Shropshire Star

Developers turn the screws on Shropshire Council to allow more homes to be built

Developers are ratcheting up pressure on Shropshire Council to allow the building of thousands more houses across the county.

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The third day of hearings taking place into the draft Shropshire Local Plan saw representatives of big developers attempting to blast holes in the council's strategy for development over the next 16 years.

Planning inspector Louise Crosby heard from a succession of developers calling for more homes to be built in Bridgnorth, Much Wenlock, Market Drayton and Shifnal. Mrs Crosby said however that she appreciated the scale of opposition in Shifnal, and appreciated there are "two sides to any story."

Dan Corden, of Shropshire Council, said the overall strategy is to put the majority of nearly 31,000 new homes up to 2038 in the urban areas. Shrewsbury would take the lion's share of that with 30 per cent in the county town, 24.5 per cent in local centres, 18 per cent in smaller communities and 27.5 per cent in rural areas.

Chris Young QC, representing Stanmore Consortium, queried why Bridgnorth was due to get only 37 homes per hectare of employment land in the plan. The figure, he argued, should be 100 homes per hectare, which would mean allocating 5,000 new homes to the town.

He said: "Why isn't Bridgnorth receiving more? There is an unmet need of 40,000 people in Birmingham and 30,000 in the Black Country. That's 70,000 - a huge amount of unmet need but a disparity in the way it is working.

"Shropshire isn't an island - it sits on the edge of a huge area of unmet housing need. The huge amount of unmet need is being largely ignored and duty to co-operate does not work."

The council's Eddie West said the council had an urban growth agenda but cannot ignore the rural areas, and that community hubs and clusters "must be the solution for housing."

Liam Cowden, also for the council, said the council is "seeking to rebalance growth" and Bridgnorth has a higher proportion of proposals for employment land because of that. In the Stanmore area he said there is a need to attract investment.

Mr Young pointed out that the council was allowing industrial development in Stanmore, in the green belt, but not proposing to release land for housing.

The inspector was also told that more housing should be allowed in Market Drayton and Shifnal.

James Bonner representing Yareal Llandforda said Market Drayton was only taking 3.9 per cent of the county's housing target, which he said "needs more explanation". And he said there were similar concerns around Shifnal.

John Coxon, representing The Strategic Land Group Ltd said Market Drayton has been allocated more employment land than Whitchurch but "receives considerably less housing growth and less than Ludlow. There is a need to balance the housing growth with the jobs growth.

"Market Drayton is not constrained by the green belt, it should be distributed a higher level of housing growth."

Matthew Fox, representing Miller Homes, has his eyes on Shifnal which he said "should be making more of a contribution" because it is close to the M54, A5, and Telford, and has good public transport links.

"1,500 homes allocated for Shifnal appears substantial but 1,000 has already been done. Having 500 homes over 16 years is a very substantial drop in those fast rates of delivery."

He said the council was wrong to give Shifnal a "lengthy period of respite" because of housing needs in the Black Country and that it would lead to worsening affordability.

Inspector Mrs Crosby said she was aware of lots of objections from Shifnal and that "there's always two sides to the story."

Mr Cowden said the "floodgates" had been opened in Shifnal "and they were flooded". The rate of building, he said, was the "highest seen in any settlement in the county, ever."

He said Shifnal could not accept any more and "nor could the infrastructure of the town".

"It is not a period of respite but a period of assimilation.

"We need to allow the community to assimilate the development they have had and allow money to be put into infrastructure."

The council's Eddie West said Shropshire had "opened a small window of opportunity" for developers in Shifnal five years ago when there was a shortage of land supply."

David Lowin, representing Shifnal Town Council, Shifnal Matters and Tong Parish Council said he is "most concerned that Shifnal has become 'top of the pops' of settlements in Shropshire." He agreed that the town needed a 'period of respite'.

Matthew Reed QC, representing Bradford Rural Estates, which has submitted a plan for 2,900 homes in the area despite it not being in the local plan, accused the council of a "sleight of hand" in the figures.

The council's plan for 30,800 homes to be built included 1,500 for the needs of Black Country councils. He said this needed to be more.

Council representative Mr Corden said he felt the council has "struck an appropriate distribution."

Mrs Jacqueline Mulliner, of Harrow Estates PLC said that "sustainable development has taken place in Shifnal" which could take more.

Mrs Lesley Durbin, of Much Wenlock Town Council and Associates, said plans for a 'single large development' in the town ignored the town's Neighbourhood Plan.

"Why are neighbourhood plans being ignored?" she said.

Mr Corden for the council said the local plan saw matters up to 2038 and the approach is "appropriate" to moving forward with Shropshire.

And Mr West said there was "nothing to stop Market Drayton updating its neighbourhood plan to enhance development in the area if you so wish."