Dudley Council objects to Shropshire’s new local plan over exclusion of 3,000 homes

Three-thousand homes should be built on Shropshire green belt to help Black Country councils, according to the leader of Dudley Council.

An aerial view of Tong as it looks today
An aerial view of Tong as it looks today

The authority's leader, Patrick Harley, has written to Shropshire Council objecting to its decision to withdraw backing for controversial proposals for thousands of homes and a major business site on land near Tong and north of Junction Three of the M54.

Shropshire Council decided against including a ‘garden village’ at Tong in its new local plan, which has just undergone its final stage of consultation, saying there was not enough justification to take the land out of the green belt.

The local plan sets out where 30,800 houses and 300 hectares of employment land will be developed across Shropshire by 2038.

It includes 1,500 homes and 30 hectares of employment land for the Association of Black Country Authorities (ABCA), which is not able to meet its housing need within its own boundaries, under a legal ‘duty to cooperate’.

But Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council has now objected to the latest draft of the plan, saying the proposed contribution towards addressing ABCA’s shortfall is not enough.

The objection letter from Dudley Council leader Patrick Harley said: “The provision of just 30ha towards Black Country employment needs is not considered sufficient to respond positively or effectively to cross-boundary strategic matters, and the alternative locations for such developments primarily along the M6 and M54 transport corridors is extremely limited. There are only so many junctions that could accommodate further growth.

“Given the scale of the quantitative and qualitative shortfall and the size of Shropshire relative to its neighbours, we request that the Shropshire local plan should increase its employment requirement to provide for significantly more than the 30ha of employment land identified so far.”

Councillor Harley said Shropshire should further consider other ‘strategic sites’ which were put forward earlier in the review process – “in particular land to the north of the M54 junction three”.

Opportunities

Councillor Harley said: “This could complement development at Shifnal and take up opportunities that might arise at Cosford.

“The potential for employment, and housing, development in the area north of junction three was strongly supported by ABCA in its September 2019 response to Shropshire’s consultation on strategic sites.

“We remain in support of this proposal and take the view the Shropshire local plan should support a strategic settlement which would also help to meet the housing needs of the Black Country.”

Dudley Council has requested that Shropshire triple its ABCA housing contribution to 4,500 homes.

Councillor Harley said: “Some 1,500 of this could be met by the proposed housing allocations in the plan around Shifnal and Bridgnorth, with the addition of up to 3,000 dwellings to be met at land to the north of junction three of the M54 as part of a new strategic settlement.”

He has proposed a meeting to discuss the issues, while officers from all authorities involved are also holding talks.

The local plan, with any minor alterations resulting from the final stage of consultation, will be signed off by councillors later this year, after which it will be sent for government examination.

No major changes – such as inclusion of the Tong settlement – can be made at this stage.

Shropshire Council's leader Peter Nutting said: “I am disappointed by this objection and don’t think Shropshire should be expected to find space for the extra housing required by the urban area around Birmingham.

“Shropshire is already helping by allowing the use of some of our numbers to ease pressure in the Black Country and I would resist any further changes.

“It will be for a government inspector to decide on the matter at a public enquiry next year.”

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