Ironbridge businesses ready to face next chapter as 1,000 homes set to be built

Life for people in Ironbridge is set to change. They are about to have a new community on their doorstep, with 1,000 homes replacing the former power station.

Ironbridge businesses ready to face next chapter as 1,000 homes set to be built

The plans had a difficult route to a planning meeting last week when they were approved, having been rejected once before.

Locals by and large are taking it in stride. For businesses it will mean more footfall but traffic, school places and healthcare provision have all been cited as issues.

Meg Prince runs the book shop in Ironbridge. She can see both positives and negatives.

She said: “It will bring more people here. The town is a tourist town and that will be good, but there is already pressure on GPs and schools as it is.”

Ms Prince added that she liked the redbrick cooling towers, and would rather have seen them stay part of the skyline.

One of the sticking points with the plans was the dearth of affordable homes that would feature as part of the development.

Meg Price from Ironbridge Book Shop

Initially, developer Harworth had planned for five per cent of the 1,000 homes to be ‘affordable’.

The policy of Shropshire Council is to have 20 per cent of any new development in the area as affordable homes.

However, the revised plans debated and passed on September 20 include only half that figure.

The 350-acre site will also include a new school, business premises and health, community and leisure facilities.

Alan Perry runs the newsagents in Ironbridge and has lived there for 18 years. He said: “I just think live and let live. The cooling towers are down now, we can’t put them back up.”

Other bones of contention with the development are the increase in traffic to the area and the provision of school places and access to GP surgeries.

The Gaskell junction in Much Wenlock has already been called a bottleneck for traffic by many, and there are concerns that this new development will exacerbate the issue.

Christine Darlington is an Ironbridge native. She said: “It is what it is. Traffic is already an issue. Can the roads take it, can they not? Some might say they don’t want things to change, but that’s progress.”

Chris Warren runs the Copper Fox shop. He hopes to see the prospective rail link for the development up and running too.

Chris Warren from Cooper Fox

He said: “I can see good points and bad points. Traffic can be bad already, at weekends it can be really busy. It could ruin the town, but if it is managed properly it could be great.”

Now that the plans have passed, locals hope that the development creates jobs for the area and that some of the housing can be kept for young families, if it cannot be earmarked for affordable housing.

One issue that had not been mentioned among the key sticking points was flooding.

Brooke Evans runs a hair salon in Ironbridge

Local salon owner Brooke Evans is concerned that it may lead to more flooding if the brownfield site is built on without proper drainage.

“It was already flooding massively down here without building on the flood plain," she said.

"We’ve had it bad over the last few years, this feels like a kick in the teeth.” But Brooke also said that she can also see the positives for her business.

However Brooke also said that she can also see the positives for her business, while echoing other concerns about school places and access to GPs.

Development will take decade to complete

Where the landscape was previously dominated by giant cooling towers, the 350-acre site will eventually be transformed into what is effectively a new town.

The proposals from Harworth will see 1,000 homes built on the land, along with a school, business premises, a park and ride, and health, community and leisure facilities.

Although not included at this stage there is even the prospect of opening a rail line up to the site for passenger use.

The ultimate transformation of the site is however set to be some years from completion.

Harworth had estimated that the work to redevelop the land will take 10 to 15 years to complete.

As part of the agreement Harworth will provide the equivalent of 100 affordable homes and £913,750 for a new medical centre.

The application has been unusual in that it sits within the boundary of Shropshire Council, yet will have a significant impact on the communities of Telford & Wrekin Council – particularly Ironbridge.

Speaking at the meeting where the plans for the site were approved Shropshire Council’s assistant director of economy and place, said the development would benefit the county.

She said: “This will provide jobs and homes for our children and our grandchildren.”

Representing Harworth at the meeting Stuart Ashton, said they were committed to making sure the development was a success. He said: “Harworth is one of only two companies that would have taken the financial risk to act as a developer on the site.”

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