Fresh offer from developers over Ironbridge Power Station plans

The developer behind plans to build 1,000 houses on the former Ironbridge Power Station site has pledged to double the number of affordable homes it had previously offered in a last-ditch bid to persuade councillors to approve the scheme.

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

But Harworth Group has warned Shropshire Council that unless planning permission is granted this month it will have “no option” but to lodge an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate.

The proposals, which would also see a school, business premises, and health, community and leisure facilities built on the 350-acre site at Buildwas, are set to go back before the authority’s southern planning committee on September 20.

The last major structure on the power station site was demolished today.

Members last month voted to refuse permission, saying the proposed five per cent affordable housing contribution – amounting to just 50 homes – was not enough. Normal policy for developments in south Shropshire is 20 per cent.

Concerns were also raised over the demands the development would put on local health provision and the traffic impact on nearby Much Wenlock, particularly the Gaskell Arms junction.

Planning officers said the unusual step of bringing the application back before the committee for a final decision was warranted as a result of “material” amendments put forward by Harworth after the last meeting.

A letter from Steve Lewis-Roberts of Pegasus Group, agent to the developer, says Harworth is prepared to up the affordable housing contribution to 10 per cent, or 100 properties.

The extra five per cent over what was originally promised will include retirement or extra care housing and ‘First Homes’ – properties sold at 30 per cent below their value to first time buyers, key workers and armed forces personnel.

Mr Lewis-Roberts says: “Harworth are willing to commit to the delivery of First Homes as part of the affordable housing mix, in order to secure an overall uplift in the provision of affordable housing.

“This commitment provides the opportunity for Ironbridge to be the first site in the region to deliver First Homes.

“On this basis, Harworth is prepared to commit to the delivery of 10 per cent affordable homes within the proposed development.”

The letter goes on to say the developer has agreed to pay the full £913,750 requested by Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) for a new medical centre.

It previously offered a serviced plot and £500,000 towards the facility, but the new offer “translates” the plot to a capital sum and makes up the £200,000 shortfall by taking money from the £1 million ‘Neighbourhood Fund’ promised to Buildwas Parish Council.

A further £100,000 would also be taken from the Neighbourhood Fund to increase the pot of cash ring-fenced for work to the Gaskell Arms junction in Much Wenlock, from £250,000 to £350,000.

It does not however set out what improvements could be carried out, despite calls from the town council and local campaigners for a scheme of works to be agreed before planning permission is granted.

As a result of the changes, the Neighbourhood Fund – to be paid to the parish council in instalments over the lifetime of the development – will shrink to £700,000.

The letter warns councillors that refusal of the application will result in a planning appeal likely to cost Harworth £500,000, with the delay also likely to lead to increased infrastructure and borrowing costs.

Mr Lewis-Roberts says this “will inevitably impact on the level of affordable housing and infrastructure funding that can be borne by the development”.

He adds: “It is not acceptable for a decision to be further delayed beyond this date, and if a decision is not made on 20 September, the applicant would have no option but to lodge an appeal.

“In addition to the applicant’s response on affordable housing, health provision and transport mitigation, it is important that members give weight to the raft of planning benefits arising from this development.

“These benefits include bringing a contaminated brownfield site back into active use, delivering a sustainable key strategic site identified in the new local plan, providing a park and ride site, and a prospective rail connection to be used by very light rail vehicles, significant ecology and landscape benefits, and substantial economic benefits.

“The consequences of a refusal of planning permission, both in relation to the re-assessment of viability and allowing a key strategic site in the draft local plan to remain vacant, would be a retrograde step, in the context of a national housing crisis.”

The committee will receive a verbal update at a meeting next Tuesday and will decide the fate of the application on September 20.

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