Major green belt housing plans for Shropshire facing rejection from council

Two major and controversial green belt developments made up of thousands of houses are set to be rejected by councillors.

A sketch of what the development in Tong could look like
A sketch of what the development in Tong could look like

Shropshire Council's officers have recommended that proposals for up to 3,000 homes and commercial land on a site north of Junction 3 of the M54 and west of Tong are refused.

The plans, from the Bradford Estates, have attracted significant controversy, and the refusal could set the stage for a legal battle between the council and the landowner.

The recommendation is being made in Shropshire Council's local plan update, which sets out where homes and business land can be built up until 2038. It sets a target of building 30,800 homes in Shropshire over the lifespan of the plan.

Another controversial plan to build a garden village at Stanmore, in Bridgnorth, is also being dropped in favour of a rival proposal for land on the other side of town in Tasley.

An artist's impression of what Tasley Garden Village could look like

Proposals which will also see land taken out of the green belt for future development at Shifnal are recommended for approval, and will again face potential challenge from local campaign group Shifnal Matters.

The council's cabinet will be asked to approve the recommendations at a special meeting on July 20.

The Bradford Estates plan had been supported by the Association of Black Country Authorities, a collection of West Midlands councils which wanted to use the number of houses proposed for the site to contribute towards meeting its own housing targets.

Shropshire Council says that it will address the 'duty to co-operate' request by providing 1,500 houses, within its own target of 30,800 to be built by 2038.

Shropshire Council's cabinet will vote on the proposals later this month.

Robert Macey, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for housing and strategic planning, said: "We did have some space above our national need figures and we do have a duty to co-operate so this meets both without impacting too heavily on us and without the requiring a specific site. It just fits in with the county anyway."

The plan also recommend the sites of Ironbridge's former power station and Tern Hill barracks as areas for development of mixed use settlements.

If approved land will also be taken out of the green belt around RAF Cosford to allow for military expansion of the site.

The authority said the decision over the Bradford Estates proposal had been taken because it could not agree to the argument of "exceptional circumstances" to release land from the green belt.

If the cabinet approves the plan it will then go out to public consultation from August 3 to September 30.

Ultimately it will be submitted to the government for approval in January next year.

Council strategy seeks to build 8,000 affordable homes

Ambitions for nearly 8,000 affordable homes to be built across the county have been revealed as part of Shropshire Council’s Local Plan review.

The authority wants to see 30,800 houses constructed by 2038 and says 25 per cent of these should be affordable, to help combat the growing disparity between average earnings and property prices.

Cabinet members will be presented with the latest version of the plan at a meeting on July 20, when they will be asked to agree to send it out to an eight-week public consultation.

They will also be asked to agree to Shropshire taking on 1,500 homes from the Association of Black Country Authorities in recognition of constraints in the region’s housing supply. This is in contrast with Shropshire which is forecasting to exceed its housing need of 25,890 by almost 5,000 properties.

Councillor Rob Macey, portfolio holder for housing and strategic planning, said the agreement reflected both the council’s desire to deliver more housing than the minimum “need” figure and the authority’s legal ‘Duty to Cooperate’.

In addition to identifying the sites where development will be focussed over the plan period, the 300-page document details a catalogue of new planning policies to shape future housing schemes, including requirements around climate change and design quality.

A key focus of the plan is the provision of affordable housing, with new developments in the south of the county to be required to include a 20 per cent affordable housing allocation whereas in the north the requirement will be 10 per cent.

Along with ‘exception schemes’ made up of 100 per cent affordable properties, it is hoped these targets will see 7,700 affordable homes built over the plan period.

Eddie West, interim planning and policy manager, said: “Affordable housing is a key issue in Shropshire which is why we are seeking to meet that local need.

“Our current proposal is a north and south split.

“That is not the only mechanism we are looking to deliver affordable housing. There will be exception schemes which are 100 per cent affordable and we will continue to be very supportive of those where there is a local need.”

Mr West said the overall 25 per cent target was a “realistic but challenging level” to achieve.

If agreed by cabinet, the plan will be subject to minor modifications arising from the eight-week consultation in time to be finalised by the full council in December.

The plan will then be submitted to be examined by a government-appointed inspector in January 2021, with a view to it being adopted by late 2021 or early 2022.

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