29 Sycamore Road, Broseley Wood

This is a sorry tale of what can go wrong with redevelopment of a brownfield site. Sycamore Road is a very narrow road in Broseley’s conservation area, leading off Cobwell Road which, in turn, is a steep residential street leading off Bridge Road.

Although work has commenced on site, it is currently suspended. The background is as follows.

This was a vacant site as a result of a residential property being destroyed by fire in the 1970s. A planning application was submitted and consent was granted in October 2015 for one two-storey dwelling and a carport. The site is bounded by other properties, by Pugh’s Jitty and by “Bradley Bank”, an unadopted driveway.

Planning application 1

There were a number of objections from local residents and from Broseley Town Council including concerns about:

  • Surface water flooding and land drainage;
  • Ground stability – there is a history of coal mining in the area, much of it undocumented;
  • Asbestos buried in the ground from the previous property;
  • The width of Sycamore Road at 2m not suitable for emergency vehicles;
  • Concerns about a construction management plan;
  • Height and proximity of the development to neighbouring properties

I asked that the application be brought before the Planning Committee for consideration. The Committee considered this on 10th February 2015 following a site visit. Slightly surprisingly, given the degree of opposition, there were no local residents or Broseley Town Council representatives on site or speaking at the Planning Committee meeting.

I raised a number of points, including the following:

  • My concerns included impacts on light, surface water, drainage and access;
  • The development would have a detrimental impact on neighbouring properties which sat lower in the landscape and would be particularly overbearing on the property known as ‘Kenwood’;
  • The access onto Sycamore Row was already under pressure and there were no available parking spaces during the evening;
  • I questioned how and where delivery and work vehicles would park and how materials would be transported to the site during the construction phase. I also expressed concerns about the potential for damage to other properties during construction; and
  • should consent be granted, I urged that appropriate conditions be added to ensure minimal impact on the surrounding properties during construction.

The application was discussed in detail by the Committee and it was approved by a majority of the Members present.

Planning application 2

It appears that the site then changed hands. A fresh planning application came forward in 2017 for a dwelling of a more contemporary design than the traditional cottage which was previously approved. This attracted a lot of comment, with the Town Council initially recognising this was a modern design within the Conservation Area but were satisfied that the plans to use traditional materials and the reference within the design to local features would enable it to blend in with the locality.  When amendments were made to the scheme, the Town Council stated their concerns about the effect on Conservation Area, citing the “visual appearance and finishing materials”. The Council went on to express concern about land stability, and site access during the construction phase.

Local residents repeated many concerns expressed over the previous application, and added others, including:

  •  Size and character in “this semi-rural area”;
  • The proposed building is “unashamedly modern”;
  • “The proposed materials may meet the overall conservation requirements on paper, however it would be the only property in Broseley Wood that would have a grass topped type roof style.”;
  • Concerns regarding the impact this structure will have on the jitty to the rear – aesthetically and from a conservation perspective.;
  • The water table is high is Broseley;
  • There are likely to be problems with drainage for the sunken garage, particularly with storm water;
  • The previous property on this site burnt down because the emergency services could not get close enough to assist;
  • The applicant will not be living in the area at the most dangerous time when the asbestos is being dug up and removed;
  • Steep access to the proposed property on Bradley Bank;
  • No provision for a retaining wall below the proposed property; and
  • Query whether the measurements of the property are accurate.

In a lengthy and considered report the planning officer weighed the material planning considerations and recommended approval. The decision issued at the end of August 2017.

Site problems

When contractors went on site there were a number of concerns from neighbours. I do not intend to rake over these, not least because there is considerable animosity and to pick out issues would be invidious. Suffice to say that Shropshire Council’s planning officers and the police have been involved. Latterly, excavations have apparently compromised the stability of Pugh’s Jitty, which runs along the back of the site, and Shropshire Council’s highways team have closed it in the interest of public safety.

The current position

On Tuesday, I addressed Broseley Town Council as follows:

The jitty remains closed on safety grounds. Officers met with the builder on 3rd October and advised him to secure the site and employ an engineer who will first determine a solution to reinstate the jitty and provide adequate retention, given that the adjacent development site is being excavated to a lower level. There is a lot of made-up ground with loose fill within the jitty which had little structural integrity. Shropshire Council is progressing matters with the builder and will update me when there is a solution and date for remediation. Residents and Broseley Town Council will be updated accordingly.