Shropshire Council defend plans to build hundreds of homes in Bridgnorth
Plans to build hundreds of homes in a new Bridgnorth garden settlement and set aside green belt land for future development have been defended by Shropshire Council.
The authority has said that its future plans for the town, which focus on the Stanmore area, are needed to meet the demand for houses in the county.
The proposals, which have led to the formation of a campaign group opposed to the plans, include a garden settlement and employment land which could be built over 40 hectares at Stanmore.
The plan, which proposes building 850 homes on the site, would be developed up until 2036.
A large section of green belt surrounding the site is also being set aside for further development after 2036.
Responding to criticism of the proposals the council's planning and strategy manager, Adrian Cooper, said that Bridgnorth had experienced lesser levels of development in the past few years, compared to other Shropshire towns.
He said: "Bridgnorth is Shropshire’s third largest town, but has experienced relatively little growth in recent years. In the last five years, the recorded average number of new houses annually was 456 in Shrewsbury, 121 in Shifnal, but only 45 in Bridgnorth. Proportional to the size of the town, this means that Shrewsbury has grown by around seven per cent, Shifnal by 22 per cent, but Bridgnorth by only four per cent."
Mr Cooper said that Stanmore had been selected as the site for development because of the difficulty in finding other spaces in the town.
He said: "In the case of several of Shropshire’s towns, including Bridgnorth, it has become very difficult to continue to identify smaller sites to extend the existing town in different directions in a way which will maintain and improve access to facilities and services for both existing and new residents.
"In this situation, a new, planned settlement which is big enough to deliver additional education and healthcare and transport infrastructure alongside new housing and employment space can be a better approach."
Mr Cooper also said plans to set aside a large section of green belt for development after 2036 were being considered because restrictions have led to "a number of businesses moving away to other areas".
He said: "The purpose of the green belt is to limit the growth of the Birmingham and the Black Country. Its presence on the east side of town has effectively limited the growth of the town to the west side of the town. The impact of this is that local employers in Bridgnorth have struggled to find enough space to grow and expand and this has led to a number of businesses moving away to other areas.
"At the same time, many people who work locally find it difficult to afford housing which meets their needs due to the restricted supply of new housing and this is also preventing local businesses being able to recruit and retain the staff they need. This restricted pattern of growth is not sustainable and is leading to a skewed age profile with increasing care demands and limited job opportunities (particularly for younger people)."