Bridgnorth Chamber chief denies backing for more homes
A chamber of commerce chairman has voiced frustration over suggestions that his organisation has been lobbying for the construction of more homes in a town.
Steve Robbins, the chairman of Bridgnorth Chamber of Commerce has insisted the organisation has not made any representation to Shropshire Council over the authority's plans to build hundreds of homes in the town.
The proposals, which are part of Shropshire Council's local plan, would see 850 homes and 40 hectares of employment land built on Stanmore up until 2036.
The plans for a 'garden village' have been strongly opposed by local campaigners, but the council has argued the homes are needed to retain businesses, and provide places for local people to live.
Asked last month if companies had come forward to raise their concern, Adrian Cooper, planning policy & strategy manager for Shropshire Council: “Yes, through things like the chamber of commerce and the LEP, these are what spurred the concerns. This is an issue that pertains to the local economy in Bridgnorth.”
However, Mr Robbins has insisted that the chamber has not lobbied over the issue.
He said: "I would like to make it very clear that Bridgnorth Chamber of Commerce have not received any comments from its members or other businesses concerning a need for housing or additional employment land in the town.
"Furthermore, we are advised that Shropshire Chamber of Commerce and Trade, as our parent chamber, have received no such comments either, and neither chamber has made any representations to Shropshire Council on the matter, as alluded to by one of its officers.
"As chairman of Bridgnorth Chamber of Commerce I find myself frustrated by the inaccurate information emanating from this council, particularly where it promotes a negative impression of the chamber which works very hard for the town, its businesses and residents."
The council has defended its position with Gemma Davies, head of economic growth for Shropshire Council, saying: “The justification for our approach with the local plan has been influenced by the conclusions of the Bridgnorth ‘Health Check’/the Bridgnorth Housing needs survey and the preparation of the Local Economic Growth Strategy.
“The loss of companies from Bridgnorth and the lack of sufficient land for expansion and growth were key factors in Shropshire Council’s decision to commission the Health Check study in April 2015. On the housing issue, research indicates a significant proportion of Bridgnorth residents commute out of the town to work.
“One of the housing consequences of a large commuter population is that there is a greater housing cost and house price mismatch with local working household incomes.
“It has higher than average home ownership and low levels of affordable housing. Only around 40 per cent of households in Bridgnorth can afford to buy an entry-level home at today’s prices.
“Affordable housing (social rent and shared ownership) are the less expensive housing options, but there is a severe shortage of supply.”