Much Wenlock’s runaway housing growth

This afternoon, Shropshire Council published the agenda for its Cabinet meeting to be held on 20th July. The main topic of the meeting is “Shropshire Local Plan Review – Pre-submission Consultation Document”. The document runs to 534 pages and, in brief, it seeks approval for the Pre-Submission Draft of the Shropshire Local Plan, and to trigger a period of public consultation in line with Government Regulations.

The front page of the Cabinet agenda

 

The Local Plan Review seeks to “plan effectively for growth over the long term, in this case to 2038. The Plan should respond to local issues, including settlement and site specific evidence and from public consultation responses, but should also respond to national policy and guidance. As such the Plan establishes a long term housing requirement for the county to 2038, based in part on the nationally defined housing need for Shropshire, but also taking into account localised factors, in particular the need to support economic growth and to deliver more affordable and lower cost housing. Additional employment and necessary infrastructure improvements are planned alongside housing development in seeking balanced and sustainable growth.” So much for council-speak. Development is planned all over Shropshire, with Shrewsbury and Oswestry taking the lion’s share. In Bridgnorth there is controversy about the longstanding Green Belt proposal at Stanmore being dropped and instead a Garden Village site alongside the A458 between Tasley and Morville Heath being substituted late in the process. I wrote about this in the Wenlock Herald in June.

My article in June’s Wenlock Herald

Turning to Much Wenlock, the parish has a Neighbourhood Plan which, when ‘made’ (or adopted), was noted by Shropshire Council “that the [Neighbourhood] Plan provides an excellent platform for continued active engagement and discussion on development and related issues between the Council, the Town Council, the community and the local member.” Indeed, in the draft Plan published today at paragraph 2.26  it says that the Council has always taken a positive and proactive approach to Neighbourhood Plans and has sought to work constructively with local areas to advance their aspirations.

By Shropshire Council’s admission the Much Wenlock Neighbourhood Plan is delivering the 2014 guideline housing numbers.

The Local Plan Review consultation response two years ago to the scale and distribution of development for Much Wenlock was general support for a guideline of 150 dwellings over the plan period.

Shropshire Council’s preferred site for 80 dwellings in Much Wenlock did not meet with local support during the Winter 2018 consultation. A different proposal  – for 120 dwellings –  revealed as late as Spring 2020 has been subject to minimal local consultation, and has met with less support than its predecessor. This proposal together with the current level of growth will, over the plan period, far exceed the growth guideline – now increased, without consultation, to 200 dwellings.

There will be massive pressure on Much Wenlock’s fragile infrastructure from development within the Much Wenlock Place Plan area. This will arise from building 1,000 homes in nearby Buildwas, 80 dwellings in Cressage just down the road, and development further away that will pile further pressure on the A458 and A4169 as these roads weave through the town’s conservation area.

My opposition to the proposals in the Review have been aired to Shropshire Council’s planning policy team and to the Leader and Portfolio Holder – both Shropshire Councillors. When the Council’s Cabinet meets on 20th July to consider the proposals I hope to put a question asking if the new ‘preferred option’ site being imposed on Much Wenlock will be dropped, and instead allow the community to decide the best planning option for 150 houses through a review of their Neighbourhood Plan.

I anticipate that the consultation on all of these proposals will commence on Monday 3rd August and run until Wednesday 30th September. Whatever your views on the proposals, I urge you to take part in the consultation. I will post details as soon as they are confirmed.

For the time being, the draft Local Plan Review can be found here.