Please come to see the plans for 25 homes on the site of the former council offices. Next Tuesday, 9 February from 5pm to 7pm. The drop in session will be in the Feathers Hotel, in the room on the left inside the front door.
The media statement promotes the Stone House development with glowing praise. But it fails to mention that Shropshire Council has a significant financial interest in the site gaining planning permission. Purcell, the developers chosen by the council, are required to buy the site from Shropshire Council once planning permission is granted. That means it is in the council’s financial interest to promote the site at every stage of the planning system.
This application is controversial. The town council and the conservation committee have lodged objections. Many of their concerns are backed by residents. I will be making a formal objection later in the month saying I think that this scheme needs more work before it can be approved.
In my view, it is wrong that Shropshire Council is promoting this housing scheme ahead of its determination by the South Planning Committee. The only suitable development on this site should be one that works for Ludlow and the local residents, not what fills the coffers of Shropshire Council. This development will be part of Ludlow for the best part of a century. We need to get it right.
After the council’s press statement, I fear that there will be political and officer pressure on the committee to approve the scheme because it will provide a significant financial bonus to Shropshire Council.
Approval on planning applications needs to be squeaky clean and it needs to be seen to be squeaky clean. The press release should have included a unequivocal statement that Shropshire Council has a financial interest in the outcome of this application. I raised this point with the council immediately after the press release but my email has not even been acknowledged.
I had no prior warning that the press release was to be issued. The council’s constitution is very clear. It says I should have been sent a draft of the press release before it was sent out and offered an opportunity to comment. That didn’t happen.
I have met with local residents to discuss the scheme. I will meet council planners next week to discuss the details. I have no objection to development of this site for housing. But nothing much works for this scheme at present.
The cabinet member for planning Mal Price said in the press release: “In keeping with the cultural heritage of the Ludlow area.”
This is nonsense.
Has he studied the plans in detail? Does he really think that this cock-eyed reinterpretation of Georgian architecture relates to the streetscape of Ludlow? Has he considered the issues of access to the site? What about the impact on the residents of Station Drive? He hasn’t talked with them.
I am angry that someone who has not visited this development and hasn’t had the courtesy to discuss it with local councillors is praising a scheme that our town does not support.
If Shropshire Council had followed its own constitutional protocols on press releases, I would have pointed this out. This might not have become a public row. But I was not given the opportunity.
It is time that cabinet members and officers read the council rulebook known as the constitution.[ii] It is time that they recognised that they can’t understand what is happening in Ludlow from Shirehall.
And it is time that councillors and officers stop bringing the planning system in this county into disrepute by ill-informed press releases.
[i]. Part 5 of the council’s constitution states: “It is the policy of Shropshire Council to be open, honest and accurate in dealing with the media.” It continues: “Local members may provide quotes for all press releases referring to a specific division (not LJC). In all instances, local members are forwarded the draft press release and invited to provide a quote within a specified timescale.”
[ii]. I emailed the cabinet portfolio holder and chief executive as soon as the press release was published. Neither has responded.