South Planning Committee throws out controversial Wenlock Edge cabins and a solar farm, approves disabled riding

Yesterday was another lively day at the South Planning Committee. Planning committees are always controversial these days. That’s because most decisions are taken by officers and the three planning committees (North, Central and South) only get to see the most complex and controversial applications.

I wasn’t the least bit surprised that we unanimously voted against a cluster of wooden holiday chalets at the Wenlock Edge Inn (14/02184/FUL). They were on the wrong side of the road from the Inn, were in the wrong style and would have damaged views in a sensitive area of the AONB. We had strong and consistent grounds for rejected the plans under the National Planning Policy Framework, Shropshire Core Strategy and the Much Wenlock Neighbourhood Plan.

The huge solar farm at Sheriffhales was much more difficult (14/03444/FUL). I was impressed by the community support for the scheme, the biodiversity plans and the development of a bond to pay for decommissioning. That swung me in favour of an installation I would normally prefer to be on factory roofs. But there were very strong objections to the scheme taking up good quality (best and most versatile) land. The plans were rejected by a single vote.

We approved another controversial proposal of large broiler units at Hopton Heath, subject to a final opinion from Natural England (14/03290/EIA). It is proving increasingly difficult to balance the needs of farmers, many of whom are moving to industrial scale farming of chickens, pigs and biofuel, with the need to keep our precious countryside precious.

We nodded through a previously approved scheme at Rhea Hall, Highley, which was back with us for technical reasons (12/02334/OUT). But we agonised over the disabled riding school at Bradley Farm, Much Wenlock (14/02127/FUL).

We deferred a decision on this application two meetings ago because we were unhappy with the road access arrangements. They have been improved. But we were not that impressed. I was concerned also with that the scheme conflicted with the Much Wenlock Neighbourhood Plan and causes harm to the Shropshire Way and Jack Mytton Way. There was a feeling that is the right scheme in the wrong place. But, when we reviewed the balance of arguments, as planning law requires us to do, we felt the exceptional need for the scheme overpowered the strong arguments against it. I seconded approval and the scheme sailed through.