Ironbridge Power Station developers given second chance due to 'unique' situation

The decision to grant the Ironbridge Power Station developers another attempt at winning approval for their plans represents a “unique” situation, councillors have been told.

The final major demolition work at the Ironbridge site took place last week
The final major demolition work at the Ironbridge site took place last week

Shropshire Council’s southern planning committee will meet later this month to debate the application for a third time, after adjourning a decision in June and then voting to refuse permission for the scheme last month.

At a meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the committee was given an update on the proposals by planning officer Grahame French, who said the “unusual situation” had arisen as a result of a “unique combination of circumstances”.

If approved, the plans will effectively see a new town built on the 350-acre power plant site at Buildwas, which the developer, Harworth Group, has spent the last two years clearing.

The scheme includes 1,000 houses along with a primary school, business sites, shops and community facilities.

Mr French said a refusal notice had been drawn after members resolved to reject the scheme at the last meeting on August 10, but it was not issued as Harworth had “lodged a legal challenge on a procedural issue” related to the meeting.

While the council sought legal advice, the company submitted a series of amendments to its proposals. After seeking further advice, officers agreed that the “material” changes being proposed should be presented to the committee before a decision could be formally issued.

He added that it did not set a precedent as to how future applications are dealt with.

Under normal circumstances, developers have to appeal planning refusals to the Planning Inspectorate and/or submit entirely new applications – with both routes resulting in months of delay and extra costs.

Mr French said: “The amendments relate specifically to the issues upon which the committee resolved to refuse the application, and do not involve any physical changes to the application which would trigger the requirement for a new, wider public consultation.

“Notwithstanding this, relevant consultees have been consulted and a full copy of the proposed amendments has been published on the council’s website.”

The revised plans would see the number of affordable homes within the development increased to 100, representing a 10 per cent contribution.

While still below the 20 per cent normally required for developments in south Shropshire, the figure is double what Harworth had said it could provide.

The developer has also 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.

The application will go back before the committee at a special meeting on September 20.

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