Shropshire hills targeted by developers, reveals report
The rolling and unspoilt hills of Shropshire are being targeted by developers at an "unprecedented" level, according to a new report.
It also claims objections lodged by the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) partnership group are being ignored when applications to build homes, masts and wind turbines are considered.
Partnership manager Phil Holden said the group had objected to 17 applications in 2013 and 2014 for the beauty spot – but only one had been refused.
He said the rise in applications for housing on the hills since May had been "very striking", with 26 planning applications submitted and currently awaiting a decision.
Mr Holden said: "The Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) appears currently to be under pressure from development to a level unprecedented in some years.
"It also appears that the influence of the AONB partnership comments on planning decisions may be declining.
"It can be seen within 2013/14 only one of the applications to which the AONB partnership objected was refused, while 10 were granted permission and a further six have not yet been determined.
"The rise in applications for housing since May 2014 is very striking.
"The trends regarding planning decisions affecting the AONB are increasingly being raised by other organisations and members of the public, with growing concerns that the designation is not being given due weight.
"This does of course also fall at a time when the AONB partnership's own staff capacity on planning has been reduced due to the loss of the planning and landscape officer post.
"Shropshire Council's capacity in development management is also reduced due to both cuts and reorganisation.
"Lack of enforcement and an associated increase in unauthorised development is being more frequently raised as a concern by members of the public.
"The AONB partnership has worked hard over recent years to get the AONB adequately recognised in planning policy in Shropshire.
"While the policies in place now appear to do this, the breadth of interpretation of these alongside other policies in favour of various forms of development means that very few applications in the AONB are being refused."
Among the planning applications submitted for the AONB since May are plans to build a 100-foot wind turbine at Hargreaves Farm at Halfway House, near Shrewsbury.
Plans have also been submitted to build two tourist accommodation blocks with parking and a shop at Wenlock Edge Inn in Easthope, near Much Wenlock.