon, but here I am at 7:00pm finishing off this account of my week and eyeing a couple of emails that have landed in my inbox in the past couple of hours.