Redevelopment of former Bridgnorth council offices rejected

Developers have been told to go back to the drawing board over plans to demolish Bridgnorth's former council headquarters and build 31 houses in its place.

An image of how the development could look.
An image of how the development could look.

Proposals by South Staffordshire Housing Association (SSHA) for the derelict Westgate site were expected to be signed off by Shropshire Council’s southern planning committee at a meeting on Tuesday.

But members refused to grant approval for the scheme in its current form after saying they were disappointed by the layout and lack of green space.

Planning officers had said that while the number of properties proposed for the site was a higher density than its surroundings, and less open space was provided than is normally required by planning policies, the development would help to address the town’s shortage of housing.

This was however not accepted by the committee, with Councillor Andy Boddington saying: “You couldn’t get a better site in Bridgnorth to be developed for something exemplary that we would be proud of.

“This is not great. What concerns me most is the public open space. We are seeing this space which is barely usable squeezed down the side of Wenlock Road. It is not a particularly functional space.”

Councillor Madge Shineton said: “I am very disappointed to see the old Bridgnorth District Council site being crowded in like this.”

Councillor Tina Woodward said the positioning and size of the proposed houses had an “overpowering” appearance which did not fit in with the site’s surroundings.

She added: “I am deeply disappointed with what has been brought forward for this site because it’s such an integral part of the town.

“This is not what we expected to see and I think we can do better.”

Under the plans, submitted earlier this year by Housing Plus Group, part of SSHA, the scheme will include a mix of detached and semi-detached houses of between two and five bedrooms. Six of the properties will be affordable homes.

Concerns

The two existing site entrances are to be closed off and the development will be accessed via a new turning off Wenlock Road, further away from the junction than the current access. Driveways to seven of the properties will have direct access onto Ludlow Road.

Councillor Cecilia Motley said she was “not at all happy with the parking arrangements” of the properties facing onto Ludlow Road while Councillor Simon Harris said it was “an accident waiting to happen”.

A report to the planning committee by case officer Mike Davies said Bridgnorth Town Council had raised concerns around traffic and road safety, the “inappropriate density” and the scheme’s environmental credentials.

Four members of the public objected to the proposals, while seven wrote in support of the plans and two made neutral comments.

Mr Davies had recommended approval of the scheme, saying the density was necessary in order to make the scheme viable due to the “significant overheads in terms of site clearance”.

The committee unanimously voted to defer its decision.

The housing association will now have an opportunity to revise the proposals before they come back to the committee at a future meeting.

The Westgate building was the home of Bridgnorth District Council until Shropshire Council was formed in 2009, after which its use diminished and it eventually closed.

In 2015 Shropshire Council revealed its intentions to sell the building, leading to Bridgnorth Community Group bidding to have it listed as a community asset so that it could be retained for employment, recreation and community usage – but the application was rejected.

It was later hoped that West Mercia Police officers could use the building as a base following the closure of Bridgnorth Police Station in 2018, but that plan was dropped when it was decided to re-open the police station.

SSHA intended to buy both the Westgate council offices and the police station to build 41 homes, but the number has been reduced due to the police station no longer being included in the plans.

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