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M54 homes plan 'will bring nearly £400 million into county'

By Rory Smith | Shifnal | Property | Published:

Nearly £400 million would be brought into Shropshire every year if the plan for a new business site and thousands of homes near Junction 3 of the M54 is passed, claims the group behind the controversial scheme.

Viscount Alexander Newport

The managing director of the Bradford Estates has moved to highlight what he says will be the multi-million pound benefits of the proposal to build up to 3,000 houses and 50 hectares of business land on greenbelt to the west of the A41, near the village of Tong and Junction 3 of the motorway.

Viscount Alexander Newport explained that the Savills report commissioned by his organisation indicates the project would make £112m for Shropshire Council over its first 30 years and create up to 8,000 jobs – and called on council leaders to act "quickly and decisively" on the project.

The document also suggests the development would inject up to £390m into the economy every year.

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The latest development follows indications earlier this month from Shropshire Council's leader that they would be rejecting the proposal when it is considered at a cabinet meeting in February.

The project has attracted considerable opposition from local residents, particularly the campaign group Shifnal Matters and Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard.

Responding to critics of the plan, Lord Newport insisted they are not "faceless developers" and said they would do nothing to "cause any harm to the area".

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Stewards

He said: “One thing I am keen to stress, is that while things would change on the estate, we would in no way look at anything we thought would cause any harm to the area.

“We are not faceless developers. We have been the stewards of this landscape for a long time and any development or future changes to the estate would be curated by us. We already work with the best-in-class consultants like Shrewsbury-based architects Arrol Architects, who know the area and how to help us treat it sensitively.

“I want to ensure this scheme is developed successfully and make it a great place for future generations."

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Bradford Estates has also said it wants to attract technology businesses, create start-up and co-working space and a training complex on 50 hectares of employment land.

An aerial view of Tong as it looks today

The plans have been backed by the Association of Black Country Authorities, which needs the land to meet its own shortfall of housing and commercial space over the next 18 years.

Lord Newport insisted the project will enhance the area.

"The project protects the feel of the local area by not only retaining its woods, streams and natural environments but further enhancing them by taking agricultural land out of production for additional tree planting, creation of water features and green space," he said.

"The plans also include key infrastructure for the local community including playing fields, playgrounds and community centres.”

An image of how the site in Tong could look

Bradford Estates said the proposals also include new schools, health and community facilities, a sustainable transport system, shops, fitness facilities and potentially some higher education facilities – additions which have been questioned by Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard.

Lord Newport added: "Overall this development will secure the future of the area, bringing vital jobs, housing, upgraded road and rail infrastructure, training facilities, schools and doctor surgeries delivered within a thoughtful masterplan conceived by the country’s top design professionals.

"Shropshire can only hope to be able to retain the county’s young people through the realisation of a groundbreaking and visionary mixed-use development of regional significance like the one we are proposing.

“I am looking to create a true 21st Century sustainable settlement, whilst applying The Prince of Wales’ legacy design principles to deliver thousands of new high-quality jobs and affordable homes, associated infrastructure and enhanced connectivity, as part of our custodian and legacy-based approach to development.”

Shropshire Council cabinet members will ratify their decision at a meeting on February 12, before council leaders take it before residents of Shifnal and Tong at a public meeting on February 28.

Shifnal Matters has been campaigning against the plans

The action group Shifnal Matters will host the event at Shifnal Village Hall from 7pm.

Expected to last about an hour-and-a half, the group said the meeting will centre on proposals for housing in Shifnal and Tong, with a focus on roads and healthcare.

More than 50 residents have already confirmed their attendance, with previous meetings attracting hundreds.

The meeting will include the plans put forward by the Bradford Estates.

Council leaders are set to attend having made their decision on the proposals at a cabinet meeting on February 12.

Members of Shifnal Matters have been vocal in opposing the scheme.

The public meeting will also include proposals for Shifnal itself, which is subject to an expansion of 1,500 homes and a 40-hectare business site on greenbelt land.

Rory Smith

By Rory Smith
Reporter - @rorysmith_star

Senior reporter based at the Shropshire Star's head office in Ketley, Telford.

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