Shropshire Council has published its draft plans for development in Shropshire up to 2036. This is an old-fashioned plan based on hopes and dreams rather than the realities of being a rural county. It looks north to an HS2 hub at Crewe, hoping to spill development associated with that railway junction into Shropshire. It looks east to Wolverhampton. It is desperate to extend the West Midlands conurbation beyond Telford across the green belt into the fields that make our county so attractive.
This draft planning policy is far too dependent on what happens outside the county. It will live or fall on infrastructure developments over which we have no control. We should instead be concentrating on increasing our local skills and firing up new local businesses.
The plan is not a smart growth agenda. Smart growth minimises transport demands and concentrates on increasing education, skills and entrepreneurship. Smart growth achieves higher income without sprawling housing estates and huge industrial sheds across the countryside. It embeds the environment and quality of life from day one. It champions sustainable transport and lower energy use.
This draft planning policy is dumb growth, not smart growth.
Any plan we set out for the next twenty years must look a century ahead. Where do we want to be? How do we want to live?
We don’t want to be an extension of Crewe, or of Wolverhampton or Telford. We want to be Shropshire. We want to remain a very green county. That doesn’t mean that we don’t want to push for economic growth. But we should do it in a smart, environmentally friendly way that protects our natural and historic environment. Above all, it should ensure that Shropshire remains a very special county and doesn’t become just like anywhere else.
This is the third in a series of posts on the local plan review.