Last year, Shropshire Council issued a call for landowners and developers to suggest sites for future residential and employment development. Several hundred sites were put forward. Most were rejected.
In the Ludlow area, 64 sites were submitted. Enough land to build nearly 7.000 homes. Half the sites submitted were in Ludlow, or adjacent to Ludlow in Ludford and Bromfield. Just two of the 63 sites were approved for inclusion in the current local plan review. A further 20 sites were assessed as having long term potential for development. They could accommodate more than 3,100 homes.
This article looks at those sites that made the grade, those that didn’t, and those the planners think could be built on after 2036. I think we need to go further and allocate a garden suburb to be built between now and 2060.
The local plan process is flawed, both nationally and locally. Its overly reliant on developers and landowners putting sites forward for potential development. That means that a lot of greenfield sites are put forward but very few brownfield sites get considered. This conflicts with the brownfield first policy in national planning policy. Many councils have worked hard to ensure brownfield sites are available for development. This doesn’t seem to happen in Shropshire. It certainly doesn’t happen in Ludlow where significant brownfield opportunities are available.
It costs next to nothing for a landowner or wannabe developer to put a site forward during a local plan review. This means that a lot of no-hoper sites are put forward. Other proposers are looking to the long term. If their sites are assessed this year as having “long term potential”, the sites in yellow above, it gives hope that the land will be included in the next review of Shropshire local plan. That review is due around 2025.
Being assessed as having long term potential gives developers a second hope. There are existing permissions for 850 homes in Ludlow and Ludford. Forty per cent of those were approved by planning inspectors on appeal. In the case of Foldgate Lane, it was argued at the public inquiry that the site had been assessed as having long term potential for housing development.
It will become easier for developers to win permission for unplanned sites if Shropshire Council fails to identify enough land for housing five and more years ahead or developers don’t build out their planning permissions.
I am disappointed that the local plan review is not putting forward a masterplan for development from Sheet Village to Rocks Green. All Shropshire Council says is:
“The Council will consider the need to bring forward an outline masterplan for this potential urban extension under their duty to keep under review matters affecting the proper and effective planning of the County.”
Consider the need? What is the point of going through the local plan process unless it identifies a need and gets on with the job. It is inevitable that this area will be developed one day. Unless it is masterplanned early on, it will become an unplanned urban sprawl. The development of 80 homes of light industrial units between the Eco Park and Sheet Village would have gained full planning permission by now if it was guided by a masterplan. We could also set high standards through ambitions for a sustainable garden suburb.
Residents tend to think of the next few years when commenting on planning matters. It is the job of planners to look long term. I don’t think this local plan review is achieving that for Ludlow.
Shropshire Council’s consultation on preferred sites end on 31 January.
Commentary on the sites in the local plan review
Just one brownfield site has been accepted for housing development. This is the Morris Buftons site that stretches from opposite Smithfield car park to Upper Galdeford. The lower part of the site has planning permission for a new retail unit but there is no sign of this being developed and the permission expires in October. Planners say it could accommodate around 40 homes. This site is an eyesore and a waste of prime development land. It is in urgent need of regeneration. I think this would be an excellent site for housing. A revival of the long abandoned plans for a Galdeford relief road from Smithfield to Station Drive is not in part of current thinking but that could be a good idea.
The largest rejected area for housing development is south of the town at Lower Barns Farm. Here three parcels of land total 93 hectares were put forward, enough space for around 2,800 dwellings. Planning officers say the site is not suitable for residential development because it is in the countryside and separated from the built form of the settlement of Ludlow. Any development here would wreck the southern approach to Ludlow and place intolerable traffic pressure on the Ludford Bridge junctions.
A contested small site on the Linney next to Castle Grange is marked as having long term potential for housing. Planning permission for two large homes here were thrown out by Shropshire Council, a decision backed by a planning inspector last summer. Officers say that while it has long term potential but development there would be against current planning policy because it is outside the development boundary for Ludlow and much of the site is in the flood zone. Two adjacent sites are rejected as too small for inclusion in the local plan – sites must be 0.2 hectares or larger and capable of accommodating at least five dwellings.
Further up the Linney towards Ludlow Castle, a site where plans for a partially subterranean “hobbit house” were rejected by the planning inspectorate in 2016 has also been rejected from the local plan review as small for consideration.
Another contested site is the grounds of Linney House. Planning permission for three detached homes was given in 2014 when the council was desperate for housing sites because it could not identify a five-year land supply. In that situation, national planning rules say that almost anything goes. The planning permission was renewed in 2017 by officers even though the council had a five-year land supply for housing by that point. Now planning officers say that the site is unsuitable for development because nearly half of the site is in the flood zone and the site is heavily wooded. It will be interesting to see what happens when the planning permission expires in May 2020. I am very clear in my mind that any development on this site is unacceptable.