Development plans for Shropshire – does Much Wenlock need 200 more houses?

Today the final informal public consultation opens into the development proposals for Shropshire for the period up until 2038 – how our county and communities will be shaped over the next eighteen years. The ‘Local Plan Review’ covers a number of development proposals, including employment land, but this article focuses on housing.

The development of this plan by Shropshire Council started over three years and there are – or were – some stakes in the ground about growth. Shropshire needs to provide around 30,800 new homes over the plan period and there are already sites promoted in the previous Local Plan which total approximately 20,000, meaning there are around 10,000 to find. There has inevitably been controversy about this scale of growth, but the UK’s population is growing (by over 30% in my lifetime!) and is expected to reach 72,000,000 by the end of this Plan period. [Office of National Statistics, Aug 2019]

Inevitably, there’s been controversy – about the total number, about the distribution of growth across our settlements – from the largest, such as Shrewsbury and Oswestry, to the smaller, such as Cressage. On top of the settlement-based allocations have been overlaid the ‘strategic sites’ – Clive Barracks at Tern Hill, the former power station site at Buildwas, and RAF Cosford.

Locally, Much Wenlock was slated to take 150 new dwellings over the plan period and I didn’t detect a great deal of resistance to that level of growth. After all, Much Wenlock’s Neighbourhood Development Plan is delivering growth in line with its guideline of 130 between 2013 and 2026 – around ten new dwellings per year.

When consultation was undertaken into the preferred sites in the winter of 2018 – selected by Shropshire Council’s planning policy team – of the several sites submitted by ‘promoters’ (mostly landowners), the one chosen in Much Wenlock was in a field bounded by the 2003 Hunters Gate estate, the Primary School and the A458 Bridgnorth Road. The preferred site, named MUW012, was for 80 dwellings outside Much Wenlock’s current development boundary, and the promoters promised flood alleviation measures for the site itself (which is, in any case, a requirement), and a roundabout on the A458 to provide access to the site and which would provide ‘traffic calming’.

Shropshire Council’s preferred site did not meet with local support during the Winter 2018 consultation. Now a different proposal, named MUW012VAR – 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.

Shropshire Council has decided to take the whole draft plan out to consultation for eight weeks, with comments required by 5pm on 30th September. You can hear this decision being taken at its Cabinet meeting on 20th July, and, by clicking on this link, you can also hear a formal question I asked about the Much Wenlock proposals, and the response.

Much Wenlock Town Council is holding an extraordinary meeting on Thursday 20th August to consider its response to the consultation. Subject to a limit on numbers, the Town Council is welcoming representations or questions providing prior written notice is given to the Town Clerk,

Shropshire Council’s consultation page can be found here. A paper copy of the document will be available in libraries, but not in Much Wenlock’s until such time as it opens for the public to visit – this is anticipated to be later in August. Whatever your views on the proposals, I urge you to take part in the consultation.

My leaflet encouraging local residents to participate in the consultation