Campaigners hit out at decision to continue Shifnal homes plan consultation

A group campaigning against plans to build hundreds of homes in a town has hit out at a council's decision to press ahead with a consultation despite the pandemic.

Shifnal Matters has been campaigning against the plans
Shifnal Matters has been campaigning against the plans

Shifnal Matters is opposed to Shropshire Council's proposals for development in the town as part of its local plan review.

The council plan includes space for a new bypass, an employment site of at least 16 hectares of land and a further 1,500 homes for the town, with green belt land being set aside for some of the development.

It is currently carrying out another consultation on the proposals before it approves them and submits them to the government for the final sign-off. The consultation closes on September 30.

Shifnal Matters, which has previously gathered thousands of consultation responses, has said the current consultation should have been postponed until after the pandemic.

“Large meetings and talking to shoppers in the high street are not safe options due to the current social distancing measures and we must do everything we can to protect the health of our residents,” said Zoe Turner, a member of the group.

“It’s a shame that Shropshire Council does not share our concerns, instead expecting residents to endanger their own health by sitting in libraries or council offices to trail through over 11,000 pages of evidence."

She added: “It really feels like Shropshire Council are trying to take advantage of the pandemic to restrict responses, so they can press on with their desperate attempt to proceed with the unwanted and unnecessary removal of our precious greenbelt.

“Neighbouring Staffordshire County Council is showing the right way to go, postponing their Place Plan review until Summer 2021 to allow as many residents as possible to take part. This is what Shifnal Planning Matters feels is the right thing to do under the current, unprecedented circumstances.”

However, Councillor Robert Macey, Shropshire Council's cabinet member for housing and strategic planning, rejected the criticism and said they were adhering to, and going above safety guidance on consultations.

He said: "The local plan review remains a key issue for the people of Shropshire.

Aspirations

“As the plan has evolved throughout the process, which started in 2017, it has included five stages of consultation thus far and we have always been working to present a plan that meets the needs and aspirations of our county.

“We are confident that four years of preparation, working with residents and communities alike, gives us a solid basis to work from at the time a final decision is made.

“Covid-19 has meant extra precautions have been put in place to keep people safe and we are going over and above the current guidance on consultations.

“The timetable in place will see us bringing the final version of the plan before council in the new year, prior to submission to the independent inspector.

“For the homes, jobs and infrastructure we need for Shropshire, it is important we maintain a robust local plan.

"The new policies released during this consultation would also see us make positive inroads into delivering a wider range of homes and boost our supply of affordable homes.

“At the same time we will drive up the design and environmental standards of developments continuing to make Shropshire a great place to live.”

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