Affordable housing quota for Ironbridge power station redevelopment a 'slap in the face'

A decision to provide only 50 affordable homes out of 1,000 in the redevelopment of Ironbridge Power Station has been described as a 'slap in the face'.

A developer's impression of the plans for the Ironbridge Power Station site
A developer's impression of the plans for the Ironbridge Power Station site

The proposal for one of the biggest development projects in the county goes back to Shropshire Council's Southern Planning Committee for a final decision next week.

The application was deferred in June after councillors expressed concern over the level of affordable housing being included in the scheme – just five per cent, when the council's normal requirement is 20 per cent.

Councillors asked for more information to justify the low proportion of affordable housing, as well as asking for concerns over traffic and the capacity of local health services to be addressed.

Harworth, the firm behind the scheme, said the project would not be viable with an increased level of affordable housing.

Following the June 15 deferral the application is now re-listed for next week's committee, with no alteration to the amount of affordable housing included.

The council report says its officers have reviewed and accepted Harworth's argument over the level of affordable housing, which is reduced due to the costs of clearing the site following the power station demolition.

The report does say that a 'viability review mechanism' will be put in place, which could allow profit from the development to be clawed back to be spent affordable housing elsewhere in the county.

The report states: "Officers have carefully reviewed the submitted information on viability in the context of the government's practice guidance on viability.

"It is considered that the proposals comply fully with this guidance having regard also to the advice of the council’s independent consultant.

"It is unfortunate that the scheme is unable to deliver a policy compliant level of much needed affordable housing.

"However, the substantial costs associated with remediating this complex previously developed site must be acknowledged.

"Notwithstanding this, a viability review mechanism will apply, allowing any excess profit to be clawed back for use by the council with a priority for affordable housing."

Former Much Wenlock Councillor David Turner, who spoke against the application at June's meeting, said the people of Shropshire were being let down by the offer.

He said: "There is plenty of money there to produce the 150 affordable homes they claim they cannot provide.

"I cannot see an iota of difference to what went before committee on June 15 and next Wednesday. I also take exception to the suggestion that if it was rejected it could go to appeal and the quota could be even less.

"There is a significant number of people in housing need and failure to deliver 150 affordable homes will be a complete slap in the face for those people in Shropshire."

The application is being considered by Shropshire Council but because of its impact on the borough of Telford & Wrekin it has also been considered by the area's council.

Telford & Wrekin Councillor Carolyn Healy, who represents the Ironbridge Gorge, has opposed the scheme, and said she was also disappointed at the level of affordable housing included.

She said: "I think it is a missed opportunity given we do have an issue with a lack of affordable housing and it is a big development and therefore having a reasonable amount of affordable housing which I understand it does not – which is around viability issues due to costs for the cleanup of the site – is definitely a missed opportunity."

She added: "I objected when Telford & Wrekin considered it because if the scale of development is too high, it will have a huge impact on the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site because of its proximity and despite the best efforts of our staff to mitigate that it is inevitable there will be an impact on the World Heritage Site with increased traffic and the visual effect."

One of the major criticisms ahead of the June 15 meeting was that no dedicated scheme had been agreed to alleviate the increase in traffic at the Gaskell corner in Much Wenlock – with £250,000 set aside to draw up a suitable scheme in the future.

Mr Turner said: "It is suggested in the officers' report that speakers at the meeting in June were expecting all of the ills in the highways network to be remedied by Harworth, clearly that is not the case, what is expected is they deal with the excess traffic caused by their development.

"Nothing appears to have changed and I am very nervous of what appears to be a generous offer of £250,000 when we actually do not know what it will cost."

The application will be considered on Tuesday, August 10.

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