Plans for around twenty secure over-55s bungalows at Elm Lodge off Fishmore Road have been rejected for a second time. The decision is correct in planning terms but once again points out that local planning in this town is potentially on the brink of descending into anarchy.
Shropshire’s chief planner Ian Kilby refused the plans because the site lies outside the defined development boundary for Ludlow in both the existing local plan and its replacement, SAMDev, which will be adopted shortly. This means the site lies in open countryside where housing development is not permitted except under a very limited set of circumstances, for example affordable housing. Mr Kilby also said the council had a five-year land supply for housing. This is an important consideration in deciding applications. If there is not a five-year land supply, national planning rules allow development to be built where local plans forbid it.
I had wanted this application to go to the South Planning Committee for determination because I thought it would provide an early opportunity to examine the effectiveness of the development boundaries set out in SAMDev. However, officers said this was not material enough reason to take a proposal to planning committee, particularly where there are such clear grounds for refusal, as in this case.
In terms of the local plan, planners are right to reject this application. But the decision looks odd against Shropshire Council’s decision not to defend a planning appeal into 215 homes off Bromfield Road. In not defending that case, it is saying there are no substantive grounds for refusal. So they are saying that twenty homes on one of the side of the A49 must be rejected, but there is no reason to reject 215 homes on the other side of the bypass – even though both sites lie outside the development boundary.
This contradictory stance on housing plans outside Ludlow’s settlement boundary is placing the integrity and effectiveness of SAMDev at risk even before it becomes our definitive rulebook in December. There are other risks too.
The plans for 150 homes off Foldgate Lane further south on the A49 were turned down because they lie outside the development boundary. The promoters of that development have made it clear that they see Bromfield Meadows as a precedent. If the council hasn’t defended its decision to throw out an application for development on that site, surely it shouldn’t defend its Foldgate Lane decision at appeal either.
So will the applicant for the housing at Elm Lodge take a similar line if the case goes to appeal? I have no idea. All I know is that Shropshire Council’s curious antics over the Bromfield Meadows development have placed coherent planning in this town at serious risk of descending into anarchy.
. Settlement boundaries in SAMDev are not absolute barriers to development on the edge of towns and village. Neither are housing targets absolute and they can be exceeded. I will write on this when the final text of SAMDev is published. I’m expecting that to happen next week.