Bridgnorth campaign group's rallying cry to save green belt
More than 150 people turned out to a meeting set up to fight Shropshire Council’s plans for Bridgnorth.
“It’s our town, it’s our Bridgnorth, it’s our future and we’ve got to fight for it.”
Those were the words of Henry Carver, a member of the Save Bridgnorth Greenbelt campaign group, addressing a public meeting about Shropshire Council’s plans for the town.
More than 150 people came to the meeting at Castle Hall in Bridgnorth on Thursday evening.
The plans, which are part of Shropshire Council’s Local Development Plan, include a garden settlement and employment land at Stanmore.
The proposal, which outlines building 850 homes on the site, would be developed up until 2036.
A large section of green belt surrounding the site is also being set aside for further development after 2036.
The group says the development could see up to 2,500 homes built.
Addressing the meeting, Mr Carver said it could bring another 5,000 people to the area and there were no guarantees of extra infrastructure.
He said: "Schools are crowded, particularly primary. The medical services, we have long waiting times.
"It certainly won't cope with 5,000 more people. There's no evidence industry needs this extra land."
The meeting was told that the group has handed out its own surveys on the proposals and 98 per cent of respondents so far say the green belt should be protected.
Mr Carver claimed that a small group of landowners stand to make up to £150 million from the proposals.
He said: "Bridgnorth people don't want this type of development and they don't want poorer services.
"The council has a poor argument and they haven't proved exceptional circumstances.
"It’s our town, it’s our Bridgnorth, it’s our future and we’ve got to fight for it.”
His words were met with claps and cheers from the crowd, who were asked to volunteer their time or make donations to fight the plans.
Aviation legend and entrepreneur, Mike Kendrick, has also thrown his weight behind a campaign.
The 73-year-old, who has lived in Stanmore for more than 40 years, told people at the meeting that he wanted to make sure that in 10 years time it is still a beautiful place to live.
He said public opinion could 'move mountains' adding: "We can get rid of this planning if we are strong enough together.
"We love living here and we shouldn't put up with something we don't want."
He was recently inducted into the prestigious Aviation Hall of Fame alongside the likes of Buzz Aldrin, Tom Cruise, and John Travolta.
He was nominated for the award by long-time friend and former business partner Sir Richard Branson, following a lifetime in the balloon and airship industry.
Mr Kendrick, who now runs Straightline Aviation in Stanmore, said: "To run balloons and airships, you’ve got to have a determination to succeed, I know all about innovation, pushing the envelope, and taking risks.
"Shropshire Council’s plans meet none of those criteria, instead they are reckless, irresponsible and economically unjustifiable. We’re in real danger of Bridgnorth becoming a white elephant, and destroying its most marketable asset, its setting, if the council’s grandiose schemes are not reined in.
"It’s all hands on deck now, if we’re going to stop this ludicrous plan for Bridgnorth, we need people to get involved. We are not against sustainable growth but expansion on this scale is unhealthy.
"It will block the roads, overwhelm schools, overload car parks and damage our historic town”.
Fears over the potential impact it could have on tourism were also raised.
Sheila Edwards, chairwoman of Save Bridgnorth Greenbelt, said she was 'bowled over' by the attendance at the meeting and heartened by residents’ support for their campaign.
Shropshire Council previously defended its plans.
Adrian Cooper, planning policy & strategy manager, said: "There is no defined design or outcome for the development of Stanmore as yet. A lot more work will be required, including opportunities for local people to contribute, before a detailed masterplan for the scheme can be developed.
"Whilst some of the park is likely to be impacted by development, it is intended that this will be offset by the provision of extensive additional land, investment in better facilities for the country park and through better links between the country park with the surrounding countryside and Bridgnorth.
"It is important to understand that, whilst the current proposals appear dramatic at first sight, they are designed to help Bridgnorth to grow in a planned way for around the next 40 years and it will take a long time before all the areas shown in principle are actually developed."
Visit savebridgnorthgreenbelt.co.uk for more information on the campaign group.