Beach sign application rejected amid hundreds of complaints

A raft company’s application to place three signs on a privately-owned riverside beach attracted 212 complaints, and has been rejected by planners.

The River Severn near Ironbridge
The River Severn near Ironbridge

Shropshire Raft Tours Ltd applied to post the notices, advising people that the land is private and prohibiting unauthorised access to the water, on its land just south of the Museum of the Gorge, Ironbridge.

Telford & Wrekin Council has turned down the application, saying it “cannot be ignored” that the land “has been used by members of the public for a significant amount of time”, and the sign might lead them to enter or leave the water at less safe locations.

A planners’ report justifying the refusal also said the company had not provided evidence the main sign – made from six railway sleepers planted half a metre into the ground – could withstand a flood, raising concerns it could be uprooted and cause injuries and property damage.

Shropshire Raft Tours operates from a demountable kiosk on the Wharfage car park.

The nearby gravel beach is owned by Merrythought Village Ltd but leased to the company and used to moor boats and rafts.

Application documents, submitted by Shropshire Raft Tours owner Sharon Bailey, said the main sign would stand one metre out of the ground and have two black panels attached, reading: “Private Land, Shropshire Raft Tours and Canoe Hire. No public access for watercraft users. No fishing. No swimming”.

An existing post, which used to hold the river gauge, would have had two smaller signs added to it.

The Gorge Parish Council objected to the proposal, saying “there is a potential public safety issue in that the signs would force other users of the area to seek less safe alternatives”.

The consultation response submitted by members added the sign was “not in keeping with the intent to welcome visitors to Ironbridge”.

The planners’ report said 212 objection letters and five message of support had been received.

The objectors, it added, said the signs “would be located on a parcel of land which has been used by members of the public for a number of years”, and “would have a detrimental impact on public safety and the amenity of the area”.

Planners wrote that the tour company kiosk has time-restricted planning permission and needs to be removed for certain months of the year as it was “considered inappropriate all year round” in such a “sensitive location”.

They said the council suggested removable signs to “avoid clutter” when the business was not operating, but the applicant did not adopt this.

Turning to the safety issue, the report said: “It cannot be ignored that this parcel of land has been used by members of the public for a significant period of time.

“As such, officers consider that the safety of other waterway users needs to be taken into account when determining this application.”

The report also noted that Ironbridge “experiences a number of floods per year” and said officers asked the applicant to provide evidence “the proposed signage would withhold the forces of flood water and not be uprooted by flooding, causing possible damage to properties and persons”.

The report added these were not provided.

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