Shropshire Star

Shropshire Council tells inspectors it did not 'retrofit' local plan housing figures

Shropshire Council has rejected suggestions it tried to 'retrofit' figures for its local plan and has asked inspectors for clarification over their concerns.

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Shropshire Council has responded to planning inspectors over their concerns about its local plan.

It emerged last month that planning inspectors examining Shropshire Council's local plan have major questions over elements of the authority's proposal.

Those concerns were revealed after a large landowner also threatened legal action over the plan as it stands.

The local plan sets out locations across the Shropshire Council area where developments will take place up until 2038.

It is made up of a combined 30,800 homes over that time-frame – including 1,500 which have been put forward to help Black Country councils, which need extra space for housing.

The planning inspectors' concerns relate to the council’s proposal for the location of those 1,500 homes and 30 hectares of employment land for the Black Country.

As part of the process, earlier this year the council was asked to specifically identify where the Black Country homes and employment land would be based within Shropshire.

It carried out a number of pieces of work, including a ‘Sustainability Appraisal’ (SA).

The authority listed a number of sites as combining to provide the allocation – Tasley Garden Village at Bridgnorth, the former Ironbridge Power Station, land between Mytton Oak Road and Hanwood Road in Shrewsbury, and land to the east of Shifnal Industrial Estate, at Upton Lane.

But, inspectors have raised concerns that the sites were already included in the council’s ambitions for the county.

They then said the authority needed to assess how to provide them on top of the target.

Now Shropshire Council has written to the inspectors requesting 'clarification on a number of points' before it replies in full.

The authority has also said that it had not sought to set the figures so they agreed with its conclusions, telling the inspectors: "The council was in no way seeking to retrofit the SA to suit predetermined requirements."

As part of the letter, the council says that the clarification will allow it to work out how long it will take to respond – and make sure it addresses the inspectors' concerns.

The letter also seeks to argue that the best place for discussing the inspectors' concerns is at local plan hearings rather than in the courts.

That point has been made amid threats from legal representatives of the Bradford Estates, which is seeking to have a large green belt site west of Tong added to the plan.

The Bradford Estates wants to build nearly 3,000 homes on the site, along with a significant employment development.

The council's letter, from Edward West, planning policy and strategy manager, states: "The council fully respects that you and others may have concerns over the soundness of conclusions reached.

"The council considers the most appropriate mechanism for discussing these substantive issues of soundness is through a hearing session once we have provided any additional SA material requested, and following public consultation on this material.

"We would therefore welcome your confirmation the council will have an opportunity to comment on any soundness concerns you and others have through the examination process in due course."