I have long believed that the Bromfield Meadows housing scheme by Tesni homes would be approved. It seemed obvious from the moment the planning inspector opened the public inquiry into the plans that he would push the scheme through. That has proved to be the case.
In allowing the developer’s appeal against refusal of planning permission, the inspector said:
“[The scheme] would amount to a logical extension to the town and is to be regarded as sustainable development. Although controversial… the pedestrian and cycle accessibility of the appeal development would be further enhanced by the proposed Fishmore View bridge.”
On the principle of development of the site, the inspector said:
“It is contained by the embankment of the main A49 and is physically and visually associated with urban Ludlow, more so than either of the sites allocated by the SAMDev.”
“To the extent that the development is to be regarded as being in any conflict with Policy CS5 due to its location outside the Ludlow development boundary, this consideration is outweighed by the material need to boost the supply of housing in the county.”
“Moreover, the socio-economic benefits of providing up to 215 new market and affordable homes, together with a neighbourhood store, significantly and demonstrably outweigh any small degree of environmental harm that might result.”
A key part of the inspector’s reasoning in this inquiry was that Shropshire Council did not defend the committee decision at the public inquiry. It had told the planning inspector: “It would adduce no evidence in support of its refusal”. The only opposition at the inquiry came from two town councillors and myself. My case as a “Rule 6” party was limited to opposing the footbridge.
I am furious with the inspector’s decision, even though I have said that I am not against the principle of development of this site. I am furious because this decision by the Bristol based planning inspectorate tramples over local democracy. I am furious that a vehemently opposed footbridge connecting the development to Fishmore View has been approved. And I am furious because the decision blows apart our local plan, known as SAMDev, even before it is formally approved by Shropshire Council on 17 December.
I have said repeatedly that the footbridge across the Corve is wrong. That’s also the view of the majority of residents of Fishmore View. There is an alternative route along the river to Corve Bridge, a route that I believed that Tesni had agreed at a meeting we held in the summer. It had also twice told the South Planning Committee it would withdraw the footbridge from the scheme if planning permission was granted. But the developer announced at the beginning of the public inquiry that it was going to push ahead with the footbridge after all. And the inspector concluded:
“Even though the proposed development would be sustainable without the Fishmore View bridge, its retention within the appeal development as proposed is therefore justified, as a suitable means of pedestrian and cycle access.”
There is a sliver of hope that the Corve footbridge could still be dropped. The inspector said that there is nothing to preclude the developer and the council dropping it from the scheme when the outline planning permission is actually granted.
Among the main reasons for the planning committee rejecting the scheme were noise and vibration from the A49 and railway, and air pollution. The inspector said the developer’s assessment that noise would not be a problem was “unchallenged.” He continued: “As for air pollution from the nearby A49, there is no evidence that this is likely to give rise to public health concerns.”
One of the reasons the inspector gave for approving the scheme was the neighbourhood store proposed. In my view, this will never be built. We have not long ago approved a good-sized convenience store just down the road.
This is only an outline planning application. The planning inspector has approved the maximum number of houses, the two footbridges, the roundabout on the A49 and the neighbourhood store. All the details shown on the plans submitted by Tesni were merely illustrative and could be changed before the application for full permission is submitted, though the company will not be allowed to encroach towards the river Corve. Tesni must apply for full planning permission within three years.
I will be calling Shropshire planning portfolio holder Mal Price to account over this decision at the next full council meeting on 17 December. Ironically, that is the meeting when councillors are expected to approve SAMDev, the local plan for housing sites. What is the point of approving a plan for housing sites when it has already been overridden by a remote planning inspectorate based in Bristol?
The full decision (PDF).
. The two sites are behind the Nelson Inn at Rocks Green (200 homes) and between the Eco Park and Sheet village (80 homes).
. CS5 is the core strategy policy designed to prevent building in the countryside outside town and village development boundaries.
. Thirty-two of the 215 homes will be affordable. Current plans show these will be built alongside the railway.