Call to buy Coalbrookdale foundry site to save it from 100 homes plan

The local parish council is to explore buying all or part of Coalbrookdale’s former Aga foundry site to save it from residential development, which they fear could turn it into an “isolated community”.

The former AGA site at Coalbrookdale
The former AGA site at Coalbrookdale

Shropshire Homes Ltd plans to build approximately 100 homes at the former Aga casting works, and held a consultation over the new year period.

The Gorge Parish Council’s submission pointed out that the area had seen nearly 1,500 new homes built, approved or proposed since 2015, potentially placing “unsustainable demands” on infrastructure. It urged the company to include space for shops, light industry and retail on the site.

However, Coalbrookdale councillor Jason Stokes suggested the parish council buy the land itself and create parkland, with car parking and shops to help pay off the cost. Members asked clerk Ian Cruise-Taylor to investigate the idea.

The foundry, west of Wellington Road, closed in 2017 after three centuries of activity.

Plans published by Shropshire Homes during the informal consultation said it planned “approximately 100 homes in a variety of sizes and styles, mostly in the form of short terraces” but including “an industrial-style apartment building”.

Approximately one fifth of the homes would be available at a discounted market rate, it added.

The parish council’s letter said that future use of the site was “necessary and to be welcomed” in principle.

“The consensus amongst councillors is that our parish has experienced significant volumes of development,” it added.

Permission

“Since 2015, we have seen multiple property developments at Henrietta Way, Coalport, Foundry Mews, Coalbrookdale, The Beeches and Parkers Place, Coalbrookdale and in Lightmoor.

"Permission for future developments has been granted in Lightmoor and at Forbes Close, Coalbrookdale.

“This totals 460 new housing units built or given permission in five years in a parish of approximately 1,600 households.

“When considered alongside this, potential development of circa 100 properties on the former Aga site and circa 1,000 on the nearby Ironbridge Power Station site, this represents a significant change in the character of and a growing burden upon our parish.

“The parish council would prefer and support a proposal that offered more than housing – preferably a mixed development that contained residential, including a significant number of affordable homes, commercial, light industrial, creative, public amenity and community provision and that delivered a higher level of green infrastructure.”

Updating parish councillors, chairman Lee Proudfoot said: “It’s unlikely they’re going to do anything other than build houses.

“I think it’s a missed opportunity because we could end up with an isolated community. If you put shops, office space and workshops, you’ve got it integrated and it could become part of the valley.”

He said the response from Shropshire Homes’ communications firm had been “somewhat selective”, pointing out the parish council agreed with the developer about the need to provide affordable housing.

Debt

Councillor Stokes said: “One of our remits is to make people’s lives better.

“One hundred houses around there isn’t going to make anyone’s life better.”

He suggested that “we find the money and buy the site, turn it into parklands, car parking, a bit of retail, and the money from the car parking and retail can go towards paying off the debt from the site”.

Lightmoor councillor Michael Tambone, who chairs the parish’s planning committee, said: “I’ve not come across a council buying a site before, but I’m sure it has been done and can be done.”

He suggested the parish council could buy part of the site at least.

Mr Cruise-Taylor said the parish council would need “very clear plans to recoup the cost through rents and so on” because of the “significant” sums involved.

“If Telford & Wrekin [Council] hold any views similar to our own about the nature of the site it may simply become unprofitable to Shropshire Homes and they may wish to unload it,” he said.

Councillor Tambone said: “Don’t forget, the site only has high value if it obtains planning permission.”

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