1,000-home plan for Ironbridge Power Station passes first planning stage

Plans to build 1,000 homes on the site of a former power station have been approved by councillors – marking the first major stage of the one county's biggest development projects.

A developer's impression of how the development could look
A developer's impression of how the development could look

Proposals to transform the Ironbridge Power Station site, to create what will effectively be a new town, are being jointly considered by Telford & Wrekin and Shropshire Councils – although the development falls almost entirely on the Shropshire side of the border.

Telford & Wrekin Council's planning committee unanimously approved the plans, for 1,000 homes and other facilities on the 340 acre site, this afternoon.

Shropshire Council is expected to consider the proposal next month.

The plans approved feature a raft of conditions with around £16.8 million of contributions – including £4.4m towards the expansion of William Brookes School in Much Wenlock for 160 pupils, and £5.1m for an on-site nursery and primary school.

Councillor Carolyn Healy, who represents the Ironbridge Gorge ward, said she "wished there were" another use for the site but there wasn't, and she has instead tried to find a "pragmatic approach" that "mitigates the effect" on existing homes and roads.

A planning officers' report for the committee said the developer plans "up to 1,000 dwellings", a retirement village and a primary and nursery school.

Nearly 15 acres of employment land, one acre of allotments, a local centre including a convenience store and other retailers, a sports pavilion, "formal and informal recreational land including sports pitches", open space and a central village green are also planned, with a light railway also possible, subject to funding.

Cllr Healy said: "The number of houses in Coalbrookdale and Ironbridge, the parts of my ward closest to the site, is less than 900. This development is for 1,000, plus commercial use.

"As such, this will have a huge impact on the community I live in and represent.

"However, I recognise that there isn't really a means for reclaiming former industrial sites like this other than through redevelopment. I wish there were.

"I've had to take a pragmatic approach and, since being elected, my focus has been on trying to mitigate the effect of the development on The Gorge and on Telford and Wrekin, and I have been working with officers to do that."

She said she hoped the conditions, negotiated between Harworth and planning officers, were not amended or varied in later stages of planning.

She said concerns remained about access to the site. In later stages of the development, traffic will enter and exit the site via Much Wenlock Road.

"However, due to planned gravel extraction, the first 250 homes are planned to use the existing entrance off Buildwas Road," she said.

"This will mean significant extra traffic through Coalbrookdale and Ironbridge on roads that are narrow and have stability issues. I would like to see the exit on Much Wenlock Road achieved earlier, and there should be no extension beyond those 250 dwellings if that isn't possible."

Committee member Kuldip Sahota said the financial contributions were "a sweetener", but added that that was "the only good I can see".

Cllr Sahota said Shropshire Council was likely to approve the application and added: "They will take the housing bonus from the government and the taxes, and we will end up with all kinds of problems for the long-term future".

Committee member Councillor Peter Scott said: "It's hard to imagine the site being anything other than developed; I don't know what other people expect it to be turned into."

He said he "couldn't see any significant reason" in planning rules to refuse outline permission.

Councillor Nigel Dugmore said he was disappointed that only 50 of the planned homes would be classed as affordable housing.

"It would be nice to see more," he said.

"As usual, the viability excuse is trotted out.

"I would have thought that properties in this area would be selling at a premium, so five per cent seems a bit low."

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