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Shropshire councils split over housing request

By Dominic Robertson | Local Hubs | Published:

The two councils covering Shropshire appear to be at odds over plans to use county land to meet a shortfall of space for houses in the Black Country.

Last month Shropshire Council's cabinet agreed to look at seeing if it could provide land for development after a request from the Association of Black Country Authorities (ABCA), which said it did not have enough space.

It is believed that potential development land off the M54, in the Tong area, and around Cosford, is being suggested by Shropshire Council as a means of making up for the shortfall in the Black Country.

Now letters detailing the request from ABCA, in July last year, have emerged, which also reveal that Telford & Wrekin Council had responded by saying there was no evidence to support the request.

Shropshire Council's response says there is "merit in further discussion" on the matter.

Shortfall

ABCA represents Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, and Wolverhampton City Council.

A letter sent by ABCA last July stated: "Current estimates are that we may have a shortfall in the region of 22,000 dwellings and 300 ha of employment land."

It added: "We are asking for your authority to consider whether it would be able and willing to accommodate any identified housing and employment development needs arising from the Black Country?"

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In response Telford & Wrekin Council managing director, Richard Partington, said: "Your letter does not provide the council with any further evidence to support a case for Telford & Wrekin to contribute to meeting your unmet housing need."

Mr Partington said more specific proposals would be needed to consider helping to provide development land.

In his response, which was written last year, Shropshire Council's chief executive, Clive Wright said they were willing to discuss the possibility of using land to meet ABCA's shortfall.

He said: "Given the geographical proximity of parts of eastern Shropshire to the Black Country, we recognise that there is merit in further discussion about the potential for Shropshire to help meet cross boundary needs from the Black Country."

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Strategic

Mr Wright's letter explains that Shropshire Council's own local plan is likely to provide enough land for housing in the county, and that strategic sites at Tong, Tern Hill Barracks, and Ironbridge Power Station, would provide extra development land, some of which could count towards the Black country requirement.

He said: "Our preferred sites consultation in October will address both our currently identified housing needs and provide for the delivery of a housing requirement greater than this need.

"Therefore any other strategic proposals which have been promoted through the current Local Plan Review process would help us to provide a non‐delivery allowance for Shropshire and might also provide headroom to cater for cross boundary needs.

"However, such proposals will need to be consistent with the objectives of our economic growth strategy and will need to be accompanied by extensive infrastructure investment, and for sites in the Green Belt we must ensure the ability to demonstrate exceptional circumstances in order to meet the requirements of the current and emerging National Planning Policy Framework.

"We would welcome further discussions in relation to this potential as our work progresses, particularly in relation to the M54 corridor."

A response from ABCA said the organisation is aware of opportunities for a major mixed-use strategic development Cosford, and the "aspirations for large scale development being promoted in this location".

Clusters

The letter outlines how the organisation feels the plans could be well placed to meet its shortfall.

It states: "We recognise the important role of RAF Cosford and the opportunity for further investment in this location to strengthen the economic role of the M54 Corridor and support the nationally significant clusters of aerospace and high technology manufacturing activity in the Black Country around M54 Junction 2.

"The area benefits from strong physical connections to the Black Country in the form of the M54 and rail line and could be well placed to directly meet a proportion of the unmet employment land and housing needs arising from the Black Country and wider HMA."

A consultation on Shropshire Council's strategic sites is expected to take place later this year.

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