Business site and bypass plan revealed in big Shifnal expansion
Green belt land in Shifnal could be sacrificed for a huge employment site and a bypass under plans that would also see more than 1,500 homes built.
Shifnal is the focus for a considerable expansion in Shropshire Council's local development plan, which sets out proposals for building in the town until 2036.
The plans, which include a bypass from the Wolverhampton Road to the Priorslee Road, and up to 40 hectares of employment land, will go out to consultation later this month.
Two of the town's councillors have raised concerns over the proposals, warning that further infrastructure is needed before the town expands.
Councillors Kevin Turley and Ed Bird, who represent Shifnal on Shropshire Council, have both said the residents could even look for the town to switch to Telford & Wrekin Council, instead of the Shropshire authority over the issue.
They have questioned whether a bypass would reduce traffic in the town and have also insisted more school places, leisure facilities, and GP places would be required to accommodate the expansion.
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Councillor Turley said: "You cannot say no to development full stop but Shifnal needs the chance to be allowed a bit of breathing room, the space and time to catch up with the development that has taken place.
"Shifnal always seems to be the poor relation when it comes to anything coming in our direction.
"Look at the investment on Wyle Cop and Pride Hill in Shrewsbury, look at the Bridgnorth bypass, Shifnal does not receive anywhere near the level of support it requires.
"We have the second biggest secondary school in the county and we don't have a leisure facility."
Councillor Turley added that proposals to use the green belt for expansion would spark concern from some residents.
He said: "That section of Green belt between Shifnal and Telford has been a precious and protected thing for the people of the town.
"It is interesting listening to people on social media saying that if we are going to develop in Telford's direction then we could get more out of Telford because we seem to be getting forgotten by Shropshire.
"I listen to the people of Shifnal and they feel like they are not getting their fair share."
Shropshire Council has said that the infrastructure and new business is needed to match the level of housing growth in the town.
Town earmarked as key centre for growth
Shropshire Council's local development plan review outlines a host of proposals to develop the area, including a new ‘strategic’ link road, which would act as a bypass from the Wolverhampton Road to the Priorslee Road – including a tunnel underneath the railway line.
Under the plans the town, which has a population of 6,991, is targeted for 1,500 new houses, as well as 40 hectares of employment land. Large swathes of green belt land are being recommended for use to meet the targets.
So far 197 homes have been built in Shifnal since 2016, with commitments or allocations for another 987. It means sites for another 328 are required.
The figures relating to employment land are more stark, with only two hectares out of a 40 hectare target so far completed.
The scale of the proposals outstrip nearly all others for the county – ahead of Oswestry and Bridgnorth and only behind Shrewsbury, where there is an aspiration to create 91 hectares of employment land in the town.
The town is listed in the document as a key part of opportunities for the county to benefit from the Midlands Engine – an economic plan to develop the region.
What the plans say
It states: “The combined authority for the West Midlands brings together the metropolitan authorities within adjoining areas to drive forward the Midlands Engine. Shropshire has the potential to benefit from this enterprise via the M54 corridor and the strategic highway network linking together key investment locations at Wolverhampton, Telford, Shifnal, Albrighton and Bridgnorth.”
It adds: “Shifnal will act as a key centre and contribute towards the strategic growth objectives in the east of the county. It is expected that the market will continue to explore Shifnal as a preferred investment location in the M54 corridor and the demands placed on the town will subject the settlement to significant growth pressures over time.
“At April 1, 2017, there were only two hectares of land committed as a site allocation and therefore, at least 14 hectares of additional employment land would need to be identified to move towards a balanced approach to the Shifnal growth strategy.
“To deliver this scale of built (or net) development would generate a need to identify significant additional employment land above the 16 hectares that needs to be developed. The employment land release would then be capable of providing sufficient new employment to balance with the scale of new housing being delivered in the town.
“The overall provision of new employment land to achieve this outcome would be around 40 hectares of land.”
The council document, which will go out to consultation, also outlines a recommendation that protected green belt land surrounding the town is used for housing and employment, and a bypass. It states: “It is considered that there is sufficient evidence of ‘exceptional circumstances’ in Shifnal to justify the further release of land to the south and west of the town to deliver a strategic housing extension capable of creating a new neighbourhood community.
“The release of safeguarded land includes Green Belt between Shifnal and Telford, individually assessed in the Green Belt Review as causing high harm to the Green Belt if released. These would however, support a strategic link between the A464 Priorslee Road and the A4169 Bridgnorth Road to redress a significant infrastructure constraint at Five Ways in the west of the town.
“The remainder of the land released is individually assessed as moderate-high harm or low harm. These further land releases would support a strategic link between the A4169 Bridgnorth Road and the A464 Wolverhampton Road, and with the land releases to the north, effectively create a by-pass around the town and both its principal highway junctions.”
The paper does outline a number of areas where improvements are needed in the town, even before any further development takes place. They include school places, a new GP surgery and more leisure and recreation facilities.
Adrian Cooper, Shropshire Council’s planning policy and strategy manager, said the growth in the number of houses in Shifnal means the authority should look at investing in local infrastructure and job creation. He said: “The strategic location, size and accessibility of Shifnal mean that it continues to be subject to significant development pressure. The town has seen recent rapid growth with about 200 new homes completed and about a further 1,000 with consent which have yet to be implemented (as at April 2017).
“This rapid growth means that a period of lower housing growth is considered appropriate to provide an opportunity to invest in local infrastructure and improve local employment opportunity.”
He added: “The new Local Plan therefore proposes to limit further new housing growth during the period to 2036 to about 300 further dwellings over 18 years, but identifies a significant area of new employment land to the east of the town.
“The Local Plan review process also includes a review of that part of the West Midlands Green Belt which falls within Shropshire. The Green Belt Review must take a very long term view which provides for growth over an extended period. For this reason, the draft plan also identifies ‘safeguarded land’ around Shifnal which it may be appropriate to release as part of a future Local Plan review to provide for growth in the period beyond 2036.
“A document will be published for public consultation on Thursday, November 29.”
Copies of the document and a response form will be made available from November 29 at shropshire.gov.uk/get-involved
Paper copies of the consultation documents will also be available at libraries across Shropshire.
The authority has said it will be consulting on the plans from November 29.