Shropshire Council is consulting on where new housing and employment units should be built over the next 20 years. Its plans are ambitious and wants the county to grow faster than it would from demographic change alone. The process of writing the new plan is only part way through. This article explains where we are now.
The consultation on preferred development sites runs until 31 January 2019.
Shropshire’s current local plan is known as the Core Strategy. It was published in 2009. It is a rather wordy statement of general principles, typical of planning documents at the time but becoming unfit for purpose now. In December 2015, SAMDev was published. This put flesh on the bones of the core strategy by allocating sites for development across the county. It also spelt out in detail planning rules across the county and in each area.
Since the core strategy was published, the planning system has changed. The major changes came in 2011, when the Localism Act became law. This brought in neighbourhood plans and several other community measures. The next year, after a huge national debate, the government published a new rulebook for planning known as the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This was revised this summer to give greater emphasis to housebuilding.
Core strategies are now known as local plans. These plans need to be reviewed every five years. The review of our core strategy is overdue and got underway a couple of years ago. It has been controversial from the outset, setting higher housebuilding targets than are needed for the county’s projected population growth.
Shropshire Council is aiming for high housing growth of 28,750 dwellings between 2016 and 2036, an average delivery rate of 1,430 dwellings per year. Existing housing completions, planning permissions and allocations in SAMDev amount to around 18,500 dwellings, so sites must be found for around 10,250 dwellings. At the current building density, this would require about 570 hectares of housebuilding land across the unitary area. To this must be added at least 80 hectares of employment land. That could consume a total land area one and a half times the size of Ludlow. Most of this will be built on green fields and some on the green belt.
To get this area of building land, the council advertised for sites. Many put forward were rejected as unsustainable or in the wrong location. But it also meant that some obvious sites did not come forward, for example the former garage site opposite Tesco on Corve Street.
There are other flaws too.
Shropshire is not an island. So far, we haven’t seen any acknowledgement in the local plan process that Telford exists. It is not rational to plan for the Shropshire unitary area without also considering what’s happening in Telford and Wrekin. Could Telford accommodate some of our development demands, especially that planned for the green belt?
NPPF insists that all plan making councils produce a statement of common ground with their neighbours. For us the neighbour that matters most is Telford. We haven’t yet seen that statement of common and I can’t see how plans for development in Shrewsbury and the east of the county can be assessed without taking Telford into account. This particularly applies to plans for development in Shifnal and Albrighton.
Development will be concentred around urban centres:
- Shrewsbury, around 30%
- Principal Centres, around 24.5% (Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Market Drayton, Oswestry, Whitchurch)
- Key Centres, around 18% (Albrighton, Bishop’s Castle, Broseley, Church Stretton, Craven Arms, Ellesmere, Highley, Much Wenlock, Shifnal, Wem)
- Rural Areas, around 27.5%.
Development will also take place at strategic sites such as Ironbridge Power Station and Clive Barracks, and “potential new garden village settlements in strategic locations.”
The council will continue to strictly control new market housing in the countryside whilst supporting new affordable housing for local needs and small-scale employment opportunities in appropriate locations. Market housing will be allowed on small sites on the edge of villages where it supports the delivery of on-site affordable housing (rural exception sites).
I will look in more detail at the distribution of development across the county and the implications for Ludlow in later articles.
. Assessment of future housing need by Shropshire Council and using a new government methodology shows a need for 25,400 dwellings between 2016 and 2036. The council is planning to build 3,350 more than this.
. Shropshire is achieving an average housebuilding density of just 18 dwellings per hectare. Only 11 of 327 councils across England build at a lower density. The council is assuming that future housing will be built at a density of 30 dwellings a hectare but it has yet to show that it can achieve that.
. NPPF paragraph 27.