Last-ditch plea to spare green belt in Shropshire Council housing plan

Campaigners have issued a final plea for greenbelt land to be spared from development ahead of a critical vote on Shropshire Council’s new local plan.

Campaigners have been battling against plans for development of Shifnal since the local plan was revealed
Campaigners have been battling against plans for development of Shifnal since the local plan was revealed

Councillors will be asked on Thursday to approve the plan, which sets out where more than 30,000 houses will be built in Shropshire by 2038, to be sent for government examination.

The council says 421 acres of land around Shifnal, Albrighton, Bridgnorth and Alveley needs to be released from the West Midlands Green Belt, of which 134 acres would be developed during the plan period, mainly for employment sites.

The remainder would be ‘safeguarded’ to be developed as housing and employment land post-2038.

A 530-acre ‘strategic site’ at Cosford is also to be removed from the green belt for the expansion of the RAF base, museum and new Midlands Air Ambulance headquarters.

The proposals for Shifnal have prompted a huge backlash from people living in the town, who argue the ‘exceptional circumstances’ required for the release of green belt land have not been met.

Action group Shifnal Matters, which has been fighting the proposals for the last three years, is now calling on councillors to reject the draft plan in Thursday’s vote.

The group claims the council’s justification for the release the land is based on population growth figures which are “largely inflated” and “not a true reflection of what’s actually required”.

Group spokesman Tony Jemmett said: “Time and time again we have pointed out to Shropshire Council that their calculations and housing projections are wrong and just don’t add up, but we have had no response or explanation on how this is justified.”

Opposition has also been voiced to the inclusion of 1,500 homes in the local plan to contribute towards unmet housing need in the Black Country.

Mr Jemmett said: “The group are horrified that this ‘unmet need’ is being thrust on Shifnal and its residents with no proof that this is needed.

“Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, has continually stated that they have enough brownfield land for all of their housing needs, so where has this 1,500 come from?

“Shropshire Council need to take a step back with accepting this allocation of housing until the West Midlands have completed their own local plan review.

“How can they know they have a shortfall when the process is only part way through? Surely this makes a mockery of the consultation process if they know where their development will be at this stage.”

The group says other areas which could provide land outside the green belt for development have been “overlooked”.

Mr Jemmett said: “Regardless of the amount of houses that are required we should not be taking the West Midlands’ unmet need into Shropshire.

“Telford was built as the overspill for the West Midlands and is still yet to reach its full capacity, and the fact that they are unwilling to accept either the West Midlands or Shifnal’s housing needs just shows that they don’t feel that this need is justified.”

If councillors support the plan at Thursday’s meeting, it will be sent for examination by a government-appointed planning inspector.

The final version, including any changes made by the inspector, will be adopted next year.

Mr Jemmett added: “It is vital that we make a stand before it’s too late, as we’ve previously stated there are no exceptional circumstances for our green belt to be lost and if Shropshire Council can’t see it then I’m sure the planning inspector will.”

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