Planners under pressure to explain Shropshire draft local plan policies

Planners were called on to defend their policies on the afternoon of the first day of a line-by-line examination of the Shropshire Local Plan.

Protestors at Shrewsbury Town Football club ahead of local plan review hearings
Protestors at Shrewsbury Town Football club ahead of local plan review hearings

The plan, which includes setting the sites for 30,000 new homes to be built around the county, is being examined by three planning inspectors in two weeks of public hearings.

Members of the public and speakers heard that the event is to allow people to criticise Shropshire Council and to allow its proposed policies to be fully tested in an open forum. Developers, residents and campaigning organisations get the chance to put council planners on the spot and independent inspectors decide if the vital local plan can be adopted.

Resident James Healey called on the council to reduce the number of houses being built in rural areas to have more of an impact on climate change. The council admits that building 8,000 homes in rural areas creates more climate change-causing carbon dioxide than if they were built in urban areas.

Mr Healey questioned the validity of the council going for 31,000 new homes in the period to 2038 and said they could have set it at 26,000.

"I can't see how the council would hit its carbon reduction targets to net zero by 2050," said Mr Healey.

Top council planner Eddie West said climate change is assessed within the plan making process.

"It is taken into account in plan policies. Inevitably we are rightly concerned about the climate emergency but this session is to discuss sustainability appraisal," he said.

The council also pointed out that housing helps rural areas which also have "needs that have to be met".

Mr Healey said: "Shropshire Council has committed to net zero. We need to have evidence of how, if they build homes, how are they going to meet targets. I don't see how they are going to do this."

A debate about Shropshire Council's need to contribute housing to meet needs from the Black Country also continued, with barristers locking horns again.

Matthew Reed QC, representing developer Bradford Rural Estates, said Shropshire Council had failed to consider all the alternatives to the plan to include 1,500 homes for Black Country overspill.

"It is irrational for the authority not to test higher levels of need. It is a strategic matter that needs to be taken into account," he said.

Mr Reed said the council did not consider up to 11,000 new homes to help meet the Black Country's needs, despite coming to an agreement with four councils in the Black Country in 2021.

"The council accepted a need to consider other options in April last year," he said.

Councils in the Black Country have already made two calls for sites but there was no evidence of new sites coming forward.

Hugh Richards, QC for the council said Shropshire Council agrees that there is a need for "increased cross-boundary support".

"The process of cooperation is active and ongoing and it is not at an end. We believe that we have got our figure rationally, not irrationally, right," he said.

Other speakers also claimed that the council's plan uses a "flawed evidence for transport and flooding" and it doesn't take account of new ways of modelling for out of date climate change figures.

But the meeting heard the council defend itself against attacks on those policies.

The council has also found itself being criticised by Historic England over the assessment of which sites to develop.

Council officers said they didn't consider 2,000 development sites against each other but in their own local context.

The meeting was told that Wem, "a lovely town", was not near an area of outstanding natural beauty, nor had a recognised wildlife site but somewhere like Church Stretton, is "very constrained" with heritage assets.

If sites in the south of the county competed against sites in the north, and not in their own context, it might mean more development in the north of the county.

"We didn't want 10,000 houses in Wem," one council official told the hearing.

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News