An outline proposal for 137 homes on the edge of Ludlow has generated considerable controversy. There have been 105 objections from members of the public and just one supporting comment. Now, Shropshire planning policy officers say that the plans breach local planning rules. They don’t make any recommendation as to whether the development should be approved or rejected, but given the strength of their comments, approval of the plans now looks unlikely.
The plans were first revealed in July 2014 and an outline planning application was submitted that October. Consideration of the plans was delayed in February of this year, after the Highways Agency raised concerns about a proposed T-junction onto the A49. In July, Highways England, which replaced the Highways Agency in April, withdrew its holding objection. This cleared the way for a decision on the scheme.
Last week, planning officers produced an analysis of the policy context. They say the site is not proposed as a housing site in SAMDev – the plan that allocates development sites around Ludlow and across the county. The developers, Turley Associates and Richborough Estates, had tried to get the Foldgate Lane site included in SAMDev but the planning inspector did not accept their arguments.
Officers say the site has several drawbacks:
Although the assessment undertaken to inform the SAMDev Plan shows that the site is within the bypass and does have some merits, issues relating to topography, the relationship to listed buildings and Conservation Area, recognition of informal recreational amenity value, and particularly relating to access were raised.
They say the site is located outside the Ludlow’s proposed development boundary in SAMDev and outside the existing town boundary in the South Shropshire Local Plan.
In the formal language of planning, officers say SAMDev, although not yet finalised, can be given “considerable weight” in planning decisions. That means that a site like Foldgate Lane, which is not in SAMDev, is unlikely to get planning permission unless very special circumstances apply.
One such circumstance is a shortage of housing land supply. Government rules mean that local councils must identifying a five-year bank of housing land. If they fail to do so, they are often forced to approve unplanned developments under a mechanism known as the presumption in favour of sustainable development. Officers say Shropshire has a 5.43 year supply of deliverable housing sites so the presumption does not apply. Recent decisions by planning inspectors have backed up the council’s claim.
SAMDev classifies the Foldgate Lane site as open countryside. Development in the open countryside is heavily restricted by another planning document, the core strategy (CS3). Only small developments are accepted and, even then, only in very special circumstances. That’s why I think officers may reject this plans for 137 houses or recommend the South Planning Committee rejects it.
We should get a decision fairly soon.
The planning policy arguments used by officers at Foldgate Lane have implications for other proposed developments around Ludlow. The plan for two houses at the bottom of the Linney is outside the SAMDev development boundary. I can’t see a case for approving this under SAMDev.
The same applies for plans for 215 houses between Bromfield Road and the A49. This site is currently at appeal and I can see no case for approving it under SAMDev. We had been expecting a new, third application, for this site. The developer has decided against that after the council advised it would recommend that any new application should be refused under SAMDev. But the council has decided not to defend the appeal, so the housing might still go ahead if a planning inspector decides to give it the green light.
Of course, if the Foldgate Lane development is turned down, it is likely that Turley and Richborough will appeal to the planning inspectorate. They have invested a lot in getting this far, so they are unlikely to give up easily.