Controversy is never far away in Ludlow. Men dressed as nurses, oak trees being felled, shop closures, business rate hikes and threats to Ludlow Maternity Unit were just a few of the controversies that engaged our town. It was a year of decent heat and the Millennium Green turned into a lido. Later it turned bitterly cold and snowed, creating a toboggan run on Gallows Bank but also lethal ice on the pavements.
This year I managed to write 200 posts for my blog and send 26 email newsletters. There were more than 95,000 page views of my blog posts on andybodders.co.uk. Many more people read the summaries posted on Facebook.
I am hoping for a quieter 2018 – but I am not expecting it.
The month was dominated by retail issues. The proposed supermarket at Rocks Green split opinion in our town the middle. Many feared it would undermine independent shops in the town centre. Others wanted more choice and hoped for a store that sold cheap clothes, especially for children.
In a letter to The Times, I said that the proposed hike in business rates could turn us into a clone town. “Our fear is that many of our independent shops will fold and they will be replaced by the chain retailers you can find in any high street anywhere.”
Ludlow Town Council raised its precept by 24%.
After months of controversy, Shropshire Wildlife Trust felled an oak tree on Whitcliffe Common to improve the view.
The Rocks Green supermarket application was approved by the South Planning Committee.
We councillors put forward proposals to end the spate of fines imposed by traffic wardens in the market square. The town was gridlocked after Western Power spent more than two weeks doing a few day’s work to replace power cables at the top of Station Drive. The company blamed the delay on residents being inflexible.
We heard that Shropshire Council would continue to subsidise Ludlow town buses, which I described as a social service essential to rural life.
South Shropshire Housing submitted plans for seven bungalows off Sidney Road off Charlton Rise. They were controversial from the outset. I said that proposals to build two houses off Friars Walk are unbuildable without excessive disruption to residents. At one scary point, planners wanted to access the site through St Lawrence’s School. The controversial footbridge from yet to be built homes off Bromfield Road to Fishmore View was scrapped.
The Co-op at Foldgate Lane was found out for operating outside permitted hours. That meant it was impossible to buy fuel in Ludlow before 7am weekdays and 8am Sundays. We received news that Applegreen would be the operator for the new petrol station and store on Bromfield Road.
I celebrated three years of publishing my Ludlow newsletter.
Vivienne Parry led the first in a series of meetings on Ludlow becoming a Dementia Friendly Community.
Politics came to the fore. Theresa May gambled on her future by announcing a general election on 8 June. I said: “I distrust her motives. She wants to crush the opposition and thereby crush democratic debate.” Shropshire Conservatives apologised for using a photo of mental health workers in Australia in their election leaflets, suggesting they were county activists. Candidates were announced for Shropshire Council and Ludlow Town Council elections.
Permission was given for rebuilding of One Stop on Tower Street, leading to (so far unfounded) fears for the future of the town centre post office.
Local elections see myself, Vivienne Parry, Tracey Huffer and Richard Huffer re-elected. Thank you. There were some surprises in the town council election, with long standing town councillor Jim Smithers losing his seat. He was later co-opted back onto the council. The general election campaign picked up pace with the announcement of candidates for Ludlow. Shropshire Council leader Malcolm Pate was deposed and Peter Nutting elected to replace him. In Ludlow, Tim Gill was elected mayor. In his inaugural speech, he said: “We will have to rely increasingly on our own resources as Shropshire Council continues to abandon more services.”
Shropshire Council announced that it was to spend more than £23 million to bring its computer systems up to scratch and another £7 million was needed for Shirehall.
We learnt that the Onibury rail crossing on the A49 will be closed in July for 10 days.
June was dominated by good weather and controversy over the future of Ludlow Maternity Unit. There was also a general election. Philip Dunne was re-elected and continued in post as Minister for Health.
At the beginning of the month, Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust (SaTH) announced that the rural midwifery-led units in Ludlow, Oswestry and Bridgnorth would provide an on-call service. By the end of the month, it had decided to close the rural midwifery-led maternity units for up to 24 weeks. Tracey Huffer said: “This is disgraceful. This is disgusting. If Ludlow and the other rural maternity units are closed for nearly six months, they will never reopen.”
Shropshire Housing Group scrap plans for affordable bungalows at Poyner Close in favour of a bungalow for sale on the open market. It also reduced the number of planned bungalows on Sidney Road from seven to five. Plans for two large executive-style homes on the Linney were thrown out by planning officers after three years in the planning system.
We agreed final arrangements for the first Ludlow10 race to be held in July.
The Ludlow10 race attracted criticism but also tremendous support from local businesses and residents.
Shropshire Council met controversy from day one as it began its consultation on changes to parking rules and charges.
I called for the merger of Ludford Parish Council and Ludlow Town Council to enable rational planning for our town’s future and equalisation of parish precepts.
The Son of Saxon, the company behind the Dog Hangs Well and the Ludlow Ledger, published details of a new parlour pub, The Blood Bay, at 13 High Street.
We held a drop-in consultation on Shropshire Council’s parking proposals. More than 100 people gave their opinions. We debated whether there should be a multistorey car park at Upper Galdeford. Not for the first time in this town, opinion was split.
Plans for bungalows at Sidney Road and Poyner Close are turned down by the South Planning Committee. The Rock Lane bungalows were approved.
No one could have predicted that a local spat over a donation over a £2,500 would have led to a national row that went viral on social media and was splashed across print media. The row blew up after Shropshire Community Health Trust refused to accept funds collected by men dressed as nurses.
After ploughing through planning applications, I found that more than 30 trees a year are being lost from conservation areas in Ludlow town centre every year.
The South Planning Committee voted to allow the petrol filling station on Bromfield Road to bury its tanks below ground.
Ahead of a meeting of the Clinical Commissioning Group, Tracey Huffer said: “We are witnessing the closure of Ludlow Community Hospital by stealth. I seriously worry that it will be closed altogether by this time next year. That will be a disaster for Ludlow and the rural southwest of the county.”
Our town’s excellent Food Festival was marred by difficult park and walk arrangements.
We councillors held a successful drop-in session on the new parking proposals.
Shropshire Council proposed that 28,750 homes are built between now and 2036. I accused the council of plumping for highest housing growth option because it needs the cash from business rates and council tax.
I called for a 20mph limit on residential roads in Ludlow and got a mixed response. Once again, parking in the market square was debated. Ludlow Town Council launched a consultation on the future of the town, as it prepared to rewrite its town plan.
Government statistics showed that fly-tipping in Shropshire was down a little but I said many incidents were not being reported.
The Boundaries Commission published new proposals to create a Ludlow and Leominster constituency. Bridgnorth would be merged with the Wrekin area.
We unitary councillors responded to Shropshire Council’s parking consultation, saying:
“We must balance the needs of car drivers with those without a car. The vitality of Ludlow depends on meeting the needs of traders and businesses. Residents need somewhere to park. Our town, which is set to see considerable expansion, must build its future around sustainable transport. Nothing else will work in a town enlivened and constrained by its historic fabric and environmental context.”
Pickstock Home submitted plans for 200 homes south of Rocks Green. By the end of the month, significant highways, conservation and ecology objections looked set to delay the project. The planning application for housing in Friars Walk was approved without going to committee. I said the approval “has brought me to the end of my tether on planning in Shropshire.”
Shropshire Council published its draft plans for development in Shropshire up to 2036. I said:
“This is an old-fashioned plan based on hopes and dreams rather than the realities of being a rural county… 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.”
“I want to argue the case that we should plan big for Ludlow. That would mean we get it right and have new developments we can be proud of. We should plan for a garden suburb between Rocks Green and Sheet village. That’s maybe 1,000 houses.”
Shropshire Council leader Peter Nutting apologised for using vulnerable refugee children to justify council’s financial black hole. Ludlow’s Christmas tree lights were vandalised. We said it showed the need to invest more in in supporting young people.
Tracey Huffer said that proposals from the CCG to close Ludlow maternity unit to live births showed that a recent consultation was a charade.
It was not a good month for Shropshire Council’s reputation. It decided in secret session to buy three Shrewsbury shopping centres for a reputed cost of £60 million. In the same article, I endeavoured to explain why the council has more than £100 million to spend on capital projects but not enough to pay for services. Shropshire Council also decided to make many of the poorest pay 20% of their council tax. The council also decided to limit questions from the public at future council meetings.
Councillors agreed by a large majority to support my motion asking for the council to investigate organising a county lottery to support local causes. My tongue in cheek proposal to move parliament to Acton Burnell while the Palace of Westminster is repaired got a mixed reception.
I suggested that council tax bills are likely to go up by around 5% next April.
I joined a national call to ban most parking on pavements to bring an end to pedestrians, parents with pushchairs, mobility scooters and the partially sighted being forced to walk in the road.
The likelihood of the current plans for 200 homes south of Rocks Green being approved faded after Shropshire Council highways issued a “do not approve” recommendation.
Most read blog posts in 2017
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