Ironbridge Power Station workshop

Today saw around 50 stakeholders take part in a well-organised  workshop session at the Power Station. This was hosted by Harworth Group, who are the new owners of the site. Attendees included Shropshire Councillors Claire Wild (Severn Valley), Simon Harris (Broseley) and me along with others from Telford & Wrekin Council inclduing Cllr Nicola Lowery from Ironbridge ward. Senior planning officers from both authorities were present along with representatives from the Health & Safety Executive, Network Rail, National Trust, Environment Agency and many local businesses and other organisations. Finally, town and parish councils locally sent representatives, including Much Wenlock’s Cllr Mary Hill and Broseley’s Cllrs Ian West and Mick Burton.

There were a number of round-table discussions about opportunities and challenges around both the brownfield and greenfield aspects of the site. Whilst demolition of the structures and remediation of the site are both pressing issues for Harworth, they are plainly interested to take on board the aspirations and concerns of all involved. So there was talk of housing, retail, hotels, leisure, medical facilities and schools together with road, rail, walking and cycling routes.

A trip around most of this 350-acre site was a very interesting aspect of the day, looking at the differing levels, the vast cooling towers, the turbine hall, the pump house and the expanses of grassland, hardstanding and woodland.

At the end of the five-hour session we all gathered to consider a summary of the points that had been raised during the day. Some were entirely predictable, such as the desire for well-designed housing, wildlife corridors so that the rich ecology could be maintained, links to Ironbridge and the Museums and pressure for steam rail, in various forms, to serve the Severn Gorge.

A development of this size will have  a major impact on surrounding communities. Much of it will be positive, and work during the demolition and construction phases can be controlled by planning conditions. Just about everyone at the workshop recognised that the single access point across the, currently unadopted, bridge would be insufficent to serve the site when fully developed. It seems clear that an access is likely to be made onto the A4169 Much Wenlock road. This would need to be done in conjunction with major junction improvements across the road bridge onto the by-pass up to Jigger’s Bank.

I was at pains to ensure there was clear recognition that, once the site is occupied, it will quite challenging to prevent any of those residents on the new development who might work in Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth or further afield, using the route through Much Wenlock’s narrow streets or travelling via the winding B4380 through Buildwas and Leighton.

Harworth are now going to work up some illustrations of what might be possible as a draft masterplan for the site. You can view this at a public drop-in session on Thursday 11th October at the Power Station between 2pm and 7pm.  They don’t intend submitting a planning application to Shropshire Council until the second half of 2019, so there’ll be plenty of opportunity to get further involved, but I think that the session in a fortnight’s time will prove most interesting.