Planners back latest Ironbridge Power Station plans ahead of vote

Councillors are being advised to approve major plans for the redevelopment of a former power station – in a 'unique' second meeting on the plan.

An artist's impression of what the site would look like if approved
An artist's impression of what the site would look like if approved

Last month Shropshire Council's Southern Planning Committee caused shockwaves when it rejected plans from the development company Harworth to build what is effectively a new town on the site of the former Ironbridge Power Station.

In an unusual set of circumstances Shropshire Council is holding a second meeting on the application, after Harworth submitted changes to its proposals – which include 1,000 homes, a school, business premises, and health, community and leisure facilities.

The refusal of the plan, at August's meeting, was based on concerns over the lack of affordable housing included in the plan, as well as worries about funding for healthcare provision and to address the increase in traffic through Much Wenlock.

The amendments have seen the developer up its affordable housing offer from five per cent to 10 per cent – although still short of the council's recommended 20 per cent – as well as providing a total of £913k for healthcare facilities, and £350k for work at Much Wenlock's Gaskell junction.

A report prepared for the committee, which meets on Monday, recommends that councillors approve the plans.

Ahead of the meeting councillors have also been warned of the potential consequences of rejecting the proposals, with the report outlining the prospect of a planning appeal to decide the future of the proposal if it is rejected for the second time.

The report, from case officer Grahame French suggests that an appeal could take two years to reach a conclusion, with Harworth predicting it would cost them £500,000.

The report also suggests that the timescale and work involved in an appeal could lead to a reduction in the amount Harworth is prepared to pay towards infrastructure as part of the proposal.

Mr French's report explains that Harworth has already spent more than £20m on the power station site in the past five years.

It states: "In their letter advising of the amended proposals Harworth indicate that they would need to appeal if the application is refused and that their estimated costs at an inquiry would be of the order of £0.5m.

"The applicant has invested over £20m in the Power Station site over the past five years and has liaised to an unprecedented extent with the local authorities and other stakeholders. Given this substantial investment the company would be obliged to pursue an appeal if the application is refused. Their cost estimate is considered plausible for an appeal on a major application of this nature which would need to be heard at inquiry over an extended period with experienced planning barristers and multiple expert witnesses and could take two years for an outcome to be known."

The report also says that the "unique set of circumstances" for the meeting will not set a precedent.

It states: "It should be emphasised that a unique set of circumstances has led to the application being reported back to committee following the original refusal resolution on August 10.

"This should not be interpreted as establishing any wider precedent for reporting back to committee. The committee is entitled to expect that its decisions will be actioned expediently by officers and this is normally the case though in this case there is a valid reason."

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