Poll: Is enough being done to protect Shropshire greenfield sites from housing?

There is a war going on in Shropshire – and the people are losing.

Poll: Is enough being done to protect Shropshire greenfield sites from housing?

On one side you have property developers, driven by profit and pound signs who are looking to stick homes on every available plot of land.

On the other are neighbours, cruelly labelled by some as Nimbys (Not In My Back Yard), who are desperately trying to protect what little green spaces are left for future generations.

Stuck in the middle are the members of council planning committees, elected laymen and women. They are the ones tasked with saying yay or nay.

But, more often than not, it is a case of Hobson's Choice.

Leanings towards saying no are often accompanied by gentle reminders from planning officers of the potential for costly appeals and court costs running into the thousands.

In an age where councils are being asked to make millions of pounds worth of cuts, it is often a persuasive argument and enough to stop an over-zealous councillor in his or her tracks.

Is enough being done to protect Shropshire greenfields sites from housing? Vote in our poll and have your say in the comment box below.

Councillor Vernon Bushell, chairman of Shropshire Council's central planning committee which covers Shrewsbury, admitted as such earlier this year.

He said the prospect of developers taking the council to appeal, where costs can be awarded against the authority if a decision to refuse an application is reversed, was influencing councillors' decisions.


"We shouldn't be considering compensation when we are debating on a planning application," Councillor Bushell said.

"But we are. It is in the back of the mind," he said. "Something has got to be done at a national level."

He is not alone. Councillor Stuart West, vice-chairman of Shropshire Council's south planning committee which covers Bridgnorth, Ludlow and the surrounding areas, has also hit out.

For there are other pressures, too.

The government had laid down strict housebuilding targets for all councils across the country that have to be met.

In Telford alone, 20,000 homes must go up in the next 17 years.

Almost 12,000 homes already have planning permission and a new development plan, Shaping Places, has identified a potential 80 sites on which up to another 8,000 could be built.

The consultation period on that closes on Tuesday.

It is a similar picture across the rest of Shropshire, where the county council has been told it must build 16,000 homes by 2026.

The much-maligned Site Allocations and Management of Development plan, known as SAMDev, has been created as a blueprint to tackle that.

It led to claims from Councillor West that his committee was being "bullied" by the Government as plans for 200 homes outside Shifnal's development boundary were approved in February despite fierce public opposition.

There are exceptions.

Battles are being won on the planning front by people power.

Just last week, members of Telford and Wrekin Council's planning committee over-ruled the recommendations of council officers by throwing out an application to build 30 bungalows for the elderly on green land in Arleston, Telford. More than 30 residents objected to the application and councillors went with them, despite planning chief Dave Fletcher warning them the developer would appeal.

But coming out on top in a few battles doesn't win the war, which is still waging in all four corners of the county.

If developers miss out on one site, they can just as easily move onto another.

The applications keep raining in. In the north of Shropshire, an application has just been submitted to build 162 homes on farmland either side of Rush Lane, in Market Drayton.

The plans have been submitted by Gladman Developments. Bosses say the space is ideal for residential development and will help towards a need for extra housing in the town. Residents think differently and have so far gathered nearly 160 signatures on a petition calling on the council's north planning committee to throw out the plans.

People are also up in arms in Lawley, Telford, where they are trying to stop developers building another 400 homes.

Tina Sherwood, of Glendale Gardens, said: "We need to say no more – enough is enough.

"This will take away the beautiful environment and wildlife habitat that makes Lawley Village special and the reason why people moved here in the first place.

"There is a family of deer that have visited here every year since we moved here in 2006 and before, I gather, from what the neighbours say.

"Residents are able to enjoy the safety and security of this area, where children can play, people walk and enjoy countryside with or without dogs."

The battle is still to be won for people in the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge.

Proposals which could see more than 200 houses built on the site of a former hospital have sparked outrage.

In Telford & Wrekin Council's Shaping Places plan, it puts forward proposals which could see 120 homes built on the site of the Beeches Hospital in Ironbridge, with 107 more homes built on neighbouring land.

People living in the Ironbridge Gorge have raised concerns about the stability of the proposed sites, and the affect it will have on the nature of the historic region.

A meeting held last week in the Parish Rooms at Maws Craft Centre in Jackfield was full of passionate residents who wanted to air their views over the proposals.

Residents are encouraging people living in and around The Gorge to voice their objections to the plans during the consultation period for the proposals, which closes at the end of June.

They say that this development could see a substantial increase of traffic, issues related to land instability, a decrease in property values and damage to the natural habitat.

The Gorge Parish Council, which covers the area, is now set to submit a list of comments as part of the consultation, which will outline their feelings, and those raised at the meeting.

Councillor Keith Osmund-Smith, chair of the parish council, said: "Like in north Telford, where people are worried about the extent of the development, we're not saying there shouldn't be any development, but not to this extent.

"We would be perfectly happy with a string of houses, say 10 or 20 along Beeches Road but that is absolutely all it will sustain."

Mr Osmund-Smith said that concern about the proposals has been added to by a recent planning application to build 90 homes on Forbes Road, which has already sparked concerns from residents about the number of vehicles that will be travelling along the single- car roads Lincoln Hill and Church Hill to get to the site.

He said: "One of the primary issues is stabilisation, on the map there are clearly shown some known mines around that area and we are quite concerned there may be more mines that are not marked.

"The drainage on the site is not good and putting concrete and bricks on top of it may cause problems for the people below."

Who will win in battles like this being waged across the region? It is hard to bet against the developer – and if that is the case, another large chunk of the county will be left feeling their views have not been listened to or taken into account.

So what we can be done?

Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard has launched a petition calling for a block to be put on what he calls "excessive housing development" in the county.

Mr Pritchard said he intended to hand the petition to both Telford & Wrekin Council and Shropshire Council.

"When I travel around my constituency, people tell me that they are not against housing but they are against excessive housing," he said. "So many of the developments put forward are disproportionate and unsustainable, both physically and socially.

"It flies in the face of the Quiet Lanes policy, it will lead to a schools place crisis and it will take away access to green fields. This is completely unacceptable. It's too much too soon."

He said he had already had a "huge response" to his petition, which can be downloaded and signed on his Facebook Protect Green Spaces in The Wrekin Constituency page, or at www.markpritchard.com

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