Mad scramble in Shropshire to approve unwanted houses is far from over

Lack of investment in planning staff means that Shropshire Council will not be able to resist developers’ demand to build on the green field of Shropshire, despite claims to have a five year land supply. 

Today Shropshire Council published its five year land supply statement. It is technical, but it’s important. The county must identify enough land to build housing over the next five years to comply with government planning rules under the National Planning Policy Framework.

In the past two years, we have seen a mad scramble to approve housing. Too often this has been in complete disregard of what local communities think. Councillors have blamed government planning rules, but it not the rules that are the problem. It’s the failure of Shropshire Council to find enough land for the housing we so urgently need.

Today’s statement does not move us on very far. The calculation of housing supply is wafer thin. It amounts to just 5.47 years. It is over-reliant on a huge number of small sites delivering just one or two houses each, and on windfall sites – for example, redevelopment of industrial sites for housing. It will be challenged by developers who want to build huge estates around market towns like Ludlow. They will get their chance to do that at the forthcoming public inquiry into SAMDev, which sets out housing plans across the county. They won’t miss this opportunity to get their plans approved at the expense of coherent planning in Shropshire.

We should not be in this position. Planning is profitable. Shropshire Council makes a £1 million profit on planning fees every year. The government has given the council nearly £15 million as a reward for building new houses in the last few years.

Despite this flood of money, Shropshire Council has cut back on planning officers. There simply aren’t the staff to work on securing enough land supply.

Until Shropshire Council is prepared to invest in its planning team, we will get housing estates imposed on villages and towns that do not want them. It’s not just government planning rules that are at fault, it’s the cheapskate approach to planning taken by council leaders in Shropshire.

We need housing. But what we need most is well planned housing not unplanned developments dumped on us under five year land supply rules.