Business leaders back £51m Astbury Estate plan amid heritage concerns

Plans for a £51 million redevelopment of a country estate have been backed by a town’s business group, which has hailed the potential economic impact on the area.

How the transformed estate could look
How the transformed estate could look

Bridgnorth Chamber of Commerce has written in support of proposals from the FCFM Group, would see the Astbury Estate transformed into a “world class” holiday destination.

In a letter to Shropshire Council’s planning department, which is considering the proposal, Steve Robbins, the group’s chairman, says the estimated £3.5million income generated by the estate would help the area.

He said: “Having had a meeting with the developers regarding the above planning applications, and subsequently having discussed this proposed development at a meeting of the executive, Bridgnorth Chamber of Commerce would like to advise Shropshire Council it supports the application.

“The development will have a positive effect on tourism generally in the area, and the chamber believes this will be beneficial to its members and other businesses in Bridgnorth, providing a much-needed boost to the local economy.

“The developers advise they believe £3.5m per annum will be added to the economy in the area, the chamber considers this will have a substantial impact.”

Mr Robbins said that the potential for new jobs would also boost the area.

He said: “The development will create up to 120 jobs which again will be beneficial to the local economy. The chamber hopes many of these positions will be filled by local people in a rural area where job opportunities currently are limited.”

FCFM has raised the prospect of refurbishing the Eardington Halt railway station for the Severn Valley Railway, allowing it to be used by visitors.

Mr Robbins said the trade chamber was in favour of the idea, which it said could reduce the impact of traffic created by the plans.

He said: “The Chamber has taken note of the desire of the developers to use Eardington Halt as a means of access to the site for visitors travelling by train, so reducing the impact on the local road network, and sees this as a positive way to mitigate any negative impact caused from increased traffic, as well as being beneficial to our member, Severn Valley Railway Company Ltd.”

Hands off our heritage, estate is told

While business may be backing plans for the ‘world class holiday destination’ ambition for Astbury Estate, the National Trust is making its objections clear.

The heritage guardians, which are responsible for the historic estate, say that plans for the estate could cause potential harm to the 17th century Dudmaston house and parkland.

In a letter to Shropshire Council’s planning department, which is assessing the application, the National Trust outlined a number of concerns. They include the visual impact of the development and its effect on the “heritage” of Dudmaston.

A letter from National Trust planning advisor, Chris Lambart, states: “Although setting is not limited to purely visual considerations, we have carried out an initial review of potential visibility of the proposed development from part of our land.

“From the western side of the historic park at Dudmaston, Astbury Hall is seen, as are elements of the existing golf course and land on which lodges and leisure facilities are proposed. The proposed development would be visible from the western edge of the registered historic park at Dudmaston.

KK Downing at Astbury Hall back in 2015

“The development may also be visible from land further east within the park such as the higher land near South Lodge, where there are outward views to the west. An 1833 watercolour of the Quatt entrance to the park shows what appears to be the earlier version of Astbury Hall as a feature in the surrounding countryside. The significance of Dudmaston’s park includes its re-design as a Picturesque landscape in the 18th and early-mid 19th centuries.

“An underlying ambition of the Pictureseque style was to create sequences of transitions in the enjoyment of the landscape.”

The letter asks for a meeting with the applicants and council planning officers to discuss the proposals.

Another issue raised is the potential impact of lighting from the development.

The estate, which includes a top class 18-hole golf course, was owned by former Judas Priest guitarist KK Downing, but was put up for sale last year after four of his businesses went into administration.

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