Call to government as British Ironwork Centre plan granted permission

A controversial retrospective planning application for the British Ironwork Centre near Oswestry was this afternoon passed unanimously by councillors.

The British Ironwork Centre
The British Ironwork Centre

But that isn't the end to the saga, as a request had been made to the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government to call in the application.

Black Country Metalworks Ltd had failed to obtain planning permission to build some elements of the tourism attraction off the A5 near Oswestry, and was found to have flouted planning laws.

A long-running saga has taken place and a new proposal went before the planning committee today, where it was passed by councillors.

In front of a packed room at Shirehall, the application was heard for the extension and alterations to existing lawful buildings to include improvements to an existing access and change of use of land to formalise the sculpture park on part of the site.

Councillor officer Phillip Mullineux explained that safety concerns have previously been made about the entrance to the site from the A5, and he explained Highways England have been involved, and have agreed that a middle lane should be introduced for safe right turning into the site.

Local resident Ruth Cragg gave an impassioned speech, stating it was something quite different from original permission granted in 2009 and said the character of the area had been impacted.

She argued it brought no economic benefit, build-up of traffic caused pollution in the area and the site should be shut down until changes have been made.

Centre chair Clive Knowles addressed the committee, and admitted he would have handled the whole situation differently if he were to approach it again.

He said: "I fully accept full responsibility. If we had the opportunity to do it again we would do things differently, but there are people we won't please and they will always find fault in the centre and everything we do."

He said that if the application was rejected it would be the end of the centre, with employs 85 people rising to 100 this summer.

Planning committee chair Paul Wynn said: "It is a great vision, but as a businessman I would not invest X amount until I had full planning permission. I would not plough money when I did not have planning permission.

"This is a big thing for the north of Shropshire and I think it is an asset."

Reputation

Councillor Pauline Dee raised concerns about the right turn out of the centre, however said the business was great for the economy.

Councillor Mark Jones said he had been several times and said the saga has stained the business.

He said: "The business's own reputation will be stained and the job should have been done properly.

"It will take time to get its reputation back locally."

The committee passed the application unanimously, however a decision notice will not be issued until the secretary of state has decided whether to call it in.

It has emerged that an unknown person had asked the secretary of state to call in the application, if the council granted permission.

In a letter to Shropshire Council, planning casework officer for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and local Government, John Blakeway, said: "I have asked that if Committee is minded to grant permission on the above application you will not issue a decision to permit development on the above application until the Secretary of State has considered the case against his call-in policy and issued a decision. The Secretary of State will of course endeavour to make a decision as soon as is practically possible following your committee meeting."

Planning expert Matthew Scudamore said the government does have the power to call it in and make a decision on it.

He said: "Anyone can contact him and ask him to do that. It is up to the secretary of state to make a decision about whether it is something he should do.

"I don't know who in this case contacted the secretary of state, and ultimately we will have to see what happens at the planning committee."

In a letter to Shropshire Council, a government official explained that if permission was granted today, the authority would not be able to issue a decision notice until the secretary of state has decided what to do.

After it was revealed the centre, known for the Knife Angel sculpture, did not have certain permissions, an application including a number of new features was submitted.

That was then withdrawn, before the latest one that went before the committee today was lodged.

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