Ironbridge Power Station development plan could be called in by government over affordable housing

The Government has been asked to intervene in the determination of the Ironbridge Power Station planning application over the low number of affordable homes proposed.

The moment the Ironbridge cooling towers came down
The moment the Ironbridge cooling towers came down

A request has been lodged with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, asking Secretary of State Robert Jenrick to take the decision out of Shropshire Council’s hands.

The application was set to be decided by the council’s southern planning committee today and officers have recommended that outline permission is granted.

The request to the Government means no decision can be issued by the council, however the committee can still make a resolution ready to proceed should the Government not call the case in.

The developer, Harworth Group, says 50 out of the 1,000 homes planned will be affordable, representing a five per cent contribution.

Shropshire Council planning policy requires developments in the south of the county to include a 20 per cent affordable housing contribution, but Harworth says it is unable to offer this due to viability constraints.

Stephen Mulloy, who made the call-in request to the ministry, argues that not enough information is provided in the applicant’s viability assessment, including the ‘existing use value’ of the land, on which its conclusion is based.

Harworth paid £4.25 million, plus VAT, for the power station site in 2018.

Mr Mulloy has asked for the Existing Use Value through a freedom of information request to the council but is yet to receive a response.

He said National Planning Policy Framework dictates that a minimum of 10 per cent of homes in all major developments should be available for affordable home ownership. There are exemptions, but none of these mention viability, he said.

The secretary of state has powers to take over responsibility for deciding certain planning applications in cases of “national significance”.

Mr Mulloy said he believed the “manipulation” of viability assessments was nationally significant.

He has made a similar request for the planning application for 340 homes off Welshpool Road, Shrewsbury.

With both call-in requests currently being considered, he said the council was not permitted to issue decision notices for either application to allow work to start.

This will be lifted if the ministry decides not to intervene, but if either application is called in a planning inspector will be appointed to carry out a public inquiry before advising the secretary of state in making the final decision.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We have received requests to call in these cases.

“No decisions have yet been made regarding whether to call in these applications and they remain matters for the council concerned at this time.”

A Shropshire Council spokesman said: “The meeting is going ahead. The request for a call in simply means that no decision can be issued until the request has been considered. The committee can still make a resolution ready to go if a call in is not proceeded with.”

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