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Campaigners hail rejection of green belt housing sites but challenges still loom

By Dominic Robertson | Shifnal | Property | Published:

Campaigners have welcomed decisions to recommend the rejection of controversial housing developments, although potential challenges loom over other green belt plans.

An artist's impression of what Tasley Garden Village could look like. Shropshire Council has backed proposals for this development.

Shropshire Council has outlined its plans for development in the county up until 2038, with proposals for 3,000 homes north of Junction 3 of the M54 and a garden village at Stanmore not included for support.

However, the recommendations for the authority's local plan are still likely to cause controversy, with a recommendation to take land out of the green belt at Shifnal still included, as well as backing for a garden village at Tasley, Bridgnorth, proposed by Taylor Wimpey.

And despite abandoning the garden village plan for Stanmore, the council is still recommending releasing green belt for potential expansion of the industrial estate.

The council report, which will be considered by its cabinet later this month outlines the reasons for its decision.

It states: "Having considered the competing site proposals against a full range of material issues, it is recommended that the Tasley Garden Village proposal should be preferred for development to support a comprehensively planned mixed use development to meet the housing needs of Bridgnorth over the plan period.

"Conversely, it is now recommended that the majority of the Stanmore proposal should remain designated as green belt and should not be identified for future development.

"The exception to this is land north and west of the existing Stanmore Industrial Park, where it continues to be considered the release land from the green belt would be beneficial in supporting the future expansion needs of the Industrial Park to meet employment requirements."

Henry Carver, a member of Save Bridgnorth Green Belt, said the decision was a partial victory, and that the group may consider a legal action over the remaining Stanmore plan.

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Henry Carver

He said: "This is a rare partial victory for the working people of the Hobbins and surrounding areas against the ‘establishment’ and vested interests of politically connected people who would have made huge amounts of money for flipping agricultural land to building land at a gain of some £650,00 per acre giving a total gain of over £100m with no commitment to improving the infrastructure, namely roads schools and medics.

"There always were alternatives to the green belt so their argument was never sustainable, there were no ‘exceptional circumstances’ to justify this development.

"The expansion of Stanmore on green belt/woodland is also not sustainable, there are over 40 acres that have been empty for some 15 years displaying weak demand as employers like myself choose logistically friendly Telford where there are over 400 acres of brownfield available 15 minutes down the road, this we will, if necessary, seek legal redress including a judicial review.

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"Lastly, I feel very sorry for Tasley as I don’t believe the ‘Garden Village’ concept will work in creating one job per household, frankly, the houses should be put nearer the jobs in Telford or Wolverhampton – Bridgnorth will have already have had a 25 per cent increase in housing over 20 years."

John Moore, from campaign group Shifnal Matters has welcomed the decision not to back the Junction 3 proposal, but added that the group would fight proposals that see land around the south east and west of Shifnal set aside for future development.

The Shifnal Matters group has been campaigning against developments

He said: "If Tong is truly disavowed by Shropshire Council, which I doubt, then that would be welcome because it is both unnecessary and a desecration as far as the green belt in this area is concerned."

He added: "If the Shifnal proposals are the same as in the consultation then Shropshire Council knows the results of that. There is an overwhelming lack of support from the local population. There is no need for the quantity of housing in the town, or industrial land."

The Junction 3 proposal had come from the Bradford Estates, and its managing director, Viscount Alexander Newport, said he was disappointed at the recommendation and is "more determined than ever to ensure this project plays its part in the future of Shropshire and the West Midlands."

He said: "The omission of J3 at this stage flies in the face of multiple local and regional policies calling for development here.

“It ignores significant economic and social benefits for the people of Shropshire. This is a zero carbon development which can bring up to 8,000 new jobs, open up the countryside to public access and inject £390 million into the local economy every year.  

“We believe we have robust evidence showing that exceptional circumstances exist to justify the release of the land from the greenbelt, including policy support and a proven regional demand for homes and jobs. 

“I know the council’s cabinet is serious about delivering stronger economic growth and attracting major employers to the county. I hope cabinet members will make their own decisions and put bureaucratic concerns to one side when considering this decision.

“Should these recommendations be followed, we have significant and serious concerns that the Local Plan could be found unsound. 

“Bradford Estates remains committed to the site and its outstanding potential. Given the widescale backing and support received so far, we are more determined than ever to ensure this project plays its part in the future of Shropshire and the West Midlands.”

Local Plan recommendations

Ironbridge Power Station

The former power station site is currently in the process of being cleared after its demolition last year. An application for a mixed use development of up to 1,000 homes has already been submitted by land-owner and property developer, Harworth, to Shropshire Council – with Telford & Wrekin Council also considering the plan due to its proximity to the borough's borders. Shropshire's local plan recommends support of the principle of development on the site.

The report to be considered by cabinet states: "The proposed inclusion of the site for inclusion within the local plan was consulted on as a preferred option in summer 2019.

"An outline planning application was subsequently submitted to the council in December 2019 for a major mixed use development including 1,000 dwellings. Whilst the planning application is yet to be determined, it remains appropriate for the council to continue to seek the site’s inclusion within the local plan.

"It is expected that subject to the grant of planning approval, the site will be fully developed by the end of the plan period."

Clive Barracks, Tern Hill

The barracks at Tern Hill is due to be vacated by 2025 and the local plan supports development of the site, with up to 750 homes, and employment land.

The reports to be considered by cabinet outlines an ambition to build 600 homes on the site by the end of the plan's lifespan - 2038.

It states: "Clive Barracks is a 50 hectare military site on the A41 near Market Drayton which is currently home to the Royal Irish Regiment. MOD announced the intention to redevelop the site in March 2016, and have subsequently confirmed they now plan to complete the vacation and disposal of the site by 2025."

It adds: "Local engagement on the site up to this point has helped to shape the proposed development guidelines for the site, which is proposed to provide employment land and around 750 homes as part of a new settlement, together with local services and facilities.

"Given the timeframe of the proposed disposal of the site, it is expected that around 600 homes will be delivered during the plan period to 2038."

RAF Cosford

The plan supports release of green belt land at RAF Cosford to allow for a range of development, focused on potential military expansion of the site.

The land could also be used for the expansion of the popular RAF museum, and the location of a new headquarters for the Midlands Air Ambulance.

The reports says the release of green belt in the area is needed because the protected status limits expansion possibilities.

It states: "The national defence review has confirmed RAF Cosford as a key Ministry of Defence asset, but it is considered the potential for the area to meet its future operational defence requirements is restricted by its Green Belt location.

"Having considered the impact on the objectives of the Green Belt of releasing in this location, as well as the benefits of doing so, it is considered there are exceptional circumstances for the site to be released from the Green Belt.

"In summary the strategic site will build upon its existing role as a centre of excellence for both UK and International Defence Training, host a specialist aviation academy, support opportunities to co-locate other Ministry of Defence units and activities, facilitate the intensification and expansion of the RAF Museum Cosford and allow the formation of a new headquarters for the Midland Air Ambulance Charity."

Junction 3 of the M54

The Bradford Estates has put forward its land north of Junction 3 of the M54 and to the west of Tong as a site for up to 3,000 new homes and 50 hectares of employment land.

The local plan recommendation is not to go ahead with the proposal, saying officers did not believe an 'exceptional circumstances argument' required to justify release of green belt land could be met.

The report states: "As part of the strategic sites consultation in summer 2019 the Council confirmed it was considering the potential inclusion of land north of Junction 3 on the M54 within the local plan. The land, which covers around 400 hectares and lies wholly within the green belt, is being actively promoted to include around 3,000 dwellings and 50ha of employment land, as well as the inclusion of local facilities and services.

"Whilst the Strategic Sites consultation in 2019 clearly established the site was not at that stage preferred for development, given the scale of the proposal the council nevertheless considered it was important to seek community views.

"In weighing up the site specific considerations, both positive and negative, and giving consideration to the consultation responses on this matter, it is considered there is insufficient justification to progress an exceptional circumstances argument for the release of this land from the green belt. The site is therefore not included within the pre-submission version of the local plan.

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