The redevelopment of the 340-acre site at Buildwas will also include a retirement village, primary school, shops, a rail link, business sites and sports, leisure and healthcare facilities, in what will effectively become a new town.
The plans will go before Shropshire Council’s southern planning committee next week, and officers say outline planning permission should be granted.
It comes after Telford and Wrekin Council’s planning committee approved the cross-boundary application last month. Shropshire Council as ‘lead authority’ will determine future applications for the details of the scheme.
The site is earmarked as a new ‘strategic settlement’ in Shropshire Council’s new local plan, which is expected to be adopted next year. If approval is granted, the developer Harworth Group will pay a £16.75 million contribution towards local infrastructure, ring-fenced for work directly associated with the development.
It will include £5.1 million for a new on-site primary school and £4.4m towards expanding William Brookes School in Much Wenlock.
A serviced plot for a new medical practice will be provided, which will be freed up for alternative use if not required.
Just 50 homes, or five per cent, will be ‘affordable’ – a considerably lower figure than is normally required by Shropshire Council for developments in the south of the county.
A report to the planning committee by case officer Grahame French says: “To maintain a viable scheme it is necessary to accept a reduction in affordable housing to five per cent as opposed to the fully compliant level of 20 per cent.
“It is hoped that this shortfall can be addressed subsequently through grant funding from Homes England.”
The report says there is local concern about traffic and impact on the local road networks, but that these have been addressed in the plans and satisfactory mitigation provided.
Work would be carried out to the Gaskell Arms junction in Much Wenlock and Castlefields Way Roundabout in Aqueduct, as well as a new roundabout to be constructed on Buildwas Bank, which is expected to be the main route of traffic generated by the new settlement.
Highway improvements will also be carried out in Atcham, Leighton and Buildwas and new traffic calming measures introduced in Ironbridge.
It adds that the development will result in a ‘net gain’ for biodiversity and is “acceptable in ecological terms”.
Harworth is initially proposing to use the existing railway to transport material off-site, and a longer-term plan for a light rail service to Telford Central is being explored. If this is not viable, the route will be used as a “sustainable non-vehicular” corridor.
Network Rail has confirmed it will carry out the necessary work to the grade II listed Albert Edward bridge.
The report says: “The proposed re-use of the bridge by a reinstated railway are welcomed because this will ensure that it has a viable use in accordance with its original purpose that will provide for its long-term maintenance.”
A bus service to Telford will also be provided and a plot of land within the development is being put forward as a park and ride site to serve Ironbridge.
The site lies immediately adjacent to the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site (WHS) and Severn Gorge Conservation Area and is within 60 metres of the grounds of Buildwas Abbey scheduled ancient monument.
Mr French says in the report: “The change in character from industrial to residential is not considered to result in any material harm to the setting of the WHS, none of which would be physically affected by the proposed development.
“As with Buildwas Abbey it is clear that the public benefits of the site’s redevelopment are significant and provide a viable end use, without which the site would become derelict and dangerous.”
Buildwas Parish Council has objected to the plans, raising concerns over highways and ecological impact, over-development and the shortfall in affordable housing.
Adjoining town and parish councils including Much Wenlock, Easthope Shipton & Stanton Long, Cressage Harley & Sheinton, Barrow and The Gorge have also objected, while others including Broseley, Leighton & Eaton Constantine and Wroxeter & Uffington have remained neutral.
Further objections were received from Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site Steering Group, Coalbrookdale Flood Action Group, and Much Wenlock Civic Society.
There were 60 objections from members of the public as well as six neutral comments and three in support.
The report concludes: “It is not considered that there are any practicable alternatives to developing the application site.
“Without this the redundant infrastructure within the site would become dangerous and potentially prone to vandalism and the site would become an eyesore.
“The applicant has already invested significant money in demolishing redundant structures and remediating the site in advance of development.
“Had the structures not been demolished within the timescales adopted by the applicant then the structures would have become increasingly dangerous, leading to greater complications for any future demolition and redevelopment process.
“The applicant’s viability appraisal demonstrates that it is necessary to include the western greenfield part of the site within the development in order to secure a viable redevelopment scheme for the whole site.
“The masterplan proposals put forward by the applicant are the subject of extensive consultations and stakeholder engagement.
“It is not considered that a materially different masterplan scheme would be deliverable within the development parameters of the site.
“It is considered that the proposals represent sustainable development of previously developed land securing an optimum viable use.”
The southern planning committee will decide the application at a meeting next Tuesday at Theatre Severn.