Shropshire Star

Shropshire Council challenged by inspectors over evidence for local plan

Planning inspectors have told Shropshire Council they do not believe their evidence base matches with the ambitions of its local plan.

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Shropshire Council is currently going through the lengthy approval process for its local plan.

The local plan, which is one of the council's most important policies, is currently going through a lengthy approval process where it is examined by government appointed planning inspectors.

A series of hearings into the proposal took place last year but subsequently inspectors have outlined a number of areas where they had significant concerns.

The plan sets out locations across the Shropshire Council area where housing and commercial developments are recommended 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 proposal also includes 30 hectares of employment land.

In a series of back and forth letters Shropshire Council wrote to the inspectors in October last year and defended its position, while also asking for clarification around the nature of the concerns.

Now inspectors have written back, confirming their concerns that the council is not properly accounting for the quota of 1,500 homes it is providing to help Black Country authorities meet their own housing targets.

Shropshire Council has included the 1,500 homes and 30 hectares of employment land within its overall target of 30,800 homes and 300 hectares of employment land.

But in their clarifications to the council inspectors now say they are not convinced the evidence matches the outcome.

They said: "At some point the plan changed from meeting just Shropshire’s own housing needs to meeting the needs of Shropshire and some of the Black Country’s unmet needs, but the evidence base remained the same."

The inspectors say that the council's plan describes a "Shropshire wide housing requirement of around 30,800 dwellings being essential for the long-term prosperity of Shropshire."

They add: "Indeed, there are many parts of the plan which read as though the council are just seeking to meet their own housing requirement."

But they say it is only later in the plan that the council mentions the inclusion of the homes for the Black Country.

They write: "It is only in paragraph 3.7 of the Plan where it is explained that these 30,800 homes incorporate 1,500 dwellings to support the housing needs of the emerging Black Country Plan."

The issue is central as to whether the inspectors accept the council's decision to include the 1,500 homes within its overall target, or believe they should be added on top of the 30,800 already planned.

The council will now be asked to go away and carry out more work on its evidence base – before a full consultation on the extra work.

When the work is concluded the inspectors said they intend to hold further hearings sessions to discuss the plan.

The discussions come against a background of a legal threat from the Bradford Estates, which wants to build around 3,000 homes and a large employment site on Green Belt land to the west of Tong and north of junction three of the M54.

Lawyers representing the Bradford Estates have previously threatened legal action over the proposals as currently put forward by Shropshire Council – saying the authority had failed to consider additional sites.