Confidential file reveal series of concerns over 16th-century mansion homes plan
A confidential file has revealed a series of concerns were raised over plans to build homes within the historic grounds of a 16th-century mansion in Oswestry.
Shropshire councillors gave the nod for a controversial scheme to develop 50 new homes in the grounds of Brogyntyn Hall in November 2014.
Applicants J Ross Developments Ltd said the 50 new builds, plus the conversion of the Home Farm to create a further 11 homes, would fund the restoration of the Grade Two* listed property which has fallen into disrepair.
But a newly-uncovered document from that time has revealed concerns were raised in an independent review over how the unitary authority was basing its calculations on the so-called ‘enabling development’ requirement.
Enabling developments are common but English Heritage had issued strict guidance which includes the need for applicants to disclose the actual purchase price.
It also stresses enabling developments should be subject to the same degree of financial scrutiny as cash grants from public funds and all financial decisions made by public authorities.
Consultants Deloitte were asked to complete the assessment on behalf of Shropshire Council and English Heritage. But they warned against using an estimated value when J Ross Developments Ltd failed to disclose the actual market price.
In the document, Deloitte estimated the site to be worth £2 million and on that basis backed the enabling development.
But new documents from the Land Registry have revealed the hall and grounds were purchased for £672,500 – throwing the need for the enabling development into question.
Although the report which went before members of the North Shropshire Planning Committee mentioned the Deloitte assessment, it failed to note the concerns over the calculations guidance and the lack of an actual purchase price.
Independent Shropshire councillor for Highley, Dave Tremellen, said he was “not surprised” the authority had gone against the advice.
He continued: “Why has Shropshire Council allowed this?
“This is a very important building for the people of Oswestry and Shropshire Council has ignored the advice of its own independent consultants by granting this enabling development to go ahead.”
Former Shropshire councillor for Oswestry South, Duncan Kerr, said it was “disappointing”.
Councillor Kerr, who is a member of Oswestry Town Council, added: “We look to the council to defend us from in inappropriate development.
“Development is needed in Oswestry but we need to careful to protect our green spaces.
“The council needs to scrutinise what it is being told because, of course, developers are going to want to maximise their profits, but we need to push for scrutiny.”
A Shropshire Council spokesman said it could not comment on the matter at present.
Historic England and J Ross Developments Ltd declined to comment.