Council to consider legal challenge over controversial Shrewsbury care development
Plans to launch a legal challenge over the approval of a controversial care village in Shrewsbury have been backed by councillors.
Members of Shrewsbury Town Council were unanimous in calling for the authority to consider judicial review proceedings against the Planning Inspectorate and Shropshire Council over the handling of the planning application for the Hencote estate off Ellesmere Road.
It comes after the inspectorate earlier this month granted permission for 182 extra care units and a 75-bed care home on the estate, overturning the council’s refusal of the scheme.
At a packed meeting, councillors criticised the actions of both bodies in the two-day public inquiry in January, and said it was the town council’s responsibility to stand up for residents in such cases.
Bagley councillor Alex Phillips, who put forward the motion calling for a judicial review, said: “It’s not realistic and indeed not in the best interests of Shrewsbury residents for there to be no development at all.
“However, it is imperative, as the town we all love continues to grow, that Salopians feel that their views are heard and given full weight by the bodies that act on their behalf.
“From the beginning of this application, Salopians have not had a proper chance for their voice to be heard and to scrutinise plans.
“From poor initial site notification, to the eleventh-hour changes in the application, allowing no time for scrutiny before the public inquiry, and the lack of cross examination of some evidence by the inspectorate, reflect poorly on an institution that should be acting in the interests of the public.”
Shropshire Council’s northern planning committee rejected the scheme last April on the grounds that the site lies outside the town’s development boundary in open countryside, but this decision was overturned by an inspector following a two-day inquiry in January.
It came after the developer, Senescura Ltd made a last-minute £1.3 million offer towards affordable housing – a move which led council planners to stand down their defence of the initial refusal and not present evidence to the inquiry.
Councillor Phillips said if the decision was not challenged, Shrewsbury could be seen as a “soft touch” by developers.
Seconding the motion, Councillor Nat Green said the council needed to explore the idea of a judicial review in order to be able to “look the people of Shrewsbury in the eye”.
He said: “Anybody who attended that public inquiry would have been disconcerted at the way key issues, particularly surrounding matters to do with the landscape impact, were quite happily swept out of the way, and by the agreement between the two main parties that Shropshire Council’s own landscape consultant would not go under cross examination – which also makes you wonder why.
“I think we must explore the possibility of judicial review, we owe it to the people of Shrewsbury.
“This is quite a dramatic part of our landscape, and to see it go so easily – and almost by accident – under development is something we must at least show we have explored all options over.
“The people of Shrewsbury will be looking at us to see we are standing up for them and their landscape.”
Council officers will now take legal advice, and a final decision on whether to proceed with a judicial review will be made by the finance and general purposes committee next month.