Shropshire Star

Councillors asked for view on controversial Coalbrookdale plan

Councillors will be asked next week whether they back a controversial plan to build over 100 houses in World Heritage site.


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Proposals were submitted by Shropshire Homes in April 2021 for 101 homes on the site, but almost three years later it remains undecided.

That is due to concerns that the building work could result in Coalbrookdale losing its World Heritage site status.

Shropshire Homes has now appealed the non-determination of their proposal for the site by Telford & Wrekin Council and a planning inspector will now decide the outcome – following a hearing on June 25.

The council’s planning committee will meet next week when they will be asked to confirm to the planning inspector their likely decision had the application been presented to them.

A planning officer for the council has recommended that granting full planning permission should be their response.

Planners state that the reason the council has not proceeded to determine the housing plan is because of concerns raised by the International Council on Monuments & Sites) about whether the proposal sustains the Outstanding the Universal Value (OUV) of the World Heritage Site (WHS).

“The Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) advised the planning authority that they should endeavour to address the ICOMOS concerns as far as is feasible,” states a report to councillors.

“They further advised that should the development go ahead and ICOMOS concerns remain, there was a risk that the World Heritage Committee could judge the WHS to have been severely compromised and put the site on the UNESCO List of World Heritage in danger.”

The planning officer states that these concerns remain but are ‘not material planning grounds’ that would allow the application to be refused.

The development would also see the conversion of the former compressor house to contain one and two-bed apartments and reconstruction of the former pattern shop into homes.

Houses built on the site would contained a mixture of two, three and four bedrooms.

A first round of public consultation about the plans saw 23 neighbours object to the full application and 58 objections to the Listed Building application. One representation was made supporting the scheme.

A further 61 neighbour objections were made during a second consultation stage against the full application and 15 objections to the Listed Building application.

Reasons for objections include: pressure on local services; the impact on local wildlife and the highway network; density of the development; design of proposals; more affordable homes required; and a clause required to prevent holiday homes.

The Gorge Parish Council and ward member councillor Carolyn Healy both raised objections along with the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site Steering Group.

However, all the relevant Telford & Wrekin Council departments have supported the plans subject to conditions.

Recommending that councillors back the scheme a council planning officer said that that homes ‘would not’ detract from the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site ‘as a whole’.

“What is very evident is that at present the site provides nothing by way of bringing life to the historic narrative,” concludes the planning officer.

“The site is entirely private, and visitors to the Gorge would have no understanding of its importance in the Industrial Revolution or to Coalbrookdale, even in its most recent history as the AGA foundry; beyond its current appearance as a predominantly 20th century industrial site viewed from outside the site.”

The planning officer said that the development has been planned to ‘purposefully draw visitors and residents to the heart of the site where its story can best be told’.

“From here, the location can offer extensive views of both the lower valley and the upper slopes. signage and perambulation will link points of interest together and the daylighting of the culvert will illustrate that it was the fast flowing water that first brought manufacturing here and also illustrate how the circa 10 metres of foundry waste in the near level valley floor testifies to its 340 years of foundry activities,” the planning officer concludes.

“Whilst undoubtedly, the development of this site will result in a change to the landscape and WHS, significant efforts have been made (despite the viability issues) to go to great lengths to tell the sites narrative through the design and give something back to the local community.”

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