Members of Save Bridgnorth Green Belt have raised doubts over suggestions from Shropshire Council that demands from business are behind the need for more than 800 homes.
Its plans focus on the Stanmore area, and include creating a garden settlement and employment land which could be built over 40 hectares.
The plan, which proposes building 850 homes on the site, would be developed up until 2036, with a large section of green belt surrounding the site set aside for further development after 2036.
Asked last month if local businesses were the driving force behind the plans, Adrian Cooper, planning policy & strategy manager for Shropshire Council, said: “Yes, through things like the chamber of commerce and the LEP, these are what spurred the concerns. This is an issue that pertains to the local economy in Bridgnorth.”
It has since emerged that none of the groups mentioned has made representations regarding the situation for the local development plan.
Shropshire Council has now said the justification for the plans is based on its “Bridgnorth ‘Health Check’/the Bridgnorth Housing needs survey and the preparation of the Local Economic Growth Strategy”.
But Sheila Edwards, chairwoman of Save Bridgnorth Green Belt, has called on the authority to put the evidence for the plans into the public domain.
She said: “The council is once again moving the goalposts.
“Now, the council is citing broader issues that apply anywhere in the county, there’s nothing unique to Bridgnorth, but we’re meant to believe that the destruction of our countryside and swamping of our town is justified by an unseen, unfinished economic plan; unseen, inadequate housing data and a secret ‘dodgy dossier’ of concerns the business community has never heard of.”
She added: “Any fair-minded council would put all evidence into the public domain to be properly scrutinised before consultation – it speaks volumes they can’t, or won’t, do that.
"People have completely lost faith in Shropshire planners, it’s quite clear their crackpot scheme for Bridgnorth has been pulled out of thin air.”
Gemma Davies, head of economic growth for Shropshire Council said: “The justification for our approach with the local plan has been influenced by the conclusions of the Bridgnorth ‘Health Check’/the Bridgnorth Housing needs survey and the preparation of the Local Economic Growth Strategy.
“The loss of companies from Bridgnorth and the lack of sufficient land for expansion and growth were key factors in Shropshire Council’s decision to commission the Health Check study in April 2015.
“On the housing issue, research indicates a significant proportion of Bridgnorth residents commute out of the town to work. One of the housing consequences of a large commuter population is that there is a greater housing cost and house price mismatch with local working household incomes.
“It has higher than average home ownership and low levels of affordable housing. Only around 40 per cent of households in Bridgnorth can afford to buy an entry-level home at today’s prices.
“Affordable housing (social rent and shared ownership) are the less expensive housing options, but there is a severe shortage of supply.
“An increasing number of households are renting privately. Bridgnorth’s Town Plan highlighted the need for more starter homes and affordable homes to buy and rent in the locality. Evidence is from the local Housing Needs Survey and from discussions with major companies in the town. Currently (January 2019 ) there are 331 on the housing waiting list looking for housing in Bridgnorth
“The commuting patterns and types of jobs for people that live/work in Bridgnorth (based on the place plan area) signifies that the town is reliant on a workforce that cannot afford to live there.”