Coronavirus crisis delays Local Plan Review consultation

Shropshire Council has sought your views on a new proposal for 120 houses to be constructed between Hunters Gate and Bridgnorth Road. This is not a planning application, but a proposed allocation for housing development over the period up to 2038 – apparently intended to replace the 80-dwelling proposal which went out for consultation in 2018/19. The current consultation period – too short, and without adequate publicity, in my view – has now closed. As I wrote my article for the May edition of the Wenlock Herald, Shropshire Council had not formed a view on this revised proposal, and are still awaiting detailed flood modelling from the promoters of the site.

As I indicated in April, the next stage of the Local Plan Review is that Shropshire Council prepares a Pre-Submission draft version of the Local Plan for gathering representations on ‘soundness’ for the Examination on all of the county’s “preferred sites”. Because of the Coronavirus disruption, this “Regulation 19” consultation is to be delayed for a couple of months, likely to be an eight-week period from July through until September. Shropshire Council’s website has been recently updated to say “The pause in the programme to reflect the current Coronavirus emergency will also have an impact on the ongoing Local Plan timetable.  It is now expected the Council will submit the Plan for examination in early 2021, with adoption expected in early 2022.” 

Meanwhile, at its March 2020 meeting, Much Wenlock Town Council decided only “to note the revised proposals for site MUW012 subject to a formal proposal being received.” If this has been conveyed to Shropshire Council’s Planning Policy team, little indication is given as to whether the Town Council favours or disagrees with the proposal. The minutes show that the Town Council would “make its views known at the appropriate time.”

The apparent unwillingness of the Town Council to commit to a view on the proposed site, and the delay in the Plan timetable may have some interesting consequences.

Local Plan Review provisional dates – and the date of the next local elections

Local government elections are scheduled to take place in May 2021. The membership of the Town Council after those elections may be quite different to the current composition. One might expect that the Town Council would be seeking representation at the Inspector’s examination hearing but they have only declared a view on the now-defunct 80-dwelling proposal, not on the one that Shropshire Council is considering. What will the Town Council advocate next year?

At the same March meeting the Town Council agreed to submit a detailed response to the mixed-use planning application 19/05560/OUT for the former Ironbridge Power Station site, The Town Council’s submission runs to 22 pages and concludes with a commentary on perceived shortcomings in Shropshire Council’s consultation. This appears to indicate it represents complaints received from residents.