More housing in Much Wenlock?

Much WenlockThe Shropshire Local Plan currently comprises the Core Strategy (adopted 2011) and the Site Allocations and Management of Development (SAMDev) Plan (adopted 2015), together with the adopted Neighbourhood Plans for Much Wenlock and Shifnal. These documents set out proposals for the use of land and policies to guide future development in order to help to deliver the sustainable growth in Shropshire for the period up to 2026.

Local Planning Authorities are required to keep under review any matters that may affect the development of its area or the planning of its development. There is a requirement to objectively assess the development needs of the County and this also permits a longer term view to be taken for the period to 2036. To meet the requirements of national policy, the Local Plan needs to identify enough land to provide for future housing and employment to reflect Shropshire’s future needs.

All of this (and much more) may be found on Shropshire Council’s website in Planning Policy. This process is now at the stage of consultation on issues and strategic options. This includes a “call for sites” which is a request to private, public, and voluntary sector bodies and individuals to submit potential development sites for consideration within the Strategic Land Availability Assessment (SLAA). The SLAA represents a key component of the evidence base which will support the partial review of the Local Plan. However, whilst the SLAA is an important technical document, it does not allocate land for development or include all locations where future housing growth might occur. The SLAA simply provides information which will be investigated further through the plan-making process.

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Consideration is being given to a review of the Much Wenlock Neighbourhood Plan. The Assessor, in his report in January 2014, recommended “a modification that the Plan is reviewed after a three year rather than a five year period. That review should focus on housing delivery and will be able to assess progress on the granting of planning permissions and/or the delivery of housing in the Plan area. If necessary the review of the Plan will be the trigger either for the modification of some of its policies and/or the allocation of a suitable urban extension site that itself meets the basic conditions.”

The structure and policies of the Neighbourhood Plan have proved resilient over time. Major changes were not being envisaged by the monitoring group established under the previous Town Council as inevitable. They did, however, recognise that careful minor modifications might need to be considered to ensure consistency with Shropshire Council and national policies and potentially to enable Neighbourhood Plan policies to be carried forward beyond 2026. After careful consideration it was concluded that, through continued close liaison with Shropshire Council Officers, such minor modifications could almost certainly be achieved without requiring a major new public consultation

This is all background. At the Much Wenlock Town Council meeting at the beginning of July the Town Clerk announced that “a letter had been received from Berry’s on behalf of Wenlock Estates which advised that land adjoining the primary school at Hunters Gate had been put forward for development of approximately 90 dwellings in response to Shropshire Council’s ‘Call for Sites’ & Local Plan Review. The letter offered the Town Council an opportunity to discuss the plans in more detail and the Town Clerk recommended that a meeting should be arranged.”

The meeting with Berrys was arranged for the Town Council’s Planning Committee on 5th September. Four of the five members of the Planning Committee along with a further three Town Councillors and over twenty members of the public were in the Council Chamber at 9:30am. Seated next to the Committee Chairman, Cllr Mary Hill and the Town Clerk were Stuart Thomas from Berrys and Gavin Loynes from Bruton Knowles.

After the formalities were over, Cllr Hill asked Stuart Thomas to speak on the proposal. He said that the proposals was in response to Shropshire Council’s “call for sites” in March, and emphasised that this is not a planning application. He anticipated that at the end of this stage of the Local Plan Review, Shropshire Council would publish its “preferred site options” whereupon there would be public consultation. There were a number of questions and statements (and these are my notes, not verbatim) from members of the Committee as follows:

Q:  What numbers are proposed and would they all be open market housing or would there be some element of affordable housing? A:  The proposal would included affordable housing and open space.
Q: The proposal is outside of the development boundary confirmed by the Neighbourhood Plan. The housing growth set out in the Neighbourhood Plan is on target and, on the basis of current projections, will remain so until 2026. Is this proposal only going to be implemented after 2026? A: This depends upon the outcome of the Shropshire Council consultation. The Local Plan Review rolls the plan forward to 2036. How Shropshire Council chooses to phase housing growth across the county is not a matter for Berrys. The phasing will be dependent on the target for housing growth. The review of the Much Wenlock Neighbourhood Plan needs to remain compliant with Shropshire Council’s policies.
Q: Is not the “call for sites” for post-2026? A: It is unusual that a Local Planning Authority is undertaking a review so early in the life of its Local Plan. The Review should be complete by late 2018/early 2019.
Q: Is it not the case that Shropshire Council is under pressure from the government to deliver more housing faster? Hence the greater housing density level of this site vs. Hunter Gate… A: Agreed
Q: There is no recognition of this high risk flood catchment in the proposal – one of only two in Shropshire. We assume there will be a really good flood alleviation scheme to protect Farley from flooding. A: The site would aim to mirror greenfield drainage.
Q: Given the scale of the development, is there any chance of amenities being incorporated, such as a doctors’ surgery? A: To a large extent this is a blank canvas. If Shropshire Council included the site in its preferred options, there would be further discussion about this and similar uses. The Community Infrastructure Level attracted to the community would be significant.

Cllr Hill then thanked Stuart Thomas and he left with Gavin Loynes.

She drew this agenda item to a close by saying that the Town Council would have to seek clarification from Shropshire Council as to the relationship of the Neighbourhood Plan to the Local Plan Review and as to whether further site allocations were for early development or for a period post-2026. She concluded by saying that there was no doubt that this site would be developed, what is not known is simply when it will be built.

This response to Shropshire Council’s “call for sites” is clearly one that will give cause for concern to immediate neighbours – people prefer certainty – and, despite the near-completion of flood attenuation ponds, folk living downstream of the town. It is, however, no surprise that Wenlock Estates are keen to see this land developed. They have made no secret of their view that this will satisfy housing demand and maintain the town’s economic viability.

I am keen that there should be transparency throughout this process. I will therefore write here and in the Wenlock Herald about further developments as they occur.

7 Responses to “More housing in Much Wenlock?”

  • Rebecca Lawrence:

    90 houses too much. If you increase the footprint of the town people will drive into the town instead of walk. Look at Shifnal…. Getting far too big. Public transport is poor from Wenlock so all these houses will just mean more cars. There’s enough building in Telford. No need to build here.

  • Carole morton:

    Have to agree with the above comments. Does Much wenlock really need to grow! Schools won’t cope doctors certainly won’t cope. There is no funding for services now adding more will just put pressure on services we have now.
    As for parking this is a conversation l have already had with David. Who l must admit was not much help

    • davidturner:

      Sorry I wasn’t much help on parking. Tomorrow evening (Wednesday 6/9/17), I’m chairing a drop-in session for the Local Joint Committee in Priory Hall, where you’ll have an opportunity to not only talk to the PCC, but there’s also the senior parking enforcement officer from Shropshire Council – Shaun Sutton. It’s a great opportunity to exchange views.

      Also, there are four planning consultations under way, some of which will affect Much Wenlock. Please have your say and influence the outcome.

  • Joe:

    Upon reading the comments above, part of me agrees that maybe services could potentially struggling. But, I bet these reservations cropped up when the foresters were being planned. 90 houses sounds like a lot, but I for one will be delighted. I have been living in the town for 14 years, and now the time has come where I want to buy. It would be great if I could get in on the action as my work is local to the area. Not sure I could live without the geroge and the fox…

  • Lesley Durbin:

    I was part of the NP Monitoring Group since 2013 until Much Wenlock Town Council dissolved the group in June 2017. I am of the certain opinion that the NP was accepted as being fully compliant with the independent assessors request for a 2017 Review and that the Plan ‘is shown to be working’ by SC, that housing development numbers are currently over and above the targets set by the independent assessor until 2026. The Housing Report that was accepted as evidence by SC and was adopted by the MWTC. It was further advised by SC that a Housing Needs Survey is required by the end of 2017.

  • James Dunn:

    This is exactly what Much Wenlock needs. The NIMBY residents of the town have introduced a neighbourhood plan that stops development as much as possible resulting in few houses being built. Those that are built are generally very large in nature and so not affordable for local people or we have affordable exception sites in the middle on know where, which are not sustainable.

    The provision of 90 dwellings gives rise to opportunities to starter homes and discounted market housing which local people can afford to buy. It would also give opportunities for s106 provisions such as investment into facilitates like the primary school which is in poor condition.

  • Mike Grace:

    Fundamentally this comes down to what the community wants and needs from new development. This proposal is essentially the same commercial development that the Estate has suggested for the past 10 or more years. It was originally left out of the (then) Bridgnorth Local Plan because the Inspector recognised that the town had experienced the highest rate of growth in the district and it failed to make the Neighbourhood Plan because it wasn’t what people said they wanted [in their responses to the residents survey and by the majority of residents through a vote in favour of the Plan]. The scale and type of development across the town should be driven by the needs of its people, as per the NP (and Shropshire Council’s core strategy) policy of ‘limited development to meet local needs’. Otherwise the risk is the town becomes another dormitory settlement, excessive traffic, few employment opportunities etc. The site itself may be suitable for development but so are others and, as the Govt’s Housing White Paper states, there are a number of ways to deliver local needs. The affordable housing exception scheme just over the road from this site is an example and will deliver housing for local people in a way that a commercial development probably won’t unless the developer makes formal commitments up front. I’d be concerned about any statement of pre-determination that the development will go ahead as currently described. Worth working out what this scheme would actually provide by way of s106 or CIL to deliver all of a list of school extensions, a doctors surgery and better public transport etc. Other land owners and developers might also be able to contribute in new and different ways. At the moment this is just a ‘call for sites’ for housing, encouraging developers to pitch their land. This leads Shropshire Council to simply impose a top-down allocation on the community. Rather, much better to start a conversation about what the NP asks for and the town will need and then discuss how this site and others could contribute.

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David Turner

Woodhouse Farm
Much Wenlock
TF13 6NZ

01952 728802
Shropshire Council
The views expressed on this website are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Conservative Councillors' Association or the Conservative Party.