Victory! Plans to build on Sidney Road green and fell tree thrown out

Yesterday, the South Planning Committee voted by a large majority to reject plans to build five bungalows on the Sidney Road green at the bottom of Charlton Rise. The plans would have led to the loss of nearly half the green space and a second Norway Maple would have been felled. This is the second time plans for housing on this site have been rejected. We hope this is the end of the matter but the Connexus housing group could still appeal the refusal.

Saved!

At the beginning of August 2017, the South Planning Committee rejected plans for five bungalows on the green space at the bottom of Charlton Rise. The scheme had been controversial from the outset with a healthy Norway Maple being felled without notice. We saved the second Maple after hurried negotiations. I have no doubt that the trees were being removed to prevent them being subject to a tree protection order, which would be considered when the planning permission was decided. A tree protection order was later secured for the remaining trees.  

The 2017 proposal was cut down from seven bungalows to five, probably due to the discovery that there were extensive utilities running under the site. That application was rejected by the South Planning Committee on the grounds of loss of the Norway maple, loss of open green space and concerns about a significant informal footpath across the green that would lead to people walking directly past the front windows of the housing.

South Shropshire Housing didn’t appeal the refusal. Instead, it revised the proposal by moving the footpath in front of the houses two metres further from the front doors.

Then it all went quiet for a year, during which there were changes in senior management at the housing association following its merger into Connexus.

The main proponents of this scheme having left the housing group, we had hoped the application was dead. Alas no. It came back for decision yesterday. Worse than that, it came back with an officer recommendation for approval. The officer report concentrated on the footpath issue. It paid little regard to loss of open space and the felling of another Norway Maple. Surprisingly, it made no mention of the new national planning rules issued in July.

The debate at the South Planning Committee showed committee showed the committee’s strength in planning matters.

Colin Sheward, Ludlow town councillor and deputy mayor, spoke first. He concentrated on the lack of open space in our urban landscape. Viv Parry, using her right as a Shropshire Councillor to address any committee, then joined the table. She spoke of behalf of the residents of Charlton Rise. Next up was Tracey Huffer, the ward councillor. She had a long-standing commitment to a remembrance poppy parade. I read a statement on her behalf, which is published below.

Then it was my turn. I was in an unusual position. I can vote on planning matters in Ludlow providing they are not in my ward. But I have been vocal in opposing this scheme and have threatened to tie myself to the surviving Norway Maple to prevent its felling. I didn’t need to rake legal advice on my position on this scheme. My mind was made up. Predetermined in planning terms. Under protocols, that meant I could make a statement (below) but then had to leave the room.

Ordinarily, the next speaking slot would have been for the scheme promoter, Connexus. It was an empty chair job. There was no one from Connexus at the meeting. That shows the level of their commitment to this project and the point was not missed by the committee.

Although I did not hear the debate, I am happy to report that the South Planning Committee turned down the application by a majority vote, with just one abstention. One of the main reasons was the poor quality of the design. New national planning rules introduced in the summer require that poorly designed schemes are rejected. The loss of the tree and green spaces were also part of the reasons.

The formal grounds for rejection were:

It is acknowledged that the proposed development would be in a sustainable location, contributing to the social and economic roles of sustainable development through the provision of small affordable bungalows, which is a type of accommodation for which there is an acknowledged need in Ludlow. However, the proposal, by reasons of the loss of the large Maple tree, which is the subject of a Tree Preservation Order, and reduction in the area of open space, would remove features that make significant contributions to the character and quality of the townscape and local amenity. The proposed footpath layout within the development, with the path linking Charlton Rise with Sidney Road passing very close to the front doors of the bungalows, is likely to be used by the public and would adversely affect the amenity and perception of security for the occupants of the bungalows. Furthermore the location of the proposed parking and refuse collection points are considered inappropriate for the type of accommodation proposed. In addition, the external design, layout and appearance of the proposed bungalows would fail to improve the character and quality of the area. Consequently, the proposed development would be contrary to paragraphs 124, 127 and 130 of the National Planning Policy Framework, would not satisfy the environmental role of sustainable development as set out in the NPPF and would be contrary to Core Strategy Policies CS6, CS8 and CS17, and SAMDev Plan Policies MD2 and MD12.

 

It is time to move forward to secure the long-term future of this valued green space. The future is not housing but a recognition of the important contribution it makes to the quality of Ludlow’s townscape.

Statement to the South Planning Committee by Tracey Huffer

I am appalled that this application has been resurrected with a recommendation for approval after being quiet for a year.

A year ago, I exchanged emails with a planning officer who said the scheme was poor quality and he would recommend refusal. That officer has since left Shropshire Council. I am shocked that we now have this application coming flagged up for approval.

How can this council say one moment a scheme is not good enough to approve but a year later say that it is just fine? That doesn’t make any sense to me.

This scheme is barely different from the application this committee previously refused. It doesn’t deal with any of the issues that were raised at that committee meeting.

The loss of green space was huge under the previous application. Now they have moved the fences forward, even more green space is lost.

The pedestrian access to Sidney Road is badly thought out. Elderly, vulnerable people will go to catch the 701 town bus service to find their sightlines blocked by bins. This could be lethal.

We have already lost one tree on this green. The three main trees, now two, were paid for by the residents of Sidney Road. They are still part of why they enjoy where they live.

Sheet Road is one of the main access routes into Ludlow. This scheme will make this approach less attractive.

This is also a community green. I know people who walk across it four times a day. I’ve seen young children play with their grandparents on the green a lot of times.

I am very worried about the drainage and sewerage across the site. The council has not published any comment from Severn Trent. The site has flooded in recent years and the Stych Brook runs under it. I think this is one reason why the green wasn’t built on in the first place.

This housing scheme is pretty much thrown together and should be refused.

I don’t want to sound negative. All of us councillors in Ludlow want more affordable and social housing. We have identified brownfield sites where we could build affordable housing. We have taken council leaders on a tour of the most promising areas in the last couple of weeks.

We support affordable housing, social housing and bungalows. But we need to build them in the right place. We should not sacrifice valued green space on a major gateway into Ludlow when we don’t need to.

Statement to the South Planning Committee by Andy Boddington

I was not present at the consideration of the previous application. However, this is a fresh application. It is not an application that has been deferred for amendment. It was refused. This is therefore a new application that must be considered on its own merits.

National planning policy has also changed since the initial refusal decision was made. This is an old application and as far as I can tell an old committee report. It makes no reference to the new National Planning Policy Framework at all.

I wish to focus on two points. The loss of green space and a much loved tree. And the quality of design.  

Beginning with design first. This is not a quality design. It is very poor compared to recent social housing schemes we Ludlow councillors have enthusiastically supported at Beech Grove, the Riddings and the Foyer. No effort has been given to designing a development worthy of a major gateway into Ludlow.

The revised NPPF published in July places a stronger emphasis on design than the 2012 version. In paragraphs 124 and 127 it says:

“The creation of high quality buildings and places is fundamental to what the planning and development process should achieve.”

It says that councils must ensure that developments “are visually attractive as a result of good architecture, layout and appropriate and effective landscaping.”

At paragraph 130, the new NPPF calls for poorly designed schemes to be rejected.

Too often we have seen poorly designed schemes approved in Shropshire, despite the support for good design in CS6. The wording of the new NPPF was drafted to draw a line under that across the entire country. We should follow its lead and outlaw poor design in Shropshire.

This scheme should be rejected on those grounds alone.

The NPPF also emphasises that brownfield should be developed before green sites.

We are not short of brownfield sites in Ludlow. There are more than six hectares in the council’s brownfield register. Some sites are available now. Some are likely to become available shortly. Tracey Huffer and I have recently taken cabinet members and senior officers on a tour of additional brownfield sites amounting to around one and half hectares. (Viv Parry was on leave.) We have also identified additional brownfield sites and are working towards getting those available.

We are not short of brownfield land for housing, or for that matter business, in Ludlow.

Even in a town surrounded by green hills and forests like Ludlow, urban green space is precious.

The council’s policy to protect local amenity is stated with clarity at MD2 in SAMDev. MD2.2 states that development should “Contribute to and respect locally distinctive or valued character and existing amenity value.” This proposed development will destroy amenity value.

MD2.5 states that development should “provide safe, useable and well-connected outdoor spaces which respond to and reinforce the character and context within which it is set.”

This plan will remove 42% of the usable green area from this much enjoyed green. It will reduce connectivity and make this green space less useable.

We have already lost one of the Norway Maples on the green. This was cut down without warning “due to the high costs of maintenance”. You saw the Norweay maple destined to be felled under this scheme today. It is a fine healthy specimen and as Tracey has said, it was planted by residents shortly after Sidney Road was built.

Affordable housing is always a benefit in Ludlow. We are fortunate that 64 affordable homes are at the final stages of planning permission on Foldgate Lane and at Rocks Green. But affordable homes must not be built to the detriment of the quality of our townscape and the amenity of residents.

We need to approve schemes that meet the objectives of the new NPPF. Creating high quality buildings and places. We need to preserve green space and amenity.

This scheme conflicts with NPPF 124 and 127. Indeed NPPF 130 calls for poorly designed schemes to be rejected. It conflicts with CS6, MD2.2 and MD 2.5. I urge the committee to reject this proposal.

One thought on “Victory! Plans to build on Sidney Road green and fell tree thrown out

  1. The fact that no one from Connexus turned up says it all. In the last few weeks four senior managers of the company (including the CEO) resigned at more or less the same time without any convincing explanation being put forward. Clearly this is a sign of deep problems in the organisation. In my view, any contentious planning application by them should be put on hold until they sort themselves out. There is also something deeply suspicious about any organisation which changes its name from something meaningful (such as South Shropshire Housing Assocation) to something that means nothing (Connexus). After all, didn’t Tarmac change their name to Carillion?

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