Public meeting frustration over Ironbridge power station redevelopment
The “rule of six” has frustrated a councillor’s aim to hold a public meeting about the Ironbridge power station redevelopment, ahead of its expected planning committee hearing in November.
Harworth Group Plc is seeking outline permission to build 1,000 homes and other facilities on the site, where four cooling towers were demolished in December and further clearance work is continuing.
The Rotherham-based developer submitted updated documents last month, and has been granted a time extension until November.
Emails between Telford and Wrekin Council’s planning department and the company’s planning agent say they are aiming for a committee date that month.
Councillor Carolyn Healy was hoping to arrange a public information and discussion session about the revised plans, but said government rules, that aimed to prevent a resurgence of Covid-19, made that unlikely.
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She told The Gorge Parish Council she would instead produce a summary of the changes between the two sets of plans to help inform residents.
A public drop-in information and discussion session was held at Coalbrookdale and Ironbridge Community Centre in January to discuss the previous iteration of the plans.
Councillor Healy told parish councillors this had been “very successful”.
In August, Harworth Group submitted a new set of documents to Shropshire Council and Telford and Wrekin Council, updating its cross-border applications.
These included a revised planning statement, a proposed 2021-2032 construction timeline, a leisure strategy, a response to Shropshire Council comments about public rights of way and a 14-part environmental statement covering topics including biodiversity, drainage, flood risk, ground stability and transport.
An email from Steve Lewis-Roberts, a senior director at Pegasus Group, Harworth’s planning agent is also available to view.
It says: “Your November committee date is noted. I confirm my agreement to extend the time period for the determination of the planning application to November 20, 2020.”
Giving her regular update to parish councillors, Councillor Healy, who represents Ironbridge Gorge on Telford and Wrekin Council, said she was hoping a new public meeting could be held, similar to January’s but “outdoors and socially-distanced”, to discuss the revised plans.
On Monday, September 14, new laws came into effect prohibiting “social gatherings” of more than six people in England.
Public meetings are not included in the government’s list of exemptions.
Councillor Healy said the rule “muddies the waters and makes it difficult to have that type of meeting”.
She added: “What I’m going to do is try to summarise the changes from the first application to the current documents that are in, and flag up things that were issues last time and what Harworth is now saying about them.
“Hopefully, that will help the public make their comments. And, I’m sure, the parish council will be putting in its comments about the application.”
The Gorge Parish Council chairman Lee Proudfoot said a standalone meeting could be arranged to discuss the application, on account of the overall project’s size and importance.
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