The announcement has not been made but this is news that cannot wait. Planning officers agree that the planning inspector’s decision to grant approval for 137 homes at Foldgate Lane is flawed in almost every respect. But the council is about to announce that it will not challenge the decision.
This is the worst of decisions by Shropshire Council. It is being sneaked out at the last moment just before Christmas, at the very end of the six week period allowed for a legal challenge.
Development needs to be planned. As a town, with the surrounding parishes, especially Ludford, we signed up to a planning document known as SAMDev. This proposes that Ludlow will expand beyond the bypass not at sites such as Foldgate Lane.
On Friday, I was informed by the council’s planners that it would not be mounting a legal challenge to the decision by a planning inspector to approve 137 houses off Foldgate Lane on the outskirts of our town.
There are three reasons why this decision matters.
Firstly, this is the wrong site for development. Shropshire Council said so when its officers rejected the Foldgate Lane development. The barrister and planning consultant retained by the council said so again during six days of hearings in front of the planning inspector.
Secondly, after this decision, it will be difficult to presuade Ludlow and Ludford to cooperate with Shropshire Council again over planning. We put so much effort into SAMDev. Not everyone agreed with the outcome, which presages extensive development beyond the bypass. But SAMDev was the agreement we made with Shropshire Council. The council backtracked on that agreement more than a year ago by not defending the appeal for 215 homes off Bromfield Road. Now it has dumped our town by refusing to challenge the Foldgate Lane appeal decision. Why should we work with a council that that will not fight for the local plan we have all agreed?
And the final reason this decision matters is that Shropshire Council has sent a clear message to developers that it will roll over and play dead when it comes to development in Ludlow. We are open to all comers now. We know that Shropshire Council will not defend our town against inappropriate development.
I understand that Shropshire Council will be making a complaint against the inspector, saying that he did not follow the planning rulebook. But that counts nothing for Ludlow or for Shropshire. It is a pusillanimous response. The council should have gone to the high court to challenge the decision.
I am angry that this decision was made so late. By informing me just last Friday, it meant that the principle of defending SAMDev could not be raised at the full council meeting last Thursday, a meeting when the performance of planning in Shropshire was already on the agenda. It also means that Ludford and Ludlow councils have just a few days to review whether they wish to challenge the decision themselves.
The decision not to take legal action is the death of planning in Ludlow. It presages the end of planned development in Shropshire. After this decision, we face a free-for-all by speculative developers.
I believe in building housing. We need more housing in Ludlow. Especially affordable homes. But Shropshire Council has now abandoned any pretence at planned housing. It has let down our town and the entire county.
I will write more on this once Shropshire Council has issued a formal statement.
. As far as I am aware, Ludlow Town Council and Ludford parish council have not yet been informed, along with the Shropshire Council ward member Vivienne Parry.