Ironbridge power station housing 'approved before policies in place'

A major planning application for 1,000 homes at the former Ironbridge Power Station site was granted before Shropshire Council development policies for the site were in place, a meeting has heard.

An artist's impression of what the site could look like
An artist's impression of what the site could look like

The council says the situation is not unusual but objectors claim that not enough money is being put aside under those policies to ease problems in the health service or congestion on local roads.

Hearings into the draft Shropshire Local Plan being held this week were told that a final agreement is still to be made on the Harworth Group's development at Ironbridge, some 10 months after councillors controversially granted permission last year.

But the hearing was told a final decision letter giving the go-ahead is on track to be issued.

Cooling towers at Ironbridge Power Station being demolished

Last year councillors voted 6-4 to grant planning permission for the new community, which will also see a school, business premises and leisure facilities built on the 350-acre site at Buildwas.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities rejected a request to call in the plan on October 21.

Objectors are keeping up the pressure on the council however, over the effectiveness of its planning policies.

Councillor Duncan White, the mayor of Much Wenlock, said: "This plan does not effectively identify or cost an adequate level of infrastructure changes suitable to the plan."

He said £350,000 for traffic changes was "not enough", especially to ease problems at the Gaskell Corner bottleneck in Much Wenlock.

Councillor Dan Thomas, of Much Wenlock Town Council, and former Shropshire councillor David Turner also questioned whether enough was being done over transport issues and healthcare.

Mr Thomas queried the accuracy of traffic modelling, and said not enough was being provided for bus services, the roads, or health services. He said local GP surgeries were already over capacity.

Steve Lewis-Roberts, speaking for the site developer, said a sum of £913,00 had been agreed with the clinical commissioning group for health services locally. The meeting heard that the money won't be going to an "on-site" health facility but to fund "outside" provision.

Daniel Corden, principal policy officer at Shropshire Council, who focuses on housing policy, said the fact they were examining the policy after the proposal was "not the usual order of things, but it does happen in some instances".

He said all the issues were considered as a part of the planning application process and added: "We do consider that these issues have been considered appropriately during the planning application process."

Planning inspector Carole Dillon asked the council to clarify if planning permission had not been granted yet "to what extent is this policy going to be effective in managing the types of concerns we have heard?"

Mr Corden said the council considered that guidelines had been met but added that they would "go away and have an examination of explanatory texts".

Eddie West, the council's planning manager, said he thought the planning process provides "effective mechanisms for issues to be effectively addressed". And he added that in these circumstances it was "quite a good example of the system working".

He believed sums required from the developers provided a "fair and equitable figure".

The council has also been responding to criticism and queries on its other strategic sites, at Clive Barracks, at Tern Hill and at RAF Cosford, where land is proposed to be removed from the Green Belt.

The sites are planned to make a huge contribution to the county's housing needs up to and beyond 2038.

Planning inspectors are putting the council's policies under scrutiny at local plan hearings taking place this week. The examination is set to move on to considering individual sites on at a later stage.

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