Plans for housing on former Whittle bus depot in Ludlow need a lot of improvement

Autumn Fields is to be the name of a development of 18 detached and semidetached homes if plans for the former Whittle bus depot in the former quarry on Fishmore Road gets planning permission. The site already has outline permission for up to 20 homes.

There is no issue in principle with the development of this site and I welcome these plans from Wellington based housebuilder Clutton Homes. However, currently it is proposed that five houses will have access from Fishmore Road. Given the traffic on Fishmore Road, it would be better for all the houses to have access from within Autumn Fields. The proposal to provide zero affordable housing because of the future costs of maintaining the rock face also needs to be challenged. There are no plans for sustainable drainage.

This is application is a good start but much more work is needed to get this development right for Ludlow and to meet planning policies. If changes can’t be agreed, the application should be determined by the South Planning Committee.

An application for outline planning permission for up to 20 homes on the former Whittle bus depot was published in June 2014 and approved in February 2017 (14/02846/OUT). This established the principle and scale of housing development on the site but no details of design or layout were given. The current full planning application gives detailed plans for 10 two bedroom and 8 three bedroom houses (19/00242/REM).

This scheme will bring an eyesore site into use. The homes will be in walking distance of the town centre and the train station. It is on a hail and ride bus route with a half hourly service (Minsterley 701).

The design of the homes is not exciting but is in character with other housing in this area of Ludlow.

A requirement to provide affordable homes is attached to the outline planning permission through a S106 agreement. Commenting on the outline application, Shropshire Council’s affordable homes team said:

“The contribution will need to accord with the requirements of the SPD Type and Affordability of Housing and will be set at the prevailing percentage target rate at the date of a full application or the Reserved Matters application.”

Currently, a development of 18 homes in Ludlow would be expected to provide 15% affordable housing – usually by building two affordable homes on site and contributing the equivalent of 0.7 of a home to the affordable homes pot held by Shropshire Council. But Clutton Homes says: “Due to the financial implications associated with the sites clean up and future maintenance of the rock face no affordable housing is being provided.” This will need to be tested by a viability assessment which has not yet been provided. Shropshire Council will need to commission its own experts to check out the assumptions in the viability assessment. That could delay planning approval by several months, as could the absence of a report on ground contamination.

No public information is provided on the cost of decontaminating the site. Boreholes in 2004 revealed contamination (the reports on contamination are not available online as they date to the SSDC era). Outline permission was granted on the condition of “the submission of a full and comprehensive assessment of land contamination and mitigation measures to meet the requirements” of national and Shropshire planning policies when the full planning application was submitted. We have yet to see that.

An engineer’s report on the stability of the rock face has been submitted. This recommends:

“Leave the embankment insitu. The embankment in the area of development has significant vegetation growth throughout. This consists of mature and established trees alongside dense undergrowth…There is no evidence of rock fall penetrating to the toe of the embankment. The dense vegetation also significantly reduces the probability of any future rock fall developing momentum. In the unlikely event of a rock fall the engineer recommends the property boundary be reinforced and offset from embankment toe to act as a secondary restraint.”

A second option of a concrete wall could make the site unviable. A third option might be to mesh the rock face.

Clutton Homes have decided that the embankment (bund) will be left in place in line with the engineer’s recommendation. This is a low-cost option. It is absolutely no justification for refusing to provide affordable housing. Especially as the developer’s own engineers think the risk of a fall is close to zero.

I don’t think 18 homes will add significant pressure to traffic on Fishmore Road. The main traffic problems on the road lie north of the site with traffic speeding into town from the Whitbatch area and with traffic joining from Stanton Road.

But it is wrong for five houses having direct vehicle access from Fishmore Road. It will not improve the character of the streetscene to have open drives with block pavers. The access to plots 2-6 should be from within Autumn Fields in line with the outline planning permission. That will also create a better community environment within the new development. It will also preserve on-street parking spaces along the road. However, CAD Square, the architects for the scheme say:

“The proposed layout of the site has been designed following a site appraisal and application of the guiding principles of Manual for Streets 1 and 2 along with the incorporation of the comments of the Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council Planning Officers.”

This is either one of the worst cut and paste errors I have seen in a planning document for years or the architects have got confused about where the development is.

When I commented on the outline application I said:

“Getting the detail right at in the full planning application will be important. This should include adequate space for children to play away from the busy Fishmore Road. I would urge the developer to integrate the plans for this site with the proposed development immediately to the south. I would also recommend that there is full engagement with residents before the full planning application is submitted.”

None of that has happened.

There must also be a greater use of permeable surfaces to ensure the development does not contribute to flash flooding in the Lower Corve Street area.

This development is right in principle but needs a lot of work to ensure it is right for the site and Ludlow. I have asked for it to be considered by the South Planning Committee.

4 thoughts on “Plans for housing on former Whittle bus depot in Ludlow need a lot of improvement

  1. The style of building certainly lacks imagination and variety. Surely quite small modifications could change this, in keeping with the variety and charm of what we see elsewhere in the town.

  2. Autumn Fields? God save us from developers with no imagination! Why not offer Ludlovians the chance to come up with a name that is attractive and reflects the history of the town?

  3. Yes, I agree the name could be improved! At first look I assumed it was housng for older folks – autumn of our days! Ha. Ludlow people will have better suggestions.

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