Concerns that holiday lets are turning Ironbridge into 'ghost town'

Ironbridge becomes a “ghost town” in winter and the “ever-growing number” of holiday let properties is contributing to the problem, parish councillors have said.

Ironbridge attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and many people have ended up setting up homes in the town
Ironbridge attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and many people have ended up setting up homes in the town

The Gorge Parish Council chairman Lee Proudfoot said the historic town even loses vibrancy at certain times of the day or week because of “uninhabited” properties.

Councillor Rae Evans said the parish’s planning committee should establish a position on holiday lets and small-scale developments that were cropping up in gardens of existing houses, “overdeveloping” the sites.

Councillor Proudfoot said the committee could discuss it at a future meeting, but added that “a fine balance” needed to be struck, as tourism generates jobs and tax revenue.

Parish and town councils do not get the final say in planning applications, but can support, object to or comment on proposals before Telford & Wrekin Council decides.

Councillor Evans, who represents the parish’s Ironbridge ward and is a cabinet member on Telford & Wrekin Council, said the committee needed to think about “the principle of the ever-growing number of holiday lets and developments in gardens around the town”.

She said: “There will come a point, if we’re not careful, where gardens are overdeveloped with sheds and shepherd’s cottages, which are holiday lets, and – as there is along the Wharfage – a large part of the area is actually not inhabited.

Balance

“None of this is good for what we want, which is a thriving community.

“So I would just invite the council to maybe, in future, take some time to think about its stance.”

She said she and vice-chairman Alan Taylor had recently discussed how it was possible to “go in all of the shops all the way down the Wharfage” in the days when it was “a proper town”.

Councillor Proudfoot said: “Change-of-use from residential, I think, is always something we should comment on, and we have done before.”

While discussing a recent conversion of an office to a home, he said, members had commented that losing a business was a negative but gaining a home was a positive.

“Of course, what the resident then chooses to do with it is, obviously, beyond our control,” he added.

Councillor Taylor said Ironbridge “turns into a ghost town in the winter”.

Councillor Proudfoot agreed that unoccupied homes “do impact on the vibrancy outside of the key times of the year, and the key times of the day and week as well”.

He added: “It is something we, as a planning committee, should have a chat about and draw up our position.

“It’s a fine balance, because it’s an employer and it generates a lot of business rates.”

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