Ironbridge – strategic sites consultation

Under its Local Plan Review, Shropshire Council is working on development plans for the period up to 2036. In Much Wenlock it seems that an additional 150 homes during that period is accepted as reasonable by many residents, although there has been considerable concern about the proposed site for 80 houses off Bridgnorth Road, which is supported by the Town Council.

Shropshire Council’s Cabinet has now decided to conduct an additional consultation on preferred strategic sites as part of the Local Plan Review process, including the former Ironbridge Power Station, Clive Barracks at Tern Hill, and RAF Cosford.

I addressed Shropshire Council’s Cabinet on 12th June about the impact of the regeneration of the Ironbridge site, which may include 1,000 homes. I think most local residents recognise that this redundant site must and will be developed, but there are some strong feelings about the scale and pace of development. There are concerns about the cumulative impact 1,000 new homes and a mixed use development will have on Ironbridge, Buildwas and especially Much Wenlock. All other issues apart, the additional traffic, the pressure on schools and on the medical facilities over a wide area will be unbearable in the short term.

There is widespread concern that carefully phased growth in Much Wenlock and the other local settlements may be blown out of the water by major housing growth on our doorstep from 2022. The recent consultation by Shropshire Council about “preferred sites” was conducted without including the impact of the Ironbridge regeneration.

The impact of traffic alone from this development, when built, on the narrow streets of Much Wenlock, running as they do through the conservation area, will be considerable. Emissions from vehicles queuing to exit the A4169 onto the A458 at the Gaskell Arms, may affect the health not only of residents of Smithfield Road and New Road but also pedestrians and others living in the area.

In my address to the Cabinet I requested that it reopens the debate about the distribution of housing numbers and the impacts during this process, and maybe looks at the phasing of development. Here is what I said:

Finally, one point that hasn’t so far been emphasised is that not only is the Ironbridge World Heritage Site to the east of the proposed development, but also the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty lies immediately to the west. This wasn’t a topic for Cabinet, but it’s one that I am sure will be played out in due course.