University campus could feature in controversial green belt plan alongside M54

A new settlement near junction three of the M54 could include a University of Wolverhampton campus, the driving force behind the scheme has said.

Viscount Alexander Newport, managing director of the Bradford Estates, has been pressing the case for the plan.
Viscount Alexander Newport, managing director of the Bradford Estates, has been pressing the case for the plan.

Bradford Estates is pressing ahead with plans to build thousands of homes near Tong despite the site not being included as future development land in Shropshire Council’s ongoing Local Plan review.

Estates managing director Viscount Alexander Newport told a meeting of Shropshire’s Great Outdoors Strategy Board that the company was still hopeful of the site being included in the final version of the plan.

Alongside the proposed 3,000 homes, split into four ‘garden villages’, there are plans to create up to 8,000 jobs through 50 hectares of employment land, as well as two primary schools, a secondary school, doctors’ surgery, and retail and leisure facilities.

Lord Newport said: “Within the employment area there will also be a training and skills hub, and we are currently having discussions with the University of Wolverhampton about potentially having a footprint campus there as well.

“Alongside this will be small business and SME incubation space, and it will be supported by digital and remote working infrastructure – all the more important since the Covid crisis.”

The university currently has campuses in Wolverhampton, Telford and Walsall.

Presenting the Bradford Estates’ vision to the board, Lord Newport said there would also be pedestrian, bus and cycle links to Cosford Railway Station, “pedestrian safeguarding” over the A41, and more than 510 hectares of open space.

'Green corridor'

This would include the first ever public access to Lizard Wood, a new country park, recreational areas, sports pitches, allotments and a “green corridor” protecting the historic Monarch’s Way footpath.

Lord Newport said the company had made further submissions to the council, putting across its case for inclusion in the Local Plan.

“The next step is to see how Shropshire Council responds,” he said.

“The initial work we have done has been to clear any obstacles to the development coming forward.

“We have looked at archaeology, flooding, heritage assets, and we don’t feel there are any constraints to prevent the development coming forward.

“If we were to get inclusion into the Local Plan, the next step would be to start to put more detail onto that.”

Lord Newport said the scheme had received backing from the government’s housing delivery agency.

He said: “We have had initial discussions with Homes England about providing initial cash flow funding for the development upfront, because obviously there is a large commitment at the start to fund the infrastructure before any income revenues would be generated.

Ensure

“Homes England loves the proposal of co-location of homes and jobs alongside community infrastructure, so they have said that this would be something they would be interested in if it was allocated by Shropshire Council.”

Board member Jack Tavernor asked how the landowners would ensure housing developers brought in to build the properties would stick to the masterplan.

He said: “Presumably it would be phased and independent developers would develop it. What’s being done to preserve the vision once control is lost?”

Lord Newport said Bradford Estates as “master developer” would draw up agreements with partnering construction firms which would, “specify, in detail, the aesthetic we are looking to achieve”.

He added: “We intend to stay in throughout and make this a development that we and the community can be proud of.”

Lord Newport further said he believed there was a strong case to justify taking the land out of the green belt.

He said: “The site that we can offer is bound by the A41 to the east, the M54 to the south, A5 to the North and by Lizard Wood to the west.

“So we feel there are quite enforceable boundaries to the scheme, which is one of the key principles of taking land out of the green belt.

“It is sustainable, given its proximity to Cosford station, existing under-used transport infrastructure in the area, and the co-location of jobs and homes is another tenet.

“It’s high bar to take land out of the green belt but we feel that a garden settlement promoted by a landowner who intends to take it though its life cycle are exceptional circumstances to do so.”

The proposal was considered for inclusion in Shropshire's local plan earlier this year but was ultimately left out. A consultation on the plan has just concluded and the proposal is expected to be submitted to government – without the Bradford Estates' plan.

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